Worship Notes for March 22, 2020

Sunday, March 22, 2020
Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A

Introduction

Baptism is sometimes called enlightenment. The gospel for this Sunday is the story of the man born blind healed by Christ. “I was blind, now I see,” declares the man. In baptism God opens our eyes to see the truth of who we are: God’s beloved children. As David was anointed king of Israel, in baptism God anoints our head with oil, and calls us to bear witness to the light of Christ in our daily lives.

(Pastor Stover’s note: I have never heard baptism called “enlightenment.”)

Gospel Acclamation

Jesus says, I am the light | of the world;* whoever follows me will have the | light of life. (John 8:12)

Readings and Psalm

1 Samuel 16:1-13 David is chosen and anointed

Psalm 23 You anoint my head with oil. (Ps. 23:5) 

Ephesians 5:8-14 Awake from sleep, live as children of light

John 9:1-41 Baptismal image: the man born blind. (Awakening, washing, telling [sent])

First Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Does God Ever Tell Us to Lie?

Samuel anointed David even though he was the eighth-oldest son of Jesse and did not match his brothers in height or other physical characteristics. With the anointing came endowment with the Spirit of the Lord, designating David as the Lord’s chosen successor to Saul.

1The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul?  I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2Samuel said, “How can I go?  If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’  (Wait…did the Lord just tell Samuel to lie or tell a “half-truth”?)

Read on!

3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome.  The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Psalm: Psalm 23  You anoint my head with oil. (Ps. 23:5)

1The Lord| is my shepherd;
  I shall not | be in want.
2The Lord makes me lie down | in green pastures
  and leads me be- | side still waters.
3You restore my | soul, O Lord,
  and guide me along right pathways | for your name’s sake.
4Though 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. 
5You prepare a table before me in the presence | of my enemies;
  you anoint my head with oil, and my cup is | running over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days | of my life,
  and I will dwell in the house of the | Lord forever. 

 

Second Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14. Live as Children of Light!

Because we now live in the divine light which is Jesus Christ, we conduct our lives in ways that reflect the light of Christ, so that our activity is truly pleasing to God.

8Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—9for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. 10Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; 13but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
 “Sleeper, awake!
  Rise from the dead,
 and Christ will shine on you.”

Pastor Stover’s Note

    As I walked by the bright pink azaleas on Saturday, the ones at the end of a retaining wall marking the boundary between my driveway and the back yard, I seemed to “feel” the light shining from the azaleas. By feel I mean that as I stood there admiring them, it was as if the color was coming to me, almost too bright for eyes to fully take in. I took a step back, an unconscious act that became conscious as I processed the bushes’ brilliance.

 

Gospel: John 9:1-41

Jesus heals a man born blind, provoking a hostile reaction that he regards as spiritual blindness to the things of God. (Jesus draws attention to God by doing the works of God.)

1As [Jesus] walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 

Commentary

“Blind from birth” puzzled people hearing this story. It was and is a great way for John to start a story! The reason for this puzzlement is that people understood blindness (and other physical and emotional disabilities) as punishment for sin. How could a baby be punished for a sin it could not yet have committed?

You may think this is an old thought, but it still resonates with many people. We are in the midst of a great pandemic. Many people are fearful that they will contract the disease. And, if they do, deep down inside, they will wonder if the illness is a punishment for something they have done wrong.  Often, as happened in the early days of cancer, AIDS, other ailments and calamities, the human community associates loss of health and wealth with past sins.  So deeply ingrained is this association, that in this time of viral invasion, we can’t believe life includes things beyond our control and command. As adults we serve up inordinate blame on ourselves or others when things go wrong.

Oddly we ascribe to babies an inordinate innocence. This has caused some thinkers to theorize that if a colony of children could be isolated from sin, they could grow up sinless. But the awareness of the universality of sin prompted religious thinkers to postulate that sin must be transferred at conception or birth; or as is written in Scripture, in a favorite Lenten text, Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”

You can enjoy reading more about this online via Bible Hub, etc. The following is from one commentary on the discussion of the verse. “The later rabbis, combining this verse with the mystery hanging over the origin and name of David’s mother, represent him as born in adultery.” (See Stanley, Jewish Church, chap. ii., p. 46, Note.).  David’s statement should not be applied to others universally; though if you want to claim it as a reality for you own life, you certainly may.

Setting aside the speculative questions we ask of sin and its origins, we as Christians, should be doing what the disciples doing, here, in this text. They ask JESUS for an explanation.  So, now read this question and Jesus’ response.

Read on!

2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 

Commentary

Now one might wonder, “Does God cause such things as infant blindness so that God might be glorified?”  Seems rather random and cruel of God, doesn’t it?

To listen to Jesus and to see Jesus, we need to understand what is important to Jesus. To Jesus, the glorification of God is primary. So, this incident is less about the man born blind or Jesus' miracle cure of spit and soil, but doing the work in broad daylight that will glorify God.

