What a Mess

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 — Week of 6 Epiphany, Year Two

Cyril and Methodius, Monk and Bishop, Missionaries to the Slavs, 869, 885

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 949)

Psalms 97, 99, [100] (morning) 94, 95 (evening)

Genesis 31:1-24

1 John 2:1-11

John 9:18-41

We are pretty messed up. Today’s readings are reminders of how we bring conflict, division, jealousy, and sin into nearly everything we touch. Today we’ve got examples from work, religious fellowship, and even trying to do good.

The Jacob vs. Laban saga is a story of nasty, cut-throat business competition with an edge. Jacob has lots of qualities of a hard working entrepreneur; but his shrewd tactics are hard to justify. He sows some bitter seeds. Resentment and conflict are inevitable byproducts of this bitter relationship between two relatives who are dishonest with one another. This is one of those stories where there are no good guys. Yet underneath it all is the reminder that God is working even through these compromised means to bring about blessing for humanity.

In 1st John we face the reality that even among those who have embraced the ethic and community of Jesus, there is animosity and bitterness, disobedience and failure. But, “the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2:8b)

The gospel lesson is so sad and frustrating. It is a metaphor for our many blindnesses. Jesus heals a man who was born blind. The conventional wisdom (and theological orthodoxy) said that when a child is born blind it is God’s judgment for sin. There was an argument whether it was for the sin of the parents or the child. But, the curse of being born blind is obvious enough, so there must be a cause, they reasoned. Nevertheless, Jesus heals him. But… he did so on the sabbath, an obvious violation of one the Ten Commandments.

So, the religious authorities are in a bind. The Pharisees are good people. They are the ones charged with the responsibility of teaching and promoting religious life and principles. Giving sight to the blind seems like a good thing, but no one following God through the revealed law of the scriptures would do such work during the holy rest of the sabbath! Scandal. Yet, it is a wonderful miracle. They are in a quandary. They investigate. As they consider the situation, it seems to them that this man born blind (“You were born entirely in sins!”) tries to lecture them. Their cultural conditioning prevails, and they lash out in contempt. Their religious scruples have blinded them to the goodness in front of them. The irony is pretty obvious — the blind man sees; the supposedly enlightened are blind.

What a mess! How about us? Where does jealousy and competition stain our work? In what ways do we fail to live up to the ideals we have embraced? How do we get stuck and fail to see the good because it comes outside our theologies?

Yes, we’re pretty messed up. But God works even through Jacob and Laban, through blindnesses of all kinds, and “the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2:8b)

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