United Presbyterian Church of West Orange

“That God’s Works Might Be Revealed in Us”
By Rev. Mike Capron
March 26, 2017

John 9:1-17 & Ephesians 5:1-20

  1. “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
  2. It’s kind of a shocking question.
  3. I doubt you or I would have voiced it out loud. We probably wouldn’t have even thought of it—at least that way.
  4. We have not been raised in a culture where religious law was interwoven with moral law to the degree it was in ancient Galilee.
  5. “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
  6. I like that they asked it. It shows that they trusted Jesus. Perhaps Jesus had cultivated a “there are no stupid questions” culture among them.
  7. I do think Jesus feels that way. He takes people’s questions seriously. He sees them as a way to help foster our spiritual growth.
  8. If we asked this question, we would ask it a different way: “Why would an all-powerful and all-loving God allow this person to be born blind?”
  9. In some ways, I like that question better.
  10. The first version assumes that bad things are a result of God punishing sin.
  11. Since there has been punishment, there had to have been sin.
  12. In this unusual case of someone born blind, they ask whose sin it was, the blind man or his parents.
  13. I don’t like that question, or that viewpoint of sin and judgement.
  14. It runs the risk of putting us in a position of judging others.
  15. We become the Pharisees who are evaluating everything everyone says or does—even evaluating other people’s physical conditions.
  16. This story goes on for another chapter and a half, with the Pharisees trying to puff themselves up with pride and assert their authority.
  17. They even drag the formerly-blind man’s parents in and interrogate them.
  18. They want to know if the man was really born blind.
  19. They want to man to disavow Jesus. It goes on for a long time.
  20. <pause>
  21. There is another problem with this formulation of the question, this inquiry about whose sin caused the man’s blindness.
  22. It distorts our image of God.
  23. It makes us think of a God who watches us for just one slip-up, voraciously ready to pounce and punish.
  24. It is a sort of a stalker God just waiting to get us.
  25. I don’t like that. It isn’t true. It is contrary to the Biblical view.
  26. Yes, it is certainly true that God hates sin and that our righteous judge does mete out punishment.
  27. But there is nothing gleeful about God as God does this.
  28. God weeps over errant children as would any parent whose children do evil things.
  29. There are no less than ten verses stating that “God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love”—and another five that advise us to be slow to anger as well.
  30. God hates sin. But God loves us. God never confuses the two and we shouldn’t either.
  31. I do like a more modern question better: “Why would an all-powerful and all-loving God allow this person to be born blind?”
  32. Less judgmental. More respectful of our fellow human beings.
  33. <pause>
  34. But actually, there is one way that this question is more judgmental.
  35. It is more judgmental about God.
  36. At least it can be. It implies that God had better have an answer to our question, a presumption that God’s actions had better meet with our approval.
  37. Or else… or else what? Or else we pronounce judgment on God? Abandon God? Pick up our toys and go home?
  38. The sentiment is understandable when we look at the tragedy in the world, but such an attitude shows a lack of understanding that God is… God.
  39. God is not just like us only with more power.
  40. God is something else altogether. More perfect; more holy; more wise; more loving… more … everything!
  41. Try to remember that. It actually turns out to be really, really helpful in our spiritual lives, recalling that God is actually God.
  42. <pause>
  43. Enough about the question. Now let’s turn to Jesus’ answer. “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
  44. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
  45. Jesus’ immediate answer is that this man’s health condition had nothing to do with sin—neither his sin nor anyone else’s.
  46. Let’s pause and let that sink in. Sometimes things just happen. It usually isn’t sin. It usually isn’t caused by God. Sometimes awful things just happen to these fragile bodies of ours.
  47. That should always be our starting assumption, the basis for our compassionate response.
  48. Love your neighbor as yourself. I love you today because I love you. I also love you today because it could be me tomorrow. I love you because I love God and God loves you.
  49. The Christian life must involve continual movements toward love, compassion, grace and kindness.
  50. <pause>
  51. What about the second part of Jesus’ answer? He said that the man was blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.
  52. You could consider that answer to be something very specific about that one blind man 2,000 years ago.
  53. But today I’m not going to think about it that way.
  54. Today I’m thinking about those words as if they are true for all of us, for everyone.
  55. This group represents many conditions of life. We have all had joys and trials.
  56. What if we think of it all as occurring so that God’s works might be revealed in us?
  57. If you take our John reading and our Ephesians reading together, there are a lot of characters and a lot of conditions mentioned.
  58. Let’s survey the ones from Ephesians 5.
  59. Paul starts out with fornication—that’s having sex with people you aren’t married to, or more broadly sex with people you ought not to be having it with.
  60. He moves on to “obscene, silly, and vulgar talk”. This might include gossip or swearing.
  61. Then he moves on to greed—no shortage of that in our consumer society.
  62. Later on he gets to drunkenness, which could include any form of overuse of substances. <p>
  63. Are you starting to get the idea that the church Paul was writing to was not perfect?
  64. I am. And while he is exhorting Christian people not to do that stuff, rightfully so… it is vital to notice that all those people were in church together to hear this letter read.
  65. This motley collection of sinners were the people of God, come together to hear words of hope and grace, just like we are the people of God.
  66. We can do that because God is not gleefully waiting for us to make a mistake. On the contrary, God is full of steadfast love.
  67. The danger of the Pharisees is that they forget that. Smug in their rightness, they are ready to pounce when someone does something they disapprove of.
  68. You probably know some people like that.
  69. I don’t think I’ve met any here yet, but most every church has a few.
  70. It’s too bad, because I wouldn’t wish that job on anyone. It is hard work to be a Pharisee.
  71. All that watching, all that tension.
  72. They have forgotten the good news of the gospel. We’ve been hearing about it all Lent now.
  73. We heard about it in John 1, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
  74. We heard about it in John 3, that “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
  75. We heard it last week from the Samaritans who saw what the Pharisees could not, “we have heard for ourselves, and we know that Jesus is truly the Savior of the world.”
  76. We heard it from Jesus today, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
  77. <pause>
  78. It is so sad, that some people could actually encounter the saving light of Christ and not see it.
  79. We aren’t here to preach the bad news about sin, to wonder why people are blind and what sin caused it.
  80. We are here to preach the good news about sin, that Jesus Christ came into the world to liberate people from sin, not to condemn us but to free us.
  81. We are here that the good works of God might be revealed in us.
  82. <pause>
  83. If there is something in you that resists, or somehow thinks it is too good to be true, let that part go.
  84. The news is so good and the light is so bright. God loves you so very much.
  85. Once we were darkness, but now in the Lord we are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.
  86. Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!
  87. Amen.



We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.