Paradigms describe patterns. Paradigms are the ways we look at life and think about life. When we lose someone we love, our worldview changes and we are faced with a new paradigm for life. When we suddenly win the lottery and don’t have to work anymore, that too is a paradigm shift. Life is full of these shifts, and with each new one we face a fundamental choice: we can either accept the new way of seeing and doing things, or we can resist the new reality. Resisting the changes results in “paradigm paralysis”– the inability to view life from any other way. This occurs more frequently than you might think: even scientists have been caught off guard, seeing results that they were hoping would be there instead of the real results. Some have even altered the data to match their expectations.
The story of the healing of the blind man is another example of paradigm and paradigm paralysis. Something amazing happens in an otherwise unremarkable neighborhood in Jerusalem: a blind man is healed on the spot by a passerby, who makes a mudball with his own spit, smears it in the man’s eyes, and walks away. The blind man is told to wash himself in a pool of water, and when he does, he realizes that his vision has been restored.
This weird little healing is, believe it or not, the least remarkable part of this story. What is extraordinary is the paradigm paralysis that runs through the entire plot–the inability to accept a new way of seeing, a new way of living. We have the writer of John to thank for allowing us a glimpse at the other side of healing, in other words, what happens when God heals.
The healed man runs back to his old neighborhood to tell everyone the news, and they are shocked and their world is shaken by the news. This guy wants to celebrate his healing publicly, and when asked, his parents admit that he had been blind for 40 years or so. But people don’t want to believe the story.
“Well, all I can tell you”, the man says, “ is that once I walked around blind and was unable to see anything, but since I’ve met this man—the Messiah–l’ve been able to see, to really see. Do you want to meet this man, too?”
And that was the annoying part of the story: the idea that an uneducated blind man suddenly had commentary to offer on scripture and the coming of the Messiah. The people had already decided who could see and who could not, and this man was one who could not see. And curiously, these people hadn’t seen the Messiah in their midst, despite the fact that they thought they were the ones gifted with sight.
“Lord, I believe in you. “ the man confesses, and instead of looking at Jesus, the man who had been unable to see in 40 years, closes his eyes and worships the Messiah. It is then that Jesus directs his final words to all of us who claim to follow him. “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”
This is the whole point of John’s story, and it’s the question he has been wanting to ask his readers right from the start. Are we willing to see? Are we willing to step out of our own blindness and to look at life in the blinding light that God gives us in Jesus? Or will we lose ourselves in our own busyness so that we won’t even notice the new sight that God seeks to give us? Are we stuck in a paradigm that resists change, resists looking at life from fresh, new perspectives? If that is the case, then there is some really Good News! In Jesus Christ, God invites us to receive the miracle of healing. To wash the muck from our eyes and to really see. To see the world with new eyes. To see the possibilities that life can hold to those who choose to risk seeing it through new paradigms.
But for some of us, that is precisely the rub, isn’t it? We say we want healing, and moreover, we have a very precise idea of the healing we need and want most. We live in a paradigm that says we can ask God for whatever we want and we should expect to receive it exactly as we envision it. More often than not, however, things don’t go the way we think they ought to, and we become resentful of God. We are angry because God didn’t heal us in the way we decided we wanted to be healed; we are disappointed because the healing God offered us passed us by due to our own unwillingness to open ourselves to the possibility that God’s idea of healing for us might differ greatly from the our own ideas of what we need.
I am not an expert on healing; I do not claim any special powers of healing based on my own human skills and talents. Like all of you, I try to use my talents and gifts for the betterment of others, and I have felt the presence of God move very powerfully through me as His instrument. Sometimes I feel it when I perform a song and I see people moved to tears: it’s clearly not my voice, it’s the presence of God moving through the music itself. I am just an instrument. The same is true when I anoint someone in the Name and in the Nature of Jesus the Christ. By myself I have no way to heal anyone, not even myself, but when I surrender my ego to the awesome power of God and get out of the way, I have seen amazing things happen that defy rational explanation. I have seen people in their final death’s agony find peace; I have seen people with chronic pain and illness find lasting relief; I have seen people who have carried bitterness for many years suddenly set free. And I have even seen people scarred by the power of the memories of their past find a way to move forward when they believed they never would.
Right now, God is inviting you to come forward for healing. God doesn’t require your assistance. He needs neither your preconceived notions of what he needs to do for you, nor your paradigms of what healing ought to look like. He can do it all by himself. But he isn’t going to force you or compel you in any way to see things his way—this is only an invitation. You are free to accept it or reject it. He will love you regardless of which choice you make. But the offer still stands, and so I also invite all those who are in need of healing to come forward, whether it be physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual or any other type. God already knows what you need, all you have to do is open yourselves to his grace and open yourselves to receive the gift that he wants to give you right now.
We are called risk giving up our blindness, to surrender it and receive our sight through the light that God grants us in Jesus Christ–the Light of the World. Amen.