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March 30, 2014–Was Blind But Now I See

Contributed by Dennis Sepper, Tacoma, WA


Warm-up Question

Have you ever seen a miracle happen?  What was it and how did it change you or your view of God and/or the world?

Was Blind But Now I See

At 14 years old, Lisa Reid and her family had a hard decision to make.  Lisa had a cancerous brain tumor that was causing her headaches, vomiting and loss of coordination.  Her only choice was a delicate operation to remove the tumor and save her life.  However, as a consequence of the surgery Lisa’s optic nerves were damaged and she became blind.

shutterstock_110721512editDeciding not to let her blindness hold her down, Lisa became a poster child for children with cancer.  She appeared on television shows and in documentaries across New Zealand.  She also made promotional appearances to help raise money for the organization that trained her seeing-eye dog, Amy.

Ten years after her sight was taken away by cancer, Lisa tripped and fell hitting her head on a coffee table and on the floor.  She got up, as she had done before, and went to bed.  The next morning when she opened her eyes she could see the white of her ceiling.  Looking around she saw light shining through the curtains and then she looked and saw her beloved dog Amy.  Lisa’s sight had come back, not perfectly, but it was back.

The doctors were skeptical.  There was no medical explanation for how Lisa regained her sight.  Her optic nerves, which have no power to regenerate themselves, were still damaged.  The doctors tried to explain her sight by saying that Lisa may have recovered from a blindness that had been more psychological rather than physical from the start.  “I don’t believe in miracles,” said Dr. Ross McKay.  That doesn’t matter to Lisa, all she knows is that once she was blind but now she sees.

In this week’s gospel text we meet a man blind from birth who is given back his sight by Jesus.  The religious leaders are skeptical and try to find excuses for the healing.  However, the man knows that it was Jesus who healed him and he knows, like Lisa, that once he was blind but now he sees.  His only response is to worship Jesus.

 More on Lisa Reid’s story

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think of Lisa’s story?  Was it a miracle?  Why or why not?
  • Do you think people are open to miracles or are they skeptical like Dr. Ross?
  • Some would say that miracles are in the “eye of the beholder”.  What do you think that means? Do you agree with that statement?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, March 30, 2014 (Fourth Sunday in Lent)

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Ephesians 5:8-14

John 9:1-41

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

The Gospel writer John is a great storyteller.  In this story of the encounter of Jesus and the man blind from birth, John’s major point is that Jesus is the “Light of the World” and the Messiah (here noted as the “Son of Man”).  In order to make his point, John uses a storytelling trick whereby the blind man gains his physical sight and then as the story progresses his eyes of faith become more and more clear until he sees Jesus as the Messiah and worships Jesus.  At the same time, the spiritual eyes of the religious leaders are beginning to dim and finally Jesus hints that the Pharisees are blind to God’s work in the world.

Along the way in this story there are several things that are unique to John and John’s gospel which speak to us today.  Among them are the following:

Notice that Jesus was walking along, saw the blind man and went over to heal him.  In the other Gospels people need to have at least a little faith for the miracle to happen.  In John the miracles happen first and then people are moved to faith.  At first all the blind man knew was that “some guy by the name of Jesus put mud on my eyes and now I see.”  The good news here is that God comes to people even if they do not, at first, have any faith.  God’s love touches all people not just those who are with the “in” crowd.

Next, the blind man’s faith grows as a result of being questioned by the religious leaders (he “sees” even more clearly).  In this story the man goes from calling Jesus just “some guy” to calling him a prophet and then finally seeing Jesus as the Messiah and worshiping Jesus.  There are some Christians in our day who see questions as a bad thing.  However, I would note that Jesus never scolded anyone for asking a question…even when the question seemed to signify that the person did not understand what Jesus was saying.

As Lutherans we welcome questions and discussions and even debates as a way of searching for the truth and growing our faith.  Also note that the man’s faith grew slowly as he came to understand who Jesus really was and what that meant for his life and for the world.  We have to respect the fact that we and others can be at different places along the line of gaining faith and an understanding of Jesus.  Some might say Jesus is person, others that he is a good teacher, some that he is a prophet and then others who say “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  It’s okay to have your faith in Jesus grow slowly.

Finally in John’s gospel miracles are called “signs”.  In John’s gospel the miracles are never an end to themselves but point to something beyond the miracle itself.  Here the healing of the blind man is a sign that points to Jesus as the Light of the World.  Today Jesus is still the Light of the World shining into the dark places of our lives, the lives of those we love and into the life of the world.  By faith we can clearly catch a glimpse of God’s reign and of Jesus’ presence in the world today.

