3/14/99, L4A

“This One Thing I Know”
John 9: 1-41

he most effective sermon I have heard on this story was delivered by Dr. Benjamin Mays, when I was a student at the Candler School of Theology, during the height of the Vietnam War student protests, and the local controversy called “The God Is Dead Movement,” which had spilled over onto the cover of Time Magazine. The old chapel was quick with 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 by the elite Pharisees as to whom it was who had healed him. Dr. Mays chanted 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!

Soon after that, during a pilgrimage in Jerusalem, our guide announced that our next stop would be at the Pool of Siloam; and he asked, “Can anyone tell us the story of Jesus and the blind man He healed there?” 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 enthusiast was. It has become one of my most comforting thoughts. In the face of cold dead intellectualism, I remember my hero, the man born blind, and the one who quoted him in chapel during that difficult time.

Jesus’ encounters with individuals usually upset the religious hierarchy because he overlooked them. They probably expected a Messiah who would kind of sugar coat what the established leaders were already doing. But God’s plan did not include their continuation in office. The Church that resulted from the Christ Event became a whole new thing and was more of a movement than it was an establishment.

One of John Wesley’s great fears was that his Methodism would become just another cold dead sect. This is probably why he initially opposed the establishment of Methodism as a separate denomination. He knew from church history that our effectiveness would be greatest as an evangelical crusade. However, in much of the USA today we are just another listless mainstream Protestant denominational bureaucracy with very little to offer. Many of our 100+ colleges no longer have any vestiges of Methodism. Our many hospitals, children’s homes, and nursing homes, barely give lip service to any connection with the church that founded them as an outreach mission to serve humans in need and to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

But its not that way in Cuban Methodism. They have emerged from years of communism with zeal and enthusiasm. I have recently learned that their Conference Choir might be able to sing for us on a Sunday morning sometime soon. Castro is letting them tour, and it would lift our spirits to have some foreign missionaries come and bring us spiritual refreshment.

We serve a Christ who did not seek out the establishment, who challenged a leader of the Pharisees to a new birth, and who identified with a woman who was poor and outcast at a well in Samaria. He came to Jerusalem, and found a man who had been blind from birth, and neglected by mainstream society. However, within folks like this he birth a movement that still exists whenever persons open their hearts to Him, one by one.

Our little movement began just that way. Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed and he went out to proclaim the good news that anyone could experience the same thing, and the campaign continued one heart at a time. Along the way he brought social reform and helped heal a broken society. Methodist zeal spread the movement into every county in the United States, and 152 years ago missionaries following the progress of rail road expansion west came here to establish a school and church for the workers and their families. We are the product of a movement westward, and a spiritual movement in individual’s souls.

Today we are surrounded with thousands of folks moving into downtown Atlanta and we have the wonderful opportunity of keeping the movement going right here. Many folks around us are hurting and in need of Christ’s healing. We have a wonderful place from which to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We are building a movement and not an establishment.

Christ can use you in this venture. After all, he used the tragic situation of a man who happened to be born blind to reach the Pharisees. Most of the persons that Jesus chose as disciples had no formal training. All they had to tell was their own story, out of their own frame of reference. Often God uses the simple to confound the wise. That is the essential nature of religious experience, it is experiential. Knowledge is not innately bad, but it in itself can only take you just so far down the road, and never to the end.

The story is told about a famous Professor of Theology that had lectured at one of our great church related universities. He had evidently cast doubt upon the core of faith and during the question and answer time an elderly preacher got up, took an apple out of his lunch bag and began eating it. “Mister Professor... CRUNCH, MUNCH... I have not read any of those books that you quoted... CRUNCH, MUNCH... I don’t know much about those great thinkers that you have mentioned... CRUNCH, MUNCH... I admit that I don’t even know as much about the Bible as you... CRUNCH MUNCH... He finished the apple. My simple question is this; This apple I just ate, was it sour or sweet?”

The professor paused for a moment, and then said, “I cannot possibly answer that question, for I haven’t tasted your apple.” The preacher dropped the apple core into the crumpled paper bag, looked up at the professor and said calmly, “Neither have you tasted my Jesus.”

Many of my best friends are professors, and regular folks, some preachers too, who have, like the man born blind, experienced the same Jesus who came down his street that day. Today could be your day to taste the simple Jesus of the long dusty road.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

3/14/99, L4A