September 24, 2023
• Rev. Dr. Jevon Caldwell-Gross
Nobody plans for bad things to happen. And when they do, very few people expect for it to happen in front of millions of people. Well that’s exactly what happened to Aaron Rodgers on Monday night football. This was supposed to be a highly anticipated game. The jets spent the majority of the off season trying to finalize a trade to get the hall of fame quarterback to match their stellar defense. He was supposed to be the missing piece they said. They went all in on their decision. They gave their shiny new quarter back millions of dollars. Commentators were excited. The fans of the New York jets were excited. Then on Monday Night Football, 4 plays into their highly anticipated season, Aaron Rodgers gets sacked and does not return for the rest of the game (pic). The worst possible scenario happened. He tore his ACL. Ruled out for the season. Just like that his season was over!
That’s when human nature kicked in. The Immediately people were trying to figure out “why” this happened. Maybe if they had invested in a better offensive line this might have prevented this injury. No the real reason why this happened was because they were playing on articulate turf. And everyone knows that playing on that kind of surface just increases the likelihood of injury. It’s human nature!
Disappointment in a particular outcome often produces a search for explanations. (Slide) The way we cope with disappointment is by trying to find an reason that will soothe our curiosity. So we desperately want to know “WHY.”
This same aspect of human nature was on display when the disciples walked past a man that was born blind. They want to know who sinned? Was it him? Was it his parents? They have to get to the bottom of this man’s blindness? But does it really matter?….Why doesn’t help him out in any way. “Why” doesn’t give him his sight back. “Why” doesn’t give him 20/20 vision. There is no possible explanation that is going to magically transform his life.
Jesus’ response initially reveals that Every problem is not a punishment. (Slide). Jesus says “neither”. They didn’t expect this answer. They gave him option a or b and Jesus chose c. Neither! It wasn’t any one’s fault. It wasn’t because of something his parents did or did not do. It wasn’t because he made a mistake. Neither! Jesus’ response changes the perception of the disciples and potentially of the man that’s born blind.
While the disciples’ assumptions sound odd to us, these were likely conclusions given their culture. It’s what their culture believed and taught. They believed that when someone was born or inflicted with some sickness or physical ailment, it was often the result of moral of spiritual failure. Somebody, so where did something wrong!
Remember he is born blind. So, from childhood he would have carried and possibly internalized this stigma and these belief systems. I’m positive the disciples were not the first people that wondered this. His parents may have wondered, “where did we go wrong?” He may have wondered, “Was it something I did”. He’s a grown man now, so for years he has to carry the burden of uniformed opinions and misdiagnosed reasoning. For years, he’s had to live with the belief that his situation was the result of something that went wrong.
I wonder how many people can say that they share a similar story with this man. Because for years, we have been carrying around unhealthy, inaccurate explanations to problems Jesus never asked us to solve. We have been tormenting ourselves with things we could have done differently. We could made different decisions as a parent. We could made different decisions as a spouse. We could have. We should of….
But sometimes people are just born blind. Sometimes kids will make their own decisions regardless of how you parent. People in relationships will do what they want to do. Relationships run their course. And guess what there is nothing you could have done. Every uncomfortable situation is not the result of cause and effect. It doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. (Slide)
When Jesus says “neither”, he is reminder the disciples, he is reminding the man, he is reminding us that every problem is a not punishment. Neither releases him…sets him free from unnecessary and misplaced guilt. Neither gives him a fresh start. Neither allows him to break free from wonder what went wrong.
Here’s what this means. This means that you can stop punishing yourself. You can finally release yourself from trying to solve the mystery. You can stop beating yourself up. You can stop trying to atone for something that was never your fault. There are some people that have given themselves a life sentence, thrown away the key, for something that you didn’t cause. Who sinned, neither!
How presumptuous of them to assume his blindness was a deficiency. They look at the fact that’s he’s blind and assume that something is wrong with him. They have concocted an entire narrative around what what they have determined to be a problem that needs solving. You see that from the opening lines. The text says that Jesus sees a man born blind. The disciples only focus on the fact that he’s blind. The nuisance is important. I think our searching for clarity around “bad things” are sometimes presumptions. They are incomplete. (This is in no way to discount the
difficult circumstances that people face. I’m not brushing it under the wrong. I’m not doing that. I am suggesting however, that we are too quick to give certain situations a negative connotation. Everything that doesn’t always feel good isn’t “bad”. (Slide) Everything that’s different isn’t “bad”. I can completely lose sight of the positive things that can result from what I need to be bad. Redefining There are people that have accomplished more being blind than many people have done 20/20 vision.
Steve Wonder. Wrote and or sang songs like That’s what friends are For, isn’t she lovely, I just called to say I love you, part-time lover, Happy Birthday, superstitious, Ribbon in Sky, Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m yours! All while being born blind.
Ray Charles lost his site at the age 6. But that didn’t stop him from learning how to play the piano. It didn’t stop him from composing and writing music. Blind, he sang songs like Hit the Road Jack, or Georgia on my Mind, classics that are still samples today like I’ve got a woman or Night Time is the Right Time. Did all of this while Blind.
