(Bags of seeds being distributed in Honduras)
A Mission for This Moment in Time
by Bishop Chris Giesler
Sermon Text: John 9:1-41
We have had very interesting encounters from John’s Gospel over the last few weeks. First, there was Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus and his confusion over being physically born again and being spiritually renewed. Then there was Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well who mistook Jesus’ living water as the type of water that would quench physical thirst. She learned that there is a deeper thirst that the love of God can only satisfy. This week we have Jesus’ encounter with a man who was born blind.
My goal here is to try and make this reflection shorter than the scripture passage itself, as it is found in John 9:1-41. It is the story of the day when Jesus and his disciples walked down a Jerusalem street. As they are passing by, they see a blind man. So the disciples asked a question we often find on our minds, “Why?” Why was this man born blind; had he sinned, or did his parents sin, and was this God’s punishment? Rather than look to the past, Jesus looks forward and sees the chance to turn this moment of suffering into ministry and says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” With that, Jesus spits on the dusty ground, makes some mud and spreads it on the blind man’s eyes, and instructs him to wash this off in the nearby pool of Siloam. Upon doing so, the man receives his sight, opening up another set of problems. We could spend a lot of time unpacking the accusations that Jesus “worked” on the Sabbath and thus had violated Jewish law. We could talk about this man’s awakening from not knowing Jesus, to calling him a prophet, to worshipping him as the son of God. But since this blog looks at the “mission” to be found in each text, I would like us to revisit the words that Jesus first spoke about himself in this text, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
As the disciples looked at this blind man, their only question was why this happened. They wanted to know whom they could blame for this. Either this man had sinned somehow, or his parents had done so. For them, this was a theological question, one that we all beg an answer for. What do bad things happen to good people? Where is God when a hurricane hits? Many in Jesus’ day held the firm conviction that if the father sinned, God’s punishment could be visited upon subsequent generations. Even these days, some conservative preachers such as Pat Robertson have championed the notion that hurricanes and earthquakes should be seen as God’s punishment for homosexuality or abortion.
Jesus firmly indicates that there is no such cause and effect, but rather in this moment of time, there was a moment for mission.
Today we can stand around and try to find blame for hunger, poverty, war, and calamity. Is suffering punishment for sin, or does the sin of greed and inequity cause it? And while I firmly believe that we should correct the injustice that causes hunger and poverty and that greed gives rise to war, our first step is always to bring healing to the present moment.
At this moment in time, while the war goes on in Ukraine, the Board of World Mission is doing what it can to help a school in Kyiv continue to provide children with a place to gather, learn, and support each other. This school offers some sense of “normal” in a very abnormal time. At the same time, we urge everyone who can to advocate for peace and pray for an end to the undeserved violence.
At this moment in time, extreme flooding that has persisted for months, if not years now, has fouled the drinking water supplies in Honduras and Nicaragua. As a result, the Board of World Mission has purchased seeds for replanting the crops, medicines to battle the intestinal diseases that are now plaguing folks, and sponsoring well-cleaning crews. We are also working on a pilot project to purchase 160 water filters that can be used in the families of Tum Tum Tara, Honduras, to purify water for ten years or more. If this project is successful, we hope to raise the money to purchase these water filters for the residents of other villages.
The bottom line is that Jesus saw the need and immediately responded to help alleviate it. That is Jesus’ call to us as well. To what need are you being called? To what need is your congregation being called?