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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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How do you see?

(Based on Sunday's text: John 9:1-41)

How do you see? Some see tsunamis and see God's judgment upon a sinful world. Some see such destruction and feel an anxious urge to defend God's justice and mercy against detractors. Some see acts of mercy and justice and can't imagine that God is involved because they are done in an unconventional way or by the wrong kind of person. They remain without true sight.


Jesus doesn't buy his followers' question when they wondered who sinned to have caused a man's blindness (John 9:1-3). He doesn't hold the idea that God visits suffering on people for their sins. He offers another vision of God's labor, of Earth's sufferings and of Christian discipleship.

Kneeling on the ground, Jesus spits and plays in the dirt. Such is God's holy labor of love.

In the beginning, God made "clay of the ground," breathed into it and made a human soul (Genesis 2:4-7). Jesus takes up God's ongoing work of creation. He plays in the dirt, continuing creation.

From the beginning God has been busy, bringing light out of darkness, giving life to the clay, to us, to all. Jesus is the very being and unspeakable love of God incarnate in the world continuing this work.

But some, like the Pharisees, can't see it (John 9:13ff). To them Jesus is either a sinner or righteous. God is primarily a lawgiver and enforcer. The man's blindness and other suffering must then be understood in terms of sin. Since Jesus works on the Sabbath — he works in the dirt and heals — he violates a holy day and is a sinner. The consequence: They must deny or explain away God's holy work of giving life and sight. In the name of God, they deny God. They mistake ignorance for truth, and truth with sin.

They fail to see that God isn't an enforcer. God's labor is this flow of life in and through all creation, giving life so all might enjoy it abundantly (John 10:10). God labors in all to complete a creation, a work in progress.

Seeing this, the man, and we, are invited to participate in a holy work, of playing in the clay of creation where we find ourselves — in our common daily relationships, our citizenship, in all our words and actions — to open eyes to the reality that God's Spirit is working here, deep in the dust of life, to give abundant life and love to all things.

The blind man's answer to those who wondered about him: "I am the man," echoes Jesus' words: "I am ... the bread of life ... the light of the world ... the living water ... the way, the truth and the life ... I am in the Father and the Father is in me. The Gospel of John has no shortage of great "I am" sayings.

The blind-now-sighted man's words — "I am" — suggest that as we receive the sight and blessing of God that Jesus gives, we know and share the life of the One who is the great "I am."


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