Friday, March 28, 2014

Lent 4, John—Prophetic Sight

John 9:1-41

‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’ John 9.17

The dialogue between the blind man and the Pharisees reminds me of a Marx brothers’ routine—it is certainly farce. “It is he.” “No it’s not.” With each telling of his story—the mud, the washing, the restored sight—he grows more impatient. Isn’t anyone LISTENING?!?!

The blind man sees, but the rest clearly do not. And the man born blind shows us that “seeing” is not just about the eyes.

The man born blind is the only one in the story who sees—and when he sees, he declares that Jesus is a prophet. His sight involves his eyes, which have been healed; his ears, which have heard Jesus proclaim God’s mercy; and his heart, which recognizes that Jesus has come from God. The blind man is not only the recipient of God’s love and mercy. He is the mystic who discerns God’s presence in this prophet. And the theologian who defines a prophet: one who opens people’s eyes.

In my travels to Palestine and Israel, I have met many prophets in Jesus’ line. Courageous people who dare to proclaim what they have seen, opening my eyes to God’s works.

You see, before I visited the Holy Land, I was blind. I had only paid attention to half the story—the Israeli government’s version of events. In my travels I saw another story—that of the Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers, people of the land, who, like prophets, opened my eyes.

These are some of the prophets I have met who are shining a light in the darkness that surrounds them.

Hannah, a grandmother who volunteers with Machsom Watch, resisting her country’s occupation or Palestine by standing at the checkpoints and recording what happens there. She told us that the occupation is rotting the soul of Israel. She laments that Israel has strayed so far from the ideals expressed in its declaration of independence. She laments the way the army is destroying the humanity of the19-year-old soldiers who stand at the checkpoints and are ordered to treat the Palestinians like animals and to celebrate when one is accidentally shot.

Maya, who, as a high school senior, decided that she could not serve in an army that required such brutalization of the Palestinians. She formed an organization of students, the Shministim, who resisted the draft and served time in Israeli prisons to protest Israel’s occupation. She is now in the US, telling audiences what she has seen.

Jamal, who lives in the West Bank village of Beit Ummar, and meets with Israelis to build bridges of understanding. Because he patiently listens to the voices of the "other" who have also been wounded by the conflict, he has earned their trust and they are able to listen to his experience of the occupation--the arrests, beating and detention of children; the high rate of unemployment because of the isolation of the village behind Israel's wall; and the stress caused by the constant presence of Israeli soldiers in their village. Jamal's eyes have been opened to the suffering and loss of the Israelis; and their eyes are now opened to the suffering caused by the occupation.

Margee and Jamal
I am still blind--there is much I still do not see. But the way these prophets have opened my eyes helps me be awake to injustice and to question other things I think I know.

Gracious God, you came among us to be a light in our darkness. Open our eyes; heal our blindness. Help us follow in your way of peacemaking--to shine your light wherever we find ourselves in darkness. Amen.

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