March 26, 2017

Dissecting cats

(John 9:1-41)

What do we do with the Gospel of John? It’s a challenging book with many bold stories that sound more like fairy tales than history.  There are times when Jesus seems completely unbelievable to modern minds.

Some preacher remarked recently that scripture is supposed to be uncomfortable, complicated and even frustrating.  We’re supposed to wrestle with it and ponder it in our hearts.  Each time we read or hear scriptures, we are bringing our new experiences and understanding to it.  Yes it’s confusing but when we wrestle with its message, we hear what God is saying to us today.

One of my profs had a favorite analogy that is very helpful.  He said that we can learn about the bible like we learn about cats.

How do you learn what a cat is? You dissect it of course.  You find out what muscles are attached to which bones, where the internal organs are and make sure to measure everything.  Once you have described and drawn everything down, you will know what a cat is.  And that’s exactly how bible study was taught for many years. 

My prof continued to say that while dissecting a cat is one way to get to know what it is, we really don’t know it.  We have only gotten to know a dead cat.  If we really want to know what a cat is, we should take a few kittens home, play with them, feed them and find out where they like to be scratched.  Discover what its like to have a purring cat on our laps.  Discover that no two cats look or act the same.  That’s how we’ll learn what a cat is.

Having said that, when our cats are sick, we want to find someone who has dissected a cat to help us figure out what is wrong.  Preferably one who knows what it’s like to have a purring cat on their lap so they have an understanding that our cat is not to be dissected but to be healed.

The bible has some similarities to a cat.  I have studied how to dissect it.  There was a lot going on in John’s world when he wrote his gospel.  He recorded Jesus not as a new Moses for Jews or an amazing Greek Hero for the Gentiles.  He saw Jesus as an intrinsic part of God, the great “I am”.  “I am” first came from Moses talking to a burning bush about the Hebrew people living like slaves in Egypt.  “Who shall I say sent me, oh fiery bush?” he asks and the voice replies, “Say ‘I AM’ has sent you.”  I am is often translated as Yahweh or Jehovah. 

So John is full of Jesus saying 'I am'.  I am the vine, I am living waters, I am the bread of life.  John loved his metaphors and examples.  Jesus is the light of the world, he wrote, and here’s an example.  Once he healed a blind man this way...

So we have dissected the cat a little but we want to make sure it stays alive.  We want it to sit on our lap and purr.  So we ask ourselves what part is annoying?  Who do we relate to the most?  Are we like the blind man, minding our own business, complacent and accepting of our life limitations?

Are we like the Pharisees, wanting to dissect and dismiss the evidence of their own eyes?  Do we want to dismiss Jesus as he disrupts assumptions, disregards rules and runs roughshod over our understanding of who God is?  Do we forcibly reject anyone or anything we don’t understand?

Are we the townsfolk and parents, confused and bewildered at the dramatic changes they’ve seen in this man they know so well?  Wanting a simple explanation that will take away their fear that the world might be more complicated that they thought?  That they were wrong in thinking that the blind man and his parents were sinners who were being punished for doing something God didn’t like?

And what does this story tell us about God?  God brings healing not to someone who deserved it or even asked for it.  The blind man did not repent or even accept Jesus as his personal lord and savior into his heart!  He didn’t ask to see!  He got healed not because he was holy or prayed hard, but to show the world how much God loves the world.

God loves the whole world, even you and me when we’re the blindest, most knit-picky, most rule-bound folks.  God loves us even when we are so blinded by our lives, our childhood, our anger, our fears, our pain our culture that we cannot see past the end of our noses.  God loves us so much that God brought us all together this morning.  God reminds us that we are already healed.  We are not alone, we live in God’s World!

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