Engaging the Word: 03/26/17 (The Fourth Sunday in Lent)

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 By Barbara Klugh

1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, David gets anointed by Samuel, we regard God as our shepherd, Paul urges us to live as children of the light, and Jesus heals a man who was born blind.

The anointing of David by Léon Bénouville, 1842. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The anointing of David by Léon Bénouville, 1842. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 Samuel 16:1-13: This week’s reading tells how David came to be anointed king of Israel. You may recall the events leading up to this: Samuel was the last of the Judges, and a prophet as well. The Israelites demanded a king, and, even though there were many disadvantages, God allowed them to have their own way. God directed Samuel to anoint Saul as the king. Saul had some victories, but he disobeyed God, and God regretted choosing him.

God then orders Samuel to Jesse’s house in Bethlehem because he has chosen one of Jesse’s sons to be the new king, a king after God’s own heart. Samuel is worried because he needs to travel through Saul’s territory, and if Saul finds out what is going on, “he will kill me.” God provides Samuel with a plausible story that he is traveling to Bethlehem to offer a sacrifice to the Lord.

When Samuel reaches Bethlehem, he invites Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice. Samuel thinks that Eliab must be God’s choice, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature…for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” One by one, the sons of Jesse pass before Samuel, but none of them is God’s chosen. Samuel asks if there are other sons, and Jesse says that the youngest is taking care of the sheep.

When David was brought in, God tells Samuel that he is the one. “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.”

Landscape with Shepherd and Sheep by B. Jaroš, c. 1924. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Landscape with Shepherd and Sheep by B. Jaroš, c. 1924. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Psalm 23: Attributed to David, this beloved psalm uses the image of God as the Good Shepherd, who provides for his people and guides them through life and death.

The Twenty-third Psalm has helped many people me through rough times. One way to allow it to seep into your soul is to do this: Read the Twenty-third Psalm, slowly, prayerfully, five times a day for seven days—first thing in the morning, immediately after breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and just before bed. It will help to bring you back into right relationship with God and regain your balance. This idea is from a book by Methodist minister Charles L. Allen, called  God’s Psychiatry. One thing that especially sticks with me is the phrase, “He makes me lie down.” Whenever I’m ill or injured, I think maybe God is “making me lie down” for a reason, and I pay attention. As Allen says in his book, “Sometimes God puts us on our backs in order to give us a chance to look up.”

Ephesians 5:8-14: Scholars think Paul wrote the Letter to the Ephesians while he was in prison in Rome, or that a later author wrote it in Paul’s name. It’s likely that the letter was meant to be circulated among a group of churches. In this week’s reading, Paul urges the Ephesians (and us) to walk in the light of Christ.

Paul says, “Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true.” We should take no part in works of darkness, but expose shameful things to the light where they can be transformed.

Christ healing the blind man by G. Assereto, c. 1640. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Christ healing the blind man by G. Assereto, c. 1640. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 9:1-41: In this week’s Gospel, Jesus heals a man who was born blind. The blind man is healed and grows in faith. The Pharisees just grow in hostility.

As they were walking along, Jesus and his disciples came to man who was blind from birth, and the disciples wanted to know whether the blindness was the result of the man’s sin or his parents’ sin. The idea that suffering was a punishment for sin was a common assumption at that time. Jesus said, “Neither…he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” Jesus spat on the ground, made mud from his spit, and put it on the man’s eyes. He then told the man, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” When he did so and came back, he was able to see. Well, that got the neighbors buzzing. They thought maybe he was some other man, but he kept saying, “I am the man.”

They brought the formerly blind man to the Pharisees, and they questioned him. He told them what happened. Instead of rejoicing at the miracle, the Pharisees debated whether Jesus could have come from God since this healing occurred on the Sabbath. The Pharisees ask the man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Then they interviewed his parents and questioned the man again. They wanted the man to give glory only to God, because they reviled Jesus and called him a sinner. The man said, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” The healed man goes on to teach the Pharisees. He said, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” The Pharisees were insulted at the man’s speech and drove him out.

Jesus heard about the incident and found the healed man. He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Unlike the Pharisees, who remained in spiritual darkness, this man gained his sight, first physically, and then spiritually.

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