So important to Jesus is this glorification (especially in John), that it is hard to emphasize enough. It would be as if you saw me at Starbucks and said, “Why are you at Starbucks?” And I would respond, “For the glory of God!”  Or if you saw me changing a tire and asked, “Do you need help?” and I responded, “O, that God would be glorified!”  As the story moves along, we see that for the man born blind, the glory of God is seen as the glory of Jesus.

Read on!

4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 

6When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

13They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15Then 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.” 16Some 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. 17So 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.”

18The 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 19and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21but 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.” 22His 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. 23Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24So 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.” 25He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27He 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?”  28Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

35Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 

41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

Note:  This last verse (41) seems to demand some explanation. On the other hand, I get the point, as do most people, I think. But let me add one bit here. “But now that you say, 'We see,’ your sin remains.” The man born blind receives sight from Jesus. The eyesight the Pharisees have is self-declared. This statement is one of human hubris rather than divine act.  This, then, is the sin that remains. (Self-justification)

Prayers of Intercession

Turning our hearts to God who is gracious and merciful, we pray for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

Take a couple of deep breaths.

Lord of the Universe:  The needs of the church, the world, and the human family are great in this valley of the shadow of death. We might pray “calm our hearts,” but you know it to be a time pray, “inspire human minds.” We might want to pray, “save us from this time of trial,” but you know it is time to pray, “into your hands we commend our spirit.”  We might want to pray, “protect us from irrational mobs and poor decision making,” but you know it is time to pray, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

O Lord, remember us in your kingdom.

And keep teaching us to pray.

 

God of Insight: open the hearts of the church and the world to all who testify to your deeds of power like Jonathan Edwards, whom we commemorate today.  Raise up voices in your church that are often silenced or overlooked due to age, gender, race, or economic status. 

O Lord, remember us in your kingdom.

And keep teaching us to pray.

God of Insight:  As we watch the news, consider the words of the experts, read the many posts and articles e-mailed by financial advisors, businesses, and non-profit organizations, help us to remember that “where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” (1 Cor. 13:8).  Yet, faith, hope, and love will abide. (13:13).

Lord, remember us in your kingdom.

And keep teaching us to pray.

God of Insight:  bring peace to all people and nations.  Anoint leaders who seek goodness, righteousness, and truth on behalf of all. 

Lord, remember us in your kingdom.

And keep teaching us to pray.

God of Insight: you care for our needs even before we ask. Hear all who seek prayer this day: 

  1. especially the family and friends of Sandra Robinson, in illness and death; especially Margaret Robinson, Rick Robinson, Kyle Jenkins, Sondra Fowler, and Bob Xander.
  2. Stephanie Sanders in her illness, in her father’s caner, after the recent death of her mother, Sarah Catham. 
  3. Carrie (Yale), for confidence in her medical providers during her recovery from surgery.
  4. Family and friends of Gary Berry, who has died.  
  5. Children and teens who are discouraged in their relationships.  
  6. Bless Jarixa with the sense that you created her for purpose and joy.  
  7. Keep Kayla safe until she returns home.
  8. Roger Boyer in his ongoing recovery from surgery.
  9. And RJ, Jerry and Susan Lystad’s grandson, in recovery from pneumonia.
  10. Kaitlyn Stover, in her illness.
  11. Doctors, nurses, physical therapists, nutritionists, in this time of stress. 

Lord, remember them all in your kingdom.

And keep teaching us to pray.

God of insight, help this assembly lift up the unique gifts of each person who enters, no matter their physical capacity, cognitive ability, or sensory need. Help us to be creative and brave in making our facilities and our ministries accessible to all. 

Lord, remember us in your kingdom.

And keep teaching us to pray: Our Father, who art in heaven...(Continue)

Blessing

Now is the acceptable time.

Now is the day of salvation.

Holy God,

    speaking, spoken, and inspiring,

    ☩ bless us, unbind us,

    and find us always in love and in peace.

Amen.

 

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Upcoming Commemorations

Jonathan Edwards, teacher, missionary to American Indians, died 1758

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A Puritan minister in Connecticut, Edwards is remembered as being a great preacher. Though his most famous sermon talks at length about hell, he was more concerned with God's love. He served both as missionary to the Housatonic people in Massachusetts, and as president of the future Princeton University.

Oscar Arnulfo Romero, Bishop of El Salvador, martyr, died 1980

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Romero was deeply concerned with injustices evident toward the poor and powerless in El Salvador, and worked forthrightly against political repression. He was assassinated while presiding at the eucharist in a chapel near the cathedral in San Salvador.

Annunciation of Our Lord

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Nine months before Christmas we celebrate the annunciation, in which the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God. The ancient church believed that this was also the date of the world's creation and of Jesus' death on the cross.

From sundaysandseasons.com.

Copyright © 2020 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #SAS017673.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, Copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Revised Common Lectionary, Copyright © 1992 Consultation on Common Texts, admin Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission.

 

Thinking Aloud

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