Text: John 9:1-41
As a child growing up in the country, playing in the mud was as common as fried chicken and deviled eggs at a church dinner. We purposefully rode our bikes and motorcycles in the mud just to see how dirty we could get. We splashed through the mud in our “good” shoes every chance we got, especially on Sundays. We made mud pies; and as young children we actually ate them when the adults were not looking. The farm animals even rolled around in the mud to keep themselves cool. Playing in the mud was fun.
This past week has made me rethink my nostalgia for mud as I have observed the horrific tragedy in Washington State caused by a mudslide in which lives—young and old—have been lost. When I read the lectionary text for this week, I was caught in between my nostalgia for mud and the devastation it has caused an entire community of fellow human beings. And so, as I begin this sermon, I want to acknowledge that we live with the complexity that something as ordinary as mud can bring both life and death.
Often the form of a passage is as instructive as its subject matter. So it is with the 9th chapter of John, the story of Jesus healing a man born blind. The text is pregnant with matters of major importance: the disciples ask about the relationship of suffering to sin. Jesus acts on his own initiative and not in response to the blind man’s faith. Notice, the man’s faith follows rather than precedes healing. In this text, we learn that the blind see and the seeing are blind—no small matter both for life and theology. And in addition, we read two major Christological pronouncements in this passage: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” and “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” (Fred Craddock)