Thursday 27 March 2014

Journey of believing

I'm going to begin with a declaration.  Come with me and I'll tell you one of the ways I got there.  Here it is: I don't want to be part of a church that claims to have all the answers.  I want to be part of a church that claims answers may be found there.

There's a difference.  Here's why.

The story of Jesus giving sight to a man born blind is found in John's gospel, chapter 9.  It's long.  It's really long for a single story in the gospels.  That's also what makes it so important.

The story opens with the healing miracle.  Jesus and the disciples encounter a man blind from birth, prompting a disciple to ask why the man was blind, was it some sin of his or his parents?  (The belief that a physical disability is a punishment from God is ancient.  It would be nice to think that we don't hold to that belief anymore, but that understanding isn't universal.  Even the language we use - dis-abled rather than differently abled - reflects that.)  But Jesus says that it's neither, it's "so that God’s works might be revealed in him."  And he proceeds to give him sight.  There's way more to it than that - read the story in John 9.

Jesus then disappears, leaving the man to be questioned by others, especially the pharisees.  They question his parents, too, and eventually determine to cast him out from the synagogue.  That's right, Jesus gives him the thing that he was marginalized without and he's cast out again, for that, this time.  Hearing what happened, Jesus seeks him out, identifies himself and asks him if he believes in "the Son of Man."  Finally, in verse 38 of 41, he says "I believe."  Did I mention it's a long story?

And it's a complex story which raises lots of questions, about sin, insight and outward sight, healing and belief amongst other things.  It's not just about the metaphor of seeing, do you see?  It's about a journey.  When Jesus says that "God's works might be revealed in him," he doesn't mean the miracle of physical sight, he means the journey the man will travel to believe in "the Son of Man."  And it's a challenging journey.

The healing miracle that begins the journey is different than other such stories in the gospels.  The man doesn't seek Jesus out and request it, nor does Jesus ask the man's permission, nor is the man's healing a result of his own faith.  The man doesn't seem to know Jesus or anything about him.  And he is given the gift of sight.

When asked, he doesn't know where Jesus is, he doesn't know who Jesus is.  Before long, he believes Jesus to be a prophet because of what he can do but still, he does not know how, only that he was blind and now he can see.  And when Jesus asks him if he believes, he still does not recognize Jesus as "the Son of Man" until Jesus tells him it is he.

His "I believe" is still just the beginning of his journey.  As it is ours.

Transformation is messy, complex and convoluted sometimes.  It can mean gaining friends and losing them, gaining new life and losing it, it can mean understanding and confusion, it can mean questions with answers and questions with just more questions.

This man's life is transformed by meeting Jesus that day, as ours can be, too.  And our journey to believing in God may also mean that there are times when we wonder where Jesus is and times when we see Jesus clearly, times when we think we have an answer and times when we have only wonder, times when we have doubt and times when we know.

Maybe.  At the conclusion of this story, Jesus reminds us that there are those who's certainty blinds them to understanding - they think they see clearly and yet don't understand.  It's the pharisees, of course.  Or is it us?

That's why I would like to travel the journey with others, to be in a community relationship where we can all benefit from our questions and doubts, answers and understanding.  That's why I don't want to be part of a church that claims to have all the answers.  I want to be part of a church that claims answers may be found there.