Today the gospel reading is the story of the person born blind. This story is carefully placed in the Gospel of John and serves as an illustration for Jesus’ declaration. “I am the light of the World” which is one of the seven predicate “I am” sayings in John.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
The Jewish hearers would have understood the significance of this. Jesus was announcing that he was the fulfillment of the Jewish festival of the Tabernacles where light is a major part. It would also reference Jewish scriptures (for example, Isa 9:1-2, Zech. 14:7-8). Can you imagine the effect such a statement would make?
One of the motifs of John’s gospel is light and darkness. As part of the prologue the author wrote “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5) Jesus was declaring that he was that light.
Then into this understanding came the illustration of the blind person. A man blind from birth. One who had never seen the light. The author furthermore uses this passage to allow a discussion of sin.
Was the person’s blindness a result of sin? Was it generational sin?
The passage then tells the reader that the man was born blind to allow God’s work to be revealed. (This poses a huge question for us and one for which there is no answer is given in the passage . . . the question about the relationship of Divine will and suffering.)
In the passage there follows a long discourse which, as well as the disciples, includes the man’s family and neighbours and the pharisees. I don’t want to detail all the nuances of the discussion but will give the conclusion Culpepper reaches in his book The Gospel and Letters of John.
“Sin lies not in being born blind but in refusing to see when one is confronted with light . . . Sin consists of not being born unbelieving but in refusing to believe when one has seen the power of God at work.” (178-9)
I want to consider also some of the implications of light and darkness for us as we continue our own spiritual journey.
The question I want to pose (and, hopefully, let each of you consider) is what are we in darkness about today? Where do we need more light and truth to shine? It may be a different answer for each person. Although we gather companions along the way our journey is our own It is personal to us.
I know as I have walked my journey there have been many moments of revelation. The light shines and something is revealed to me. It is an “Eureka” moment and it changes me. Such a moment often determines the direction my journey will go. There are lots of twists and turns along the way as we follow the path God has laid out before us.
For me, such significant moments have included:
1. The place and treatment of women in the church. I rejoice in knowing that women are not barred from leadership at any level. Women can enter fully into whatever role they are called to.
2. Finding God in all things and all people. As Sarah Breuer says, “We cannot be light to the world until we can see that light in the eyes of beggars in our town . . . welcoming that light as Christ's presence among us and receiving each bearer as a neighbor, a brother or sister with a face and a name."
3. Rejecting the the marginalisation of people because of their sexuality orientation. All are equal in God’s sight and should be free to serve in any role in the church and world.
4. Embracing vegetarianism as a concern for our fellow non-human beings. Eating animals was a result of the fall. Redemption should include our speaking for those who have no voice.
These challenged me, changed me and caused me to rethink previously held positions. I can say I was blind but now I see. I hope each of you have had and will continue to have such moments. Perhaps you have some you would like to share with us.
In Lindisfarne we want to affirm each person’s individual journey as we each move towards greater light. Yet we also want to move as a community towards the light together. Can the community be a shinning light showing people the way out of the darkness of prejudice and hatred?
Or perhaps another way of saying it . . . can we be as Christ to all me meet?