Well, I was bound to make a mistake eventually in scheduling these wonderful devotionals you all have been writing. I double-booked writers for today. So you are blessed with two reflections today. My apologies to Kevin and Austin – thanks for sharing the day!
Lectionary readings for today:
Morning Psalm: 119:73-80; 145
First Reading: Jeremiah 24:1-10
Second Reading: Romans 9:19-33
Gospel: John 9:1-17
Evening Psalm: 121; 6
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth His disciples asked him, “rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “It this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is him” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”
Triston is a young boy I met during my trip to Roatan, Honduras with Lee University. As one member of our group shared a message from scripture, I talked to Triston and his aunt. She often brought Triston to worship events put on by missionary groups and churches in the area. Triston, she relayed to me, was born without the use of his legs. He had undergone surgery at great financial expense to get his legs working, but with no result. Further surgical procedures would commence as soon as his family found the funding.
Personally, I had never been supernaturally healed through the Holy Spirit nor have I been present during a healing. I do believe, however, in God’s
specific revelation through miraculous acts delivered either directly or through the action of His children. So I approached Triston and began to pray for healing. I prayed that Triston may be able to stand out of his wheel chair and sprint. I prayed for Triston to know what it feels like to have dirt in between his toes. As I prayed, there was faith that this boy would bolt up from his chair, but it did not happen. I opened my eyes and they met Triston’s which were holding back tears. They were not happy tears, but tears of pain and rejection.
In this moment, my understanding of the circumstance as well as my prayer transitioned. I prayed for Triston to know that the Lord loved him
unconditionally, that he was a complete and beautiful person who was intimately and intentionally created. I prayed that God would be glorified by Tristion’s life whether he walked today, after the future surgery, or never.
Many times in my life I have felt lacking in different areas of life; less than ideal life circumstances spring up from nowhere, and it is easy to look for justification- someone or something to blame. God, who’s sin is this a result of? God, why am I being punished? Jesus looks at our less than optimal circumstances and says, “God’s work will be revealed in this.” For the blind man in John, it was so that he many testify to Jesus’ affiliation to God to the Pharisees. But it is not always as obvious or miraculous. In my own life, a series of traumatic deaths in my family within a month forged greater unity in the succeeding generations. No matter who you are or what circumstances you find yourself, these are growing pains. The Holy Spirit is still at work continually creating and recreating in and on you. Jesus is creating mud with his spit, spreading in on your hurts and wounds, molding you for God’s glory.
While I have been in England, I’ve been reading a good deal of neuroscience, as I’ve become fascinated with how our brains work (or don’t work). Lest that sound too pretentious, let me quickly add that I’m reading popular works on neuroscience, not scientific articles that would be well beyond my understanding.
In his book Brain Bugs: How the Brain’s Flaws Shape Our Lives, Dean Buonomano talks about the difference between computers and humans’ ability to recognize patterns, especially in speech. Computers cannot tell the difference between someone saying “I can recognize speech” and “I can
wreck a nice beach,” for example. Humans, on the other hand, are pattern-seeking creatures. We even look for them where they are not there, often leading us to some false conclusions.
Jesus seems to be addressing this problem in the passage from John today. The disciples, the average Jew, and the Pharisees all looked for meaning in the man’s blindness. The common theology of the day argued that any physical ailment was representative of some spiritual failing in a person’s life. This is why Job’s friends all suggested he should curse God and die; his physical problems showed that he was not spiritually pure, at least according to common wisdom.
We often hear such theology these days. We hear people say that loved ones are not healed because we do not have enough faith. We hear people say that we do not have whatever good in our life that we seek because we are not holy enough. Those people want a pattern to be in place; they want the world to be a place where those who are good and those who are evil get what they deserve. Jesus undercuts this thinking on a regular basis. Here, he makes it clear that the blind man is not suffering because either he or his parents sinned. Instead, Jesus heals him not because he deserves it, but for the glory of God. God’s grace is extended to all of us, not because all of us deserve it, but because none of us do. Grace is unearned, as is suffering. Both are beyond our comprehension.
God, help us to see the suffering of others as opportunities to share your
grace and your glory, not as reasons to celebrate the blessings we believe
we deserve. Amen.