“The Struggle of Faith”
Lent 4A – March 26, 2017
1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
Believing in God is not always easy. I don’t mean believing in the existence of God. I mean trusting God completely in every matter. God’s ways are not our ways; God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, God operates on a different scale and plane of existence than we do. God sees things and understands things we cannot comprehend. For instance, what kind of mind and power does it take to invent the mathematics, design the systems of the universe; and then have the power to implement the process of Creation? Compared to God, what are we? Yet, we are created in God’s image and have that divine spark within us that also allows us to be creators in our own right.
So, when God had it with King Saul, God decided to remove him and replace him with a young Shepherd boy named David, a son of Jesse, who lived in Bethlehem. As part of this transition of power, God orders one of his servants, a prophet named Samuel, to go to Bethlehem to anoint the next King of Israel.
Samuel doesn’t want to go because he fears Saul will kill him. So, God instructs him to take a heifer and say that he is going there to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Further, he is to invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and God will take over from there. Of course, God did take over. The son of Jesse, David the shepherd boy, was revealed, and Samuel anointed him as God’s next King for Israel.
Samuel learns he can trust God, but Samuel also puts God in an awkward situation. By expressing that his fear of Saul is greater than his faith in God, Samuel forces God to make an exception to one of his sacred principals, Thou Shall not Lie. So,
God allows a measure of deception.
God’s nature is not deceptive. God is love and light, and those are qualities that don’t support deception. Yet, there are times when God makes accommodations for us because of the evil present in the world in which we live, and move, and have our being.
For example, when Jesus is sending out disciples for their field training he gives them instructions how to handle themselves. From Matthew 10:16-17: “16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17“Be on your guard against men; …”
David was, by appearance, the least likely of Jesse’s sons. When Samuel gathered with Jesse and his sons he began to look them over. Verses 6 & 7 from our lesson: 6When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab, and he thought, “Surely the LORD has appointed this person standing here before him.” 7But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t look at how handsome Eliab is or how tall he is, because I have not chosen him. God does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
It took a bit of deception to get the prophet Samuel to Bethlehem to meet Jesse and his son’s. The deception did not reveal the true nature of God’s heart only that God sometimes has to use worldly motivations in order to get us to where God is calling us. The problem is not with God. It is with us. God wasn’t afraid of Saul, Samuel was.
Many times I have be called to the hospital to help a family make the decision to remove life support. At times like that I want to know I represent a God who has integrity; whose promises to us can be counted upon; who can really come and help us deal with the realities of this life. In this world in which we live, we need help. We need help to keep hanging in there; to make sense of life when things go terribly wrong. At those times when death and destruction seem to rule, is there a God we can cling to, turn to, hold-on to, and from whom we can draw strength, courage, and healing?
David would not be king if God did not show Samuel a way to overcome his fears. God had to find a way to increase Samuel’s trust. David later wrote a Psalm about God: The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not be in want… Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; … Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
When I read that Psalm I am drawn to trust that God. I want to be able to entrust my life to a God who cares that much for me and wants to have such an intimate relationship with me that He goes through the valley of the shadow of death with me – He doesn’t just send me through alone. That’s the God who met with those families in the hospital – who was with me in the hospital two weeks ago, and helped Samuel in his fear.
St. Paul writes for us that, in relationship with that God, we are brought out of darkness into light. In fact, in that God, we become light for others. We are, in fact, children of light; and now goodness, and mercy, righteousness and truth begin to emanate from us as light.
Our Past Is Being Renewed.
Our wounds are being healed. Our misdeeds are being forgiven. Our dark deeds are brought into light so we can see them for what they are. We can seek God’s forgiveness, repent and begin to make restitution, and have our conscience cleansed from all sin. We no longer live and act in the darkness where shameful things occur. We act in the open as sons and daughters of light.
A Form Of Darkness Is Blindness – both spiritual and physical blindness.
When they saw the blind man, Jesus’ disciples asked him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” In effect, Jesus says, ‘that’s the wrong question’. It was not anyone’s fault. He was just born blind. Welcome to an imperfect world, where the consequences of good and evil operate side-by-side. However, in this state of being born blind Jesus said we can see the “works of God displayed in him” (:3).
The disciples asked a very human question, “whose fault is it?” We want to know who to blame for our unhappiness, our misery, our guilt, our shame, or our bad choices. One of the destructive issues facing our culture is the rise of victim mentality. When Jesus made the mud out of his saliva and put it on the man’s eyes, he instructed him to go the pool of Siloam (the pool of those Sent) and wash his eyes. The man did as Jesus instructed and received the gift from God of a miracle. He could see – for the first time in his life.
If the blind man had been trapped in a victim’s mentality, he could have come up with a number of excuses why he couldn’t obey Jesus’ instructions: I can’t go because I’m blind. I can’t see the way to get there. I can’t go because I was born blind and that is obviously God’s will for my life. I can’t go because I am a victim, and that is my role in life. There have to be some victims around, you know. Otherwise, who are you going to feel sorry for? Who will you give alms, or welfare, to? If I give up this role in life, what will I do with myself?
Fortunately, the blind man didn’t suffer from a victim’s mentality. He went to the Pool of Siloam, washed in its waters, and was healed. It was a bonified miracle. Everyone shouted, “Praise The Lord”! Right?
Not! After the miracle the controversies began. Neighbors, who had known him his entire life didn’t believe it was him. He had to testify that it was he, who used to sit and beg. People’s lack of faith in God meant he had to keep explaining to people exactly how the miracle took place.
Because the miracle occurred on a Sabbath Day the Pharisees were convinced it could not have happened by God’s hand. God doesn’t work on the Sabbath, Right? On the Sabbath God is resting. Others were sure that the healing couldn’t have come from Jesus, also because it was the Sabbath, and Jesus was obviously a Sabbath-breaker; and miracles can’t happen at the hand of a sinner. If that’s true, none of us can ever pray for someone else’s healing.
Then they asked the man what he thought of Jesus. Well, he’s a prophet, the man said. Still not convinced, the Pharisees sent for the man’s parents. “is this your son”? “Was he born blind”? “How is it he can see”? “Yep, that’s our son; and Yep, he was born blind.” “But how he can see, and who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him”.
And the Pharisees continued on: “Give glory to God by telling the truth. We know this man (Jesus) is a sinner.” Really? The formerly blind man answered: “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” It was amazing grace at work. Sill the Pharisees didn’t let up. They accused the blind man of being “steeped in sin at birth”, and they threw him out of the synagogue – they excommunicated him.
Can you see why Jesus was so frustrated with the Pharisees? Instead of celebrating that a blind man can now see; that his life has now been changed for the better, they pick the miracle, and the One who worked it, to death. Who, what, when, why, how? There was no joy for God in their lives – only rules, regulations, and ritual.
Jesus, on the other hand, knowing the man has been kicked out of the synagogue, goes to him and leads him to faith in Himself, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He was kicked out the synagogue, and kicked into the kingdom of God. Where would you rather be?
From allowing Samuel to tell a lie, to Jesus healing on the Sabbath, we encounter a living God who sometimes, sovereignly, suspends His rules to meet our need. All around us, every day, Jesus is working a miracle in someone’s life. Sometimes they come in spectacular fashion. Often, in a quiet, secretive moment. All as God wills. The question is, Will we choose to believe, trust God? Sometimes it is a struggle to trust, but it is a trip worth making. Are you still not believing? Chose to trust in God!