Sunday, March 30, 2014

Christians are called to courage

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

The readings were rather lengthy this morning, so I'll try not to make this too long. Today is Gaudate or Refreshment Sunday, the middles Sunday of Lent, and a day when we can relax a little from all the austerities of the Season. At least you can if you have been practising any austerities; if you have not, you may prefer to take it as a reminder that there is still time to begin the traditional disciplines of this year of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving.

It is also Mothering Sunday, a time when we give thanks not only for our own mothers, but for all those who have mothered us in any way, whether that person was a grand-mother, an aunt, an older sister, a relative, teacher, neighbour, or friend. Later during the prayers, perhaps you'll give thanks to God for bringing those people into your life, especially those who are no longer with us, people whom you won't have the chance to thank today in person, or with a card or a phone call.

Coincidentally, we have a mother mentioned in our Gospel reading today, the story of the healing of the man born blind. It is an unusual account of a miracle, in that we get a lot of follow-up about the impact the miracle had on the life of the man who was healed, and also the lives of his mother and father. We're not told how old the man is. The only indication is that he is 'of age' – a phrase that is open to a wide variety of interpretations. However, since in the ancient world a man tended to be considered properly grown up, someone to be taken seriously, at around the age of 30 – the same age that Jesus began his ministry – the man born blind was probably at least that. This would mean the parents were in early middle-age at the youngest. You would expect them, then, to be delighted that their son has been healed. After all, now not only do they no longer have to support him, but, living in a society where your children were essentially both your pension and nursing home rolled into one, your only chance of security in old age, they should have been ecstatic!

So here they are: a huge burden has been lifted from them, and a huge gift given to them, as a result of this miracle; and yet, they can not bring themselves to give praise to God. When questioned by the authorities all they will do is confirm he is their son, and that he was born blind, but they refuse to say more about what happened. Why? Because they are afraid of the consequences. Ask our son, they say, he is of age. The approval of men is more important to them than giving glory to God.

Now the son might have been expected to do likewise. He's already had a tough life so far – born blind, having to beg to bring a little money into the house, still pretty much dependent on his parents even though he's a grown man, no real chance of marrying and having a family because he has no way of supporting a wife, and no chance at all of amounting to anything in society. And now he has a fresh start in life – why risk it all? And he knows the risks – if he hadn't figured them out for himself, his parents surely told him. Why throw it all away for the sake of defending Jesus?

But he does. He speaks the truth, despite the pressure to conform, to say what others want to hear. And his courage is something that we are all called to share. Because even as Christ freed him from physical blindness, he has freed us all from the spiritual blindness we would dwell in if he had not come into our lives. And we, like the man born blind, live in a world where many do not want to hear the truth. They put pressure on us not to speak about religion, to keep it is as a private thing.

But how can we? We are called to love our neighbour as ourselves; and if we truly believe that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life how can we not share that good news with them? How could we condemn those we love to live in such darkness. And, if we truly believe, how can we fail to obey the last command Christ gave to his disciples on earth – to make disciples of all people? During what remains of Lent, as you engage with those disciplines we are all called to practice this season, pray that they will make you a more courageous Christian, a braver warrior for the name of Jesus, that you will have the courage to speak the truth about him before all the world, whatever the risk, and whatever the cost. Amen

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