Epic Mic-Drop

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Hello, friends, and welcome back. I’m the Rev. Sare Liz Anuszkiewicz and this is the Sunday Sermon. If you’re looking for the bits of the bible I’ve referenced in this sermon, you can find the link right here on the website where you found this audio file. For the nerds in the know, this is the fourth Sunday in Lent, and here’s the sermon I preached on Sunday, March 19, 2023. 

Good morning! Welcome to the fourth Sunday of Lent, and well done, because you’re more than halfway through! 

Now, there is so much good stuff in our readings today, I could preach ten short sermons out of just this, or two very long ones, but I won’t. I’m just going to focus in on the last two sentences of the gospel reading, because they are amazing. They are beautiful. They are elegant. They are like lemonade on a hot day, or a mic drop at a the end of a particularly amazing concert. They are complicated and convoluted, but only in the way that a master ballerina can make the physically improbable (and for you and me, the physically impossible) look effortless and elegant. That is what those last two sentences look like for me, so let me break it down for you, so you get it, too.

So, Jesus is teaching in the way he sometimes does, by deeply agitating people, then explaining why they should be happy, instead. In this particular moment, he’s proven to be a holy paradox, which down right aggravates the religious elders. Why is he a holy paradox? Well, he’s gone and performed a miracle and a healing miracle at that, which means that he’s from God. But he’s gone and done it on the Sabbath, when no work should be done, so he can’t be from God because not even God works on the Sabbath. So, paradox.

And the religious elders had it in for his students by this point, and were doing the ancient Jewish equivalent of excommunicating them, so while it was part of ancient Jewish policy to take healed people to the religious elders to have them certified so they could re-enter society (that part was normal), berating the formerly blind man and doubting his truth wasn’t the point of the interview. It was to declare him healed and ready for ritual purification so he could be re-classified as ‘clean’ again.

And so everyone but Jesus is entering into a very serious and literal debate, and meanwhile Jesus is floating above them, answering very serious and literal questions with metaphor and theology.

Because Jesus wasn’t healing someone randomly that Saturday. Jesus was trying to make a point, and a difficult one for ancient Jews to absorb because they believed whole-heartedly that if something bad happened to you, it meant you were a bad person. Or your parents were. Or your grandparents were. The bad thing that happened to you (health, wealth, family, whichever kind of bad thing you like), happened because you sinned, and God punished you. That was the only way it worked. No exceptions.

And Jesus thought that all that was so much BS. He knew it, in fact. God didn’t punish people for their sins by sending calamity, that’s just a way we tried to explain the terrible things in our lives, and honestly, we often still do. But Jesus teaches a different way; God is loving, God is merciful and forgiving, God does not cause your suffering, God is here to relieve your suffering. 

And so when his students ask him who sinned, the blind guy or his parents, the important part of Jesus’ answer is the first word: NEITHER. 

Because the model for how the world works that goes You Sin, God Punishes, You Suffer, isn’t actually how it works behind the curtain. 

But that’s what everyone believed, and they believed it in a way that was deep and strong and wide, and applicable to everyone, everywhere, and one, or two, or a dozen prophets coming along and saying, ‘meh, God’s a lot nicer than that’, wasn’t going to change anybody’s mind.

And it really wasn’t going to change the religious elder’s minds, because like a lot of people, they were really certain they were right and they absolutely weren’t up for being corrected by local yokels in their own area of expertise. 

So instead of making a theological argument on the topic, Jesus just went ahead and healed people on the Sabbath, quietly teaching his own students this different way of looking at the world. And when he was verbally attacked by those religious elders who really didn’t want to learn anything more about God than they already thought they knew, he drops the mic on them.

They ask him if he’s accusing them of being blind (physically, or to God), and Jesus says it:

If you were blind (physically, or admitted to it spiritually), then it wouldn’t be because you’d sinned (because that’s not how it really works, and if you could admit that you were spiritually blind then you’d be ready to heal and learn a different way). But now that you claim you can see (God’s fullness and love and mercy), you are sinning (because you’re missing the mark, being willfully obtuse, and leading others astray).

Or to be as brief as he’d been at the time: “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

See? Beautiful, elegant, and (since the religious elders were supposed to be totally sinless and righteous before God) maybe just twisting the knife a little bit.

No wonder they wanted to kill him.


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