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Pastor Glenn Zimbelman
|Evangelical Lutheran Church in America|
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Sight for Blind People - April 2, 2017
Next week is Palm Sunday, wow, where has the time gone? I thought it would be useful to recap the journey of Jesus today for you through the Gospel of Luke. You may recall that as Jesus began his ministry he heads to his hometown and reads scripture. He quotes Isaiah in Luke 4:18 which says,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”
We could boil it down to this. The Good News is about forgiveness, acceptance and dare I say Love. Anything that either holds ourselves captive or how we hold others captive, Jesus wants to break those chains. Whatever blinds us to the love of God for ourselves and literally blinds us to seeing how God works in this world, Jesus is going to help people see. He is going to be a man of compassion but more importantly a man of justice. So all those on the margins of society, the poor, the outcast, the sick, the Samaritans, Gentiles and sinners, Jesus is going to declare, God’s love is for you. So if you are lost in anyway, Jesus is going to not only find you, Jesus is going to direct you to a new way of being, a new path of life, if you will.
So Jesus does lots of teaching and healing and reaches a turning point in chapter 9. Chapter 9 is a pivotal chapter for the life of Jesus. He is claimed as the Christ by Peter and then makes his first prediction about the Cross. He then is transfigured on that mountain. For the first 9 chapters Jesus is traveling around the Northern part of Judea. We then read in Luke 9:51 the following:
“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem”
Scholars call this the Luke travel narrative. First 9 chapters, he travels away from Jerusalem. The rest of the book he is heading for the cross. In Luke 13:32-33 he makes a comment about Herod. We read,
“He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.”
So Jesus is just outside of Jerusalem in Jericho, a mere 15 miles or so away. You and I know what awaits him. Yet this is his chance to restate for all of us this new way of Jesus. Interestingly what he finds in Jericho is a blind man. The blind man is seen as someone unworthy of the attention of God. The blind man is an outsider. He cries out,”Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me:. The crowd tries to quiet him. Why? Because he is blind. A sinner no doubt. Yet he persists and Jesus heals the man. The response of the blind man is worth noting in 18:49
“Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God, and all the people when they saw it praised God”
Recall back the mission of Jesus. Recovery of sight to the blind. That happened in a literal sense with this man but there is more than that going on. For you see what is happening is a transformation. This blind man has been claimed by God. He couldn’t help but to praise God and be a witness to the world. Now last week during our Bible Study that takes place over in the corner, I threw out a possibility for today. I said, what happens if I don’t preach a sermon next Sunday. What happens if the entire morning was spent with this question, “What is God doing in your life today?”. And whatever God is going, we celebrate it. If we fail to see what God is going, than perhaps we need to have recovery of sight? Perhaps we need some healing of our blind spots so God can open our eyes. Well some of you might be sitting there sweating. It could very well be a short conversation because you have never had to think that way. The response by one person to this idea was a laugh. Meaning, it would not go over very well. I understand that. So let me tell you a story about tomatoes.
Picture of Tomatoes
When I was in Madison, Wisconsin I went to the grocery store to get tomatoes for a BLT. It was tomato season and I was looking them over. A young woman came up with a child in a shopping cart. Being the extrovert that I am I turned to her and said, “Have you ever seen such nice tomatoes”. She smile at my enthusiasm. So we spent a whole minute picking out tomatoes. Then she turns to me and says, “You are the nicest thing that has happened to me today”. She went off.
I was dumb founded. What kind of day had she been having? It was just tomatoes. But you see, I was unprepared for the opportunity that God had presented. I didn’t tell her where my joy came from! I didn’t praise God for all the things that God has done for me. A window was partially opened by this woman, and I had shut it.
Years later at Mission Developer training, we were instructed to come up with 1 minute speech about Jesus that could be shared in an elevator. In essence, we were trained how to share our faith, how to be that blind man, praising God. My elevator speech changes, but I have one always ready. I don’t want to be caught without a response. So today just off the top of my head I would say,
“God is doing amazing things in my life. I can’t believe all the little and big miracles God is going at my church, Maricopa Lutheran. I like to think that the church is made up simply of imperfect people, seeking God and serving others in the world”
Now the only way you can come up with your own elevator speech is to be in touch with what God is doing in your lives.
So we have another transformation story in today’s lesson. A familiar story about Zacheus. By the way, this is an old Joke he is not the shortest guy in the Bible. There are two people who are shorter. Nehiamiah is one but Bildad the Shuhite is even shorter. Why does Jesus decide to eat at the home of a tax collector? Well scattered throughout Luke, that is a primary complaint. Why he welcomes tax collectors and sinners. Well the poor in this world does not always have to be monetary. People who have poor souls need the Good News. Something happens in that house. For Zacchaeus is transformed. Jesus than sums up his whole ministry for us once again. We read the following in Luke 19:9-10
“Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost”
The circle that began in Luke 4 is complete, the cross awaits. Amen.
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