Discussion Questions

  • We often see the Lenten season as a journey of faith.  Given the story of the man born blind where do you see yourself on this journey?  Who is Jesus to you?
  • Do you think questions about faith and religion are a good thing or not?  Why?
  • I did not mention it in the Gospel Reflection but as noted in verse 16 Jesus must have done this miracle or sign on the Sabbath and the Pharisees were not happy about it.  What is your opinion?  Was it okay for Jesus to heal on the Sabbath even though there were rules about working on the Sabbath day (healing would be considered work)?  Why or why not?
  • Since Jesus is the Light of the World, what are some ways we can reflect that light of Jesus into the lives of our friends and neighbors?

Activity Suggestions

If you have midweek Lenten services and maybe soup suppers before worship, take a moment to interview an older adult.  Ask them about their faith journey, how did they come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah and the Light of the World.  Then, next time your youth group or bible study meets, compare notes.  What are the similarities?  Are all of the faith journeys alike?  What do the different stories tell you about how we come to faith in God and Jesus?

Closing Prayer

Amazing God, open the eyes of our faith so that we may come to see clearly that Jesus is the Christ and the Light of the World.  May the light of Christ shine brightly into our darkness and the darkness of the world.  Strengthen and empower our faith so that we might serve you and our neighbors in need by reflecting the light of your Chosen One, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

June 8-14, 2011– Seeing Jesus Face to Face

Contributed by Stephanie Opsal, West Des Moines

Warm-up Question

Have you seen Jesus in your life?

Seeing Jesus Face to Face

Todd Burpo’s book, Heaven is For Real, has become a sensational “must-read” for many.  Burpo describes his four-year-old son Colton’s emergency surgery and his incredible trip to heaven and back when he loses consciousness during the surgery.  Burpo can see that this is not just a dream.  Colton knows about things he would not otherwise know, such as the locations of his parents during his surgery and the existence of his miscarried sister.  In addition, he describes the true nature of the Triune God and confirms a great deal of Scripture.

This book is becoming popular across the globe, as evidenced by its spot on the New York Times best-seller list, printing over 1.5 million copies and attracting over 56,000 fans on facebook.  What about this book draws so many people’s attention?

People have an eagerness for experiencing the unknown, one reason mystery and sci-fi books and movies are quite popular.  We cannot imagine how great heaven is going to be.  At the mention of this indescribable place where no hurt remains and in which our hope resounds, we jump at the chance to catch a glimpse of God’s majesty via an experience like Colton’s.

The passage in Romans 8:18-25 comes to my mind.  The apostle Paul discusses his current sufferings in prison as a minor step compared to the strong hope he has for the future, unseen glory of heaven that God will soon reveal.  It is so exciting to hear about someone who saw Jesus face to face.


Discussion Questions

  • Are you interested in reading this book?
  • Have you or a loved one ever had a near-death experience?  Do you have any stories from the situation?
  • What do you think heaven will be like?  Are you confident that by Jesus’ death for us you will be there someday?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, June 12, 2011 (Day of Pentecost)

Acts 2:1-21

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

John 20:19-23

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

In this short passage, the risen Jesus appears to the disciples through locked doors to offer them words of peace and encouragement.  But He also offers a much greater gift.  Knowing he will soon ascend to heaven Jesus breathes his Spirit onto them and empowers them do His work in the world.  In the same way, we receive the Holy Spirit in our hearts as we put our trust in Jesus Christ.  In John 14:12, Jesus tells His disciple Philip: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  By the Spirit’s power bestowed upon us by Christ, we can do even greater things on earth to fulfill God’s purposes for us.

We can be just as excited as that little boy in Heaven is for Real.  Colton saw Jesus in heaven, but we can also see Jesus right now, wherever we are, because the resurrected Savior lives in and through all His people!  We are sent by Jesus just as the Father sent Him, to forgive others, love others, and share the truth of humanity’s redemption through Christ Jesus.  The Spirit of God within us directs our paths and accomplishes more than we ever could on our own: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Spend some time in prayer, asking Jesus to reveal His living presence to you and lead you in His plans for your life (Jer. 29:11).

The disciples were overjoyed to see that Jesus was alive and offering them peace, strength, and the direction of the Spirit (verse 20).  We are blessed with the presence of Jesus in our hearts and in our lives.  Strive to see the Lord today.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think would be your first response if you saw Jesus in the flesh today?
  • Describe characteristics of the Holy Trinity including how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all work together as one true God.
  • How can you see Jesus working through your life or the lives of others, even though He is present in Spirit now rather than in the flesh?
  • Do you feel called to do something or change something in your life to become more like Jesus?
  • How can we thank God for giving us the gift of His Holy Spirit?

