3/6/05, L4A

This One Thing I Know
John 9: 1-41

s it possible for there to be a center point of life around which all other things rotate? Perhaps it would resemble the nucleus of an atom around which neutrons and protons revolve. I experimented using this imagery with several folks this week. One young manager of an office supply store, with whom I had conversed before, seemed to think that this model helped him see his priorities in relation to his burgeoning call to preach; which would entail a total reshuffling of his priorities. Can our life's philosophy/theology be reduced to prioritizing? Sometimes we church folks talk about “Christ being the center of our life.” Perhaps this is the faith that our formerly blind man was trying to express. Before, his life had been controlled by his disability then suddenly the one thing that mattered most was his miracle of vision and the one who performed the amazing feat.

The most powerful sermon I have heard on the story about Jesus' healing of the man born blind was delivered by Dr. Benjamin Mays when I was a first year student at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University . It took place during the height of the Vietnam War student protests. The local controversy called "The God Is Dead Movement," had spilled over onto the cover of TIME magazine. All of us in the Candler Chapel that Tuesday morning held recent memories of exactly where we were when we heard the tragic news that President John Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas . We all recalled the recent assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and most recently we had experienced the brutal murder of Attorney General Robert Kennedy. It was an age of doubt and serious questioning of the very foundations of religion and The American way of life.

Dr. Benjamin Mays, a Baptist minister and the first African American President of the Atlanta School Board, known for his sound theology and broad understanding of the struggle for civil rights, was one of the few persons who could have had the respect of the majority of the divided congregation in our chapel that morning. There were as many angry sides represented in our worship as there were on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on the day that our story about "The Man Born Blind" took place. The seminary community was full of anticipation as Dr. Mays called out the text in his moving African-American style. He especially intoned the words of the formerly blind man as he was grilled as to who had healed him. Dr. Mays chanted those words out, "I don't know about his pedigree, I don't know his history or his theology, I don't know much about him at all; but, this one thing I do know, I was blind, and now I see!" (v.25)

Soon after that chapel experience Marilyn and I went on a tour to Palestine with our parents and many longtime friends. Touring Jerusalem , our guide announced that our next stop would be the Pool of Siloam; and he asked, "Can anyone tell us the story of Jesus and the blind man?" One of the young preachers spoke up and said in an enthusiastic voice, "This one thing I know, I was blind and now I see!" You can probably guess who that young enthusiastic preacher boy was. It became an undergirding thought for me in the face of the cold hard skepticism of that troubled era. Dr. Mays was saying that we do not have to totally understand Jesus in order to experience Him. He was saying that we can still trust Jesus as the very heart of our spiritual lives despite the doubts that may linger. We are not expected to understand it all. Also, many Christian people have demanding careers, or have spent their lives specializing in some professional or academic area, and it is sometimes difficult to juggle that other world with their spiritual commitment. These “neutrons” do not have to be forsaken, or even reconciled, but Christ is still in the nucleus- the one thing that makes all things flow.

Yet, sometimes peripheral areas can take place over the central thing as our horizons expand. Some really great interests can make demands. These may all be great things whenever they are rotating around the main thing: such as, family matters, job demands, career moves, hobbies and sports. All of these are fine as hobbies and interests, but they can become the trivial things that many people yearn for most.

The worse case that I have ever seen in a hobby taking over one's life was a friend who began to collect glass marbles. They were just the regular kind that boys and girls used to play with in the summer dirt, but he found some really pretty ones. Finally, I knew that he was way into his new “hobby,” when he remarked one day, “You know- I would kill for marbles!” I assured him that I had already traded with him for all that I had. Can you believe that a fellow would allow glass marbles to become the driving force in his life? Psychologically, we are OK as long as we are controlling the things of life and not allowing mere things to rule.

The Good News is that we can take charge of our lives and restore the rightful King on the throne. We can begin again and many of us have done so. There are no “Super Saints” who can make it on their own for we are all dependent upon the Spirit of God at work cooperating with us.

During our Lenten Pilgrimage toward Easter we have learned that every person's faith journey is unique. Nicodemus, the Temple Leader , came with a long list of questions but Jesus told him that he “Must be born again.” Jesus did not tell everybody that. The Samaritan woman at the well was a complicated character. However, her checkered past was forgiven in an instant and she went out proclaiming, “Come see this man who knew my past, could he be the Messiah?” Jesus' treatment of her was unique. And now today, this man born blind, who knew little about who Jesus was, but the miracle of sight was enough for him to become a believer. They sound like folks in a prayer meeting sharing their unique journey toward Jesus. The one thing they had in common was that Jesus became the “One Thing” that allowed all other things to fit in their perfect place.

Although all who came to Jesus walked up a different path, they all proclaimed him Lord and made him the center of their lives, as have we.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
3/6/05, L4A