Written by Administrator Tuesday, 24 March 2009 16:00
John 9: l-41
Only recently have I learned to produce a WORD document on a computer, preferring my trusty IBM Selectric for compositions. But I needed to prepare 4 documents for an upcoming City audit of our SafeHouse for Women and they had to look good. I hit “print”. The printer ignored my directive. I punched “Help”. Do this. Do that. Then it said: “There is No Help for This.” It was late on Friday. All my tech savvy colleagues were dispersed. I punched “Help” again but the machine taunted me: There is No Help for This. As it turned out, there was help but I had to find the person who knew what to do.
When Jesus opened the eyes of the man born blind, some of the guy’s neighbors and some of the religious leaders responded as they had been well-programmed to do: “This can’t be true. There is no help for this.”
The man whose eyes were opened exclaimed: “I don’t care what you think! This is really me. I can see!” At first, the shock of seeing claimed his attention totally. To his credit, he entered into a process moving from new physical sight, seeing things he had never seen before, to new spiritual sight.
The clergy queried: “Who did this and where is he?”
“Somebody named Jesus. I don’t know where he is?”
But he ventured that Jesus must be somebody special. Maybe a prophet? Not likely he was a sinner because he must be from God since he is doing the work only God can do. (As if sinners cannot be God’s instruments of healing!) Ultimately, he is led to worship the Revelation of the All-Loving God.
He didn’t worship because Jesus fit some theological category, since many of the clergy were telling him just the opposite.
Silence! Submit to our superior wisdom or you’re out!
Did he worship because Jesus had died for his sin? Obviously not.
Throughout John’s Gospel, the message is that it is not the death of Jesus – who he was in some theological category - which reveals God’s power and love. Rather, it is the life of Jesus – what he does – which is revelatory, compelling our worship.
Not to worry about all those “theories of the atonement” purporting to explain how it is that the torture and death of Jesus at the hands of the State somehow frees us from sin. It is in following the Way of Jesus, beginning with physically seeing God’s world as we have never before been willing to see it and moving step by step into faith and worship of the God of Love: the Light that has already come into the world and is always coming into the world, especially in the places of deepest darkness and despair.
Someone wrote: “Jesus did not come to make God’s love possible. Jesus came to make God’s love visible.” THAT is the disquieting, discomforting, glorious ministry which is now entrusted to us.
As part of our God-given ministry in the Tenderloin, we operate SafeHouse, a residential program for homeless women who want to leave the streets, become clean and sober, improve their education, heal from years of abuse and trauma, and escape prostitution forever. Some have been on the street since they were 8 or 9 years old. Most suffered incest and other child abuse. Some are seriously mentally ill or developmentally disabled or both, and a shocking number are functionally illiterate. All are drug addicts. Far too many people, including many of our sisters on the streets, believe “there is no help for this.” Periodically, we perform street outreach, a staff member or volunteer driving a carload of SafeHouse residents and graduates into the Tenderloin and other areas. We give out bags of toiletries and candies along with SafeHouse brochures. Our women approach women they know: “Look, Flo! It’s me. Germaine.
I’m making it! You can, too.” “Is it really you, Germaine? You look so good. Is it really you?”
Think of today’s Gospel: “(the man’s) …those who had seen him earlier said: ‘Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?’ Some said: ‘It is,’ but others said, ‘No, it just looks like him.’”
Listen to what one graduate wrote: “I arrived so broken in mind, body, and spirit that I fantasized about chopping my body into pieces. I heard stories that chilled me to the bone. I witnessed deep pain – my own and that of the women I lived with. I was guided, pushed and loved back to health at SafeHouse.... emotionally, spiritually and physically. It has been 2 years since I graduated. I have a job that has real opportunity, my own apartment, a network of friends and recovery groups that support my growth. I feel so blessed to have lived there and to have received and help and love I need to claw and scratch my way out of the hell that is the sex industry. I am so proud of myself and I am grateful to be able to support others.”
Shift the scene. In the Federal budget which Congress must pass and the President must sign, 60% is devoted to military related costs. Congressman Barney Frank, joined by the leaders of the Out of Iraq Caucus – Congresswomen Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters - is calling for a 25% cut in that piece of the budget.
We must all open our eyes to the suffering caused by this commitment of our resources to death and destruction and to the trust in violence and militarism embodied here, never saying: There is No help for this, but moving step by step into changing this piece of institutionalized injustice. What does it mean to be the Revelation of God’s love? Begin with writing your senators and your congressperson a simple one-line message: “Cut the military budget by 25%. Now!” and moving to find those who can help you discern the next steps to take.
Every year, we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., not because of his death but because of his life. Step by step, King’s eyes were opened and he came to see that poverty, racism and militarism were inextricably intertwined. Against the protestations of many friends and allies, he lifted a prophetic voice exposing this.
“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
On Monday, there were memorials marking the anniversary of the death of Oscar Romero. Like the man born blind – like Dr. King – Romero was drawn into seeing suffering and injustice, poverty and pain inflicted by societal political and economic structures which he had never seen before and he moved into seeing spiritual realities as never before. We would not remember his death had it not been for this part of his life.
God is calling each of us to open our eyes to the need, the pain of our world as never before, following this Jesus, and moving step by step into greater faith in God who gives it to us to reveal Her healing love. Let it never be said of us they just shrugged “there is no help for this.” Let it rather be said: They kept finding ways both to stop the violence and to heal the victims of violence, revealing the God of Love in word and in deed.