March 26, 2017 |John 9: 1-12, 35-41| Rev. Wade Lifton –

**Please note: audio recording starts about 2 minutes into sermon. Full written sermon posted below.



Blindness and Sight

Blindness and sight are often used as a metaphor for spiritual openness.

We hear it throughout the bible.

We hear it in the song Amazing Grace:

I once was lost but now am found; was blind but now I see.


If you’re a person who is physically blind, it’s not great to hear being blind used to describe being lost, and seeing as being found.


Blindness and sight is a powerful metaphor, and it’s a metaphor we need to use carefully.


The man born blind

My friend David is blind, and one of the things he remembers as kid in school is that his teachers would receive paperwork about his blindness and his abilities before they ever met him.

They knew about his blindness before they knew him.


We see that at beginning of the story. The disciples don’t see the man, they see his blindness.They ask Jesus about the reason for his blindness.

They don’t see him, they see their beliefs about sin and disability and how God works, and all of that gets in the way of simply seeing this person and learning who he is.


After he’s healed, the neighbours have trouble seeing the man.They can’t reconcile the person they’ve known and the person in front of them now.


They’re asking each other, “Is this him?…I don’t think it’s him…It looks like him…no I don’t think so.”


The man is standing there saying, “I’m right here.  This is me!”



Not being seen


We all have our own experiences of not being seen for who we are. At some point how your parents saw you was different than how you saw yourself.


Those of you who are parents know what it’s like to have your kids see you, not as a person, but as the provider of all their needs.


Someone looks at you with their own idea of how you should look as a woman,or how you should behave as a man.


Some of you have not been on a first date for a long time and may not remember that particular experience of looking at someone and them looking at you knowing that you’re sizing each other up, trying to see who this person is, while you’re both trying to present your best self.


There’s a fun moment when I’m on a date and the person asks, “So what do you do?” I get to say, “I’m a minister at a church,” and then watch their reaction. I watch how their ideas and experiences of ministers influence how they see me.


Our profession influences how people see us.

You’re a doctor.

You work at McDonald’s.

You’re a parent.

You’re unemployed.


We all know what it’s like to not be seen for who we are.





We also know what it’s like to be disoriented, like the neighbours in this story.


When something in our life or in the world changes,and we don’t know what to make of it.


When the neighbourhood is changing.It doesn’t feel like it did before, and it disorients us.


After a family member dies there absence is disorienting. The family dynamics are often different than before.


When a new baby is born, the parents are disoriented. Their life will never be what it was before.


We know that using fossil fuels is destroying the planet and our lives are currently dependent on them. It’s disorienting trying to navigate that.


Traveling can disorient our lives, we come home seeing things differently.


Elections can disorient our lives. They can change both how the world around us operates us and how we see the world.


We see the neighbours in the story who don’t know what to make of this situation, and we know what it’s like to be confused and disoriented.




When someone I’ve always known as a woman now identifies as a man, I’m disoriented.


I have to work hard to remember to say he and him, and remember the name they’re now using.


I can’t immediately reconcile the person I’ve known and the identity they are sharing with me now, even though it’s the same person.


Some trans or gender queer folks don’t identify as male or female, they use alternative pronouns and the grammar section of my brain does mental gymnastics.


While I’m dealing with feeling disoriented, my friend is constantly dealing with having their identity questioned.


They are constantly dealing with the same conversation that we heard in the story. Is this the person we knew before?

“I don’t think it’s her…Not her, him!…It looks like her…no I don’t think so.”


The person is saying, “I’m right here.  This is me!”


Coffee Shop Washroom


Earlier this week I was working in this sermon in a coffee shop and I had to use the washroom. But the men’s washroom was out of service, so the staff person said, “You can use the women’s – there are stalls.”


I nervously opened the bathroom door, ready for someone to yell at me. To be asked what I was doing and told to get out. I felt on edge.  I felt a bit tense in my gut. I quickly scurried to a stall.


You’re supposed to wash your hands for 20 seconds. I’m sure I barely made it to 10 before I was trying to rinse them and get out the door before I was caught.


I’ve heard about this from friends who don’t look stereotypically male or female. Every time they have this basic bodily need, they have to confront the fear of being called out in a washroom.

Not only not being seen for who they are, but having their identity questioned in public.


We each have our own experiences of having our identity questioned, in one way or another.

Not being seen for who we are, like the man who receives sight.


We also have our experiences of feeling disoriented by changes in the world or in our lives, like the neighbours who don’t know what to make of this.



Encountering Jesus


After the man receives sight and the neighbours question who he is, we actually skipped over a whole chunk of the story.


The pharisees question the man, and they don’t believe him, so the question his parents, and then they question him again.


After all this, we come to the part where Jesus finds him, and asks, “What do you believe?”



Jesus is the only person who doesn’t question his identity or his experience. They have a conversation about faith.


What do you believe? What is true in your relationship with God?


When our identity has been questioned, When we are not seen for who we are, Jesus asks…


What do you believe? What is true in your relationship with God?





At the end of all this Jesus makes this charged statement: “I came into this world for judgmentso that those do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”


Jesus loves paradoxes. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. You must lose your life to gain it.


In the gospels, and especially in John’s gospel, we’re invited to look at Jesus actions and words and ask, What is Jesus showing us about God?


One thing Jesus shows us in this story is God’s promise of disorientation.


What you see clearly right now, it will change. What you can’t see, I will show you.


That is the promise of new life offered to us in this story.


At this moment, our transgendered neighbours are probably the best teachers we have about the promise of disorientation.



Lent & Easter


We are moving towards holy week, a week that is full of paradox and culminates in the ultimate disorientation.


What you see clearly right now, it will change. What you can’t see, I will show you.


As we continue to prepare to enter the mystery of Easter, I wonder what needs disorienting in our lives?


As we continue on this Lenten journey, may we be blessed with encounters that help us trust what is true in our relationship with God.


May we be seen for who we truly are, and offer others the gift of being seen.