Thursday, July 3, 2014

Eric Pridmore's Light the Fire sermon

We are pleased to be able to present Eric Pridmore's notes for his sermon from the Light the Fire Conference at United Theological Seminary in May. The speech was recorded, and may be seen here (uncaptioned); it begins 28 minutes into the recording.  

Seeing the Light, Revealing the Light
John 9:1-12


1.          Mrs. Smith was stark naked and just about to step into the shower when the doorbell rang. She hollered, Who is it? He shouted back, Its the blind man. She figured it was safe, so she opened the door. He looked at her in shock and asked, Where do you want me to hang these blinds, lady?[Ann Landers, The Washington Post, October 13, 1998]

2.       Being the "blind man" can put sometimes put you in rather awkward situations at times. A friend of mine who is blind tells the story of going shopping in a department store with a sighted friend. The two friends went to the check out register together and my friend Karen who is blind paid for her items first. Then, as her friend Lori was paying for her items, Karen began to look around the counter area. Soon, she found a beautiful purse and began to look at it and through it. And remarkably she found a set of keys. Karen turned to her friend and held up the keys and said, Hey, Lori, someone left their keys in this purse! As Lori turned to look she gasped and said Karen. that is somebodys purseand it is on that somebody!

3.      Life is awkward and funny and hard sometimes. From Fredrick Buechner: Maybe it's all utterly meaningless. Maybe it's all unutterably meaningful. If you want to know which, pay attention to what it means to be truly human in a world that half the time we're in love with and half the time scares the hell out of us. [Lecture to a Book of the Month Club].

The Text.

1.        In John 9, Jesus walks right into the life of a man who had been born blind and is now living life as a beggar. We do not really know that much about him. We do not know his name or age. But we do know that he has been blind since birth. Later in this chapter we do meet his parents because the religious leaders go in search of his family as they are in search of answers about Jesus. But we know really very little about this man.

2.       John says the disciples ask Jesus, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Perhaps what they are really asking is: Jesus, is it utterly meaningless? Or, is it unutterably meaningful? Honestly, it is a question I still often struggle with myself.

3.       We in the disability community are fully aware of disability. Disability is a social construct resulting from the barriers and obstacles placed before us by our society. Disability is not a medical problem but, rather, the attitudinal, architectural, communication, and transportation barriers that cause us to be disabled. In fact, human difference and disability is what is truly human and the one thing that unites us.

4.        But even given the truth that disability is a socially created construct, it is also true that physical and mental impairment can be hard. Hard, yes, because of social and cultural barriers. But hard too because of the impairment itself. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take this thorn in the flesh away from me." Impairment can be difficult and frustrating. In my own experience of disability, I am a relatively independent person and I have made good use of all sorts of technologies and training. And Atlas has been a true gift of God. But none of this can make up for the fact that I have the two most beautiful daughters ever to grace the face of this earth and I want to see their faces. And the hard reality is that there are a few things in life that you just cannot be replaced.

5.       Jesus answered the disciples question. He says: No one sinned. Neither this man nor his parents sinned. This man was born blind so that the works of God might be revealed in him. The disciples are asking, is it meaningless or meaningful, and Jesus' answer is that this man is here for the same reason we are all here, which is to reflect the light of God into the darkness of this world. Jesus says this man's life is full of meaning and hope because he has the glorious human opportunity to share the light of God in this world.

The Message.

1.      To really get to the heart of the issue, John says that Jesus spits on the ground and makes mud and uses the mud to anoint the man's eyes. This is such a critical point by John reminding us that we are all created by the very hands of God. All of us in our human difference are created by the very hands of God. This man's life is not about sin but rather about being a person created by God to reflect the light of God.

2.       And so begins his journey. He is in fact healed and given his sight. And he begins a journey of coming to faith. When asked who had done this miracle the man first says Jesus the man. Then when he is asked by the Pharisees, he says that Jesus is a prophet. and finally in his second encounter with Jesus he says to Jesus, Lord I believe.This is not simply a story of healing. Rather, this is the story of being created, redeemed, and sustained in Christ Jesus.

3.      There is a story told of a group of tourists at the Shrine of Lourdes who encountered a war veteran missing both of his legs. One of the tourist asked the vet, Do you suppose God will give you back your legs? The vet replied, No, I don't expect God to give me back my legs. I expect him to show me how to live without them. This vet, like Paul, realized that Gods grace is sufficient to bring strength out of weakness, to bring hope out of loss, and to bring life out of death.

4.      We have all been created by God and given a purpose in this life. This purpose is to shine the light of God into the dark places of this world. And this purpose is not in spite of our human disability but precisely in recognition of it. Jesus says to his disciples, we all have the same purpose in this life and that is to reflect the light.


1.        I began with a quote from Fredrick Buechner and I will close with one. Our eyes are just our eyes, and not all we have for seeing, maybe not even the best we have for seeing. Facts are all the eye can see, eyes cannot see truth. It's not with the eyes of the head that we see truths like that, but with the eyes of the heart. To see (Jesus) with the heart is to know, in the long run, that his life is the only life worth living. (From "Faith by the Book: Author Preaches About Biblical Perspective" by Matt VandeBunte)

2.       The truth is that life in Christ is the only life worth living. And while the world may tell us that we are weak and worthless, Christ says we have been created in love for a God-given purpose. For in Christ, strength comes from weakness, wholeness comes from brokenness, fullness comes from emptiness, and life comes from death.

3.        May you find yourself in Christ and may you find joy and peace in letting God have all that you are for his good purpose. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.