Click above link for the 3/22/20 Bulletin
March 22nd, 2020
Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
Upper St. Croix Parish UMC
“Everything is the Grace of God”
Peace and grace of God be with you. I keep you in my prayers that you may be in good health and that all may go well with you, especially in this challenging situation. We are facing a severe medical war with COVID 19 across the world. On the other hand, I feel that it might be a kind of spiritual war because it impacts on the church services, gatherings, study bibles, and meetings in the Lenten season: Some news leads us to scare and fear. Some news leads us to lose hope. And, some news leads us to grieve of the loss, beloved ones, and jobs. We do not know how long it could be like this situation. These anxieties, in an uncertain situation, take out our hidden and unsolved social mindset or spiritual belief. Do we not all seek for an unknown cause that brings on tragedy-cancer, a car accident, natural disaster, or even COVID 19?
In the scripture of today, there is one solitary human being who has never seen the face of his parents or his friends nor known the beauty of a sunrise or sunset. He was identified as a sinner in that society, whether his sin or his parents’ sin. Now, as Jesus walked along, he saw him who is “a man blind from birth.” We must pay attention here. We learned in the Gospels that most people who would heal came to Jesus, and shouted to be heard by Jesus, or touched his rob. However, this blind man did not act to reach Jesus. Nevertheless, as Jesus passed by, and stops there. For our Lord, no one is ever lost in the crowd. Jesus knows each of us, where we are, and what our need is. It is “ the prevenient grace of God.” “The prevenient grace of God” means the grace that God may come to us first when we do not know about God yet. In other words, it means that the grace of God is open to everyone.
It is the good news that Jesus came to us to help us who were born spiritually blind, who did not know God yet, and who were in sin yet. However, we still discuss the matter endlessly, sometimes earnestly, but often foolishly as if the disciples of Jesus asked of him about the sin of the blind man. Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” The disciples regarded that the blind man is a sinner already. Jesus answered them, “Neither his man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” Jesus brushed the question of his disciples aside. Jesus focused on what the blind man needs, and his ministry, saying, “We must work the works of God, who sent me.” Through Jesus’ ministry as “the light of the world,” he showed that the work of God will be done in any situation.
Jesus is the only one who can penetrate the darkness of this man’s life. His blindness represents the ignorance and slavery of every people dramatically. Jesus now moves decisively in a surprising, almost strange, way to drive out the darkness. An intimate part of Jesus is given as he mingles his saliva with some soil, that lowly, earthy stuff out of which we have all come. It is almost as if he reenacts that first trembling moment of creation when God breathed God’s life [Spirit] into the human being God had formed from the soil. When Jesus anoints the blind man’s eyes with clay, we are made aware again how the intimacy of caring touch is at the heart of all healing in physical, spiritual, and psychological.
Jesus then commands this blind man to go to the pool of Siloam, “which means sent” and wash. The meaning of the pool of Siloam identifies that God sent. Here there is life. Water represents life and liberation at the same time. Jesus sends the blind man to the pool of Siloam to wash as God sent us full of life and freedom to the world. Jesus’s healing reminds us of where we are from and how God created us. And then, through the blind man’s obedience, he is healed in spiritual and physical blindness and restored his social status.
In the scripture, we find that a man healed of physical and spiritual blindness, and at the same time, the false religious leaders who have cast the blind man out, but who remained in their sin. We might think whom Jesus stops there for. Yes, Jesus stops there for both the blind in spiritual and physical. Jesus wants both of them to heal and reconcile each other as he made them open their eyes. I think that it is time to open our eyes in spiritual and physical to see God’s work. We may find our treasures of faith in this special Lenten season. We may find the love and grace of God to share one another. It is time to pray for our neighbors who suffer, and fight in the medical war of COVID 19.
I want to share a story I used in my doctoral dissertation. It is about “a hidden worker” by Katie Cannon, a womanist ethical theologian in her short essay, “Remembering What We never knew.”
There was a renowned organist musician who was giving an organ performance in one of the great music halls in North America. It was back in the days of the pump organ. The concert was so breath-taking that when the performance was over, there was a ten-minute standing ovation; before the intermission. As the maestro walked to his dressing room, he all beside himself, puffed up with pride, good feelings of accomplishment. So, he said out loud, “I am wonderful. I am a creative genius.” About that time, the black man who had been working behind the scenes, the black man who had been working under the organ, said, “We are doing a wonderful job tonight maestro; I think this is our best performance yet.”
The maestro turned angrily to the black man and said, “what do you mean ‘we?’ We had nothing to do with it. I am an accomplished musician. I am the one who studied for more than twenty years in the great conservatories around the world. The maestro walked off with his nose in the air, leaving the black man alone in the hallway.
When the second half of the concert began, the crowd stood up with another long ovation, even before the musician had time to take a seat at the organ. Eventually, when he did sit down, he touched the organ keys to resume the concert, there is no sound. He tried again and again. Still, no sound spilled forth from the organ. The audience was shocked; the audience was embarrassed. He kept hitting the keys, and not one bit of the music came forth.
Finally, it dawned on him what had happened. The maestro called out his assistant, the black man who had been working behind the organ even harder than the maestro was working out front. He introduced the black man to the crowd, and he publicly apologized to the black man by saying to the audience. “I would be nothing if it were not for this black man, my co-partner who sends up the air.”
The two men then went back to their places and finished the concert with even greater power and presence than the first.
As Cannon addresses the significance of “co-work,” she demonstrates that we are never concerned about the hidden worker, but only think of the person who is standing on the stage.
We have to work together to pass over this difficult situation. It is also good collaboration to pass over this situation that we listen well to the direction such as staying at home and having social distance one another. It is time to pray for those who work at the hidden places, for those who lost beloved ones and jobs, and those who lost their shatters due to COVID 19. We all are the children of God under the grace of God.
Thanks be to God, Amen!