Saturday, March 21, 2020

C, Lent 4 - John 9:1-7 Ephesians 5:6-17 "Coronavirus Advice 2020"

John 9:1–7 (ESV) As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
Jesus has this discussion with his disciples after he walked out of the temple in Jerusalem having spoken sternly with the Pharisees.  The Pharisees had brought a woman caught in the act of adultery testing Jesus with the Law of Moses.  However, as they continued to ask him, Jesus stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 (ESV)
Jesus throws attention onto their sin and after they fade and fail to condemn, Jesus says to the woman “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:11 (ESV)
Then Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)
So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” John 8:21 (ESV)
“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” John 8:24 (ESV)
Jesus said all these things in the temple treasury, telling them he was from above and not of this world. Some believed to whom he said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31–32 (ESV)
To those who didn’t believe he said, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”(John 8:47 ESV)
Jesus calls the Pharisees liars, sons of the devil, unbelievers, and unable to hear the word of God.  Jesus does not hold back on speaking the truth.  To which they claim Jesus has a demon.
Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honour my Father, and you dishonour me.  Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.  Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”  The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ (John 8:49–52 ESV)
One can imagine that the exchange would have been rather tense.  The truth of Jesus’ word was making the Jews furious.  But in this last exchange there is a subtle change in their interpretation of Jesus’ word.  Jesus says, “he will never see death” but the Pharisees respond, “he will never taste death”.
See death, taste death.  The death to which Jesus referred as seeing was an eternal death; the death to which the Jews referred to as tasting was an earthly death.  In faith Abraham saw in Jesus the death of the eternal death and was glad and died in faith.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58 ESV)
Jesus uses for himself the name of Yahweh, “I am”.  He says it to the Jews in the Jerusalem Temple and their anger boils over as they seek to stone him.  After the Pharisees brought an adulteress to stone, Jesus leaves the temple with them wanting to stone him.
It’s here outside the temple the disciples ask about the man born blind.  Did he sin or did his parents sin?
Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:3–5 ESV)
Jesus is the light of the world.  His light is received outside the temple. Is Jesus the light of your world; in the temple of your heart?  Today in Australia, over this entire planet is Jesus the light of denominational Christendom?  He became the light of the blind man’s world through dirt, spit and his word. 
Jesus heard that the Jews had cast out this man healed of his blindness, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”  Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”  He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.  Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”  Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?”  Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains. (John 9:35–41 ESV)
We see and our guilt remains!  However, you can see death but never taste death.  Believe your guilt; but even greater believe the death of your guilt.  Believe Jesus, hear his word, place your guilt in him, see your death in his death, repent and believe.  See and taste Jesus, see and taste this steadfast love of God!
The words we hear in these days of COVID – 19 are words of uncertainty, unsettlement, uneasiness, unrest and fear.  There is a panic in the world from Corona virus.  Even before the pandemic arrives words of fear have gone viral around the globe.
Like the Jews in the treasury, truth revealed is unsettling making us feel uneasy.  Even for the church which could be a place of rest there is unrest.
What causes us to fear?  What caused the Pharisees to fear?  Could it be the very same things?
The fear of Death! The death of pleasure! A failing fortune! The collapse of the economy! The death of ourselves, our time, and our possessions!  The fear of all things in which we trust shown to be absolutely useless in the face of crisis.  The powerlessness of people!
Or perhaps you fear God’s word not to be true or that it’s actually true when you’ve been ignoring it and happily sinning.  Or, perhaps your fear is one that forces you to fight even harder to place yourselves in a better position above others and even God’s word to survive the viral pandemic of COVID – 19 and its fear.
Like the disciples some of us will ask of those who get the virus and die from it, whether it was because of their sin?  Jesus clearly says, “No! It’s not from the works of one’s sin.”  Yet Jesus has come to display the works of God in humanity suffering under the pandemic of sin, which does kill.
How does God do this?  He focuses the disciples of his day and his disciples of today (March 22 2020) to work the works of our Father who sent Jesus to us.  Jesus’ work continues with us and through us by power of the Holy Spirit, so we can proclaim words of hope while it is day. 
It appears that we are very quickly descending into darkness.  Fear, panic and uncertainty seem to be alive as much in the denominational churches as it is over the rest of the earth.  This week the Canberra correspondent for the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) reporting on Australia’s financial position amid the Corona Virus said, “After the drought and the bushfires, 2020 is looking like the year that God forgot.” [1]
But Jesus has not forgotten us!  He is the light of the world.  God’s work will be displayed in those who carry the virus.  The pandemic will expose believers and unbelievers just as the drought, the bushfires and all other testing events in history have done.
As St Paul proclaims to the Philippians, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 ESV)
So for all of us we need to wake from our slumber and figure out what is pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Being true faithful Christians trusting in the faithfulness of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit in the one true church hidden in the eudemonic denominations of Christendom is a call to prayer, a call to join Jesus in his work.  This is a work of repentance and faith.
Jesus warns in Luke’s Gospel answering, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2–5 ESV)
We as the church of God have so much more to offer the world than fear.  The world and denominational churches would have us shut down Jesus healing with spit and dirt.  Faith in Jesus Christ reigns over any pandemic of fear and death. Let Christ’s light shine in you. It shines brighter in the darkness.
Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.  For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.  For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.  For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:5b, 7–9 ESV)
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.  But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:6–17 ESV)
And from the Psalmist in Psalm 34, I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad.  Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!  I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.  This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.  The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.  Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:1–8 ESV)
Heavenly Father in the face of death let us trust in Jesus, so that through Jesus’ death and our death we will see Jesus face to face, who together with the Father and Holy Spirit is worshiped and glorified, one God, now and forever, Amen.

[1] Andrew Probyn Political correspondent ABC Television News Canberra 16/03/2020