A Church Without Walls

Fourth Sunday of Lent


PRAYER:
Breathe deeply as you gaze upon the image above.
Imagine placing yourself in this scene.
What do you see?
How do you feel?
Get quiet and still, offering a silent or spoken prayer to God.


This Week’s Scripture:

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
   He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
   he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
   for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
   I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff—
   they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   my whole life long.


John 9: 1 – 41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 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.’ 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, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 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?’ Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ 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.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 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.’ 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. 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.’

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 and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 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.’ 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. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’

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.’ He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ 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?’ Then they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him. 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.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.


Prayer of Confession

Jesus of Nazareth,
There are stories of you healing the blind all over scripture.
You were constantly opening people’s eyes.
So today we confess that we often choose to keep our eyes closed.
We turn away from injustice in our world, worried you might ask us to work for change.
We close our eyes to our privilege, because the truth is uncomfortable.
We avoid eye contact with those who are suffering to avoid identifying with their pain.
Forgive us for failing to be your Church in the world.
Guide us from the depths of our wilderness into your light.
Amen.

Hymn Break 

Follow the link to sing “Amazing Grace” with the Soweto Gospel Choir.

Poem on Wilderness

My grandfather was a good man,
But he believed
That wilderness emotions
Were not to be seen.
Cry with the door closed,
Don’t dwell on the negative.
Chin up, kid,
We’ve been here before.

My grandfather was a good man,
But I’d like to say—
The wilderness is here to interrupt your
previously-scheduled programming.

Like water in the desert
And setting the slaves free,
The wilderness might be
The very thing we need,
The very thing we dream,
The very thing we plead
For.

I guess what I’m trying to say is
It never seems appealing to let a bird
in the house,
But if you do,
Then you might as well
Open every window and door.

And if you do,
Then you just might find yourself
Basking in the light,
Dancing in the breeze,
Overwhelmed with the beauty
That an open door brings.
So I’m opening my door
And inviting in the wind,
To rustle up my heart
And start over again.

For sweeping the truth under the rug
Has never gotten us far.
So may the wilderness be like a
Bird in your house.
Throw open your doors.
The truth must come out.


Offertory

As you listen to this song, please give to the continuing work of Grace UMC. We are grateful for all the ways you help us as we seek to be Christ’s Beacon of Love.


Reflect on Scripture

“On a spiritual level, this psalm so beautifully expresses our need for God. I don’t know about you, but my personality is Type A, so I actually have to be led to places that replenish my spirit. Those places often include green meadows and still waters. By reconnecting with God’s Creation, my soul is restored. [. . .] We need these sacred words to give shape and meaning to our lives. This psalm can frame our experiences within the larger picture of God’s loving will for us. Psalm 23, when we learn it by heart, can be the very presence of God shepherding us, restoring us, protecting us, guiding us, and blessing us with goodness and mercy.”
— Schade, Leah D. “When Psalm 23 Shepherded Me.” Published on Patheos. May 7, 2017

While this passage is about a miraculous healing, it is also not about that healing at all. Confusion about the blind man, how he was healed, and what power Jesus wields is central to this narrative, to the point where even reading it can be disorienting. What is clear is that Jesus is disrupting the order that the community knows so well. Jesus’ final words to the religious leaders, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind,” echoes the “first shall be last and the last shall be first” sentiment so common in Jesus’ teachings. As the wilderness is known for disruption, metaphor, transformation, even confusion, it is almost as if with this mud Jesus uses to heal, he brings the wilderness to the community, giving them a taste of what his kin-dom will truly be.
—Slats Toole


Journaling Prompt

Reflecting on the poem, if you were to open the doors of your heart, what truth might come out? What wilderness are you afraid to let loose?


This devotional resource is created by resources from “A Sanctified Art”