Activity Suggestions

  • Draw two pictures of Jesus, one of how you think He might look as a human and one of how you think His Spirit would look as He works through people’s lives.  (For example, a person doing a good deed or someone using his gift of art to paint a beautiful picture to hang up in the church or to give to someone in need).
  • Read excerpts from Heaven is For Real and discuss what you think heaven will be like based on what the Bible says about it as well as your own thoughts.
  • Use your Bible and concordance to look up other passages about ways the Holy Spirit lives and works through believers.  What other words to Scripture use to refer to the Spirit; what does that say about the purpose of the Spirit’s work in our lives and world?

Closing Prayer

Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we praise you for rising from the dead and offering all of your disciples the lasting gift of your living presence in our lives.  We humbly accept your leadership in our lives and pray that we  be able to see you working in and through us to do your work in the world while we are here.  We thank you for giving us hope for an eternal home with you in heaven one day.  In Jesus’ precious and holy name we pray, Amen.

June 2-8, 2010–Blind Spots

Contributed by Jack Saarela, Lutheran Campus Pastor, Yale University 

Warm-up Question

It is much harder to see spelling and punctuation mistakes in something you have written than in it is to see the same mistakes in someone else’s work.  Why do you think that is? 

Blind Spots

Mark Horvath is a denizen of social media. He tells of a homeless man on Hollywood Boulevard who thought he was invisible. One day a kid handed the man a Christian pamphlet. The homeless man was shocked and amazed, “What?! You can see me? How can you see me? I’m invisible!” 

It isn’t hard to comprehend this man’s spiral into invisibility. Once on the street, people started to walk past him, ignoring him as if he didn’t exist. “It’s not that people are bad,” Horvath says, “but if we make eye contact, then we have to admit that they exist, and that we might have a basic human need to care. It’s so much easier to close our eyes and shield our hearts from their existence.” 

By way of invisible-people-tv, Horvath uses the lens of a television camera to tell the stories of homelessness and the organizations trying to help. His stated purpose is to make the invisible visible 

Discussion Questions

  • When you have encountered a homeless person on the streets of the town or city where you live, have you found yourself looking the other way? Can you say why? Does Horvath’s explanation above ring a bell?
  • Talk about a time when you looked at someone you thought you knew well, but at that moment, you felt as though you were seeing him or her for the very first time.
  • Have you yourself ever been in a situation where you felt invisible, as if everyone was looking past you and not seeing you? Say some more about it.

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, June 6, 2010 (Second Sunday After Pentecost)

1 Kings 17:17-24 

Galatians 1:11-24 

Luke 7:11-17 

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.) 

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day. 

Gospel Reflection

The woman in this gospel episode has at least two strikes against her, with the third one not far away. She is a widow, meaning, of course, that she has lost a husband. Now she is in a funeral procession behind the body of her only son. She has she lost two people whom she loves, and because in her society (as in many yet today), a woman is totally dependent for economic support on a male to whom she is bound (father, husband, brother-in-law, or son), she now has no means to live. 

One miracle that Jesus performs in this episode is the one identified by the heading for this text in the Oremus Bible Browser: “Jesus Raises the Widow’s Son at Nain.”  It’s true; he does, and to give new life to the dead is miracle enough. 

But what strikes me as at least as great a miracle is that out of the midst of the large crowd that came to meet Jesus and his disciples when they entered the town, Jesus should actually see this woman. To be sure, she is in a funeral procession. But in a land where death was regular visitor, a funeral procession would not be as noticeable as it is in our day. 

This woman is very ordinary, and now rendered absolutely powerless and helpless by tragedy in her life. I wonder how many in the crowd looked past her as they rushed to the town gates to see this phenom Jesus who was arriving. But Jesus brought both the crowd’s advance and the funeral procession itself to a halt by seeing the woman, taking notice of her–not only acknowledging her existence, but also addressing her grief and dire economic plight by returning to her the life of her son. 

It’s reminiscent of the New Testament story which is just about every child’s favorite.  Zaccheus climbs up into a tree in order to see Jesus, but is, as it turns out, seen by Jesus, and his life transformed as a result (Luke 19:1-10). There’s real power to heal and raise the dead in Jesus’ sight. 

Discussion Questions

  • Can you think of incidents in the gospels where Jesus performs the miracle of giving sight to someone? What role do you think having sight has in the life of a disciple of Jesus? 
  • Talk about a time when you were challenged to see someone else’s need in a new way. Did your insight move you to respond to that person’s need in any way? 
  • Are there individuals or groups of person who may be “invisible” at your church? Who is missing? Who is there, but hardly ever noticed? 

Activity Suggestions

  • Watch a story or two of homeless persons at:
  •  Pause for a few minutes to reflect on that person’s story. Then write your thoughts in the comments section, or e-mail them to a friend and send them the link to the site.

Closing Prayer

Jesus, healer of our every ill, we thank you for looking upon us and seeing us in all our complexity and need. Heal our vision that we may be able to see others as you see them. Amen.