What Happens When You Mess Up a Sermon...

On Sunday, the text for my sermon was John 9, and involved a man born blind healed by Jesus. The Pharisees are convinced that Jesus is a sinner because he healed the man on the Sabbath, thereby breaking Jewish law. When grilled about his interaction with Jesus and exhorted to distance himself from Jesus, the man says, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind, but now I see." This is a powerful statement of course, and goes a long way in showing up how our relationship to Jesus is founded not so much on understaning intellectual truths about him (e.g. "He is the son of God," "He was the child of a virgin," or "He rose from the dead") as on the profundity of our interactions with him ("Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did" (John 4:29), or "One thing I do know. I was blind, but now I see" (John 9:25).

A theme of my sermon was the many things in Scripture that are either unbelievable (healings, virgin births, resurrections from the dead) or unpleasant (commandments to kill babies, wives being told to submit to their husbands, anger being made equal to murder). I said that these things made belief next to impossible: only an idiot would believe such things! But then I drew the parallel from the man born blind and the woman at the well meeting Jesus to our own reading of passages like Romans 7:18-19: "For I have the desire to do what it good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do -- this I keep on doing."

I said that, for me, this was my "woman at the well" moment: come and read a book that told me everything I ever did. I said that I felt like the man who had been born blind, who didn't know anything about whether or not it was okay for Jesus to have healed on the Sabbath, and only knew that he had been healed. I ended by saying, "This is a Jesus that, as far as I'm concerned, can heal, can rise from the dead, can talk about things I find discomforting, can even call me a sinner. When I'm at the end of my rope, where I seem to spend all my time, I don't know about any of that. One thing I do know, though. We were once blind, and now we see. We were once dead, and are now alive. We were once lost, and now are found. Amen."

After having thought about the sermon all afternoon, I want to make a clarification. The above closing can give the impression that I think that the miraculous and uncomfortable stuff can be ignored (or disbelieved) as long as your relationship with Jesus has a profound impact on your life. This isn't what I meant. What I meant was: A Jesus who knows me in my sin, and who then dies for me, offering me his righteousness in exchange for my sin, is a Jesus that I will follow. And if that requires me to interact with some things that are hard to believe or hard to swallow, so be it. The power of the one requires the exercise of the other.

I believe that Jesus did things that have no scientific explanation. I believe he asked us to do things that we find, because of our fallen nature, difficult, impossible, and even repugnant. And I believe that he lived, died, and rose again to reconcile us to God. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think you messed up at all Nick. You are a thought provoking preacher, even to the point of provoking more thoughts on your own part, so just imagine your effect on us. Keep up the good preaching I say!

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