Southern California sun is not always kind to our eyes, our skin and especially the top of our heads and faces. I’ve been to the dermatologist several times in the past 6 years to remove sunspots. I really do not enjoy frozen nitrogen on the top of my head or face. I never had that problem until I moved here from the East Coast. Sometimes in the mid-afternoon when the sun is at its brightest, especially when I am driving north and the sun from the West is so bright that it hurts the side of my face”. Even after I turn the sun-visor down to help shade my eyes, the sun is still hitting the side of my face and it burns. Most of the time I’m wearing a hat, and I try to pull my hat down to protect myself, and that does help a little. Sometimes I scramble around looking for my sunglasses and then realize to my dismay they are on my desk at the office or on the counter at home. Can any of you identify with what I’m talking about? It takes a new meaning to the phrase, “blinded by the light”.
In our reading from the Gospel of John today, Jesus tells the crowd that He is going to be crucified and die on a cross. And, the crowd figures they are one up on this guy theologically and decide to set him straight. They actually challenge the authenticity of Jesus message with these words: “How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up…what’s this nonsense about death? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus knowing, they are blind to the truth he is teaching says, “I know you don’t have a clue. You all are in complete darkness here. If you walk in the darkness you are blind…you have no clue of what’s up do you?” Okay folks listen up: “While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light”. In other words when you are blinded by the light of God, your eyes will be opened and then you will not only see, but you will become the children of the light”. (John 12:31-36a) Jesus is talking about a different kind of a light than the hot sun, but it can be blinding in a glorious and wonderful way, but not a harmful way. The light of God is a healing light, a purifying light, a light radiated in Love.
In our gospel readings the last few weeks we have talked about the mandate to “love God and to love our neighbor”, and “as we love our neighbor, not to show favoritism”. We have been talking about the way of the Cross, the importance of loving God, seeking Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. That’s the vertical part of living under the sign of the cross. Then we talked about loving others, the horizontal part of the cross that completes the picture, the horizontal beam laying on the vertical beam, the duality of living under the sign of the cross telling us to love and seek God and to love and serve others you can’t have one without the other. Walking under the sign of the cross is a testimony of being blinded by the light of God. And again, that light is a healing light, a light radiated in love.
You ever get bored with the Bible, especially reading those passages that you have heard at least a hundred times in your life? You ever look at a scripture reading and you know what the reading is about even before you read it, and mentally you fit it into your belief system, the creed, the things you believe and the things you do not believe, and where that Scripture reading fits into your world-view, the way you view all things and the filter in which you review and analyze all things?
I have a spiritual practice that I hold dear when I read especially the gospel readings, but also other Biblical readings. My practice is to read the Bible like I have never read it before. What does that mean?
I’m glad you asked me that. That does not mean I don’t take time to study, to do my best to place a passage into its historical and cultural context, to analyze original language, to ascertain to the best of my ability, when, where and who wrote the passage, why and to whom it was originally written, of course again in the historical context. And, it is impossible for me when doing my homework for a sermon not to connect views from favorite theologians, Church creeds and beliefs. Neither am I in favor of checking your brain in at the sanctuary door and picking it up on the way out. Nor am I a fan of opening the Bible and letting your emotions get the best of you and rattling off whatever comes to mind.
For me scholarship is important, but as theologian Soren Kierkegaard said: “You can tell Christians by their lives, concretely manifested human experience, more than by their words. Words that tell the truth come out of lives that live that truth, that follow that Truth, first”. Theology, creeds and dogma cannot replace a transformed life, a life that is marked by the sign of the cross, both the vertical part, loving and seeking God, and the horizontal part, loving others and ministering to the needs of those around us.
I love the Proverb that speaks about the soul as a lantern of the Spirit of God. The soul inside of us is a searchlight for the Spirit, searching and changing us from the inside out. (Proverbs 20:27) We are children of the light, and we follow the light of Christ on this journey who leads and shows us the way forward. And, on this journey the path becomes brighter as we draw nearer to our journeys end. The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. (Proverbs 4:18)
I know that this journey can sometimes be dim but let me encourage you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Weeping may last for the night, and that night may feel long and bitter, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)
For now, we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12, KJV)
My prayer when I read passages, especially those that I am preaching from that I read them as I have never seen them before, that I can discard all the baggage and beliefs and in my reading I pray that I my eyes will be blinded by the light, that I may see Jesus again for the very first time. “Lord may I be blinded by the light so that I may see Jesus”.