#Lent14 — The Kingdom And The Storm

As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts.  In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom.  We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.

A reading from the Gospel of John.

Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question.  You’re looking for someone to blame.  There is no such cause-effect here.  Look instead for what God can do.  We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines.  When night falls, the workday is over.  For as long as I am in the world, there is plant of light.  I am the world’s Light.”

He said this and then spit in the dust, made a clay paste with the saliva, rubbed the paste on the blind man’s eyes, and said, “Go, wash at the Pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”).  The man went and washed—and saw.

John 9:1-7 (MSG)

This is the Word of The Lord.

What do you do when you come across something bad?  When you look around you and see pain or suffering?

In our text for today, the Disciples are faced with this situation.  They’ve come across a blind man.  In First Century Israel (and in a large part of the world today), someone being blind (or lame or deaf or dumb or having a deformity) was believed to indicate that someone had sinned.  There was obviously some reason that God was punishing that person.  Either for something that they had done or something their ancestors had done.

Even in Twenty-First Century America, we find this logic.  Major tornado strikes a town, and many begin to ask why God sent the tornado.  Hurricane hits the Gulf Coast.  And, we find a reason to blame God.  Obviously, there was sin on the coast, and God hates sin.

The fact of the matter is that the world is fallen.  And, a fallen world will be plagued with “not good” stuff.  Hurricanes, tornados, mudslides, floods, etc.  When mankind disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden and ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they fell and brought the world down with them.

Yet, it didn’t end with the fall.  We come to today’s story.  Jesus has come.  The Son of God came to bring life—and life in abundance (John 10:10).  Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God to earth.

Here and now.

One person at a time.

When the Disciples encounter this blind man, they questioned Jesus with the question that society and culture and even religion had taught them to ask: “Who sinned?

And in Jesus’ response we learn something about the character and nature of God.

“You’re asking the wrong question.  You’re looking for someone to blame.  There is no such cause-effect here.  Look instead for what God can do.”

There’s not a cause-and-effect to the man being blind from birth.  There’s not a sin that caused it.  Jesus comes along and introduces the blind man to the Kingdom of God.  He removes the curse of the fall, and restores sight.

Because, when the King comes, so does the Kingdom.

As we look at the world around us, and we see issues of natural disasters or issues from birth, do we look at them through the eyes of the Disciples or the eyes of Jesus?

Do we ask “who sinned?” or do we proclaim, “Kingdom come?”

Do we bring the Kingdom?

The Kingdom of Heaven comes little by little.  It comes even in the midst of disaster.  Every time a blanket is handed to a cold and wet tornado survivor, the Kingdom comes.  With every bottle of water handed to a person removing debris from their flooded home, the Kingdom comes.  With every meal served to a hungry relief worker in a hurricane zone, the Kingdom comes.

We must remember, though, that God doesn’t send the hurricane to bring the Kingdom.  God sends the relief workers to bring the Kingdom.  God doesn’t cause the tornado to spin so that Kingdom will—eventually—come.  No, God sends His people into the aftermath of the tornado to bring the Kingdom.

The other night, we had dinner with a couple who had survived the tornado that ripped through Joplin, Missouri in May 2011.  As they related their story of the storm and the aftermath, I was struck by the beauty of the Body of Christ.  See, in Joplin, churches had been working together for years to make a better community.  They had been doing community cleanup and relief work long before the tornado made it necessary.  So, when the tornado did come, and the thousands of volunteers descended on the city, they found that the churches in Joplin already had an infrastructure in place to assist with disasters—even though that infrastructure wasn’t designed as disaster response.

God didn’t send the storm to bring the Kingdom to Joplin.  No, the Kingdom was already in Joplin.  It had arrived there when the Body of Christ took a step in unity to work together to correct problems that were there.  So, when the storm did come, the Kingdom was there to serve.

The blind man in our text didn’t need someone to figure out why he was blind.  Rather, he needed someone to help him see.

The people of Joplin didn’t need someone to figure out why the tornado came.  Rather, they needed someone to help them shovel debris.

The people around you who are hurting don’t need someone to explain their pain.  Rather they need someone to hold their hand and walk through the pain with them.

For us who are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, it’s critical that we understand that.  It’s critical that we understand that our role is not to explain suffering or pain.  Rather, our role is to endure the suffering and pain with those who are hurting.  Our role is to “strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not!’” (Isaiah 35:3-4).

Are you bringing the Kingdom?

Tornado Damage in Joplin, Missouri

Tornado Damage in Joplin, Missouri

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