Put on Your Faith Glasses

John 9

A few years ago, both my husband and my son got glasses. Since it was a new thing for both of them, they had to learn to keep track of this new essential. In the rush of getting out the door, they were forever running back into the house yelling, “Where are my glasses???” They only seemed to notice they weren’t wearing them when they got behind the wheel to start the car. 

I don’t know about you, but I cannot identify with this phenomenon. I’ve had a pair of these babies since I was in fourth grade, and as nearsighted as I am, there is no way I am going to get to the bathroom without them, let alone my car. If I misplace my glasses, I know I need to ask for help, because without them I can’t see a thing. 

Putting on your glasses is a good place to start in considering our Gospel lesson. This story is all about sight—physical sight, but more importantly, spiritual sight. 

The story begins with Jesus healing a blind man. He had been blind since birth—he had no choice in the matter, it was just his reality. But others were not so matter of fact. People looked at him and wondered, why is he blind? What was the cause? Who is to blame? 

Jesus’ own disciples asked this question. It was a common conception in those days that if you had an illness, it was punishment for sin. The disciples were trying to connect the dots. Later the Pharisees, who already didn’t like Jesus, complained that he restored the man’s sight on the sabbath, a no-no because work is prohibited on the Sabbath, and healing is work. Lastly, the leaders of the Jews called in the healed man’s parents, interrogating them on whether he was really born blind, and how he could have been healed.   

All of these questions— from the disciples, to Pharisees, to the leaders—were focused in the wrong place. They focused on human things – whether the man sinned and deserved to be blind. Whether it was right to do work on the sabbath. Whether or not Jesus was a sinner. They didn’t even see that a man was given his sight—healed! They didn’t see the gift of dignity before their eyes, a man no longer consigned to begging. All these questions were missing the point that something incredible had happened here—something divine. 

Jesus, on the other hand, was clear in his focus. He rebuffed the theology of blame, saying no one sinned. He saw a man in need of healing and acted in compassion. He invited belief in a time of doubt and skepticism, and pointed out that even in situations that seem God forsaken, God is still at work, giving abundant life through Jesus. As Jesus said, this man “was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” 

It’s not lost on me that Jesus performed a miracle right under the noses of his detractors and his disciples, and none of them saw it. It makes me wonder what we might be seeing, and what we might be missing. 

In my ministry in Connecticut before I moved to Ohio, my congregation was working on this question. We were using a resource that taught us how to have faith conversations, and one of our assignments was to ask someone who was not a church member what the word “church” meant to them. 

I talked to one of my daughter’s friends, and this is what he said. When I hear the word ‘church,’ I think of Christianity, religion, people gathering.  Also, the word ‘boring.’ I went as a kid but really didn’t believe or connect with the people. I haven’t been in a long time. Not sure what spirituality is exactly…music makes me feel deeply, or I see beauty around me, perhaps that’s what people mean by spirituality. I think it means being passionate about something. Some Christians get scary when they take the bible too seriously. If I had a word of advice for the church, it would be to take some things more lightly. 

My daughter said that to her church meant singing, choir, sermon, community, fun.  She specifically mentioned her church camp experience, and also the importance of being meaningfully involved in the church community.  She said, I remember as a younger kid just sitting there thinking it was boring. Once I started leading, it got more interesting.   

I think these responses are helpful, because there is a lot of talk about how to get young people back into church. And there is cause: according to 2021 data, 45% of Millennials and 48% of Gen Z claim no religious affiliation. Church folk rightly see that this has implications for the future of congregations. But it also has immediate implications: if we are going to connect with younger generations, we will need to stop expecting them to come to us. We will have to figure out how to go to them. 

Which bring me to the response in the same conversation from a Millennial. She was not raised as a Christian but works as a church musician. She said, if I were an alien dropped down, and someone introduced me to this place where once a week people of all ages gathered to support one another, sing, consider how to be better people, and share a cookie, I would think this was the greatest thing. But in reality, in so many cases communities are complaining or focusing on survival or about judgment.   

When I heard these words, I saw their truth—like I had just put on my glasses. We in the church have incredible riches to share. People of all generations are hungry for what we have in church: the meaning-making, the stories of faith, the community, and ways to serve. But like the Pharisees and disciples, we can get sidetracked by arguments, distracted by matters of secondary importance. And then we miss the amazing thing that God is up to.   

One of the amazing things God is up to is the spirituality of our young people. 

In our Gospel, Jesus heals a man of his blindness, but it really is about the ways in which all of us are at some point blind to the truths that God wants us to see.   

Jesus offers us a set of glasses in this story—glasses that bring into focus a world that is full of unexpected partners in faith, people who see things differently and help us complete the picture. Jesus has called us to leave behind theologies of blame and judgment. He calls us to see the places that need healing and to act in compassion. He calls us to faith, that even in times of change and blindness—God is still at work, giving abundant life through Jesus. May God open our eyes, that we might see the miracles around us, and that God’s works might be revealed in and through us.  

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