Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis' Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC; 4 Lent, 26 March 2017
RCL Year A: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
How many of you play or played a sport or musical instrument? Other than equipment & lessons, what does your sport or instrument require? [Practice. Dedication. Time.] A coach / a teacher?
Think of when you 1st started playing. How much practice did it take? [A lot.]
What about a time the coach/teacher guides you to a new technique you just can’t grasp? . . . . Suddenly you get it! You see clearly! What is that like? Like being in the dark & someone turns on the light? Like being blind & suddenly you see?
When things are tough & we face challenges we just can’t grasp, we may want to give up, quit our “sport” & go home.
Notice the last sentence in our 1st lesson after Samuel has anointed David: “Samuel . . . set out & went to Ramah.” Samuel goes home to Ramah, his hometown.1 He isn’t giving up. He is a team player on God’s team & has just secretly anointed David to be King – to be team captain since Saul has proven to be an unfit leader.
Not a team player, Saul doesn’t follow the play book & is in the dark about how he’s pulling down the team. He’s blind about how to work as a team. He’s blind to trusting God.
Like many of us when we just don’t “get it” & lose sight of how to play the game, fear enters the game. Fear plays a part in some Pharisees’ reactions when Jesus gives sight to the blind. They are loyal to God’s law & are sure the rule book says: You can’t heal on the sabbath.
Steeped in law, the Pharisees miss God’s Love which gives the law. Caught up in rules, they can’t play the game in a new way.
They can’t see the Light of God’s Love.
They can’t learn the new technique: Compassion.
The Pharisees hear what they do not want to hear & react negatively. It takes God’s grace for us to hear what we don’t want to hear & accept it as truth.
Think of the disaster Jesus’ disciples will soon hear him talk about & then see as he hangs on the cross. What looks like disaster brings a new beginning of abundant life. Jesus forgives us from the cross.
Forgiveness is essential to healing in this life.
Forgiving is to do what Paul tells us in Ephesians: Live as children of light…expose works of darkness to the light. This includes past dark deeds.
We want past hurts, broken relationships to be different. This can challenge us. Remember: you can forgive someone without continuing a relationship. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. You can forgive without speaking to the person. You can forgive a dead person. Forgiving frees you.
Trusting Jesus, we can forgive. This frees us from holding onto resentment like the Pharisees & Saul, who have a tight hold on resentment & anger about anyone not doing things their way. As Nelson Mandela said:
Resentment is like drinking poison & . . .
hoping it will kill your enemies.2.
Resentment lives in the dark past when things didn’t go as we wanted them to go. Resentment is living today & demanding the past should have been different, that someone would have behaved differently. This is a good way to stay miserable.
This reminds me of the wisdom of a Cherokee parable3:
An elder is teaching his grandchildren about life & says: “A fight is going on inside me. It’s a terrible fight between 2 wolves.
One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, guilt, inferiority, jealousy & lies.
The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity,
truth & compassion.
This same fight is going on inside each of you & every other person.”
The grandchildren think about this. One asks: “Which wolf will win?”
The wise one replies: The one I feed.
We can stop feeding the negative wolf & start feeding the positive wolf when we accept the fact we can’t change the past. We can see the past in the Light of God’s Love & re-frame how we think of past hurts. We can change our demand for things to have been different into a preference that they would have been different. This frees us.
Re-framing my complaint loosens my hold on anger & makes it easier to let go of hurt.
In its confession, the Lutheran liturgy offers a deeper sense of this than our general confession. Our Lutheran brothers & sisters say: “forgive us, renew us, & lead us so that we may delight in your will & walk in your ways.”4
Renew us, Jesus!
Forgiveness renews us & reaches beyond just my life / your life. Forgiveness shines new light: the Light of God’s Love.
Our coming together regularly to worship keeps us fit as a team & strengthens each of us in God’s love so that fear does not rule us when we face a challenge.
This strength is why one father [who has heard what no parent wants to hear] can speak to the young driver who caused his child’s death while crossing a busy street, carrying a book bag.
The young driver is a friend & doesn’t see this friend while shifting the big vehicle & runs over the friend, catching the book bag, dragging the body as a witness frantically signals the driver to stop.
The body is mangled. The victim dies days later. Although charged in the death, the driver attends this friend's funeral. Family members speak with people afterward. The bereaved father [a lawyer] sees the young driver, goes & says the driver needs a lawyer. The young friend acknowledges this & is working on it.
The father says: Stop looking. I will represent you. I will stand with you.
This level of forgiveness reflects years of living in God’s grace,
years of practicing, practicing, practicing the love Jesus teaches us.
Fever, Kyle. “Commentary Ephesians 2:1-10”. Accessed: 23 March 2017. http://www.workingpreacher.org_/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2393
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
The New Amerian Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1970.
New Oxford Anontated Bible with Apocrypha. Eds: Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. 1977.
Voyles, Robert J. Restoring Hope: Appreciative Strategies to Resolve Grief and Resentment. Hillsboro, OR:The Appreciative Way. 2010. “Teaching Forgiveness”. www.appreciativeway.com. 2014.
1 Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. P. 852
2 Quoted by Voyles, Robert J. “Teaching Forgiveness”. P. 54.
3 Ibid. Voyle. P. 54
4 Fever, Kyle. “Commentary Ephesians 2:1-10”. Accessed: 23 March 2017.