Tag Archives: church

Failing to See The Obvious

John 9:1-41 

If you prefer a version read to you you can find it here

(GNT)

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents’ sin?”

Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents’ sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light for the world.”

After he said this, Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud with the spittle; he rubbed the mud on the man’s eyes and told him, “Go and wash your face in the Pool of Siloam.” (This name means “Sent.”) So the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing.

His neighbors, then, and the people who had seen him begging before this, asked, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”

Some said, “He is the one,” but others said, “No he isn’t; he just looks like him.”

So the man himself said, “I am the man.”

10 “How is it that you can now see?” they asked him.

11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made some mud, rubbed it on my eyes, and told me to go to Siloam and wash my face. So I went, and as soon as I washed, I could see.”

12 “Where is he?” they asked.

“I don’t know,” he answered.

The Pharisees Investigate the Healing

13 Then they took to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 The day that Jesus made the mud and cured him of his blindness was a Sabbath. 15 The Pharisees, then, asked the man again how he had received his sight. He told them, “He put some mud on my eyes; I washed my face, and now I can see.”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “The man who did this cannot be from God, for he does not obey the Sabbath law.”

Others, however, said, “How could a man who is a sinner perform such miracles as these?” And there was a division among them.

17 So the Pharisees asked the man once more, “You say he cured you of your blindness—well, what do you say about him?”

“He is a prophet,” the man answered.

18 The Jewish authorities, however, were not willing to believe that he had been blind and could now see, until they called his parents 19 and asked them, “Is this your son? You say that he was born blind; how is it, then, that he can now see?”

20 His parents answered, “We know that he is our son, and we know that he was born blind. 21 But we do not know how it is that he is now able to see, nor do we know who cured him of his blindness. Ask him; he is old enough, and he can answer for himself!” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, who had already agreed that anyone who said he believed that Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. 23 That is why his parents said, “He is old enough; ask him!”

24 A second time they called back the man who had been born blind, and said to him, “Promise before God that you will tell the truth! We know that this man who cured you is a sinner.”

25 “I do not know if he is a sinner or not,” the man replied. “One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I see.”

26 “What did he do to you?” they asked. “How did he cure you of your blindness?”

27 “I have already told you,” he answered, “and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Maybe you, too, would like to be his disciples?”

28 They insulted him and said, “You are that fellow’s disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses; as for that fellow, however, we do not even know where he comes from!”

30 The man answered, “What a strange thing that is! You do not know where he comes from, but he cured me of my blindness! 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners; he does listen to people who respect him and do what he wants them to do. 32 Since the beginning of the world nobody has ever heard of anyone giving sight to a person born blind. 33 Unless this man came from God, he would not be able to do a thing.”

34 They answered, “You were born and brought up in sin—and you are trying to teach us?” And they expelled him from the synagogue.

Spiritual Blindness

35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 The man answered, “Tell me who he is, sir, so that I can believe in him!”

37 Jesus said to him, “You have already seen him, and he is the one who is talking with you now.”

38 “I believe, Lord!” the man said, and knelt down before Jesus.

39 Jesus said, “I came to this world to judge, so that the blind should see and those who see should become blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were there with him heard him say this and asked him, “Surely you don’t mean that we are blind, too?”

41 Jesus answered, “If you were blind, then you would not be guilty; but since you claim that you can see, this means that you are still guilty.”

Good News Translation (GNT)Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

 

Failing to See the Obvious
Lent 4 Year A John 9:1-41

I am me, I am who I am, with what I have.  But that day I found myself the centre of attention – well an argument actually.  Someone started trying to use me and my condition to score points.  They were wanting to trap this Jesus we’d all heard so much about – but they wanted to use me to do it.

How was my disability caused?  Had I done something wrong, or my parents?  It seemed a given to them that illness and misfortune were caused by what they call ‘sin’- which seemed to mean getting their rules wrong.

But Jesus stood up to them, made it clear that whatever had caused this it certainly was not because of anything either I or my parents had got wrong, nothing we had done at all.  This was really important.  So many people lived by the understanding that bad things did not happen to good people.  Bad things happening to you had to mean that you had done something bad.  We like things neat and tidy.  We like to know who or what to blame.  But Jesus was quite clear that was not the case.

The sad part about the whole episode is that the only thing that seemed important to the Pharisees was that the Sabbath Law has been broken – or at least their interpretation of it!

Having got nowhere with their first argument, they tried a different tack.  Perhaps this is some set up.  I was never really blind at all – Jesus was just using me to try to make it look like he was a prophet.  They were beginning to get worried that there are those who are thinking that Jesus might be the Messiah.

The leaders want to keep the lid on all this.  But it very soon becomes clear who the blind ones are.

