Celebrates Twenty Years of equipping and supporting faith communities!

A message for the week starting on Sunday 17th March 2023

Lectionary Week: Fourth Week of Lent

Prescribed Texts: 1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41

Confronting Sin in the Presence of Christ

Focus text:  John 9: 1 – 41

Sin, for John Calvin, lay behind everything that destroys human life and community. This includes social structures (i.e., apartheid in South Africa, certain expressions of capitalism) and attitudes that are promoted by social dynamics and culture (i.e., racism, stigmatization, etc.). This is what we can call the social aspect of sin, or structural sin. These attitudes are the fruit of the total depravity of human beings and creation. They lead to exclusion of people and to discrimination.

This is also what happened in John 9. The attitude and social power of the religious leaders brought them to a point where they banned the “formerly blind man” from the community, merely because he did not fit their ideas of what is acceptable and what not. He was supposed to be blind, but he could see. He was supposed to be a beggar, but he walked into the temple. Moreover, he pointed to Christ as the source of his healing. For the religious leaders, the best way to deal with the dissent of the blind man, was to make him an outcast. What was behind this attitude of the religious leaders? It was their idea of God that limited them to the law (Moses). They could not accept the inclusive nature of God’s love as revealed in Christ. As long as the people adhere to the law, the religious leaders could control them, but this blind man shows how the grace of Christ frees human beings from the powers that rule society through division and fear.

It still happens today. People are excluded from society and community on grounds of religion, sexuality, class, gender, race, and even health. The excluded are marked, or given a “stigma” by society, to identify them as unacceptable – much like the yellow star Jews were forced to wear under the Nazi regime in Germany.

The good news is that this exclusion is overcome by Christ, who gracefully sides not with the religious leaders, but with the formerly blind man. He sides not with powerful, but the excluded. This is what salvation is: being freed from the attitudes that want you to side with the powerful, rather than with the weak and vulnerable. This story calls the poor, those who suffer under stigmatization, women and children, slaves and religious minorities, to find the strength and courage to confront the powerful forces in the presence of Christ. The story calls the powerful and the apathetic to leave the sanctuaries they have built to protect them, to be with Christ at the side of the excluded, and to join them in the fight against the “empire.” The empire equals those who have the political, economic, social and military power to exclude those who do not fit into their world. ‘Empire’ is an attitude of declaring people unwanted and disposable.

Christ is the One who calls them “my Beloved.”

To Think About / Discuss: Identify the attitudes and structures in your community that leads to exclusion and discuss how the behaviour of Christ confronts these attitudes and structures?

Written By: Rev. Johan Pieters, trained Churches Channels of Hope (CCoH) facilitator