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News from the Bishops, March 2018
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means "Sent"). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. [John 9:6-7, NIV]
It's a curious thing here, that Jesus asks the blind man to place himself in a position of vulnerability, and in doing so, asks him to step out in faith and be sent to the place that itself means 'Sent'.
Some might say that this guy has been through enough. He's been blind from birth, and now he's blind with mud and spit on his face. The healing that he needs isn't made immediately available – he is asked by Jesus to continue his walk of shame to the pool where he hopes he will receive God's grace.
And even after his healing, his life is radically changed, but now as a follower of Jesus, it doesn't get any easier for him. He goes from the invisible blind man at the edge of the road, dependent on the mercy of the charity of others around him, to suddenly in the spotlight of the Jewish authorities as he defends the man who has set him free.
As he does so, the Jewish authorities continue to mark his very identity with shame, equating his blindness as the result of his sin: 'you were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!'. But Jesus does not leave him along to face his new life. He finds him, engages with him one on one, and reveals himself to him.
This week, we Bishops have been out on the road a lot in the more remote parts of our Diocese. There's not much mud around at present after our dry summer. +Justin has been the length and breadth of the Diocese several times over the last two weeks, and last Sunday +Eleanor was in Taihape, the gumboot capital of New Zealand. She loved the confession that Reverend Tracey included in the service. It goes like this:
Holy light, as you bathe us in your radiant truth, you reveal the tiny cracks and deep fissures that compromise our hearts, our churches, and our communities. We see the suffering in the world, but we choose apathy over justice, shame over mercy, and fear over love. We turn our backs, close our borders, and even harden our hearts to your children as they cry out in pain and frustration and terror. And then we blame the victim or the enemy and pretend everything will be OK.
Creating God, you moulded us from sticky dust and holy breath, and you form us still. Redeem us, renew and remake us into agents of your healing grace, menders of broken hearts, and bearers of your love and justice.'
Knowing that we are moulded from 'sticky dust and holy breath', what does it mean for us to receive the same blessing from Jesus as the blind man received? Are we prepared to be truly vulnerable to God and to each other; to have mud on our faces as part of our journey as sent people, trusting that God's purpose is true and brings life to us and to others?
Can we encourage you again to join one of our Chrism services next week. You might have to journey to get there, but in doing so, there is an opportunity to join together in refreshing our commitment to being God's sent people through the renewing of ordination and confirmation vows. It will be wonderful to share this service of encouragement with you.
So as we prepare to enter the journey of Holy Week together, we leave you with part of the blessing prepared by +Eleanor for the service in Taihape last Sunday:
May you be blessed with the blessing of gumboots
And know the companionship of the every day God
Who seeks to stoop to wash our feet
Particularly if the souls of our gumboots
(If you want to read the whole blessing, click here.)