John 9:1-41; Ephesians 5:8-14; I Samuel 16:1-13
Did you like that clip we used at the beginning of worship? Wasn’t that hilarious? It is if your name is Randy. The first time I saw it I nearly bust a gut. I turned to my beloved wife Nancy and I said, “Did you hear that? Randy is like one of the most trust-worthy names.” With a very straight face she said, “I heard it.” And then I said, “We need to back that up and listen to it again.” And we did – I mean – I did. And I cracked up again. Nancy did all she could to keep a straight face. But I thought, “I’ve got to use that my first weekend back at Zion.”
Hey! It’s good to be back. And for those of you who didn’t notice that I was gone – I’ve just returned from a twelve week Sabbatical. In Phoenix, Arizona. It was 95 degrees there this past weekend. And I came home to – well you know what I came home to. Let’s just say it’s just a tad bit colder here. And just so you know that I haven’t been goofing off these past twelve weeks – well – not the whole time anyway – I’ve been writing a book based on the seven part sermon series I delivered three years ago that I called “Examining the Evidence: Why We Believe What We Believe.”
Do you remember that? How many of you remember that series? Anybody? For those of you who either don’t remember – or you weren’t here with us yet – you’re just going to have to buy the book! Actually – I found writing a book far more challenging than I thought it would be. Since the book is based on the sermon series – something that I had already completed three years ago – I thought it would take me just a few weeks to knock out seven introductions – one for each sermon. Wrong! It’s taking much longer than I thought.
I have six and a half of seven chapters written. And it’s still just a rough draft. I have two people serving as readers – reading what I have written – offering comments and suggestions – you know – for clarity; asking questions that challenged what I am saying – or encouraging me to say more about what I am saying. That kind of thing. I’m thankful I have just two readers! It’s going to take another Sabbatical just to incorporate what they have suggested! And all I’ve given them is the first two chapters!
So I have no idea when this book is going to be finished. But once it’s finished, I’ll need to look at getting it published – and into the hands of the public. And by the way – if you want a copy – whenever it is I get it finished – I promise to give all Zion members a 10% discount. Actually, I’m hoping members of the church who want a copy will be able to download it for free. But only if you promise to pass it on to someone who you think might need it.
And let me tell you why. You know at least one other person – and probably more – who need to hear what that sermon series, and soon I hope, what this book I’m writing has to say about God and the Bible and Jesus and his resurrection. The sermon series and the book provide evidence to support not just what we believe about God and the Bible and Jesus, but why. And the evidence is absolutely overwhelming.
By the way, I’m not looking to earn a single dollar from this project. I’m looking to earn lots of dollars! But not for myself. This book is not for my benefit. Well, maybe I’ll do a reverse tithe. You know – give away 90% of the proceeds. If there are any proceeds at all – I hope to divide those proceeds between here and LCLC. Sound like a deal?
But if this book gets finished – and if it ends up in your hands – I want you to pass it on – after you’ve read it, of course. Examining the Evidence – Why We Believe What We Believe.
Now, when I wrote that sermon series, and now the book based on that series, I was thinking it would be for those who might be skeptical about this God, church and Jesus stuff. You know, Agnostics. Atheists. Skeptics. But one of my readers said, “You know, it was also good for those of us who already believe, but who struggle – for people like me who are critical thinkers.” And yes, I am grateful for that kind of feedback. Quite frankly, Pastor Becca and I would welcome more feedback on our sermons. And more than just, “Good sermon, Pastor.” Of course, we get that all the time. But we want to know. We want your feedback. You know – just send us an email with your comments or questions. Or send a text. Turn your phones on. As long as you have them on vibrate, it’s okay to have them on in church. So you can text me. You can text me now if you want to, or before you leave today. Tell me what you think. 716.984.9582. It’s printed in the Mission Minutes. Bottom. Front page. On the left.
Because this is important stuff. It’s important for us to know not just what we believe, but why we believe. It’s important for us to know who Jesus is, and what Jesus does for us.
Let’s go back to that video clip we ran at the beginning of worship. It’s form a TV commercial. You’ve seen it. And I laugh every time that guy says, “His name is Randy. That’s like one of the most trustworthy names.” You can think whatever you want to think of someone you know named Randy. But you know something? I’m here to tell you – that the reason we are here today – is because of Jesus. Jesus… is one of the most trustworthy names – no – Jesus is THE most trustworthy name.
