During this time of social distancing, you may wish to use this scripture meditation for an e-conference small group or alone, as a personal devotion. If you would like to join a 30-minute e-conference to reflect on this meditation please join me this Wednesday, March 18, 2pm at https://zoom.us/j/696631478 (Meeting ID: 696 631 478)
Terrifying and yet weirdly beautiful. It is hard not to marvel in wonder at the electron microscope images of COVID-19. That is, until the realization of its destruction kicks in. This genetic mass, straddling the space between life and non-life, has brought the most powerful economies, technologies and political powers to their knees. Let’s face it, even the threat of global annihilation through climate change hasn’t been able to quell our thirst for flight and new consumables the way this capsule of genetic instructions has. Consider the irony: Life destroyed by non-life that just might heal life. These musings are all well and good until we feel a strange shortness of breath, or hear that a close friend has tested positive or read the daily death count. In this new day with so much anxiety, confusion and grief mixed with family re-connection and Sabbath-like rest, we ponder with the religious authorities in our scripture passage: “Where is God in all of this?” Perhaps if we reflect on our experience, like that of the blind man, we too may be able to say, “I once was blind but now I see.”
Beginning of the meeting
Read the reflection above. The health and environmental issues of the day can overwhelm us and make us feel helpless. Bring your sadness, confusion and anxiety to God in prayer. Quiet yourself. Open yourself up to the love of Jesus as you read or hear the following passage. (Settle in. It’s long.)
John 9:1-41 NRSV
As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ 3 Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ 9 Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ 10 But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ 11 He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’ 12 They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, ‘He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.’ 16 Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’ And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, ‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’
18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ 20 His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’ 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’
24 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.’ 25 He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ 26 They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ 27 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?’ 28 Then they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ 30 The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ 34 They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ 36 He answered, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’ 37 Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ 38 He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him. 39 Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ 41 Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.
If you are in an e-conference, reflect on each question for a few moments in silence, then invite discussion. Help the group identify common themes and issues. If you are alone, you may wish to record your reflections in a journal. Share your thoughts, questions and insights in the comment space below.
- Can you trace throughout the reading the blind man’s understanding of who Jesus is?
- The passage begins with that very difficult question: “Who sinned, that this is happening?” In other words, “Whose fault is it?” and “How do they deserve this?” Do you find yourself asking these kinds of questions about the current situation? What are the spiritual limitations to these types of questions?
- Where is God in the midst of this for you?
- The blind man was socially isolated because of his illness. Jesus restored him to community. Social distancing to slow the spread of the virus does not have to mean social isolation. What is God calling you to do?
Take some time for silence (two minutes). Quiet yourself, calm your body and attend to your breathing. Place yourself in the presence of God and be open to God’s love and peace. End by reading this prayer slowly, leaving space for intentional petitions.
Loving God, whose peace passes all our understanding;
as we face this present pandemic, and experience fear and anxiety, may we hear your voice, bringing calm to the storms of our time.
Strengthen those who work to limit the spread of infection, and those who seek to care for the sick, and keep us mindful of those most vulnerable.
May we shape our living to protect one another, and may our changing habits, practices and sacrifices, be for the greater love of our community and all your people. Amen.
Prayer from the Diocese of Niagara