Good morning everyone! Once again what a pleasure it is to be preaching the word of our Lord with you. I was also going to say a pleasure not to be preaching about doom and gloom, but given the circumstances, I think maybe I have been foiled by the spirit of the times right now.
Now, today there is only a small part of the reading from our Gospel selection, as it is part of a much larger story. The full text is John 9, the story where Jesus heals a man blind from birth. Now in the story, this is a man blind from birth whom Jesus heals, but he heals him on the Sabbath, the day of rest. Doing so causes some ruffled feathers among the Pharisees who, despite seeing a genuine miracle before them, are bothered by the man being healed, so they throw him to the street. This prompts Jesus to speak with them, and they ask “are you saying we’re blind?”
What an uncomfortable question. But in the wake of the current illness sweeping our world, what a good question. For a while there wasn’t too much known about this illness, as it was something that the Chinese government kept firmly locked up behind their wall of silence. Now, it is everywhere, with new updates, warnings, and even closed borders. The world media only sparsely examined it as it spread in the city of Wuhan. It was something we have all seen before. First there was AIDS, then there was SARS and Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Trudea Mania 2.0, and Trump Fever. All diseases that came and went in the blink of an eye. I myself was very dismissive of this illness, thinking it was one more thing the media was going to talk about which barely darkened our shores. Well friends, there was my blindness, both spiritual and real. I feel like God may ask me, were you blind? And what else did you not see?
Illness like this is one of those things I think our modern mind has a difficult time wrapping itself around. We live in a generally healthy world after all! What is there to worry about with our modern medical centers and skilled scientists? Yet as soon as this respiratory illness arises, suddenly there is no more toilet paper and no more masks! Despite the fact experts have said “wash your hands, and you should be just fine”. It is literally told to us as that simple. So I remind you all, wash your hands. Since we do not have access to the baptismal font think of this as your reminder of baptism that you are washed by the Grace of God. We are baptised communally so we show that shared baptism communally.
It also takes us to our verses today. Jesus told the blind man after he had placed clay in his eyes to go wash in the pool of Siloam, the pool of the sent it is translated as in some versions. Then when he is thrown out Jesus says that he came to make those who see blind, in response to the Temple’s unwillingness to accept what has happened. Paul says too, we should live our lives in the light. Rise from the dead and go! The Psalm says, the Lord is our shepherd. I only leave these little snippets because as we cannot come together and read together, so I implore you come together at home and read the verses with your families and friends, listen to what they are saying. Come out of darkness. See and trust. We have been so blessed and so graced to live on our part of the world, so how are we using our blessings right now? How do we trust that God is looking out for us? How are we seeing what is directly in front of us?
Right now, many of us are living blind because we are stuck at home, or working from home, places to go are closed, travel is hard, and there is an uncertainty in the air. How then shall we cope? Will we stay in darkness behind our doors, will we turn a blind eye to what is happening? For this community I know the answer already, it is no! The question I suppose is how we shall make things seen? I know there will be people out volunteering on Friday and Saturday, I am sure many of you are making calls to friends and loved ones, but let us also make calls to each other in church. Who is the most isolated among us? Who needs a helping hand right now? Let us not turn a blind eye to neighbours' needs. Let us wash ourselves in the pool of the sent so that we see what needs to be done with healthy hearts and healthy eyes. Now that this illness has brought many things out into the open, let us use the sight we have to see what needs to be done.
In the time of the Black Death, some of the highest casualties were among priests and active lay people. They went and buried the dead, they offered prayers and hope to the afflicted despite the risk to themselves. Sweeping changes were made so that more people could serve the needs of others. Why, they even had women accepting confessions and offering up forgiveness. Now, unless you work in the health industry, don’t jump into the jaw of illness, but from this historical fact let us see how faith has made people brave in the face of illness. I hope and pray none of us are affected by this illness, but I pray we have the courage to do what needs to be done for those in need. Let us let our faith make us strong and show us the way.
May we spend this week and the coming weeks with our eyes open to danger, but in the knowledge the Lord is our shepherd and our salvation.