Service of the Word: Lent 4

Over the next few days you are invited to take time to read and pray this short Service of the Word at home in place of Sunday Communion. It will be published each Saturday evening on our website, Facebook and by email for the foreseeable future. The Scottish Episcopal Church will also live stream and provide a recording of a Communion Service every Sunday at 11am, viewable on your Smart Phone, Tablet, PC or Laptop by clicking here: www.scotland.anglican.org/broadcast-sunday-worship

Preparation

Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: And blessed be God’s kingdom, now and forever. Amen.

You were sent to heal the contrite of heart, Lord have mercy.

You came to call sinners, Christ have mercy.

You are seated at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us, Lord have mercy.

Almighty God, through the waters of baptism your Son has made us children of light. May we ever walk in his light and show forth your glory in the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Gospel Reading: John 9: 1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ He 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.’ They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’ They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 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.’ 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. 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.’ 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 and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 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.’

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. Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’ 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.’ He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ 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?’ Then they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’

The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out. Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him. Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.

Homily by Rev. Lee Johnston

Some striking changes have taken place on the BBC News website recently. Many of you will be used to seeing the increasing numbers of worldwide cases of the Coronavirus. But, only in the last few days, a tally of how many people have made a full and healthy recovery has appeared – showing that most of those who contracted the disease have been recovering. Not only that, but the BBC now publishes ‘good news’ bulletins, focusing on positive and encouraging developments which people may be missing out on.

Most people – myself included – find it easier to focus on the bad news, rather than the good. It was no different in Jesus’ time. In the gospel reading this Sunday, a blind man receives his sight and practically everyone he knows can’t accept or believe it. The disciples wanted an explanation as to why this fate had befallen the blind man – was it a punishment from God? No, Jesus says. The Pharisees could not believe God would do something to heal this man, to make things better for someone ill for so long – was it a trick? No, Jesus says. The story of good news and recovery is rejected time and time again, but still the blind man and Jesus insist that this recovery is of God. As we continue to hear reports of events beyond our control, resist the temptation to believe that this is a punishment from an angry God. Reject the notion that God is either powerless or unloving because of this new crisis. Instead, hold on to the good and true news that God is deeply at work in forgiving, healing and restoring the world. It is this truth that Jesus represented throughout his ministry, including in his healing of the blind man.

As events unfold in the coming weeks, be ready to see and believe signs of that good news as they appear on the TV or on your street. You’ll find our good God at work in neighbours who drop shopping in to one another; NHS staff who work heroically around the clock; and stories of recovery from an illness that once seemed unstoppable. Become heralds of that good news in the small ways that you can: by following the NHS advice to isolate, by phoning those who are doing the same and by praying for the healing of the world and the country with the hope that it will happen. The good news is that we are all in this together, not only with one another but also with God.

(Silence for personal prayer)

Conclusion

Christ  give  us  grace  to  grow  in  holiness,  to  deny  ourselves,  take  up  our  cross,  and  follow  him;  and  the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be upon us and remain with us always. Amen.