3-23-17 - Truth to Power

A student of power dynamics could have a field day with the Christian gospels – no doubt, many have. The next part of this week’s story shows how much power the powerless can have, and how much control people with an illusion of power can try to exert over others. The Pharisees depicted here make a Congressional witch hunt look like… well, I was going to say, like a tea party… but, never mind...

Unsure what to make of this miracle of healing, these leaders interrogate the man born blind. When he maintains his story – “this man came along, made a paste with mud, put it on my eyes, sent me to wash it off, and then I could see” – they decide to question the man’s parents. They don’t contradict the story, so they haul the man himself in again.

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, ‘Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.’ (I think we call that leading the witness… ) He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He answered them, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?’”

Where does this man get the boldness to answer the authorities with such wit and sarcasm? Perhaps knowing that God has healed him so powerfully frees him to stand up to these ecclesiastical bullies. He gets a reaction:

Then they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing."

Talk about transformation! This man who used to beg every day, the only occupation his disability allowed him, is now revealed as a theologian and a lawyer, turning their logic back on them. “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” Clearly, his spiritual vision functions as well as his new eyesight. This man, who recently held the lowest social status, now speaks with authority to the authorities.

Where can we get the courage to stand against power that abuses authority and misuses logic? We can encounter such people in our own lives, workplaces, even families, not to mention governments. How do we speak truth to them? We locate our power the same place the now-seeing man did: knowing we are so beloved of God, that God would move heaven and earth to make us whole. It is in our awareness of our need, weakness before God, reliance on God's strength, that we find the power to stand for justice and truth.

Today, remind yourself of the different ways God has healed and strengthened you over the years. Recall the ways you used to have trouble functioning, that you’ve overcome. Name your gifts, and the transformations you’ve undergone. You might also name ways in which you still feel disabled, ill equipped, out of control. Invite the Spirit of God to pour God’s love into those areas in you, and make you whole.

St. Paul reminds us that God’s strength is perfected in our weakness. Anytime we’re unsure of where we stand, we can remember that we stand in the might of the God who made all that is, seen and unseen. And, as we stand in that power and love, we find more and more can be seen.

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