Louis (Lewis) Braille himself was blinded around the age of three, but his love for education fueled him to develop a reading and writing system that people still used today. And guess what, He did all of this while blind.
The list goes on with people like Helen Keller. Andrea Bocelli, Joseph Pulitzer all dealt with being visually impaired. Blindness has not stopped people from teaching, writing music, playing sports, running for office, and even climbing mountains. Redefining the narrative.
What I am saying is this. There are some things that don’t always feel good, but it doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean they don’t have redeeming qualities. It doesn’t mean life stops. It doesn’t mean. Just because he’s blind doesn’t mean the guy has been living in darkness his whole life.
In her book, My body is not a prayer request, Amy Kenny helps us redefine the differently abled community. She says these words. (slide) “Disabled people bear God's image. Not despite our bodies or once we receive our "new-creation bodies." Right now, disabled people in wheel-chairs, using their ventilators, and communicating in diverse ways radiate God's image to the world. We are just waiting for the rest of the world to realize this and help create that vibrant goodness between disabled and nondisabled neighbors. The vibrant goodness between me and fellow churchgoers was broken when prayerful perpetrators accosted me without knowing anything about me. The vibrant goodness was broken when I was informed that my disability is a result of my sin. The vibrant goodness was broken when I was dismissed for asking people to change their ableist language.”
Jesus wasn’t discounted the man’s blindness, he just changed their understanding of what they thought was “undesirable.” What they thought was bad Jesus saw an opportunity for his glory to be revealed.
Bad things happen are bound to happen. You can not outrun tragedy. Your church involvement does immunize you. Faith does not make you invincible. The quicker we realize that, the better prepared we will. It’s not meant to doom and gloom, but the truth is that….. People fail. Marriages go through rocky patches. Sickness happens). A Better question is not why, but now what? Ok we lost, now what. Ok we got the test results back, now what.
You see the disciples were asking the wrong question. They wanted to know what caused it. But they ask for the explanation in the categories of cause. What is it in the past that caused the blindness? But Jesus says that won’t work, and he gives them an explanation in the category of purpose. Not what’s the cause of the blindness, but what’s the purpose of the blindness? The decisive explanation for this blindness is not found by looking for its cause but by looking for its purpose. Verse 3: Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” They are stuck in the past, Jesus is focused on the present and the future. Jesus is less concerned about why it happened and wants to show them them something they can not see. Who’s blind now? This man’s life, this conversation, this situation becomes a display for Gods glory to be seen or displayed.
On both of physical campus, North Indy and Midtown, we have art galleries where we display various forms of art. Everything from photographs ,scriptures, paintings, drawings.. It really is amazing what people decide to display. Even if you haven’t seen them on campus, you’ve walked in stores and seen displays. You’ve seen the manikins dressed in the latest fashion. You’ve seen the jewelry sparking in the display case. If you walk into certain schools, you will immediately see the schools accomplishments (state champions, city runner up) on display for everyone to see. If you walk into the classroom, some of the teachers will display the artwork or projects the students have completed. You’ve walked up to the of a restaurant counter you will see the display of desserts and even if you weren’t hungry, you are now. Just about everywhere you go, you will notice the great care that people take the display their work.
There’s actually an entire psychology and strategy behind it. It’s called visual merchandising. The goal is simply to create an environment that bring attention and peak the curiosity. You this principle on display all of the time. The next time you see a display, think, THIS IS WHAT God is trying to do with my life. God is using a certain aspect in this season to draw interest and peak the curiosity. The
only difference is that God doesn’t always look for the best parts! God doesn’t choose the portrait that shines best in recess lighting. Here’s the challenge. There are certain things about our lives we don’t want on display. But somewhere I read that Gods strength is made perfect in our weakness.
If we kept reading the narrative, you’d see how Jesus put mud and saliva on the man’s eyes and how he could see the very first time. If we read on you’d see how much trouble that caused. People were more threatened by his site than they were about his blindness. But we stopped at the earlier verses because I didn’t want you to just think the only miracle was him miraculously receiving site.. I didn’t want you to think that’s the only way God can put his life (or our lives) on display. Sometimes it looks like a blind man seeing again. Sometimes it looks like this (slide).
Let’s go back to opening story. You see the Jets were devastated 4 plays into their season, but look at how many games they have left. Look at how many games they still have left on the schedule. Look at the number of team and cities they must travel The miracle is not only in some miraculous healing or turn of events, but it’s the willingness to keep showing up, week after week after week, game after game, city after city in-spite of…
It’s courage and the persistence to keep showing up when it’s hard. It’s choice to put one foot in front of the other. This man was born blind and now he’s an adult. Gods power to sustain us was on full display. That’s the miracle for me!
Because when things happen, guess what the schedule doesn’t go away. You still have to work. You still have parent. You still have show up for people. You still have to cook dinner. You still have to pay bills. You still have to be present. Maybe the miracle is that before God changes us, God sustains during the hard times. He was blind from day 1 and yet here he is! We want to find comfort in the explanation when God wants us to find comfort in Gods presence.
They asked the man, how did this happen, he couldn’t give them a reason. He simply said. All I know is that I was blind, but now I see!