Sunday Guided Tour for March 22:  The Fourth Sunday in Lent

Introduction

The Bible readings that follow are the ones selected for the Fourth Sunday in Lent.  They all speak to us of recognition and of light.  The reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians actually names the faithful as “people who belong to the light”; and John’s gospel tells us that, in Christ, we can see in ways we could never see before.

 

Prayer for Illumination:

The age-old story comes to us once again, Holy God.  May it be as fresh and new this year as it was once before.  Open our hearts and minds to the call and comfort of your word so that we can become all that we can be as followers in the Way of Christ.  Amen.

1 Samuel 16:1-13   (New Revised Standard Version)

David is anointed king

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul?  I have rejected him from being king over Israel.  Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”  Samuel said, “How can I go?  If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.”  And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’  Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.”  Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem.  The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?”  He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

 

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 Jesse said, “There remains yet the youngest, David, 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 David was ruddy-cheeked, bright-eyed, and handsome.  The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”  Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed David in the presence of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.  Samuel then set out and went to Ramah. 

 

The living God helped Samuel recognize what he otherwise would have missed.  We pray it may be so for us as well.

 

Congregational Reading:  Ephesians 5:8-14   (Good News Translation, alt.)

 

To live as children of the light

One:    You yourselves used to be in the darkness, but since you have become the Lord's people,

you are in the light. 

All:    So you must live like people who belong to the light,

    for it is the light that brings a rich harvest of every kind of goodness, righteousness, and truth.

    Try to learn what pleases the Lord. 

One:    Have nothing to do with the worthless things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. 

Instead, bring them out to the light.  So often, things done in secret turn out to be terribly destructive. 

All:    And when all things are brought out to the light,  then their true nature is clearly revealed; 

One:  For anything that is clearly revealed becomes light.  That is why it is said,

All:    “Wake up, sleeper, and rise from death,

One:    and Christ will shine on you.”

 

Sung Response:                        MV#82, verse 1

Bathe me in your light,

O God of All, Creator;

let it shine upon my soul

with healing and with grace.

Be to me a beacon bright

through shadows of life’s wounding,

showing me the way to live in faith,

in your embrace. 

 

Gospel Reading:  John 9: 1-12; 35-41   (New English Translation, ed.)

 

Healing a Man Born Blind

Now as Jesus was passing by, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who committed the sin that caused him to be born blind, this man or his parents?”  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that the acts of God may be revealed through what happens to him.  We must perform the deeds of the one who sent me as long as it is daytime. Night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  Having said this, he spat on the ground and made some mud with the saliva.  He smeared the mud on the blind man’s eyes and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated “sent”).  So the blind man went away and washed, and came back seeing.

Then the neighbors and the people who had seen him previously as a beggar began saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”  Some people said, “This is the man!” while others said, “No, but he looks like him.” The man himself kept insisting, “I am the one!”  So they asked him, “How then were you made to see?”  He replied, “The man called Jesus made mud, smeared it on my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and was able to see.”  They said to him, “Where is that man?” He replied, “I don’t know.”

 

[They brought the man who had been blind to the religious leaders.  They questioned him, then threw him out.  Jesus heard what happened,] so he found the man and said to him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  The man replied, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”  Jesus told him, “You have seen him; he is the one speaking with you.” [He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.  Jesus said,] “For judgment I have come into this world, so that those who do not see may gain their sight, and the ones who see may become blind.”

 

Some of those religious leaders who were with him heard this and asked him, “We are not blind too, are we?”  Jesus replied, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now because you claim that you can see, your guilt remains.”

 

In Jesus, the man born blind could see.  So could his neighbours and his family and friends, and even those who didn’t want to see at all.  This is the promise of the Gospel, and the promise is for life.

 

A Reading from the Psalms:  Psalm 23  (King James Version)

 

The Shepherd’s Psalm

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:

he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness

for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk

through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;

thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me

in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest my head with oil;

my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy

shall follow me all the days of my life:

and I will dwell

in the house of the Lord for ever.

 

This is the psalm for every age and generation.  It is promise, compassion, and presence. 

It is the soul and the heart of God-with-us.  Thanks be to God!

 

 Sunday Guided Tour  -  Lent IV            

 

Today we can consider the Bible readings assigned to the Fourth Sunday in Lent: what they say, how they speak to us, and how they speak to this our present day and circumstance.  The readings are attached, and I submit them in the translation that appeals to me the most.  It’s always nice to have a variety of translations from which to choose.  And, oh yes, I have taken a small liberty with the wording in one particular passage which, in the original (as I see it) didn’t say exactly what I think the writer wants us to hear.  Not too presumptuous, eh?  See if you can find the wording I’ve massaged a little bit.  And see if you agree.

 

The reading from 1 Samuel (David is anointed king) seems clearly to assert that God’s way of seeing is different than our own.  Not a big surprise, I would suspect.  But it invites us to consider how we might adjust our way of seeing things ourselves to maybe get a glimpse of something of the sacred.

 

The reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians has been put in responsive form purely for reminiscence and for fun, and the attendant “Sung Response” seems particularly pertinent (and especially accessible, because we don’t have to sing it).  The Response really is quite beautiful, I think.   And the passage affirms that, in Christ, we can see things in the light, that we are called to see things in the light, that the light of Christ is life.

 

The story told to us by the gospel-writer, John, conveys (in the strongest and most passionate terms) (you may want to read the entire passage, recapturing the omitted verses 13-34) the wonder and the mystery of Christ’s capacity to heal us, and transform us, and make us see what we have never seen before, or have been unable to.  John is the “disciple Jesus loved”, and when we read this passage for today with that in mind, this passage that John wrote, it seems to take on a whole new depth and meaning.  

 

And what is it that John sees?  What is it we can see  -  maybe for the first time, or as if we see it for the first time?  Perhaps like Samuel, with David; or maybe Paul, with Ephesus, and being “people who belong to the light”; or a man blind from birth (maybe blind, like all of us, until we see), finally being brought out of the darkness that had enshrouded and imprisoned from the very first, and being caught up into life, and hope, and promise in a way we could never have imagined!  The living promise of a psalm that’s been ours forever, and forever long before, and still to be, that says to us in loving, living words of utter confidence:

Yea, though I walk

through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;

thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me

in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest my head with oil;

my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy

shall follow me all the days of my life:

and I will dwell

in the house of the Lord for ever.

 

Confidence and truth and insight, light in darkness, light of life, the light of life that brings the truth into the light and brings to light the darkness  -  these are watchwords for the days we live today.  We need the truth.  We need the light to shine on untruths and obfuscation.  And, in faith, we can be sure: that where the truth is, there is light, and there is life.  And no matter how hard it is to take, we can know for certain: he maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters; he restoreth my soul; and we can say: even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me ..

 

Today we celebrate the promise that is insight, light and life, and dismissal of our fears, in Jesus’ name. 

Today we celebrate the Good News of the Gospel. 

Thanks be to God!

Trinity United Church Thorold 

905-227-4644  /  tuc@vaxxine.ca