The one who was blind meets Jesus and finds he can see.  The one’s who believe they have the understanding of everything meet Jesus, and it turns out they can see nothing because of their prejudices.  They need to open their eyes – and who knows what they might discover.

Lord
may I open my eyes to you.

May I see
the things you have to show me.

May I not be closed-minded
but wanting to discover more of you.

May I never think
I know everything there is to know,
or have you sorted,
but be open to new possibilities.

Surprise me Lord
I pray

Reflecting on The Amazing Technicolour Pyjama Therapy by Emily Ackerman

So, after my review of The Amazing Technicolour Pyjama Therepy, I thought I’d share a few things that have made me think – after all, such a book is only any use if it changes something in you.

Perhaps some of these things are issues I should have ‘dealt with’ by now.  But grief and loss are like an onion, there are many many layers.  Just when you come to terms with one aspect, another is uncovered and needs facing.  The length of the situation also means strategies that have worked, no longer do, or things you had worked through need taking out and looking at again as time gives them a different hue.

There is much in this book that is thought provoking and challenging, these are some of the ones that hit me where I’m at, some of which I tweeted the quotes from.

“Look on managing your illness as useful work” (p25) That is all I can manage, however different I might like it to be – and that has to be OK.  Somehow, I have to find a way to be me, this new, alien, different me, outside of my role – whichever role that is.  What I can do now is different to what I could do.

That brings a huge sense of loss, and can go on doing so as those losses are re-enforced, or newly discovered for the first time.  I think new losses will be realised as life with chronic illness goes on, but when we come to them the loss has to be faced, stared straight in the eye, acknowledged and dealt with.  That doesn’t necessarily meant that you ‘get over’ it, but you have to find a way of living with, or else the pain becomes crippling – and were back to the Pile Under the Carpet again!

Life, reality, what I can and can’t do are very different; they look and feel so far from where I once was – a life I was quite happy with.  Somehow, this life has to become as useful and pleasurable.

So, I know I only function well for 30-45 minutes, beyond that I’m gone.  I know I’m better in the mornings, I don’t do afternoons at all (I sleep for a good couple of hours and if I don’t it’s not good) and I’m not much better in the mornings.  SO I deal in small chunks and I do it early.  What isn’t done by 11ish will not get done that day.  That is what I have learnt in being an expert on me 🙂

(Oh and try telling the DWP that managing your illness is a full-time job!!)

“love and forgiveness is costly because it means letting go of my version of the past” (p95) for most of us our past was precious.  We were having a whale of a time until chronic illness struck.  Being chronically ill is not generally a reaction to being miserable, or a pleasant escape from a life we were hating.

So, chronic illness brings up many emotions: guilt, anger, resentment, self-pity, bitterness, loss of confidence, frustration and fear are mentioned in the book.  Yup! And some…

But those emotions can easily become misdirected.  So much is lost, but am I blaming the wrong person?  Invisible illness brings with it a whole new set of possible misunderstandings – but they’re not necessarily anyone’s fault.  Calm explanation may be better than exploding – but that was never my strong point 😉

I need to take time to stare those losses in the face, acknowledge them, feel the pain; from then a new foundation can be built – not on the past, but the future.

“God is always on the move and he wants us to come too” (p117) has to speak in to that.  Whatever I have lost, there is a tomorrow.  Maybe not the one I envisaged or might have chosen, but one that God is in nonetheless – and he is still going to be working in and through me there.

“I should work at meeting my own daily challenges, not peek over the fence at my past or my neighbour” (p121) that might be far healthier!  My life is my life, only I am responsible for it.  This is how it is, and I am the only person that can live with it.  The past has gone, it would have anyway.  I can only deal with what is before me now.

“Worship is about God surely.  It’s about putting him first, focussing on him and clearing a space from other pursuits and concerns to consider his beauty.  It isn’t about how I feel, where I am or what I do with my body.” (p179) This is a biggie.  Having been a Presbyter in Circuit work, worship was the bread and butter of my life.  It challenged and inspired me – but I was also responsible for how I worshipped.  So much of my identity was tied up in worship and how it was led.  Now I have to find a way to engage with worship that works for me.  I can’t sing, sitting is not always comfortable, my attention span is assaulted – your average act of worship is difficult for me ‘get on board with’.

BUT that is all about me.  What about God?  Where is his ability to meet me where I am?

Wake up call – worship is not about me, or even what I can and can’t do.  It is a meeting with the holy God, a place of encounter, of healing (in it’s broadest sense), of finding peace and being challenged; of hearing from the God who is far bigger than anything I can or can’t do.

