Lent 2012: Day Twenty-Five

John 9:17 So they said again to the blind man, ‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’

Tonight’s passage is that of Jesus healing the blind man. And of Jesus then disappearing (humble as always), and the Pharisees questioning the man with his eyes now open. The Pharisees claim that Jesus cannot be a man of God, because he healed the blind man on the Sabbath. So they ask the healed man what he thinks, and he says that Jesus is a prophet.

Lots to learn from this passage.

First of all, as Jesus heals the man in the passage, he tells the people neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. Sin does not pass down (the idea of original sin is wrong), and God does not punish sin with afflictions. We are wounded, as this man was wounded, and as Henri Nouwen has it: In our woundedness, we can become a source of life for others. As the man’s eyes were opened, our eyes and our hearts can be opened. As he challenged the Pharisees, we can challenge others to see the beauty in reality.

Second, after Jesus healed him, he disappeared. Jesus was humble. We need to be humble as well.

Third: how ridiculous is it that this miracle occurred, and all one collection of people had to say (the Pharisees) was, he healed him on the Sabbath so he can’t be from God. Sheesh! Get a grip you fools! Open your eyes! The Sabbath is meant to be a time of healing, a time of being closer with God. And every day should be a day in which we love, looking for beauty, not looking to archetypal law.

He is a prophet. Jesus was an inspired and inspiring teacher, revealing the will of God.

Now, those Pharisees were a pretty ignorant bunch hmm? And we have “Pharisees” today. We can all be a bit Pharisee-like sometimes, we all sin, we all fail sometimes. But we can be better.

As I’m sure the majority of you have now heard, Abp Rowan Williams announced that he will be stepping down in December. And for all the great work he has done, it was inevitable that someone would jump and say that he had failed. But of course he hasn’t. The priesthood is hard, and as he put it, you need the skin of a rhinoceros. And yet at the same time, you need to wear your own skin, you need to be human first.

An article in the Guardian carried the headline The archbishop of Canterbury failed at one particular impossible task he set himself: to hold together the Anglican communion. I first read this headline and was horrified. Abp Rowan failed? No he didn’t. We failed. We the Church as a whole failed. And we continue to. We succeed sometimes, we’ve come so far, we’re so much better, but we still have so much to learn. Abp Rowan has tried for ten years to hold us together. And has on many occasions succeeded.

When he first suggested the Anglican Covenant I was terrified of what that might do to me. How it might constrict me. And although it has not made progress and I am in a way glad,  I completely understand now why he tried it. Because first we were the human race, then we were Christians, then we were Anglicans, then we were the Church of England within that, and within that we were Liberals or Fundamentalists. And the divisions continue, spread. Labels continue. Judgement continues.

Too many people expect Archbishops, Bishops and Priests to be perfect. Either that, or they expect them to be insanely wrong. Where’s the middle line? Nobody is perfect, and nobody is ‘wrong’ in the sense that difference is difference, and must be respected.

Abp Rowan has tried to hold together the Anglican Communion. And in the spaces in which we have failed, we must ask ourselves why. Not blame him.

I’m very nearly 18 years old, and an ordinand. A wanna-be priest. And I recognise how hard the priesthood can be. And yet I imagine I’ll still probably become ordained, because a priest is who I am, who God calls me to be. So when the bishop places his hands on my head, when I place the collar around my neck for the first time, please don’t choke me.

And stop choking good people like Abp Rowan. Stop choking anyone that didn’t meet the image of perfection, and stop choking people with different beliefs to you.

Peace my brothers, peace my sisters. Love. That is all this world needs. Love.

Jesus opened the eyes of the blind. Let him open ours. Believe in the beauty of humanity, and of the Source of Life…

John 9:17 So they said again to the blind man, ‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’

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