Lent 4A John 9:1-41
On this 4th Sunday of Lent, it is good to have a long gospel reading! I think we could use all the good news we can get right now. It is obvious that this is a stressful time. That’s an understatement of course. It is a frightening and uncertain time. We are afraid for the health of those we love and ourselves. We might be concerned about our financial stability. And we might wonder if our lives will ever return to normal. It is good to hear of this miracle of Jesus’ healing and bringing sight to the blind man. Most of all, it is good to hear a story of Jesus bringing light into darkness; a darkness that seemed impenetrable, a darkness that seemed inevitable. Just like ours.
This is also a good scripture to read now when much of our uncertainty and unease are related to health. I have a few friends who have recently said that they are unafraid of this virus because they have faith and their faith is so strong they won’t get sick. They believe because they have strong faith in Jesus that God will not let them get sick. I’ve also seen some things on social media that insist that if we would all pray hard enough, the virus would dissolve like snow, and everyone would be instantly healed.
There is an awful lot in those ideas to think through. At its base, both of those ideas are seeking to find a faithful way to respond to a difficult situation. But here are some other things to consider as well. First, faith is very important and it is not only a consolation but also a guide to how we approach suffering and hardship. Our faith teaches us that we are called to love our neighbor and that calling, along with Loving God, are the twin guiding principles of our lives, most especially in difficult times. That guiding principle of our faith, the two-fold law Jesus said was the greatest of all commandments, is something we can use to help us asses our decisions and our choices when the world seems chaotic and scary.
If someone told you they had a mountaintop experience, what would you think they meant? Most of the time, people mean they had an experience that changed them. They went someplace or to an event or perhaps just experienced something in a new way that they never had before and it fundamentally changed something inside them or transformed the way they viewed the world.
There are a lot of things that happen on the tops of mountains in the bible and most of the time, these things have something to do with meeting God. In our gospel text for today, Jesus goes to the mountaintop to pray. In our Old Testament lesson, Moses goes to meet God in a mysterious cloud on the mountain. It is here that Moses receives the Ten Commandments.
The prophet Elijah, who also shows up in this gospel text, had a significant mountaintop experience, too. He was the superstar of prophets and at a very low period in his life and ministry, one of those times when it would be really good for God to show up in an unmistakable way, he runs to the mountain to find God. Or perhaps to just hide and get away from those who were trying to kill him.
Many of us might understand this. Not the part about hiding from people who are trying to kill us, I hope! The part about having a low period in our lives and really wishing God would show up and give us direction or make everything right. Like a bolt of lightning or one of those burning bushes. Or even just let us know we are not alone. Lots of people come to our area, here in the Appalachian mountains, for just such a thing as this. They, like all of us on some level, want to have a moment of connection with something bigger than ourselves, something that gives life meaning and perspective, and perhaps a connection with that which is holy and divine. They find it here, in the mountains……