27 February 2009

the return of the dog dooner, and john 9

So, it's been a long while since I updated the Dog Dooner Cafe. A lot has happened, in the past four months. Namely, Mom died. I'm not sure where November, December and January went, but I'm glad they're over.

I'm taking Intro. to Preaching with Tom Long and Gail O'Day this semester. One of our first assignments had us doing exegetical work with John 9 (the story of the blind man being made to see). All 144 of us then preached a brief, 5 minute long sermon on the text.

Here is mine:

The classroom was cold, which was a good thing. It kept my fellow Con Ed students and I awake during the two-hour afternoon sessions that had somehow been scheduled during prime nap time. I was in a group of chaplains. Half of us were stationed at a private hospital on the north side, and the other half, my half, had been placed at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital.

At the start of our assignments, we jumped through all sorts of hoops—security checks and vaccinations. When our first day at the site finally arrived, we were given tours of the facility and an ID badge, then told to get to it.

“That’s it?” I remember asking. “You aren’t going to tell us what to do?” My supervisor responded with a pat on the back and those familiar words of encouragement “you’ll figure it out—you’ll learn better this way. Trust me..”

Two months later, I was frustrated. I kept visiting sick kids and their families, but still didn’t feel like I had a clue as to what was happening or what I was doing. This was confirmed by the overwhelming sense that parents were placing their hearts into my hands, and I could think of was “You know I’m 22 and barely passing Hebrew, right?”

At this particular group meeting, I was lamenting our lack of concrete direction. I came back to the same phrase: “I..I just don’t know what I’m doing.” Once I had finished my diatribe, with that statement, my supervisor was quiet for a minute. Then, looking me dead in the eyes, she spoke. “Jon, you keep telling me what you don’t know. Tell me, what do you know?”

I had to think about that. “Well, I know how to make people laugh,” I said. “And I know how to cry. And how to hug. And how to listen.” And soon, my initial denial of ability turned into a deep realization of the talents and abilities that I, indeed did have. Simple things. Sure, I couldn’t solve the world’s problems, but I could play Candy Land with the 4 year old who spent his days alone because his parents have to work.

The man who was born blind had a similar experience. He, being blind from his birth, happened to be in the right place at the right time. Jesus, making his way through Samaria, happened across this man. His disciples, seeing this man, asked Jesus why this man was unable to see, suggesting that it was sin which had blinded him. Jesus refuted their assumption, then proceeded to heal the man.

When word spread of the miraculous healing to the religious authorities of the day, they began to investigate the healing. After confronting the man who was born blind, the Pharisees sought out the man’s parents. His parents, nervous about the consequences of becoming involved with such a tense situation, point the religious leaders back to their son. “He’s of age,” they explained. “Ask him.”

The Pharisees approach the man once again, this time exhorting him to praise God, then exclaiming, “we know this man (Jesus) is a sinner.”

Here is the where things, at least for me, get interesting. The man has a few options. He could agree with the Pharisees and be in good standing with the religious authorities. He could deny that Jesus had anything to do with his healing. He could remain silent altogether.

But he doesn’t do any of those. Instead, he responds from his own personal experience. I can hear him begin to speak, slow and low, nervous and unsure about the new beauty he is able to see all around him. “Whether he is a sinner or not, I Don’t know.” A safe beginning, but he doesn’t stop there—he doesn’t let his reality end with what he doesn’t know. Instead, he exclaims: “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

Then, as the Pharisees ask more questions and begin to make declarations about God and Jesus and Moses, the man who was born blind but can now see calls them all to task: “You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We now that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” Instead of being intimidated, he turns the question to them: What do you really know?

It seems to me that we often find ourselves in the midst of situations that are beyond our understanding. When asked what life is about, many of us answer: I don’t know. What is the Trinity? I don’t know. What is the difference between a claim statement, a focus statement, a function statement, and a summary? I don’t know.

The mystery of Christ is that we simply can’t know. I can’t tell you how the incarnation has influenced and continues to influence our lives. I simply don’t know. The beauty of the incarnation, miracles, teachings and resurrections is in their mystery. But there are things I know. I know that somehow, we meet him. That somehow, he impacts our lives and carries us along when we stumble and fall. And, that somehow, however unbelievable it might be, he can make the blind see. We might not know it all, but what we do know changes our lives.

So, it seems, it is our turn to answer. What is it that we know? I bet the answer will change our lives.