Fourth Sunday in Lent
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. -John 9:1-4 (NRSVue)
While I have held a love of music for a long time, I only started collecting recorded media - records, eds and tapes- less than a decade ago. For those who have seen the shelves and boxes I’ve amassed, this can be difficult to believe, but it is true. In fact, for most of my life, I’d never had more than a few albums at any one time. When I was young, the radio was where I heard music; I made mix tapes that were recorded from the local rock stations. And, when music players like the iPod first became available, I got rid of the handful of CDs and cassettes I had in favor of the digital versions.
But I have this friend who, in an effort to only exude positivity on social media, started posting photos of the LPs he was playing along with a short narrative. He’d write about where the LP came from, or what memories the songs evoked. He posted info from the liner notes, and stuff that was on the record’s label; minutia my digital files didn’t have.
It was because of him I bought a turntable and a few albums that were special to me when I was younger. We talked about music more often as a result. And, when I was excited about something I discovered, he would engage and then make suggestions based on what I was listening to.
A few months after those first records were put on a shelf, I happened to meet someone who seemed as passionate about them as my friend. “Oh, wow! I just got into vinyl,” I said to them excitedly and talked about what I had found at the resale shop the day before. I will never forget the look on their face ... they literally recoiled in disgust and walked away.
After that, I seriously wondered if my friend was secretly offended by what I was collecting, too ... so I asked him. “No way,” he said. “There are millions of recordings, and people make music because they want people to like it. Some of them may not be for me, sure. But a lot of them I haven’t heard before. I have a lot to learn, too.”
This dichotomy probably isn’t foreign most of us. No matter the interest pool, there are people who enjoy the challenge posed by the deep end, and those who will be content to wade around in the shallow end.
What makes for community, however, is when those on the ends make the time to meet one another in the middle. That is what Jesus tries to promote by restoring sight to a blind person in John 9. The miracle is an act of evangelism; something that excites and motivates the man with new vision to talk about the wonders of God. As an experienced and respected rabbi, Jesus could have continued to argue the importance of God’s kingdom and reconciliation with only the elite. Yet, he chooses to swim over to the shallow end and invite the people there into a deeper faith and appreciation for God. Unlike the Pharisees and other exclusivists, he makes no judgment about their past - neither theirs nor their families. Jesus works from a position of humility, not arrogance.
The kind of ministry that Jesus practiced grew community. It was invitational. It drew people to more deeply appreciate God by including them. They weren’t judged based on their past, nor were they asked to adhere to a set of standards. Instead, he gives them grace and sets them loose to do the same ... first the woman at the well and then the man born blind.
When our arrogance gets in the way of another’s faith ... it also gets in the way of our own ability to grow and be renewed. When we refuse to listen because of how different we might seem, we fail to encounter the unity in which God holds us. So, in the ways of faith that you are confident, may you also be humbled to hear. And, in the ways of the faith that you are excited to learn, receive this story from the gospel as an invitation to grow and go deeper.
photo by Joyce G | Unsplash