Fourth Sunday in Lent

Things Are Not Always What They Seem

We live in an age of deception. What we see on the surface rarely hints at what is hidden underneath. Without God’s discernment we are often operating in the dark. This was even true for the Prophet Samuel.

In today’s Old Testament reading Samuel was on a mission from God. He was sent to the house of Jesse to anoint a new king in the place of Saul. God asked Samuel make his selection from one of Jesse’s sons:

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But 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.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel 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.” He 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.”   (1 Samuel 16:6-12)

While it is true that darkness surrounds us, we do not have to remain in darkness. The Apostle Paul writes:

Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.   (Ephesians 5:8-14a)

The Pharisees lived in darkness by choice. They had seen the miracles of Jesus and heard his enlightened teaching, yet they chose not to believe. In today’s Gospel reading they questioned a blind man, but they were clearly the ones who were spiritually blind. This blind man, whom Jesus healed, was more open to receiving the truth of the Gospel. We read that the Pharisees had driven him out of the synagogue because he testified he had received his sight by the hand of Jesus:

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 worshiped him.   (John 9:35-38)

Not only did the blind man receive his natural sight, he received his spiritual sight as well. And when he did he worshiped Jesus. God’s plan for each one of us is to open our hearts to his truth. He is no respecter of persons. Yet we must not deliberately turn away from his light. This is what the Pharisees did. They would not see because they worshiped a different God. :

Jesus 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.” 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.”    (John 9:39-41)

Though we live in a dark world we have a guide that leads us into the light . The psalmist wrote:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.

He revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.   (Psalm 23:1-3)

There is great confusion in American today. Whom do we believe? What is true and what is false? If we just look on the surface the answer may escape us. If we cling to our ideology even when it is failing to explain what is going on, then are we not today’s Pharisees?

Our positions may be acceptable in today’s society. We may have the approval of those who are like minded. But things are not always what they seem. God looks at our heart. Do we have his approval. If not, our sin remain.

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Filed under homily, Jesus, lectionary, Lent, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year A

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