The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!’

Monday, March 27, 2017

Who sinned: this man or his parents?

Grace and Peace
Rabbi, who sinned this man or his parents?
There was a man born blind
In two small verses, John tells us how Jesus took dust, spat on it, and put this on his eyes.

That’s 2 verses. The other 38 verses of this story are a trial to determine whose sin is most present.

The miracle takes up this much type.
The inquisition of sin takes up the rest.

It makes you wonder if this gospel is the prototype for our newspapers.
This much good news, this much of crime, revenge, and problems.
Let this be a note- if your gospel, the one you write every day has this much good news, and this much bad news, you need a new editor!

As we editorialize this text together, let us take notice that the miracle is considered an insignificant subject for discussion.

Everyone wants to know who sinned- this man or his parents.
As in, he is blind, therefore someone must have done something to make God angry and strike him blind.
And, since he was born that way, either his parents made God angry or the boy somehow ticked off the man upstairs while still in his mother’s womb.
And what gets to me is who asks this question- the disciples.

Who sinned? Them or him?
Now the pastor in me wants to tell you that your children cannot suffer from your sins. Your sins are wiped clean through the blood of the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. You are forgiven and that is that. Your sins do not transfer to your next of kin, period.
But the preacher in me can’t stop there.

Your sins are forgiven, but not forgotten on this earth. Our children inherit or sins and will have to pay for them.

Biologists have discovered that changes in behavior in our lifetime works on our genetic code and can affect the DNA that we pass along to our children. That means if we are angry or addicted it changes the owner’s manual in our body that gets passed along to our children’s children. We have abused our bodies and pushed them over the limit of what is healthy.

Other than ourselves, we give our children this Earth. Except our sins of greed and selfishness have made the planet arguably worse than when we got here. We’ve used up a lot of natural resources. We’ve made the air and water quality harder to sustain life. We’ve cut down the rainforest to raise more cattle for our inflated diets. And reports are coming out now that we waste over half of the food we produce. 

Which is curious since over half the world goes hungry. We’ve taken the oil, diamonds and gold and killed each other over it

We’ve used nuclear bombs other warfare that has harmed the land and the people in it.

Other than ourselves, and the world we inherited, we leave them our debts.

Think let’s imagine that you make 100k a year, imagine that you owe 108k, and growing every year.  The government- which really means us and our children- have a rising debt so much that every now and then we have to vote to borrow more money to pay the bills of the money we already owe. 

Somebody call Dave Ramsey.

Our kids are on the hook for our spending. For the sins of their parents.

It’s a good thing we didn’t leave them anything else, like racism, sexism, classism, distrust of leadership, insolvent social security, homophobia, Islamaphobia, rising sea levels, a shrinking church, or reality television, because that would be too much if we left those things behind as well. 

Oh wait, we left them all that too?


They might not thank us for what we have bequeathed them. They might not want to pay for the sins of previous generations.
But they will. Because of the sins of their parents, they will pay.

So today we have a message that isn’t one thing or the other. We might have to sit in the uncomfortable place of both/and. Are sins have been forgiven. We have been saved. But who will save our children?

These questions keep Ashley and Me up at night sometimes.

We wanted to bring our children into a world full of possibility and hope.
Not a world full of sin, selfishness, and social anxiety.
But you can’t have one without the other, can you?

I find myself more and more talking to our confirmation students about how the world desperately needs them to be faith leaders, to be world formers, to be equality fighters.

Ultimately, the story of the man born blind isn’t about the miracle, but the conversation about sin, where the word ‘sin’ shows up 8 times in these 40 verses.
The question the boy’s sin, the parent’s sin, Jesus sin for healing on the Sabbath.
And as goes the nature of sin, each character- including the boy’s parents- point the finger at the next character in a sort of witch-hunt for the sinner.

He did it- ask him.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone thinks a person is born blind because of sin.

Yet, doesn’t Jesus say if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, for it is better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into “Hell”, or if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off, so that your whole body doesn’t burn.

How many of us could raise our right hand- raise it high if you’ve not sinned with it. Yeah, that's what I thought. 

Does God really want us to lose our eyes and hands because of our sins? Does God want us to pay?

Or maybe, what God wants most, if for us to become aware of our sin.
Maybe God’s purpose for that statement regarding our eyes, is so we open them to see the beauty and miracle of what God has done in this world. That we find the gospel in the two verses, in the newspaper, in our schools, and in our children. Maybe the point of the miracle is that those who were blind can now see.
And maybe God’s purpose for the statement regarding our hands, is not to cut them off, but to open them. To extend a hand up to those in need. To greet our enemies and make peace with them. To hold those who need to be held and pat on the back those who need encouragement.
We should not be surprised by the presence of sin in our world. And nor should we ignore it.

The first story of Adam and Eve is one where God created them out of clay. He breathed into them and they became animated, in his image.
But the problem with being mortal is worshipping mortality.

Trusting in ourselves instead of God.

We worship our mortality when we use up the world’s resources at an alarming rate.
We worship our mortality when we take what is ours with little thought to who we took it from
We worship our mortality when we’d rather go to war than live on less
We worship our mortality when we give our children problems because we are too busy or proud to solve them
We worship our mortality when we are willing to waste the food that fall from our table while others deal with empty bellies
We worship our mortality when we make weapons to destroy the planet and threaten others to do the same
We worship our mortality when we pass the buck, point the finger, blame the next person for sin.

It has never been God’s plan for us to worship our mortal life. The slivers of gospel that we receive give us a hope that does not disappoint.

I met probably the coolest Lutheran pastor I’ll ever meet this last week in California.
He tan, preaches at the beaches, and teaches surf camp, all in San Diego.

Pastor Dave told me that he has seen an uptick in young adults from the area that show up for Ash Wednesday for the past few years. He says he thinks it is because people like to remember that their lives are but an instant, and then we go back to dust.

So it should come to no surprise then, that Jesus uses mud, dust mixed with water, to heal the man, and then sends him on his way, a common scene in John for someone who has been given new life.

Jesus sends away the blind man the same what he did the Woman at the Well, with fire in their hearts and hope in their eyes. He sends them with the promise of Eternal life.

We worship eternal life when we give just as easily as we receive
We worship eternal life when we consider the consequences of our actions and change our behavior
We worship eternal life when we confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves
We worship eternal life when we take the long road, the high road, the road less traveled
We worship eternal life when we stand up for the needs of others instead of standing on our foolish pride
We worship eternal life when we acknowledge God’s great abundance instead of our lie of scarcity
We worship eternal life when we take two lines of text and let the miracle make the headline.

We worship eternal life when we take God’s work in our world seriously, God’ forgiveness seriously, when we take God seriously.

We must remember that we are dust, we started out as dust, and without God’s breath, we are nothing but dust. And to dust we shall return.

Sisters and brothers. Our world desperately needs you to care about the sins of our time.
We cannot continue to walk in darkness when we have seen a great light.
God has done great things for us that we need to pass on to our children and our children’s children.

Let us pass on the faith, not just our fears.

Rather than asking who else sinned, this man or his parents, let us confess our own.

Let us walk and talk in the promise of eternal life.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that only God can help us deal with it.

Tis grace that brought us safe this far, and grace will lead us home. Amen.

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