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Children of Light The Fourth Sunday in Lent

When I was forty years old, I woke up in the middle of the night with what I thought

surely was a heart attack.  I was living in Pittsburgh, another river city with lots of trees, and it

had rained every day for three weeks.  My children were out of town, with their mother, at her

friend’s wedding.  I was alone.  And I was really scared.


I wasn’t scared or smart enough to go to the hospital.  I did see my primary care doctor

the next morning.  “Congratulations,” he said.  “You have asthma.”  “No,” I said, “I used to have

asthma, but I outgrew it.”  I hadn’t had any symptoms for twenty years.  “No,” he said, “it’s just

been dormant all this time.  Once you get it, you always have it.”


My doctor gave me an unexpected prescription: go to pulmonary rehabilitation. In

addition to exercises, I attended classes.  In one class, another doctor, who also lived with

asthma, spoke some words I pray I never forget.  “Do you want to get your life together?  Get a

chronic illness.  It will force you to face your life, so you can live it.”


Living with asthma, I will always be subject to breathing problems. I live with some

other chronic illnesses.  I’ve spoken from this pulpit about another one of my problems: alcohol.

 I’m a recovering alcoholic.  Thanks to the fellowship of A.A. and the grace of God, I now have,

one day at a time, more than 30 years of continuous sobriety.  


I also have a vision problem.  I wear glasses.  I have pre-cataract condition.  And to be

honest, I don’t always see things that are right in front of me.  How long has that been there? I

ask Eyleen. Two years, she says.  My sight is not as right as I would like.


Today, we have seeing and sight in three of our lessons.  First, we heard how God sent

Samuel - known as a seer, a sage - to anoint a new king.  Samuel the seer sees things other

people don’t. But identifying the new king? Samuel does not see who God sees to be king. In

fact, he does not see as God sees.  Even Samuel the seer can have a vision problem. That’s

because God “does not see as mortals see…the Lord looks on the heart” (I Sam. 16:7).  The heart,

in Hebrew understanding, is the core, the center of life.


Then, in Ephesians, Paul reminds us that, in the light, everything becomes visible to

those who were in darkness, so: “Live as children of the light” (5:8).  I really needed to sing that

hymn today, because, at any given moment, I don’t always want to walk as a child of the light, let

alone live in the light of Christ. Even though I may really need to.


And then, there’s that long story about a man born blind.  From birth, he has had the

ultimate vision problem: He’s never been able to see anything.  When Jesus comes along, the

man does not ask to be healed.  Jesus just gives him his sight.  


Why does Jesus do this?  Let’s look again at this story from the Gospel of John. As Jesus

walks along, he sees “a man blind from birth” (9:1). Immediately his disciples, who also see this

man, question Jesus: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (9:2). That

was the ancient assumption: sickness is a result of sin.

When his disciples ask about sin, Jesus redirects the conversation.  This man’s sickness -

being blind from birth - is also an opportunity for God’s “good works (to) be revealed in him”

(9:3), he says. Jesus, light of the world, will illuminate God’s works.


However, Jesus does not avoid the subject of sin.  At the end of this Gospel story, Jesus

confronts sin from a different perspective. He looks through the lens of what professor of

preaching Lyn Jost calls “the sin of rejecting one sent by God.”   Jesus, the light of the world,

“illumines those who are open” to being enlightened, but “is opaque to those who claim powerful

positions” (Christian Century, March 2023, p. 26).


The powerful religious leaders didn’t believe the blind man’s story.  So they went to his

parents. The parents knew that “anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah,” to be the light

of the world, would likely be “put out of the synagogue” (9:22).  They told the religious leaders to

go and ask their son.  Which those leaders did.  Again.


It looks like the more those religious leaders don’t get it, the more the man born blind

sees.  He gradually comes to see Jesus for who he is: first, a prophet; then a man from God; and

then, God with flesh on, whom he worships (9:38).  That man’s sight - and his increasing insight

- is contrasted with those leaders’ hardening blindness.  


For the man born blind, healing is more than sight.  For him, seeing is believing.  The

more he sees, the more he believes in Jesus.  So, what? What about us?  

I’m a person in recovery, and I want to stay in recovery from the chronic illnesses in my

life.  That includes my blindness, in all its forms.  I want to see better, to increase my sight and

my insight.   Someday, I’ll have cataract surgery, and I’ll need new lenses. In addition to those

literal lenses, I know I need to keep trying on new lenses.  


My Episcopal lens sometimes becomes a denominational silo.  Lately I’ve been learning

about how I see the church and its leadership structures differently than my Methodist or

Presbyterian siblings. Now, I’m trying to see “church” through their lens.


My white lens still keeps me from seeing life and death so much differently than my

friends of color.  My work in racial healing and justice, I keep learning, needs to be as a fellow

pilgrim with folks whose skin, when I look and really see, is just…different.


And my male lens?  Sometimes, I just act like a man, not blind from birth, but still blind

to the ways I can say or do something that makes a woman feel less than me. Sometimes, I’m

still a child who needs to learn how to walk in the kinder light of Jesus.

Being a child of the light is similar to the Buddhist concept of “beginner’s mind.” One

Christian spiritual guide explains that similarity this way: “The older we get, the more we’ve

been betrayed and hurt and disappointed, the more barriers we put up to the beginner’s mind.

We move further away from the immediate delight and curiosity of small children (whom Jesus

especially loved). We must never presume that we see, and we must always be ready to see

anew” (Richard Rohr, “Adopting a Beginner’s Mind”).

How do I do that? How will I let my sisters and brothers from other mothers help me see

Jesus anew, so I can better follow him? How will I, a religious leader, let Jesus heal me from my

moments of blindness?  What about you, my sisters and brothers in Christ: What new sight,

what new insight are you and I ready, willing and able to receive - as we seek to follow Jesus as

children of light?

Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus. AMEN.

~ The Rev. Thomas A. Momberg

Priest in Charge

All Saints’ Episcopal Church

1508 S. White Station Road

Memphis, TN 38117


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