Haters Target, You Can't Escape
#HatersTargetCantEscape is the podcast for March 26, 2017. When religion becomes about getting and sustaining power the train has come off the rails. Through a work of God, a sassy Jesus, and a truth about the haters of the world, Mark Kurowski lays out where we have gone wrong, and how to fix it. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John91-42 #Transform #Transcend #JesusChrist #Haters #John #John9 #Healing #Love #ManBornBlind #SpeakTruth
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For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/26/2017 The 4th Sunday of Lent.
Please pause this audio and read 9:1-42.
There is no escaping the haters. I don’t usually like slang terms, but I think that “Haters” is a very useful term. It describes the people who just have to “throw shade” on your dreams, your ideas, your successes, your projects, you endeavors, your life. They sabotage any good thing so that they can be the one standing in the Sun, on top of the mountain, and show they are victorious in nothing positive, but vanquishing you. When the haters get you in the bullseye, there is no interpretation of what you do that is anything but negative. The overriding principle of haters is to show that they have the power to reject you. That is it. Oh, one last thing, haters can come from anywhere.
I was the pastoral associate for a church that was building what they hoped would one day become a ‘basilica’, that is, a bishop’s second official church in a diocese. I was given the job of organizing the dedication of this spectacle. It was to be a grand affair with a three tiered banquet tent, an orchestra, offsite parking, tickets to equally distribute attendance, and 1,500 attendees, nearly 500 of which were ‘VIPs’. The VIPs happened to be the servants of the Church, bishops, cardinals and every living priest and deacon ever related to the diocese.
To handle the invitations that had to go out, I called the bishop’s office to get an electronic list of clergy names and addresses. I wanted to mail merge the printing of the envelopes to make life, at least, a little easier. I was already managing 10 volunteer departments for this holy circus. Later that day, I got a call from the bishop’s secretary. She informed me that she could print out a paper copy of the list and send it to me, but I could not have the existing electronic copy of the list. The bishop was against giving out electronic copies of the list. Respectfully, I explained that I would have a volunteer type the names and addresses in a spreadsheet anyway, plus I would promise to delete the list when done, so, would the bishop reconsider?
Fast forward two weeks and in the mail was a thick manila envelope addressed to me from the bishop’s office. It was the electronically compiled list printed on paper. So, we spent the next two days, 16 hours, typing the list into an electronic form so we could merge it onto envelopes, table reservations cards, name tags, etc.
This story came to mind when I read this rather long Gospel reading in preparation for this podcast [sermon]. Jesus heals a blind man. Rather than rejoicing, the Pharisees have an investigation. I could stop there, but there is much more to this story, even a very funny part that reveals the absurdity of the Pharisees.
First, we find out from Jesus early in Chapter 9 that the blindness of the man who would be healed was not punishment for a sin. In fact, he was born blind. This caused the rabbinic community to write reams and reams of ideas about sin before birth, etc. Yet, Jesus says that the ailment wasn’t because of him, but so that Jesus could “do the works of God.”
What are the works of God? The works of God, according to this passage from Jesus are to heal. In fact, healing, clothing people, giving them food, shelter, kindness, generosity, love, transformation, all of these things are the works of God. Healing a blind man so that he can see is a good thing. It is a work of God.
That is not what the Pharisees see. They see that Jesus kneaded dirt with spit and placed it as a salve on the blind man’s eyes. That is significant because the Pharisees have declared that among the 39 categories of work that should not be done on the Sabbath, kneading was one of them. So, no bread was to be made on the Sabbath and no salve made from spit kneaded with clay.
Everyone in the community was abuzz about this healing. What did it mean about sin? What did it mean about who Jesus is? Why would Jesus do this on the Sabbath? Did he do it according to the exact letter of commentaries on the Law by the Pharisees? In other words, did Jesus have authority to do it?
In their investigation of the healing, the Pharisees interrogated the blind man. When they did, they told the blind man that Jesus was not of God, so the healing had to be bad. They investigated his parents, who were so afraid of the power of the Pharisees that they threw their own son under the bus! “He is of age. Go ask him”, they said. In other words, “Leave us out of it no matter what happens to our son.” Despicable.
When haters investigate, they always let the conclusion determine the facts. They determined that the healing could not have happened because they knew this Jesus fella, and people like him. They were suspicious. It must have been a conspiracy. So, they figured that he really wasn’t born blind at all. Except that the blind man’s parents gave testimony that didn’t fit their conclusion.
With their conclusion debunked by the facts, the Pharisees call the man a second time. They grill him about the theology of sinners being able to do anything good. To wit, the blind man gives the best answer of them all. “Why are you asking me? Do you want to become one of his followers?” Then the blind man points out what is the crux of the matter: the people of God cannot see a work of God in front of their faces. The response of the haters: throw the bum who doesn’t fall in line out.
The fact the Pharisees cannot see a work of God in front of them, that they throw out the man born blind when they cannot get him to conform, that they grill and intimidate his parents, that they send a paper list when an electronic list is what is needed shows that when religion becomes about keeping the powerful powerful, the whole thing has come off the rails.
Sabbaths are not to add a burden, they are to alleviate the burden of working too much. Sabbaths are about having a life in balance so that we can praise God. Sabbaths are gifts to us. Sabbaths are obligations that say, “YOU MUST REST TODAY.” How many of us would like to have an edict from God that says, “No checking the email, the texts from work, the task due tomorrow, the demands of your boss, your family, etc.?” Well, we have one: “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” But like everything else about this story and humanity, we are addicted to hate.
I texted my search engine optimization consultant about two titles for this podcast [sermon]. His recommendation to me was to give it a title with the word “hate” in it because, “people love everything about hate.” We do, because hatred and destruction is something that is easy for us to accomplish as human beings. It is harder to love, create, or do something good.
The goal is renewal and healing of the world through Jesus Christ. He came to forgive. He came to heal. He came to lift up the poor and the outcast. He came to be generous. He came to serve. The fact he came at all, is an amazing lowering of himself from heaven into squalor so that he could love us. That is the theme of this entire Gospel, of every Gospel: God so loved the world that he sent his only son that whosoever believes in him will have eternal life. For God sent his son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
As Christians, we are not haters, we are lovers in the most innocent and purely selfless meaning of the word. It is time that God’s people renew their commitment to this renewal, this love, and celebrate what the Lord is doing with or without us. It is time for us to evaluate all that we do, asking, does it balance holiness with love? Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2017.
Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian