He Used Spit (John 9:1-41)

Joan MacPherson, February 11, 2018
Part of the Sunday series, preached at a Sunday Morning service

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He Uses Spit
(John 9 selections)
We have been following the early stages of Jesus’ ministry as told in John’s gospel for the past weeks. In this gospel there is a pattern of Jesus doing things or saying things that catch people up short. The people think they have got a grip/understanding about life but then Jesus does something that lets them experience that there is more then they had thought, that God is active and bringing life into situations and mixing it all up. Scarcity is replaced with abundance. Tribal enemies find their common bonds and accept one another. Jesus does things that model this relentless grace and presence of God that is available to heal, bind together and create a future. As we read the stories we discover that Jesus’ actions are not universally celebrated. His bringing new life is not appreciated by everyone. His bringing new life is not always comfortable. His bringing new life is in fact threatening and scary as well as life giving and hope filled.
Of course it is. Jesus enters into the reality and culture of everyday with norms and behaviors that crash against “what everyone else does”. He throws things into a tail spin as those who listen to him find themselves questioning things about which they had been certain and feel the discomfort of letting go but not yet knowing where/how they will land. How disorienting is that? How can we ever imagine doing that without having trust, without leaning hard into the love of God which is present in every moment and will never let us go. Trusting and leaning into God doesn’t mean we have it all figured out and its tidy and we are all holding hands and singing kumbaya. Trusting and leaning into God gives us the support to enter into new territory with vulnerability. Trusting and leaning into God means that we can share different ideas, name our fears, express our concerns and not need to be in charge of how it will end up because the love of God will create the future that is needed. Love wins.
Depending on love and practicing love is hard. It takes us to places of uncertainty, vulnerability and conflict and how eager are we to go to those places? And yet there has been this significant force of hope active in the world that is the body of Christ, the church, a collection of diverse people who open themselves to the love of God and let it bind them to each other, who trust and lean into God to find their way ahead and be the church God needs them to be. What demanding and amazing work is that? Welcome to this journey Liv and Halle. We have promised to show you God’s love and be the church for you.
Being church is a thousand things and it happens as diverse people claim their unique gifts and offer them to God and for the care of all God’s people. We all don’t need to do the same ministry - which is really good as it works much better for Danny to play the piano then for me - but we are all called to do our best to see the world through Jesus’ eyes and to respond to the world as Jesus would. Doing this exposes us to all sorts of things that it might be more comfortable to have ignored or avoided. Doing this allows us to bathe in the hope and promise of God. Both of these go on at the same time - being fully aware of injustice and hurt and joining in with God for healing and transformation. It isn’t simple at all. Stephan Bauman, the former president of World Relief describes the challenge this way, “ We are perplexed, torn between principle and what seems practical, between love and safety, and between faith and fear” We are human and feel all of that churning and creating.
In the midst of it all is Jesus who is ready to help us find our way by seeing the world as he sees it. Remember how he does that in our reading? With spit. He uses spit to give sight to the one who could not see. Spit and dirt. Who wants that smeared onto their body? Who wouldn’t prefer to avoid it? But our sacred story says Jesus used spit and dirt to make a mud salve and rubbed it on the man’s eyes and then he could see. Then the people couldn’t believe that it happened. That one who lacked sight could now see. Maybe there was a literalness about “from blind to vision” but it also is a powerful metaphorical truth is it not? Our resistance to letting ourselves see in a new way or trust/allow others to see in a new way? Let go of labels, preconceptions and open to discovery and learning anew? Our sacred story includes that resistance. There is debate and condemnation. Is there really new sight? It was wrong for Jesus to do that work on the sabbath. The sands are shifting as the man born blind embraces the world in a new way and people get anxious and harsh words are tossed about. We are used to seeing/experiencing/responding to the world in the ways that we know. Enter Jesus, with spit and dirt; trusting and leaning into God and tossing open the doors and barriers to make room for life and life abundant.
Jesus, enter spit, dirt and all, into our lives and into this community of hope that we might see with your eyes and love with your love - vulnerable, curious and brave. Amen.

Joan MacPherson
Main Street Congregational UCC
February 11, 2018

Note: This manuscript was prepared for oral delivery only.
It contains excerpted material not properly cited.
Please do not redistribute without permission.


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