SERMON 3/26/17 Lent 4A St. Augustine’s St. Petersburg FL

            A young father took his daughter down to the local “second hand” store to buy her a bicycle on her tenth birthday. As much as he would have liked, dad couldn’t afford a new bike, but he wanted to give the young girl a special gift nonetheless. She found the bike she wanted. It was obviously not brand new, but it was pink, had a little horn and it had well-worn tassels on the handles. She beamed with joy because in her heart she knew that the bicycle was very special; it was from her Dad. A few days later, the young girl was riding the second-hand bike down the street. Suddenly, her friend Sue rode up beside her on a brand new Schwinn bike. It was shiny, with clean tires, colorful tassels that were not worn, and a horn that was loud and clear. With an overbearing smirk Sue asked, “Where’d you get that old thing?”

When Sue saw the young girl’s bicycle, she only saw rust, worn tires and tattered tassels. When the young girl looked at the bicycle, she saw the birthday present her Dad had given her and it was to her, as good as new. Sue saw an old hand-me-down that just didn’t measure up to her standards. The young girl saw the outpouring of love from her Dad. On one hand, a solitary reality was seen differently through the eyes of love. On the other hand, truth was seen through the eyes of self-absorption.

For some folks, life can be merely solitary threads in an unrelated, individualistic, self-absorbed cosmic reality and yet, we are here for a moment and then gone. Life is often lived as if we are called to grab all the gusto we can with little regard for others.  For some folks, life is viewed as a tapestry of individual threads woven together, which intricately bring beauty to the whole. Both views express a given perception of reality. Jesus confronts us with his reality, which is the fact that life is meant to exist in an intimately interconnected community.

God set the cosmos in motion out of love. Almighty God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit breathed the Trinitarian dance of intimate relatedness, into the very nature of creation. We are invited to be in loving relationship with each other and with God. Over the centuries, humanity has chosen the pursuit of self-fulfillment. It’s almost as if we choose to be blind to God’s plan for creation. We grope around in a darkness, fraught with an individualistic, self-focused mindset. Today’s gospel provides us with an example of this mindset, through the religious leaders who refused to see God’s love in Christ.

Jesus opened the eyes of a blind man who never had sight before. The man experienced directly the loving, restorative grace of God through his healing. Referring to Jesus, the religious leaders said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” On the one hand, the blind man recognized the gift of sight as a gift from God. On the other hand, the religious leaders construed the healing as an unholy work of a sinner.

The obvious truth was that Jesus was embodying a relational dance of love in the healing of this man. Jesus was not just demonstrating but manifesting loving neighbor at the risk of scorn from the religious establishment. His outpouring of restorative love brought wholeness to someone, even though it conflicted with the religious laws regarding the Sabbath. Jesus confronted the religious leaders then, and Jesus confronts us now with the fact that the love for God and neighbor, comes before all else. The very life, death, and resurrection of Our Lord established this new reality. The cross exemplifies the reality that Jesus embodied self-giving life, not self-preserving life.

Through the light of Christ, we see clearly the truth of self-giving love.  As a community of disciples, followers of Jesus, we are brought together to be an outpouring of the abundant love poured into us. Receiving and pouring out, this is the truth of God’s love, and it is without a doubt, lived out in this community. The Mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. We are gathered, fed, empowered and sent out so that we may be reflections of “The Light of the World,” in the world. We are sent as lights to pierce the darkness of self-centeredness, isolation, pain, brokenness, all so that others may see and know Christ.

Can you even imagine what it was like the moment that the man’s eyes were opened? At first, the intensity of light may have been disturbing and difficult to receive. As the images emerged, they might have been strange and maybe even frightening. Yet the sounds, feelings, and smells of decades, accompanied now by the beauty of sight, began to make even more sense. He saw things for the first time, and he experienced life in a new and dramatic way. Imagine that moment of clear, perfect vision, when both his eyes and his heart were open to a new way of being.

The words of the chorus of a popular renewal weekend song are “Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see you.” Like the blind man on the day, he saw for the first time, we must consider if we are ready for God to open fully the eyes of our hearts.

Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see clearly the life of self-giving love. Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see clearly the life of compassion. Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see clearly the God who created and redeemed. Open the eyes of my heart for I want to be blind no more.

Living in the light of Christ, we open our eyes to life lived in a new and dramatic way. The tapestry of our inner-connectedness and inter-relatedness becomes vivid and clear. We come to realize in a loving community, that others, and we ourselves experience God’s loving truth. This community is a loving community like that. Through your mission and ministry, God’s kingdom bursts forth, right here and right now in the lives of those around you. For those sick at home or in the hospital, for those struggling to pay the bills, for those walking the mourner’s path, for those recovering from addiction, and for those seeking God’s light, This community reflects the love of Christ, the “Light of the World”.

Through our lives, others do come to know the love, mercy, justice, compassion, forgiveness, love and grace lived out in the life, death, and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We are the Body of Christ and we are on a mission to bring others to unity with God and each other. As the Body of Christ, we are called and sent to face all of life’s challenges with eyes wide open, and with hearts filled with God’s grace, all so that God’s work might be revealed in and through each one of us.

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