All the Light We Cannot See

John 9:1-41

[Watch sermon here.]

On the road,
Jesus and the disciples walk by a man born with blindness.
This man has depth and wisdom.
Brilliance abounds as this man can listen to the world
more thoroughly than anyone born with sight.

A certain spark, and sparkle, occurs
when Jesus approaches the man.

In contrast, the disciples take the situation in with a critical eye.
Why was this man born blind? They ask. Whose fault is it?
What went wrong?

What went wrong?
What went wrong is that the townspeople have not taken the time
to perceive this man and his inner life.
What went wrong is that this community has not treated this man with dignity.
They have not creatively dreamed up ways to include this man,
to empower him navigate his blindness,
or enable him to support himself in a dignified manner.

Instead, they relegated him to a beggar on the street corner.

The disciples and the townspeople have the physical ability to see, yes,
but still, they lack a spiritual ability to perceive people.
They have looked over the man’s situation with a cursory glance,
and have not seen beyond their superficial assessment.

In contrast, Jesus perceives MORE.
Jesus perceives A LOT MORE.

Jesus draws close to the man born with blindness, saying,
I am the Light of the world.

This is one of seven I AM statements in the Gospel of John.
Jesus re-states what God told Moses at the burning bush.
Moses asked, What is your name?
God replied, I AM WHAT I AM.
God burns with presence, with here-ness, with being.

Burning with this God-consciousness,
Jesus sees it in this man on the side of the road.
The imago dei or the image of God blazes hotly in this man.

Jesus wants this man to see it, too!
The God-consciousness crackles and pops in the man by the road.

Instinctively, Jesus turns to his students and says,
Don’t waste time finger pointing!
Who do we blame?
This is the wrong question!
Instead, ask yourself this:
Where is the revelation of God in is
and how do I stay very close to that?

Where is the glory of God is this?

Swiftly, Jesus closes the distance between himself and the perceptive man by the road.
Kneeling on the soft earth, Jesus mixes salvia with dirt,
and puts this unorthodox mud treatment on the man’s eyes;
the man maneuvers carefully to a pool, washes the muck off,
and suddenly, he can see. Clearly.

What can he see?

He can see Jesus.
He can see himself with dignity.
He can see other people as they are.
He can see the deep truth of life.

This is the true miracle that occurs.
The true miracle that we all want.

The man’s town is perplexed.
They see him transformed and ask,
Is that the same person who used to beg on the street?

No, no, they respond to each other,
it must be someone else.

“Yes, it’s me!” The transformed man cries out.
In the original Greek,
the transformed man just shouts, “I am!”


He burns hot with God-presence-fire.

Befuddled, the local religious leaders grill him
and his parents about his transformation.

How can this be? They press.

They think they know exactly how God shows up.

Likewise, as a church gathered for a worship service,
we may think we know exactly what God looks like.

No, you don’t, Jesus replies.
No, you don’t, the healed man replies.

Mystery remains.
Unseen love is afoot in our lives.

When the religious authorities grill the changed man,
he replies simply,
All I know is that I was blind and now I see.

Jesus came that we may perceive,
and perceive abundantly.

Jesus came to free us
from the narrowness of our minds.
That we might journey to a place of expansive grace.
A pool of grace. An oasis of grace.

Jesus came to set us free.
Jesus invites us, too, to kneel in the soft earth,
splash our face with gentleness, and wipe the mud from our eyes.

I was blind, the transformed man said,
but now I see.

Expand your focus.
Open your heart.

This story has so many barriers to connection.
Fear. Prejudice. Hard hearts.
Threats of being thrown out. Kept out. Excluded.

The good news is that
Jesus says, “I am the Door.”

Our Scripture today ends early.
Our reading ends, but the story advances.
After the conclusion we heard today,
Jesus continues to speak with the changed man,
the disciples, and the religious leaders.

Jesus continues on to say: I am the Door!
Or, I am the Gate!

This charms me.

Jesus is not a wall, a fence, or an obstacle.

Jesus is the Door,
always opening to something new,
something wider, something more true,
something more life giving.

I AM. The Door.

Jesus wows the transformed man.

“Do you believe in me?” the Door asks.

In the face of the fire-filled presence of Christ.
the man says, Yes, I believe.

In the Gospel of John,
belief represents relationship.
To believe means that you are in relationship with Christ.

Yes, Christ, the healed one says,
I am in relationship with you,
You are the Door, the Opening,
the One who connected me to
the deep God-consciousness inside of me
and inside the living, breath earth.

You are the one who empowered me to perceive MORE.

Christ is the Light.

What Christ teaches me is that:
there is more light than humans can see.

Light comes in UV rays, x-rays, radio waves.
Light affects us even when we cannot perceive it.

Here is the thing:
God is communicating at frequencies
we may not see at first. Still, God is there.

I was reminded of that in the book
All the Light We Cannot See.

This book, set in World War II,
features a girl who lost her eyesight.
Separated from her father,
the girl participates in the French resistance movement.

I love that this book speaks in the metaphor of radio waves.
Radio waves are not visible in the electromagnetic spectrum,
but the waves are real and they enable communication
through walls, fences, and obstacles.

Radio waves are what allow us to connect right now!

What I love about the book
is that this girl who developed blindness as a child.
starts to send out beautiful piano recordings through radio waves.
There is more to the plot, but I will not ruin it for you.
Interestingly, the music moves the heart
of a man enlisted in the German army.

The music taps into a deeper frequency: the heart.

Here’s the thing:
Christ taps into the deepest frequency of our being,
the forces of life that we cannot see, but that affect us deeply.
Christ frees us from the real but invisible waves
of sexism and ableism and homophobia.
Christ empowers us to tune into the station of dignity, and wholeness.

Christ sees the aliveness of God burning within us.
Scorching. Leaping. Waiting to blaze openly.

In my sanctified imagination,
I imagine Christ saying to you:
I see you. You are.

Yes, you might respond back, I AM!

Something is afoot even if we cannot perceive it.
Even if we have not yet dared to dip our digits in the pool of grace.

Still, it beckons.

Rise. Awaken. Move.

Expand your focus.
Open your heart.
Put mud on your eyes.

Tenderness is already here.
Love already wants you.
Grace pools at your feet.
Welcoming you to life.

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