Weekly Meditation: 26th March 2017

4th Sunday in Lent

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Psalm 23

Ephesians 5:8-14

John 9:1-41

I once resigned from a church because of its practice of shutting out God’s good daylight, especially the sunshine, and holding the services by the inferior light of fluorescent strips. It seemed to me to be giving out the wrong message, and I couldn’t worship there.

I don’t know what Paul would have thought of window blinds and fluorescent strip-lights, but he uses the image of daylight to good effect in his letter to the Ephesians. He compares those who have come to faith as having once been 'darkness' but now being 'light' (5:8), and he lists the 'fruit of light' as being 'goodness, righteousness and truth' (5:9) - very like the fruitage of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). Clearly, Paul has in mind the contrast between Christian conduct, which has nothing to hide and therefore needs not fear the light, with 'fruitless deeds of darkness' (5:11). Shameful acts - sinful or illegal - are often conducted in secret, at night when it is dark, but 'light makes everything visible' (5:12-14).Paul then uses light, and the awaking to the day, as images to signify the illumination that Christ brings into our lives (5:14).

Jesus similarly used the images of light and darkness, sight and blindness. He said that those who believed could see, but those who refused to believe were blind (9:4-5; 39-41). In the account of the healing of the man born blind, in John’s gospel, the truly blind individuals are some of the man’s neighbours and the Pharisees who continually refuse to see what is before them. Jesus healed the man, but immediately some began to dispute if this really was the same man who had been a blind beggar (9:8-9). They then questioned him regarding how he had been healed but were still full of doubt (9:10-12). When the neighbours took the man to the Pharisees, some of them concluded that Jesus was 'not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath' (9:13-16). In spite of the man’s own repeated testimony (9:9, 15,17) many still refused the evidence of their own eyeseven when they had questioned his parents (9:20-23) and they insisted that Jesus was a 'sinner' (9:24).

The man who had been blind came to full faith in Jesus - both his physical sight and spiritual sight restored (9:38-39), but the Pharisees, blessed with physical sight, but spiritually blind, remained in their ignorance and guilt (9;40-41).

Sight is used metaphorically also in 1st Samuel 16. In seeking a replacement for King Saul who had proved disobedient (see 1st Samuel 15:17-23), the Lord sent Samuel to the home of Jesse, to anoint one of his sons (16:1). Samuel saw, in turn, Jesse’s elder sons. He was impressed by the first, Eliab, but God said 'Do not consider his appearance or his height ... the Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart' (16:6-7). God chose none of the seven, and in something like desperation Samuel asked Jesse, 'Are these all the sons you have?' (16:11). The eighth son had not been given a thought, not invited with the others; he was out tending the sheep (16:12). When he was brought in, however, God said, 'He is the one' (16:12).

God sees what humans cannot. When we put faith in him, we receive his illumination in our hearts, giving us strength and insight, so that we awaken to serve him. To have our eyes of faith opened is to make us truly blessed and it shows us the way to eternal life.

Susan Thorne