If you aren't able to tune in live or watch the video, here is this morning's Gospel text, sermon, and prayers of the people. You can also watch worship from this morning by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uReEQ4LwPew
Now imagine a stranger smearing mud made of spit and dirt on your face. Social distance! Come on Jesus.
Now if only it was that easy – for everyone who has the virus – to spit and make a mudpie – and to smear it on them. And for all of this to go away. For social distancing to be over. It’s only been a week, for us here, but I’m terribly sick of it already. And I’m getting whiny about it! Just ask Alissa.
“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Light of the world. Not to keep it to himself though – to share it. Jesus and the disciples had come upon this man who was a beggar, a beggar because his blindness kept him from doing something that enabled him to make a living. And Jesus saw him. Not as a beggar, not as a blind person. But as a human being who was at the end of his rope.
A human being whose light had been extinguished. Maybe because of comments from people like the disciples: Rabbi - who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Whose fault is it? And what was the thing that was so atrocious that he was punished in this way?
Whose fault is it? I’ve heard that so often lately. Whose fault the virus got this bad. Whose fault there aren’t enough masks. Whose fault that it started to begin with? Whose fault it got to this city? To this state? To this county? Whose fault that we can’t see our friends? Our grandchildren? Whose fault we can’t get together at church?
These are the hollow questions of anxious, frightened people who desperately want some kind of explanation for what we’re living through. People who are otherwise mostly just fine, but these winds of change have blown in, and now there’s panic. Our lights have been extinguished. Our light has gone out.
And so many of those tired phrases we rely on for a pick-me-up – at least we have each other. No we don’t – families, yes, maybe, but not in the true sense. Oh, it’s not that bad. Yes it is – healthcare workers don’t have enough masks and people are dying! It’s bad. At least we have our health. Maybe. But this virus takes like 10 days to let you know it’s camping out in your respiratory system, so we never really know if we have it.
We’re in a bad situation, we don’t know how we got here, and we don’t know how long it’s going to be like this, this social distancing.
And just like that, we’re all the man born blind. Exiled from the life we knew, or from the life we want, and it had nothing to do with anything we could have done. This is nobody’s fault. But we want it to be somebody’s fault. Something has to be somebody’s fault.
So we go from finger pointing, blaming people, to beggars. Can you do that with me? From blaming and pointing, to begging. We’re all in this together, as beggars of mercy, now.
So, then, I’m curious about something. As congress is working on a stimulus bill and talking about what to include, people are wanting to point and blame some more. Well, in good times you’re supposed to save money, they say. So why don’t the fortune 500s have a bunch of cash sitting around? Or why don’t people who shouldn’t have spent so much on a phone or a car have more in the bank? Should have been more prudent, everyone says.
But can we just give that up, please? Can we just admit, once and for all, that we humans are finite beings and reliant on God for the very breath we breathe, and we cannot plan and store and horde our way through every crisis. We cannot think of every eventuality and know exactly what we’ll need. So far 75,000 Americans on complete lockdown. More states added to the list every day. Overcrowded ICUs. Hospitals running out of ventilators. This is not normal life that one prepared for.
So, can we stop shaming middle and lower class people for not having savings to get through this. And can we stop attacking the big, bad companies that most Americans were singing praises of just a couple weeks ago, for not having more cash on hand. From pointing and blaming, to begging together. For mercy. For grace. Because, even now, we have no idea what the future brings – in anything, and in this particularly.
We are the man born blind. All of us. Cast aside by the life we knew or want. Candles out. Begging. And Jesus comes and says: As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. And I have light to share. So tip your candle to mine. And shine.
President George Herbert Walker Bush, Bush 41, said in his inaugural address in 1989:
I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding. We will work on this in the White House, in the Cabinet agencies. I will go to the people and the programs that are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every member of my government to become involved. The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.
1000 points of light.
Beggars. Unlit candles blown out by a ferocious and global pandemic. Beggars, holding out our hands. And Jesus says: I am the light of the world, and I have light to share. So shine.
So, I know things can look really bleak right now. And it looks like things won’t start looking better, like this virus won’t stop filtering through the population, for a while. Until we take more serious measures, and really hunker down. The numbers of people infected around going to keep going up. More people will die. And so when you’re tempted to point, and blame. When you’re at the end of your rope and not convinced this distancing thing is working. Remember who you are. A beggar. Hold out your hands. Hold out your candle. Jesus comes and says: I am the light of the world. So shine.
When, two, three weeks from now, the hospitals are overflowing and people are legitimately panicked and we don’t know how to make things better. And everybody is desperate. Remember who you are. A beggar. Hold out your hands. Hold out your candle. Jesus comes and says: I am the light of the world. So shine.
1000 points of light. But now, we’re scattered. We can’t be here together, and so our light, together, is dispersed, into your homes, into the limited places we all venture now. But I look forward to that day, when, we don’t know when, but someday, when we can all come and be here together, united, points of light, into one great lamp of glory.
Until then. Shine. Shine. Shine where you are. Amen.
Together, we pray for a hurting world, people in need, and God’s eternal light of hope:
Light of the world, you provide for your people throughout every calamity. Give to all your churches and faith communities the tools, balm, and strength to persistently live out your mission. Lord, in your mercy…
Light of the world, you create new days as time stretches forward. You provide beauty in urban streetscapes and quiet walking paths. You show your glory in singing birds and starlit nights. Care for our souls through the beauty that surrounds us. Lord, in your mercy…
Light of the world, you have walked with nations to create systems and safety nets to provide for people in need. Give all leaders generous hearts and compassionate spirits in this time, to provide for the common good. Lord, in your mercy…
Light of the world, you have called nurses, doctors, healthcare administrators, custodians, truck drivers, store stockers, delivery drivers, checkout clerks, and more into vocations that are now dangerous. Sustain all who work in harm’s way. Give protection from the Coronavirus to all your people. Sustain the sick. Especially we pray for Bob, Joan, and all we name before you now…. Lord, in your mercy…
Light of the world, we are starting to miss each other’s comforting presence and healing hugs. Help us to find ways of connection during this time that help us feel loved, honored, and respected, and help us to share that with the community. Lord, in your mercy…
Light of the world, you carry humanity through every challenge. Lift up stories of saints who have worked through crises in the past and use them to lead us through this time to a better future. Lord, in your mercy…
All these things, and all the things that we left unsaid but still cry out to you, grant us O God, in the name of Jesus, our Light and our Peace. Amen.