New Sight

by Rev. Dr. Jan Nolting Carter, February 11 2018

A sermon based on John 9:1-12

Let me see that.

No. It’s mine. I am looking at it.

Come on, let me see that.

It’s a scene that plays out in the back seat of every car, at the kitchen table of every
house. . . at least in our family it does. It’s about looking at something.

Or is it?

Maybe not. It’s about who is in control. Who has the power to hold something. In my
house, it plays out the dynamic between siblings, but this only child has heard the
words come out of her mouth. We have all been a part of this conversation. Saying you
want to see something is about wanting and needing to touch it, hold it, internalize it
and integrate it into your understanding. It’s about trying to fix something, and in my
house, it is about power—who is controlling the conversation or who is controlling the
thing in question.

It’s about who knows something.

Our Biblical stories today feel a lot like that to me.

In the Transfiguration story, we meet Jesus on the mountain with his disciples. It is a
transcendent moment. Jesus is glowing, literally. And in their anxiety of the moment,
the disciples say, “Let us build three dwellings. . . “ They see, but they don’t see. Or
they can’t put words to what they are seeing. They move to control the conversation
and the response instead of dwelling in the moment. The subtext sounds like, “Let me
see that. No, it’s mine, I am looking at it.”

But God breaks through to remind them all what is really the focus:

And God says, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him!”

The story of the Blind Man who Sees has a similar tone to it. It’s a kind of chaotic
story, with lots of voices weighing in. If you take a step back from it, it kind of sounds
like a bunch of siblings arguing about something. And if you listen carefully, they are
arguing about control. Power. They are arguing about who knows what is really going
on. And knowledge is power.

The funny thing is, they don’t think to consult the Blind Man Who Has Sight until
about halfway through the argument. And the transformation happened to him. To
them, it’s all about cause-and-effect. Surely, physically lacking something is the result
of some kind of sin. And anyone who might heal someone on the sabbath is likely to be
sinning as well.

But we are witnessing the progressive discovery of insight. And awakening. A
coming into the light of knowing an incarnate God. Like the story of the Woman at the
Well, we are witnessing coming to new life through knowing.

But in the Gospel of John, sin has a different connotation. Sin is about not knowing
who Jesus is, not claiming Jesus as the light of the world—literally, being in the dark
and not seeing the Beloved One, the Son of God. It’s about not being intimate
relationship with Jesus—the language around it is to “abide with Jesus,” to be with

In that sense, in this story, we witness different layers of transformation. The Blind
Mans sees—but it’s not just that his eyes start working. Literally, he welcomes in the
light and he begins to understand who Jesus is. He goes from saying nothing to
professing Jesus as prophet and Lord. And we get a sense that faith is not a “one size
fit all” kind of experience. The Blind Man wordlessly does what Jesus asks him to; he
washes the mud from his eyes. This earthy, fleshy creation-act gives him new life in a
culture that labeled him as “other” and on the outside—and as a result, he has to tell
his story. We experience him re-entering the community through voice and
conversation, growing in confidence as he engages. We become witnesses to what our
Brief Statement of Faith calls, “the unmasking of idolatry in Church and culture and the
hearing of voices of peoples long silenced.”

As we walk alongside the Blind Man that Has Sight, we discover that maybe the
voices long silenced are our own. We are invited to come into the light, to see and to
listen to the voice of faith in the midst of the voices jockeying for power in the
conversation, maybe we are being invited to see Jesus in a different way and, in
seeing, know him.

And maybe in knowing Jesus, we are invited to know ourselves differently.

There’s an important linguistic turn, one of those behind-the-scenes translation
issues. When the Pharisees are interviewing the Blind Man’s parents, they ask them if
he was really blind. The New Revised Standard Version adds a sentence in English that
is not in the Greek. “He was born blind.” In different ways, some of the other
translations do the same thing. I took it out for our Reader’s Theater and what you
heard is very different:

We know that this is our son, 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

There is a kind of ambiguity to the Greek as Jesus is changing the conversation. The
question is no longer about whether or not the man sinned, but rather about what God
can do about a situation that silences someone in a community. The question is no
longer about sin, but, “Where do we go from here?”

Jesus answered the question with healing.

This is Us.

This Story is about us as individuals and about us as a community. It’s about an
invitation to refocus.

It’s about an invitation to know, to notice and to see.

What are we blind to? What do we walk by everyday and not make it part of who we
are to know and notice? What stories are right around us that touch us, but we do not
know? What do we need to see along our journey?

What are blind to as Pilgrims? What is part of our community story that has been
there for a long, long time and we are blind to? What is a part of our system being
together in community that we do not notice—-what things do we say, but not live into?

What things to we fail to say, but live consistently that are not helpful to this particulartime and this particular place?

What is the Spirit pointing us to know,

to notice,

to see?

Where do need to see the light of Jesus shining? Where do we need to draw closer
to our incarnate God?

When I was in my early 30s, my great aunt died. She didn’t have any children and
so I ended up with some of her jewelry. One of the pieces was a ring, set in a setting
that made it possible to see the facets of the diamond from both the back and the front.
On the front, it looks like an impressive diamond, too big, in fact, for me to wear. It didn’t
feel like me. But on the back, when you look at it, you see a dark pit in one of the facets,
a sign of the coal that it was ensconced in. Once you know it is there, you can see it
from the front, if you are looking for it. But at some angles, you can’t see it at all, just a
sparkly stone in an pretty old fashioned setting.

There is something about the relationship of knowing, noticing and seeing in this
passage that reminds me of the ring from my Aunt Helen. It all depends on what you
choose to see. On this Transfiguration Sunday, do you see Jesus as the light that he is, shimmering on the mountain, showing his transcendence, even as we know him
intimately as one who offers welcome, sanctuary, safety, inclusion and challenge to the
status quo, or do we see the small things, the flaws, or the ways in which we want to
confine Jesus to our way of thinking, our way of being as individuals or as a

Our stories today are an invitation. Come, Live in the Light!

Thanks be to God for the opportunity to know, to notice and to truly see.


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