"Eat with me and I will make you new
and pure. I will open your eyes."
The healing story that was read for us this morning is only found in the gospel of John. A man, born blind miraculously healed with spit and mud. This might be just one of the grosses miracles, but a miracle nonetheless.
The assumption is this man’s birth was a defected because of something he or his parents did; i.e. sin. If that were the case, and sin was the cause of blindness, then the prescription on my glasses would be way stronger than they are now.
Jesus explains to his disciples that the man, like all of us, was born in a particular way, for a reason. And that reason, he says, is so the world can see God at work through his disability. But why does it take a physical defect to open our eyes to that truth? There’s got to be an easier way, don’t you think?
As a child, I grew up in a small beach community in Florida. In our dining room, sat a table my father built out of thick wooden planks reclaimed from an old ship. Depending where you sat, you could enjoy an unobstructed view of the Gulf of Mexico. And depending on how quickly you made it to the table for dinner, you could also avoid being blinded by the bright sun as it set in the West.
Perhaps it wasn’t sin that gave me glasses but always being the last one to the dinner table. Once the temporary blindness passed, I would come to see God’s creative hand come alive. With beautiful brush strokes of deep indigo blues, shocking pinks, and mouthwatering oranges, it was like God was painting the sky just for me. Day or night, I can still see God’s divine imprint in that celestial canvas.
In the first chapter of Romans Paul writes, “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things that God has made” (Rom. 1:20). To Paul’s point, if we can’t see God in this earthly creation, then how do we expect to see God in the heavenly creation? God is everywhere, we just have to know how to see.
Many years later I moved to Los Angeles and sat at many different tables. One in particular was a small metal garden table that was often covered in bits of food, cigarette ashes and spilt beer. It was here that Kathleen and I began to court one another.
The table was situated in the courtyard. And was surrounded by apartments that, like many of its residents, had seen better days. Yet it was home to many shared laughs and many shared tears, (and yes perhaps one too many spilt beers).
This was a time in my life when I was searching for a deeper meaning of God. I had bigger questions that sought bigger answers. I needed God’s true colors revealed to me. Too many years I had wasted, being disconnected from the simple truths I had learned in my youth. Somewhere along the way I had become blind again. Not just in my eyes, but in my heart as well.
As we gathered around that small, hand-painted, sticky table I began to see God’s imprint in my life again, this time on the faces of Kathleen, Martin, Rochelle, AJ, Stacie, John, Kristine, and the countless stray friends who’d show up at any given time. Day or night, God was present.
It was our ritual to sit in mismatched chairs, to break bread and share wine. We opened our hearts and confessed to one another, dispensing forgiveness freely. We sang songs, read from books of poets and prophets, and sacrificed our own needs to help the other get by. Whether we knew it or not, we fed one another the spiritual food of God’s unconditional love. For all intent and purposes, the courtyard was our church. And that table was our Alter.
No different than the many people Jesus healed, we were an ungodly bunch; broken, beaten down and bedraggled. Yet it was in this self-giving community of love, that God’s truth began to take shape. I came to realize no matter what baggage we carry, or where we find ourselves in life’s journey, God’s amazing grace is always ready to greet us; always ready to tattoo a divine imprint over our scars for everyone to see.
This furious love God has for us all continues to shape my story. And to think it all began at a table, that unsuspecting Alter in the world where God’s abundant love creates space for the invasion of forgiveness and grace. Through us, and around us, God is hard at work.
Jesus spits into our eyes and asked, “What do you see?” This isn’t so much a question as it is a direction. Jesus heals our blindness so that all our feeding, healing, and forgiving will add up to something bigger than the eye can see: redemption, grace and resurrection.
Brennan Manning writes, “God's love, by its very nature, seeks to be in an intimate union with us. With the grace of this recognition comes the awesome and alarming awareness that Jesus, the incarnation of God’s love, wants more than a close relationship with you and me.” God has chosen us, to reveal to the world, what God’s love can do. It redeems, restores, and even resurrects us from the dead.
We might not always see God in nature, nor will we always have a community where we see God’s love thriving. But we will always have Jesus, God in human flesh, who came to be with us, and to show us the way back to our Creator. Through Jesus we are given us the Spirit of truth to continue his work. "Only blindness of a willful sort,” writes William Coffin, “can prevent our seeing the face of the Risen Lord in the faces of the suffering poor.”
Jesus spits into our eye and asks, “What do you see?” A table or a church? A stranger or me?
The furious longing of God’s love is in us all, and all around us. Such a love cannot be contained. As hard as we might try to remain blind or ignorant, God’s love continues to burst into creation with all the fury and beauty of a sunset. Jesus calls us to love one another with the same intensity. As God’s love seeks a union, it’s purpose is to draw us to others in love, so that everyone has an opportunity to see God’s presence, wherever we may be.
The way I see it, the church is to be the face of God’s love. It requires of us to see the face of Jesus in others. If we can’t see Jesus in the face of the hungry, the sick, the poor, the widow, and orphan, then how is Jesus going to see us? We are the mirror, not just the light.
Jesus opens our eyes with purpose. He gives us the Spirit with purpose. He also calls us all to the table with purpose. To be the love of God, so the blind can see. When the table becomes a place of grace, it begins to act graciously. It becomes a place that heals wounds, and envisions God’s divine imprint in the world, and hopes to be one with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This table here is no different than the one that’s in my parent’s dining room, or the one that still sits in that Hollywood courtyard. For Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with you.” So come and let us gather in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus shows us, in the way he loves us, that the table is not a thick wall to keep people out. It is an open door for all to enter.
Jesus ate with the clean and unclean alike. In doing so he radically changed the game. He said, “Eat with me, and I will make you new and pure. I will open your eyes.” So whether you’re full of faith or filled with doubt, whether you can see clearly or you are blind, all are welcome to meet God in our humble community of faith and love.
In remembrance of his self-giving love, we invite you this table and simple meal.
(Move towards Communion)