As we know, I’m currently between churches and I’m trying to figure out where exactly I fit in the ministry scheme of things. Yesterday I was reading the lectionary passages and the Gospel passage was from John 9, a story of Jesus healing a blind man. This is the one, if you’re familiar with Bible stories, when the disciples ask who sinned that this man was born blind. Jesus made the paste of mud & spit and smeared it on the man’s eyes and he could see. BTW – this is my biblical justification for spa treatments.
Here’s the part of the story I find particularly interesting at the time in my journey:
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”
18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.
I’m interested here in the view of the man’s healing by the religious establishment. First, they don’t believe it’s possible. Then when they are proven wrong, they denied Jesus’ authority. How many times has Jesus intervened and brought healing into someone’s life and we are either surprised or incredulous and definitely skeptical. Then our next thing is to force them into established religion to make sure we can exploit their experience to get more butts in seats or we decide it wasn’t from God because it didn’t fit our view of how God acts in the world?
Right now there are two biblical films in theaters and a lot of the Christian community is trying to drum up support for those films so Hollywood will make more films that support their world view. What bugs me about this is that what they’re saying is, “We only see a story as valid if it matches how we see the world. If your story is not palatable to us, we don’t want to see it.” This view says that God can only be seen and appreciated in a certain, sanitized context. The truth is, God is in all life. There is no sacred/secular divide. It’s all sacred. It’s all God’s territory. The challenge is to see God in everyone’s story.
The same Christians who read this story and pity the Jews are the same Christians who behave exactly like the Jews. They have a narrow view of how God can be seen and act in the world and if someone dares to contradict that they are not welcome. This is my issue with church. And it’s on all sides – progressive and evangelical. For example:
Churches that are theologically conservative have more contemporary worship and are more open, in some contexts to getting out in the world. However, there is no full inclusion of women, LGBTQ people, and they’re pretty white.
Churches that are progressive theologically often have more traditional worship services and are structurally in their own way so that it’s very difficult to get them to move out of their comfort zone to get into the community. But you get some pretty full inclusion.
Both sets frustrate me in completely different ways and both suffer from Pharisee syndrome, in that there are some things that must always be done in a certain way or you’re not welcome. Do you see my issue here? Sometimes I just want to start my own thing, but then I’m pretty sure it’d be just me.