Let me tell you something about Jesus. Our reading from the Gospel of John today tells us something of who Jesus is, and what Jesus does. Of all four Gospels – I think John does the best job of telling us who Jesus is, and what he does for us.
In this reading, Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man. Now, whenever you read or hear Jesus being called the “Son of Man,” this is the same thing as calling him the Messiah. As I’ve told you before, Messiah is a Hebrew word meaning, “Anointed One.” In the Greek the word is Christos; in the English it’s Christ. Jesus the Son of Man is another way of saying Jesus the Christ.
The second thing we learn is that the man born blind who has been given the gift of sight by Jesus bows down and worships Jesus. What does this tell us about who Jesus is? Yeah, he’s God! Deity. And notice, Jesus doesn’t tell him, “Stop doing that!” If Jesus were just a man, he would not have accepted this man’s worship. Since God alone is to be worshipped, this tells us something else about who Jesus is. He is God. And he proves it by what he does. He gives the man born blind his sight.
A pastor by the name of Kent Crockett wrote a book some years ago called “I Once Was Blind, But Now I Squint.” Catchy title. I almost used it for my sermon title. Well, I used a part of it.
You know, I used to squint. I knew it was time for glasses when I would be standing in the back there waiting for worship to start. And you know how we project announcements on the front wall before the service? Yeah, I used to stand back there and I had to squint to see what we were announcing. So I knew it was time. I finally gave into wearing eyeglasses when I was 53 years old. That was ten years ago. Two years ago, I finally gave into wearing these bifocals. And you know what? It’s a good thing I did, because now I can see. You know what kept me from getting them any earlier? Pride. It was pride.
Well. I’ve not read Crockett’s book with the catchy title, but I understand that he talks about how we look at the world through various glasses. I think the hip phrase to use today is we look at the world through various lenses. He lists twelve lenses or glasses that we use, and he says, we all – all of us – look at the world through at least one of these pair of glasses. And it’s usually more than just one. See if any of these sound like you.
Discontentment, pessimism, rejection, envy, jealousy, inferiority, a wounded heart, bitterness, a judgmental attitude, lust, worry, and discouragement.
I read that list, and I thought, “Yeah, I’ve experienced all twelve of those things. Thankfully, not all at the same time. But I’ve looked at the world through all twelve of those glasses at one time or another in my life.”
Let me ask you. Are any of those glasses the way you look at the world? Are any of them the way you want to look at the world? Are those the kind of places where you want to be? I don’t want to be in those places. And yet I know I have a judgmental attitude. I worry; I have felt discouraged, rejected. I’ve suffered from a wounded heart.
And I don’t like being there. I don’t like looking at the world through those glasses. There’s gotta be a better way. What I need – what we need – is a new pair of glasses.
I wear bifocals these days because they help me see. I don’t have to squint anymore. Well – not quite as much anyway. These things – they’re a good thing. They help me see things the right way. What we need is the ability to see things the right way.
I like the story of a man who “…was working a crossword puzzle and asked, ‘What is a four letter word for a strong emotional reaction toward a difficult person?’ Someone standing nearby said, ‘The answer is hate.’ A lady interrupted and said, ‘No, the answer is love!’”
What pair of glasses was the first person who answered wearing? What pair of glasses was the woman who answered wearing?
Can we choose the glasses we want to wear? Yeah, I think so. Like choosing to love or to hate. I also think it’s hard sometimes because we’re so used to looking at things through those bad things that happen to us. The glasses that Jesus wants to give us are – well really – they’re called the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That’s from the book of Galatians by the way.
And then our reading today from the book of Ephesians puts it this way: “Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light – for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.”
Listen! This is important stuff. We are living in a world of fake news and alternative facts. That’s why we have got to get this right! It’s important for us to know not just what we believe, but why we believe. It’s important for us to know who Jesus is, and what Jesus does for us. Jesus wants us to see who he really is. He is God – he is the Christ, the anointed One sent from God. Sent to heal, and to forgive. That’s who Jesus is. That’s what Jesus does. Sent to give us a new set of glasses – to put a new heart – and a new spirit within us.