Editor’s note: Pastor David Mueller and John Lasher, director of music and worship arts, have been meeting to record Pastor Mueller’s sermons while St. Mark’s is closed to help curtail spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. We include a link to the audio here and also the text. We’ll be back together soon!
Here’s the link to the audio:
Sermon by Pastor David Mueller
We still are unable to meet this Sunday for corporate worship. Once again, therefore, we are providing the members of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church a sermon and a song, something to keep our spirits fed during this very unusual and frightful time. We will provide these weekly until the crisis is passed. As is our usual custom, we begin with prayer.
Heavenly Father, good and gracious God, hold all of us, our families and friends, and people the world over in Your hands and allow us relief from this unseen, silent, but lethal enemy. Give us the courage and confidence of faith to face our realities, personal and collective. Grant us a renewed sense of the Holy Spirit so that we might be agents of hope, healing and helpfulness in the times ahead. We ask in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Grab your Bibles and turn with me to the appointed Gospel from John 9. Please take a quick gander at this chapter, which I will not read now but hope you will read in its entirety later.
One of the issues of life that causes us concern and consternation is suffering. I have previously shared while at St. Mark’s that suffering comes from more than one source. For the Christian, there is suffering for what is right and just. We fight for righteousness and justice in the world for others as well as ourselves and risk trouble for it. We suffer for Christ, although in our culture and political context, the risks of suffering for Christ are few for most believers; not so in other cultures and political contexts throughout history.
We suffer because we live in a fallen world. Here on the planet, there are consequences. If we smoke, there is a good chance we could get lung cancer. If we drive recklessly, we could hit a tree and get hurt badly or killed or worse, hurt or kill others. If we consume too much alcohol, we could get cirrhosis and other social problems. Oh, there are exceptions, like some old guy in Arkansas who when asked about what his secret to living for 104 years is, replies “a cigar a day and a pint of good whiskey.”
Then there is suffering by coincidence: being in the intersection when someone blows a stop sign or red light; sitting on the front porch when a bullet meant for someone else hits you; walking in the woods when a tree falls on you, etc. It is perfectly acceptable to refer to these sorts of things as “bad luck.” There are accidents: slipping on ice, a ladder falling, etc. And finally, there is the issue of bad genes, picking the wrong parents.
The suffering questioned most often is of coincidence. We need a cause even if it is cruel or wrong. The Disciples were like that, except they looked for causation in another place: “Whose sin caused this man’s blindness, his own or his parents?” This was a typical notion in those days: the cause must be the sins of someone. Obviously, they had a lot to learn. The verse was also true for Pharisees: “Whose righteousness was responsible for their success and prestige?” Why their own, of course. It was a simple if inaccurate way of looking at the people of their world: black and white, absolutely no ambiguity or mystery.
Can you imagine persons being so cold and sure of themselves as to be simply incapable or unwilling to celebrate a man born blind regaining his sight? The Pharisees interrogated his parents and got nowhere with them because they really didn’t know how their son received his sight. They then threatened them with being thrown out of the Synagogue, whatever that meant? Sad, sorry and spiritually bankrupt this was!
The man, formerly blind, knew! It was Jesus who did it with a healing touch of his eyes. He did not, however, know who Jesus was when asked, but later came to know when Jesus revealed Himself to him! Is it not truly amazing that this man was given no time, due in large part to the hang-ups of others, to just look around at his world, to see for the first time the parents who raised him, to enjoy the sights of trees and flowers blooming, to wonder about how the many building he now saw could ever have been built? The Pharisees drive him out; thank you Lord for the capacity to keep sinners out and unable to influence our well-being!
Oh my, what a sinner this Jesus must be, to help and heal on the Sabbath! Horrors! In a very real way, the Pharisees were more blind than the formerly blind man. The “Sabbath” issue is another sermon.
Might we be able in faith to make the quantum leap of two millennia and from blindness affecting one person to a virus affecting the whole planet? Let’s try!
Already there are those who know exactly why the Lord is so inflicting us or who are the main targets of wrath even if a slew of others must take some hits. It is inevitably and invariably those other sinners, whose sins the “knowers” of God’s will gladly confess. It also could be yet another demonic plot to deceive us or to distract us from other real societal or human issues. Unfortunately, Pharisee-like Christians are still around in force. That is what is so demonic or “wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing” like. Jesus warned us to be weary and worried about false prophets.
Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I was a member of the Institutional Review Board of Christiana Care, having followed Carl Sachtleben, by the way. Over supper, between screening treatment protocols, interesting conversations would take place. For instance, Northern Delaware and its surrounding valley has a high incidence of breast cancer in women and prostate in men. Is it due to chemicals buried in the ground decades earlier or poisons in the air or streams? Good guess in our region, except that most people in Delaware at least, were not born and raised here. Could it be that people who have moved here brought with them a predisposition for these cancers?
Who will get very sick and possibly die from Coronavirus and why? There are some hints: age, health, social contacts, etc. Yet within those categories, there are many exceptions. How can we deal with the mysteries of it all? Together! Instead of Pharasaic blaming, shaming, gaming and judging, this can be an incredible opportunity to care for and about each other: doing the unusual and not doing the usual for our own and the sakes of others. If the good Lord has anything at all to do with this, it is jumping in and trying to get all of us to reorder our priorities in life. The Disciples finally would come to learn this but the Pharisees never did!
Just as with the Samaritan woman at the well and the “living water, welling up to eternal life” last Sunday, so also with this formerly blind man: “I believe” meant that his sight was not just restored but his relationship with God was sealed forever. Amen.