In this time when we are so focused on our own health and the health of others, it gives me hope that the Gospel reading appointed for today is the healing story of the man born blind. As we worship for the second week by video and experience the first week of all of us being asked to “shelter in place” to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we all need to hear a story of hope in the midst of our very real fears. In this story, I hear Jesus calling each of us to a deeper faith in the following four ways:
1. Don’t waste time on blame. Blame has been our natural response to sin and human brokenness since the story of Adam of Eve. Whose fault is this virus, and can I escape the blame? Jesus lets us know in short order it is futile to expend our thoughts, time or energy on blame. Sin and brokenness are a fact of this fallen world, new diseases will continue to arise as civilization advances and humans continue to encroach on animal habitats.
Instead, Jesus calls us to shift our sight to what God is doing in the midst of human pain. Jesus calls us to give up the blindness of blame and focus on the vision of what God is doing in our midst. Mister Rogers used to say that in times of crisis, we always see God in the helpers.
So today, we give God the glory for doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, for people sewing face masks to make up for the shortage, for first responders and people working in grocery stores, for people cooking for their elderly neighbors, for going to work in nursing homes and comforting those who can’t see their family, for those who are following the shelter in place orders to stop the spread, people with resources who donate to Network or homeless shelters, and for those who are praying with all their might. Any act that we do in consideration of our neighbor, the larger community, and the well-being of others, is a moment to give glory to God.
2. Healing is a process and requires our participation. Some of the Biblical stories of healing involve an instant change for the person healed, but not in this story. For the man born blind, healing took time and required his action, and his ability to follow instructions. I am sure it was uncomfortable to have a stranger’s muddy spit on his eyes. We are not exactly sure how the blind man found the Pool of Siloam—but someone had to get him there safely. Then he had to wash thoroughly—in an arid climate, perhaps the mud had already started to dry, so he probably had to wash for at least 20 seconds.
Healing our community and the planet of the COVID-19 is going to be a long process that requires all our participation in doing things we have never done before. It is uncomfortable and even sounds insane at times. But the health and well-being of ourselves and others depends on us each of us following the CDC and governmental instructions to participate in our community’s healing and recovery. Like the man born blind, we need to wash and follow directions.
3. Tell the story of what God has done for you. After his sight is restored, the formerly blind man becomes a walking talking miracle—but not everyone is ready to celebrate with him. Even the change that good news brings can induce fear and criticism. But this does not stop the man from repeatedly telling others what Jesus has done for him. He does not pretend to know everything nor have all the answers, he simply sticks to his own story. Jesus was accused of being sinner and he responded, I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.
We do not know everything about this virus and how long sheltering in place will last—but we each have a story of what God had done for us. For the blind man, it was “that though I was blind, now I see!” What is your “that?” What is it “that” God has done for you? “That” has changed your life? “That” Jesus has saved and healed for you? This is a time for us to share our story about what Jesus has done for us—remember with your family, share it with friends over the phone or Skype. When we remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past and share those stories, it gives us faith and confidence in Jesus’ presence and power for us in this present moment.
4. Finally, it’s our relationship with Jesus the Christ that truly matters. After all he has been through, the newly sighted man comes face to face with Jesus again. Jesus tells him that he is the living God, so the man confesses his belief, building a whole-soul relationship that will last him an eternity, no matter what happens, no matter what anyone else thinks, not matter what crisis befalls him in the future.
More than giving him sight, this is a life-saving relationship that will sustain him in all things. This is where our hope, our health, our well-being lies in this moment. Our spiritual gift is to remain centered in our relationship with Jesus the Christ and not allow ourselves to become blinded by fear or worry about tomorrow and instead, to cling to Christ and trust him.
We can imagine Jesus standing before us and join the newly sighted man in his confession of faith, “Lord, I believe!” We put our life in his hands anew each day, asking him to fill us with the power of his resurrected Spirit, giving us the wisdom to know the next right thing to do and the courage to do it for ourselves, our family, our church, and our community. It may be to stay right where we are and pray and meditate. It may be to make phone calls or write notes of encouragement. It may be to make donations to help others. It may be to fill our freezer with soup for neighbors.
Whatever it is God asks of you in this moment, remember that your greatest resource, your strongest hope, your widest strength, your finest skill, and your deepest courage all come from your relationship with Jesus who is always with you and never, ever fails you. With the man born blind who now sees, we also see and trust that Jesus Christ is Lord of heaven and earth. And with him we exclaim with our whole heart and soul: “Lord, I believe!”