And then there are some things that are useful for others to know, things I’d like you to know, not to moan, but to perhaps help you to understand me and where I’m at better:

“The sick are exiled into a strange and scary place, leaving behind great chunks of their previous way of life.  It’s a lonely transition” (p2) I cannot emphaise enough the truth of this.  However ‘sorted’ I may come across, or not, I am in an incredibly lonely place.  However long I have been ill, the path goes on, and each twist and turn can be scary.  Each day is new and I am exiled in a land not of my choosing.

“Illness related fatigue is nothing like healthy tiredness. It’s like a very heavy wet blanket pulled over your head that squashes you flat” (p37) This is not just ‘being tired’ or in need of a rest.  This is an all consuming exhaustion that makes your head spin and your body shake.  Accompanying that is the inability to think straight, never mind make sensible decisions!  A sit down doesn’t make it better, neither necessarily does just sleep.  It is not possible to imagine or understand if you haven’t been there.This fatigue goes hand in hand with so much chronic illness, and adds to the delight of trying to cope.  Dealing with illness is hard, dealing with the practicalities are energy sapping and time consuming – doing it when you are already exhausted can be mind-blowingly difficult. I’ve linked to this before, but it explains this kind of fatigue so well.

“It’s painful to feel overlooked or misunderstood by members of your church” (p189) Sadly this is also a great pain and burden.  The place you want to belong, sometimes feels like the place you are most rejected or sidelined.  It is the place I should have so much to offer, and yet I can’t.  Not withstanding what I have said above about worship, church too can be a place of exile.

These things are particularly hard, when you thought people understood, only to realise again that they don’t.  Why should they?  They are not walking in my shoes, they have their own with their own pinches.

But unless we talk and keep on talking, how will any of us know?

These are just some of the nuggets this book contains.  I’m sure if I read it again different things will jump out.  There is more I could say, but why not read it and see what it has to say to you.

Review of Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

Sometimes church is difficult.  Not God, but church.  Not church per se, but the struggle for community and an authentic expression of worship and engagement with God.  Despite our best hopes an intentions it is full of human beings, each with their own needs, gifts and foibles.   And my heart breaks at some of the things we do or say in the name of ‘faith’.  So, when I saw this book, I was very keen to read it.

The blurb says

Like millions of her millennial peers, Rachel didn’t want to go to church anymore. The hypocrisy, the politics, the gargantuan building budgets, the scandals—church culture seemed so far removed from Jesus. Yet, despite her cynicism and misgivings, something kept drawing her back to Church. And so she set out on a journey to understand Church and to find her place in it.

I can’t say that I don’t want to go to church anymore, I desperately want to hang on in there, but at times I struggle to find my place in it, for many reasons that are probably another blog post. (oh and I cannot by any stretch of the imagination claim to be a millennial sadly, but if the cap fits – read the book)

The book is set out around the seven sacraments: baptism, confession, Holy Orders, communion, confirmation, anointing the sick and marriage.  Each section contains stories that will break your heart and then some to gladden it.  It looks at church through people’s stories – true community and a large part of what church, imho, is all about.

The basic premise of the book is ‘why are people leaving the church?’

On reading Searching for Sunday it transpires that many of Rachel Held Evan’s questions are about God, and the struggle for an adult faith after a childhood following him and sharing all about him.  But if that wasn’t enough, the church and it’s attitudes get in the way of her finding the answer to those questions – however much she longs to be part of it. So Rachel’s story is about

growing up evangelical, about doubting everything I believed about God, about loving, leaving and longing for church, about searching for it and finding it in unexpected places (p15)

Rachel tells her story, but one that I’m sure many of us can identify with.

Much of the gist of this book is about putting aside cynicism.  Rachel suggests that if we want to heal our wounds, we have to

kick the cynicism habit first.

We have to allow ourselves to feel the pain and joy and heartache of being in relationship with other human beings.  In the end it’s the only way to really live… even if it means taking a risk and losing it all. (p207)

There are many other gems and food for thought, but you need to read the book to get the full picture.

There is a lot of sense in this book.  A lot of despair, but also a lot of hope.

The finger is also pointed back at me –  what am I doing to help or hinder the faith and church life of others?

If you’ve ever wondered about leaving church, or about why others do, this will give you some insight.  Stories of how others might see the church we have become so entrenched in that perhaps we don’t see some things any more.   Perhaps it might give us another perspective on what we see as ‘normal’.  And if you are searching for Sunday, perhaps it will help you find it – or at least make you feel that you are not alone.  Perhaps it will take you to the place where you can embrace church – flaws and all. For as Rachel concludes,

All we have is this church – this lousy, screwed-up, glorious church – which, by God’s grace, is enough (p235)

We are after all a resurrection people.