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The paradox, of the Gospel today is that the one who was once blind is now the only one who can see properly. He is the only one with enough vision to see Jesus, to accept the healing he has been offered, and to tell people about it. Everyone who lives with sight has the eyes to see what has happened – but they lack the sight to comprehend it. So, what makes the one able to see Jesus, and know, and feel, who Jesus is, and accept his healing? And what makes the others in the story – the parents, the neighbours, the Pharisees – unable to see or understand what’s happened?

Part of the answer to that question is in assumptions. At the beginning of the story, the neighbours ask Jesus a question: “Rabbi, who sinned,” they ask, “this man, or his parents?”  The assumptions are made; someone must be at fault for this because the blindness is understood to be a punishment.

There are two kinds of questions: open questions and closed questions. A closed question might be something like, “Are you okay?” This gives someone firm parameters; the asker is looking for a yes or a no. A more open way of asking the question might be, “How are you feeling today?” which allows the answerer to talk about anything. In this story, the disciples have asked a closed question. They are looking for a simple answer from Jesus: Who sinned, this man or his parents?  

Instead of responding directly to the question the disciples ask, Jesus uses metaphors of light and darkness to explain his own work in the world. Then, he takes dirt, spits on it, rubs it in his hands, and smears it all over the man’s eyes. This physical smearing—this touch and this dirt – creates healing. The man washes in the pool, comes out, and sees.

This is where the chaos begins. The people can’t understand what has happened. From the time of their question through to the end  their parameters don’t allow them to experience the miracle. Their own assumptions keep them from understanding what has happened.

In our first reading, from the Book of Samuel, we see again how assumptions get in the way. Samuel has been asked to make known the Lord’s chosen one. So, Jesse’s sons pass by Samuel, one by one, and one by one, Samuel rejects them. The family assumes that one of the older brothers will be chosen, for they are far more capable! They are strong, and attractive men; they assume that these are God’s criteria.  

Finally, when David shows up, Samuel hears from God that he is the one, and anoints him. Never mind that David is the youngest, or that he has just been keeping sheep. Never mind that his brothers and his dad assumed he wouldn’t even be considered. God breaks through this closed system, breaking through assumptions and the parameters we attempt to place on God.

Perhaps our word of hope this morning is that God takes all that we presume, all of our assumptions and closed questions, and breaks through them to create miracles. Maybe our good news is that even when we are lost in our confusion and trying to figure out where something came from or how something happened, God is still in the midst of us, working to heal those who are ready.

We are all much more like the disciples than we would care to admit, asking closed questions of Jesus. And we are all much more like David’s brothers than we would care to admit, dismissing the youngest, the one who only works as a shepherd. And we are all much more like the neighbours than we would care to admit, unable to accept the witness given to us, because it doesn’t fit in our worldview.

The good news is this: Our confusion doesn’t hinder God’s work. Our questions don’t stop Jesus from doing good in the world. Our assumptions can’t get in the way of the prophets God chooses.

This Sunday, we hear this Gospel as an invitation to scrutinize our perspectives, sort through our presuppositions and see what should be discarded and what new insights might be hidden in unexpected, places.   Let’s look around and see where God has been, is, and always will be at work in our world, within us, and within our surroundings. God is breaking through our assumptions. Thanks be to God.


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