Rev. Barbara Cathey
Edgewater Presbyterian Church
April 3, 2011
As Clear As Mud
In my experience of life, there are way more questions than answers.
And in my experience of the Christian life, there also are more questions than there are answers.
Just take what’s happened in the last month or so…
Why an earthquake and a tsunami and a nuclear reactor spewing radiation…all hitting Japan at the same
And what about that Japanese town that had been destroyed by a tsunami once before, so they built a 30
foot wall for protection…then the earthquake dropped the level of town down 3 feet and a 30 foot tsunami
wave came and went over the top of their 30 foot wall…and the town was destroyed again.
And what about that little girl in Afghanistan who was outside playing when our military was blowing up
Taliban landmines and a brick flew up and hit her and gouged her eye out.
And why is it that people in Tunisia and Egypt were able to topple their governments with non-violent
protests but in Libya the protesters are being bombed and murdered?
And why is it that Charlie Sheen can be totally offensive and act like an idiot…and some people are
treating him like a hero?
And why is it that even little kids say mean things and hurt each other; and that sometimes in this city
they are not safe no matter where they are.
And why was that man in John’s gospel born blind?
And how is it that the gross combination of spit and dirt that Jesus put on the man’s eyes healed him?
Or was it the water in the pool that healed him?
Or was it because he followed Jesus instructions – and went and washed in the pool that healed him?
Or was it some combination of all of those?
And did Jesus sin because he healed the man on the Sabbath? He was breaking the 10 Commandments
when he did it, you know.
And why was it that as soon as the man could see, everyone around him went blind? His neighbors
couldn’t even recognize him. Did you hear their conversation? “Isn’t that the man who used to sit and
beg?” “It looks like him.” “Yeah, it looks like him but it’s not him.”
And the ones who thought it might be him, with their inquiring minds they wanted to know: “How were
The Pharisees, the religious leaders, had the same question, “How were you healed?” They wanted an
explanation. And because it happened on the Sabbath, because it broke one of the 10 Commandments, it
didn’t make any sense. How could a sin produce a miracle? How could something sinful bring about
There had to be an explanation. Maybe the man really hadn’t been born blind. So they asked his parents.
“Is he really their son? Was he really born blind? How is it that he can see?” Yes. Yes. And we don’t
know. Go ask him.
So they do. Questions and more questions. But no explanations. Only simple descriptions: “The man
called Jesus made mud and put it on my eyes and told me to wash in the pool of Siloam. I went and
washed and received my sight.” I once was blind but now I see.
Questions are an important part of life and of the Christian life. It starts when kids are about two, all
those “why” questions that drive us crazy but that are signs that they are exploring and investigating the
world. And with some people that never ends. I could always count on one boy in this church to ask me
a tough question after worship any Sunday he was here. And there are adults who are the same way –
always probing, always going deeper, never satisfied to stay on the surface. Questions are like the spark
in the engine of our faith. Those questions can open up a depth of understanding that grounds our faith.
But sometimes we don’t get the explanations or answers to our questions. That’s what happens in this
morning’s passage. People want to know how the healing happened. The man doesn’t know. People
want to know if Jesus was a sinner. The man doesn’t know. People are wondering if Jesus is sent from
God. The man doesn’t know. All he knows is what Jesus did in his life. Jesus put mud on his eyes and he
went and washed and received his sight. There is a before and an after. He can’t explain it. He can only
witness to it. I once was blind but now I see.
And maybe more than all the answers and explanations we could ever give, the witness that our world
needs – a world where Christian pastors hold rallies with big signs and megaphones announcing who
God hates; and where they burn other people’s holy books – the witness that our world needs is to see the
difference Jesus makes in our lives.
When Arhet got back a couple weeks ago she told me about having to travel to Yemen. While she was
there she met nuns who were in the order Mother Teresa founded, and they had taken a vow to live like
the people they served. Each woman had only three dresses Arhet said – one to sleep in, one to work in,
one to wear to church and ultimately for her burial. They were so full of joy at what they did that they
seemed rich not poor; and for Arhet they were a powerful witness to true Christianity.
I recently saw the movie “Of God and Men.” It’s the story of a small group of French monks in Algeria
and Muslim village beside them and how they all cared for each other. When Muslim terrorists
threatened both the village and the monastery, the monks had the option of returning to France and some
wanted to go. They decided to continue to pray for God to guide them. One by one they decided to stay.
It was what they believed Jesus wanted them to do, though most of them lost their lives because of that
decision. As the movie ended, I felt like it was the most positive depiction of Christianity I’d seen in a
long time and I hoped God would use it to counteract a lot of the ugliness done in Jesus’ name.
More than explanations and pronouncements and judgments, this world, this city, our friends and family
need us to witness to the difference Jesus makes in our lives. Maybe it’s dramatic. Maybe it’s as simple
as I used to see the world like this, but now I see it like this; I used to want this but now I want this; I
used to devote my time to this but now I make more time for this; I used to be this but now I am more
Jesus is the light of the world, opening our eyes and changing our lives.
We are the living witness our world needs.
Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…I once was lost but now am found,
was blind but now I see.