Pierre-Henry Buisson March 22, 2020
St Luke’s Episcopal Church, Prescott AZ Online Service Lent 4A
Shine, Jesus Shine, fill this land with the Father’s glory… Send forth your Word, Lord, and let there be light!
Sitting at my desk praying about the Gospel, the words of the song, “Shine, Jesus shine,” came to my mind. But, because of my anxiety level about what is going on in the world and in our country, especially the spreading of Covid-19, I had some difficulties singing it at first. I remembered that singing is praying twice, so I tried. And that gave me some peace and relief, because, for me, this is a wonderful prayer. Shine in the world, shine in my life, shine in our community. Shine Jesus, shine on me!
The Gospel of John tells us once again with the healing of the blind man that Jesus is the light of the world. He is the light who is always shining in the deepest darkness of our world; the light who is always shining in the deepest darkness of our lives. This Gospel should be an invitation to rejoice and to look at our lives, at our neighbors, and at our world with new lenses in order to discern, recognize, and acknowledge Jesus’ loving and shining presence in our midst.
Of course, this is not easy. We are all confronted with the burdens of life. We are all confronted with the flow of bad news… Still today, people are experiencing racism, injustice, poverty, rejection, illness, prejudice, anxieties, suffering, and death… Today we are living under the threat of Covid-19. We are anxious for ourselves, our neighbors, and our loved ones, as we see the many reports with the expected number of casualties. From time to time, we might feel so overwhelmed that we may have the desire to stop fighting. We have so many questions and fears that we may wonder where God is in the midst of what is going on. Some may wonder what they have done to deserve such a treatment… Some could even be tempted to tell us, as it was the norm in Jesus’ time, that the novel coronavirus is a divine punishment for our sins, the sins of our parents, or the sins of our society.
But at the very beginning of our Gospel, Jesus clearly rejects this so popular explanation of bad things happening even to good people: the blind man is not blind because of his sins or his parents’ sins. The good news, if I may say, is that from this problem, from something bad, Jesus can do something good. I think that each one of us can find in our own lives some examples of bad situations, bad experiences, from which something great, or something good came out. Sometimes it’s a new understanding of what is important in our lives, sometimes it’s a clear vision of what we should do, sometimes it’s a new hope that sheds light on our life…
God is always present at our sides, even in the thickest darkness, or strongest sufferings. This is not new, already the psalmist boldly proclaimed these well known comforting words, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps 23,4) The psalmist had a strong confidence in the living God, and in God’s presence in the midst of trials… and yet he did not know Jesus. We have more than the psalmist’s confidence, we have the presence of the Risen Lord who not only is always with us, but also is the light that is shining in the dark places of our lives, guiding us, comforting us, helping us to follow him.
Christ is the light who shines in the darkness, even in this time of pandemic. Christ is the shining light who is transforming our lives and who is helping us to discern the Risen Lord’s presence in our lives and around us. Despite all the ugliness that surrounds us, we are invited to open our hearts, our minds, our eyes, to see all the beauty, love, and light brought by the Lord.
The good news is that we know for sure that we can see Jesus with our human eyes, if only we trust him enough. We don’t have to look up in heaven. We don’t have to wait for a miraculous sign. We don’t have to wait until we are on the other side of the curtain of death. We don’t, because Jesus told us that he is present in any of our brothers or sisters, especially those who are suffering.
But seeing Christ is not enough. This is only the first step that leads to believe in him and to serve him. This is all the irony found in John’s Gospel today. Most of the people and the religious leaders knew Jesus and saw what happened to the blind man. But because they were so sure of their religious knowledge, they were so sure to know what God was supposed to do, that they could not see the obvious. The only one who was able to see beyond the appearances was the formerly blind man. The one the society of the time considered an outcast and a sinner was able to gradually recognize who Jesus was. He went from seeing “the man called Jesus” (v. 11), to calling him a prophet (v. 17), to saying that he must be from God, (v.33), and eventually to addressing him as “Lord” and worshipping him (v. 38).
So, that brings some questions for all of us as we get closer to Easter. Who is Christ for me? How can I share my understanding of Christ with others? How is Christ’s presence helping me to see him alive in my life and in the world? How am I able to serve and love Christ by serving and loving my neighbor in this difficult time?
The light is still shining in the darkness of our world and the darkness of our lives, and we are still invited to live as children of light in order to bring Christ’s love to those around us. Today, in this difficult and unprecedented time of pandemic when we have to practice social distancing, when we can not worship together in our building, we are still invited to be beacons of hope, love, and reconciliation for those around us. We are still called to love and serve our neighbors as best as we can. even if we need to do so by keeping our neighbor and ourselves safe. So, as a church and as individuals we need to be creative. We need to find ways to stay in touch with each other and to avoid social isolation. This is the time to check on our friends, family members, fellow parishioners, neighbors. A phone call, a text message, an email, a letter, are concrete ways to show our love and concerns. I’m pleased to know that several groups, ministries, or commissions are organizing phone trees, and I hope our Telecare ministry will be available soon. This is also the time to pray for each other more than usual. If you are up to the challenge, I invite all of us to be united in prayer each day at noon for 5 minutes. You can use an office from the BCP found p 103 and 138, you can say the Lord’s prayer, or just be silent. Prayer is a concrete way to testify to the light of the world and to become light to others, and I hope it will help us to realize that together we are part of the Body of Christ.
Let us pray: Lord, the light of your love is shining. in the midst of the darkness, shining. Jesus, light of the world shine upon us. (…) shine Jesus, Shine. Fill this land with the Father’s glory. Blaze, Spirit blaze Set our hearts on fire. Flow river, flow. Flood the nations with grace and mercy. Send forth your word Lord, and let there be light. Amen.