3-20-17 - The Impossible

This week we dive deep into another Jesus encounter, this time with a man who was born blind, whose sight Jesus restores – to the dismay of a great many people. We'd like to think that such a healing would result in rejoicing – but overturning the laws of nature and probability unsettles people, especially those with an illusion of being in control.

As the story begins, the man does not ask for sight – who would ask for the impossible? He’s never known what it is to see. Jesus and his disciples pass him and the disciples ask, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” In Jesus’ day, misfortune, illnesses, even infertility were assumed to be consequences of sin, just as prosperity and health were seen as signs of God’s blessing.

Jesus rejects that kind of causality, but suggests something that to my ears is equally troubling: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” Was Jesus was suggesting this man was singled out for misfortune just so God could swoop in with a razzle-dazzle miracle later in his life? I don’t think so. I think he is saying that all situations of suffering, no matter their source, are opportunities for us to bring the power and love of God to bear to transform them. I read his words as, “Don’t waste your time wondering what happened in the past – God’s power is about what happens next.”

And Jesus takes the opportunity to reveal the power of God right there. “…he spat on the ground and made mud with the 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.”

Among the many mysteries in this story is this: Why does he go through this strange exercise of making a paste of mud and saliva, when he could just speak healing upon the blind man? Why does he send him to wash in the pool to somehow “release” the healing? Archeologists have discovered ruins suggesting the Pool of Siloam was spring- fed, which would have made it an acceptable place for ritual bathing and purification. Are there echoes here of Jesus’ words about living water? Did he have the man wash at the pool so that the sacred places of Israel would be part of the healing? Did he make the mud paste to convey that ordinary things can become sacramental, vehicles of the holy for us?

Jesus heals in different ways in our Gospel accounts – sometimes just with a word, sometimes with matter, sometimes in person, sometimes remotely, sometimes with established rituals. He uses his own saliva also in restoring speech and hearing to a deaf-mute, and in another healing of a blind man. We may be squeamish about spit, but this story does tell us that God is not limited to one method or set of words – and that the healing power of God is alive in the very matter of our minds and bodies. God’s healing is always mediated through a person who prays, whether with words, or with a touch, or through a prayer shawl. The “stuff” of our lives can become holy as we invite God to consecrate it.

Today, let's offer a prayer of thanksgiving for our bodies, starting with our feet and moving upward; for the way our body and senses carry us, enable us to do ministry, to make God’s love and power known to others. And if there is someone you know in need of healing, pray for God’s healing to be released in that person as it was in the blind man.

His story continues, “Then he went and washed and came back able to see.” It was "impossible" then - and "impossible" now. Except, the same God is at work in us. So look out...

No comments:

Post a Comment