The Rev. Amy Morehous
Lent IV, Year A
Church of the Ascension
March 30, 2014
1 Samuel 16:1-13
I am waiting on the light to shine,
I am waiting for the light to shine.
I have lived in the darkness for so long, I am waiting for the light to shine.
--- From “Waiting for the Light” from Big River
Darkness and light. Holy surprise. Our readings today are full of it.
If you are the man born blind, you have lived your whole life in darkness, begging for your daily bread, never fully welcomed by your community, because clearly you or your parents have committed some grievous sin, which has manifested itself in your blindness. Then one Sabbath day, without any direct conversation with you, some strange man, a man you didn't even ask for help, appears before you. This man spits in the dirt at your feet, rubs mud on your eyes, and tells you to wash yourself in the pool of Siloam. And you go as you have been told, not sure if you're furious, or desperately hopeful, or some combination of both. And you are surprised, not once, but twice by Jesus' appearance in your life. When you are tossed out of the synagogue, this man finds you again, and accepts you as one of his very own.
If you are the disciples, you have just come from the temple, where Jesus was speaking about being a true disciple, about being a true follower of Abraham. You have all nearly been stoned to death for blaspheming by the angry crowd. You are confused about this new kingdom of God, about who is in, and who is out. All the rules you think you know seem to have been upended, and you struggle to understand.
And then, if you are the Pharisees, you are already angry - furiously, murderously angry. You have already been told you are slaves to sin, and illegitimate children of Satan while standing in your own temple, no less. You took up stones to throw at the blasphemers, as is right, but they slipped out before you could take care of them. You have decreed that anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus is to be immediately ejected from the synagogue. You will keep order with fear and trembling, if you must, and this upstart of a false prophet, who breaks the holy laws by which you order your days, your life - he will not get the better of you or disrespect the God you worship.
Blindness. Darkness. Sin. And holy surprise. Who is blind, and who is not? Who is in darkness, and who is not? Who is sinful, and who is not? And how do we tell? And why do we want to know? So many questions, with so many answers that we don't understand.
Most of have known darkness, of some kind. Illness. Death. Fear. Absence. Have you known a time when God was simply...absent? A time you have looked for God, and been unable to feel God's presence anywhere in your life? God is simply...absent. Sometimes we are aware of that profoundly deep silence, and sometimes we are truly blind to it - we only know that we are not whole. We do all sorts of things to fill that absence. We consume too much, we buy too much, take too much, we do too much to try and fill up that deep void in our lives. We work hard, and then harder, to earn our way into the light again.
Sometimes those dark nights seep into our lives when we contemplate the Bad News of the Gospel. Frederick Buechner says that before we can absorb the Good News of the Gospel, we must first face the Bad News. The Bad News of the Gospel is that we cannot earn our way to being worthy of a relationship with God. We cannot accumulate enough, or be perfect enough to drive the darkness away on our own. No matter who we are, no matter how hard we work, how much we achieve, if we trust only in our own abilities, we're all going to fall short. Not because we are inherently evil, not because we are fundamentally bad - but because we are incomplete. Children of God are complete only in relationship with God.
Many of us have resisted that relationship at some point in time. I've done it more times than I can count. We resist God. We resist seeking God's will in favor of our own. Submitting to the will of God requires not only discernment and prayer and time - it also requires one thing of us that is even harder for us to give...trust. Living in relationship with God requires that we trust in Someone larger than ourselves. Trust is hard to come by, sometimes, when you are surrounded by darkness. When all you've known is darkness. The Pharisees, in the midst of the darkness of their anger and their surety of their own righteousness, cannot make that leap of trust to hear Jesus' message to them. Unable to trust, they remain blind to the light of the world standing before them.
And what about you? What about me, too, for that matter? When it comes to the most basic level, do we trust that God will keep God's promises? Do we trust that God will show up, will hold us in the light, even when we can't see it? Do we believe that God seeks us out, today and everyday?
Because that, friends, is the Good News after the bad news. Jesus Christ came to walk among us, to bring light to dark places, to speak surprising words of infinite belonging and grace and peace into each of our hearts. God seeks each of us out, everyday. Even when we cannot hear him, even when we stand in the middle of our darkest night. God seeks for us, seeks to be in relationship with us. God's grace will not fail us. Whether we are the disciples, befuddled and asking all the wrong questions; whether we are the blind man, surprised by his healing, accepted into a new fellowship of disciples; or whether we are the Pharisees, angry and confused beyond measure, Jesus never ceases to seek us out, to illuminate our darkness with the infinite surprise of His light.
Frederick Buechner says "People are prepared for everything except for the fact that beyond the darkness of their blindness there is a great light. They are prepared to go on breaking their backs plowing the same old field until the cows come home...without seeing (the precious treasure buried there.) They are prepared for a God who strikes hard bargains but not for a God who gives as much for an hour's work as for a day's."
We are all unprepared for grace. God can still surprise us every day by choosing us. Because that is truly Good News. God chooses us every day. God chooses you, and God chooses me, and God waits patiently for us to do the same.
As we close in on the darkness of Holy Week, I urge you to trust. Be willing to be surprised by the path before you. Know that Christ will be walking it with you. Choose the light, and prayerfully seek God's will for each of your lives. God will not fail you as you do.
When you are surrounded by darkness, and waiting for the light to shine, know that darkness does not have the last word. Be willing to be surprised by healing, by joy, by light. Trust in the overflowing grace of God, which will follow us all the days of our life.
Once we were in darkness, but now in the Lord we are light. Live as children of the light.