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Sermon (2) and Liturgy for The Fourth Sunday in Lent - Year A
Ephesians 5:8-14; Psalm 23; John 9:1-41
"None So Blind.... (As They Will Not See)"

READING:  Ephesians 5:8-14; Psalm 23; John 9:1-41
SERMON :  "None So Blind.... (As They Will Not See)"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-le04su laughter 972000
   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
   See our Laughter Sunday page for background on this service.
   Note that the liturgy and sermon will stand more or less as a  
   full lectionary based service without the humour interludes. 

   Sources:  Elements of the Call To Worship and Prayers of the People
   (by Moira Laidlaw) based on material from John Maynard, "Prayers and
   Litanies for Lent 4A" as sent to the PRCL List in 2002.  Sermon
   Sources include the 2002 children's story from Charles Kirkpatrick
   (Sermons4Kids), which in turn was based on something he found in my
   sermon for this Sunday in 1999.  As I laboured at this year's "Holy
   Humour Sunday" offering, working to integrate it fully with the
   message of the scriptures for Lent 4-A, I found myself drawn to base
   my major sermon illustration on that children's story and to use
   some of the hymns of Fanny Crosby throughout our liturgy.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  Is anyone anxious? 
P  Let them come to the Lord and pray.
L  Is anyone discouraged? 
P  Let them hear the word and find new vision.
L  Is anyone weak?  
P  Let them come and be filled with the strength of the Spirit.
L  Is anyone sorrowful?  
P  Let them come and be comforted by God's presence.
L  Is anyone joyful?  
P  Let them come and sing God's praise!

* INTROIT:  "This Is The Day" (verse 1)                            - VU 401

Loving God - as we share good humour this morning - bring your healing
power to bear upon our lives.  Help us to hear your word in both the
stories that are told and the scriptures that are read - touch us by your
Spirit as we rejoice with the gifts you have given us and offer our more
solemn prayers to you - and dispel any darkness that may be afflicting us. 
We ask in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

CHILDREN'S TIME  "Good Humour"
Theme    Sharing Good Humour is Good
Object   None
Source   Children and members of the Congregation

Good morning.   First - there is a birthday today - for TJ - Total Joy -
Routley.  Let's sing him Happy Birthday.   

Before you go down today to Sunday School and work on your presentations
for next Sunday I wanted to give you a chance to do what the adults are
doing today as we listen to the Good News about Jesus Christ - and that is
to tell a couple of jokes.

Humour like most other things can be used for good and for bad.   Some
jokes are very cruel - they make fun of people who are different than us -
they are little more than name calling - they cause us to laugh at people
rather than with people.   But other jokes are good - they cause us to
laugh at the strangeness of our human language - and the odd behaviours we
have.   Instead of laughing at people - we laugh with them - and laughter
of this kind helps our bodies and our souls heal.  Riddles and puns are
often like this.

So today - do you have any jokes you want to tell???

How about these....... (starting with Elephant jokes from C Kennedy) 

   Loving God - we thank you for gift of laughter - and for the  gift
   of love.    Bless now our study and our worship - our practice and
   our play - we ask it in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

   And in the words Jesus taught us:
   Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
   come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this
   day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
   those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but
   deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the
   glory, for ever and ever.  Amen

* HYMN:  "Give To Us Laughter"                                     - VU 624

- Welcome and Announcements     
- Birthdays and Anniversaries      
- Special Matters      
- Sharing Joys and Concerns


   (NIV)  For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the
   Lord.  Live as children of light  (for the fruit of the light
   consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what
   pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of
   darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention
   what the disobedient do in secret.  But everything exposed by the
   light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything
   visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the
   dead, and Christ will shine on you."

L  This is the Word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.

As we do each year at this time - we intersperse our Lenten Readings and
Sermon with humour - to lighten up - and to enjoy God's goodness - as we
move with Jesus towards the Cross of Calvary.   I will start and end each
interlude with one.   But the rest is up to you....   This one is a bit of
church humour:

   A minister was waiting in line to have his car filled with gas just
   before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but
   there were many cars ahead of him in front of the service station.  
   Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump. 
   "Reverend," said the young man, "sorry about the delay.  It seems as
   if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long

   The minister replied, "I know what you mean. It's the same in my

*** Share Share Share ***

   After the baptism of his baby brother in church one Sunday, little
   Johnny sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car.  His
   father asked him three times what was wrong.   

   Finally, the boy replied, "That priest said he wanted us brought up
   in a Christian home, and I want to stay with you guys!"

   Father got the message and they began to go to church regularly...
   Needless to say the family had a bit of catching up to do.  One day
   The Sunday School Teacher asked Johnny, "Now, Johnny, tell me - do
   you say prayers before eating?" 

   "No ma'am," little Johnny replies, "I don't have to.  My Mom is a
   good cook."

RESPONSIVE READING - singing Psalm 23                              - VU 747

A READING FROM JOHN 9:1-12                                 - JANET ANDERSON
   (NIV)  As Jesus went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His
   disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
   that he was born blind?"

   "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this
   happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.  As
   long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.  Night is
   coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the
   light of the world." 

   Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the
   saliva, and put it on the man's eyes.  "Go," he told him, "wash in
   the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). 

   So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.  His neighbours
   and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, "Isn't this the
   same man who used to sit and beg?"  Some claimed that he was. 
   Others said, "No, he only looks like him."  But he himself insisted,
   "I am the man." 

   "How then were your eyes opened?" they demanded. 

   He replied, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my
   eyes.  He told me to go to Siloam and wash.  So I went and washed,
   and then I could see." 

   "Where is this man?" they asked him. 

   "I don't know," he said. 

L  This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

I shared with you a couple of church type churches earlier....  I would
like to open and close this interlude with a couple of riddle's about cats. 
The opener........

   Two cats - one named "one two three" and the other named "un deux 
   trois" came to a river and had to cross it.  Which one got across

   Ready?.....    Sure?.....   "One two three" got over first because
   "un deux trois quatre cinq"

*** Share Share Share ***

   The closing riddle about cats is similar to the opening one.   
   There were several other cats in the region occupied by "one two
   three" and "un deux trois" and they too had numbers for names.  The
   question is: 'Why is six afraid of seven?'

   And the answer ought to be:   "Because seven eight nine."

   (NIV)  They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 
   Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man's
   eyes was a Sabbath.  Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he
   had received his sight. 

   "He put mud on my eyes," the man replied, "and I washed, and now I

   Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does
   not keep the Sabbath." But others asked, "How can a sinner do such
   miraculous signs?" So they were divided.  Finally they turned again
   to the blind man, "What have you to say about him? It was your eyes
   he opened." 

   The man replied, "He is a prophet."  

   The Jews still did not believe that he had been blind and had
   received his sight until they sent for the man's parents.  "Is this
   your son?" they asked.  "Is this the one you say was born blind? 
   How is it that now he can see?" 

   "We know he is our son," the parents answered, "and we know he was
   born blind.  But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we
   don't know.  Ask him.  He is of age; he will speak for himself." 
   His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for
   already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus
   was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue.  That was why his
   parents said, "He is of age; ask him." 

L  This is the Gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

* HYMN   "Blessed Assurance"                                       - VU 337

To open and close this spot - I have some more crazy riddles.
See if you can call out the answers.

   How Do You Catch A Unique Rabbit?             
       - Unique Up On It. 

   How Do You Catch A Tame Rabbit? 
       - Tame Way, Unique Up On It. 

   How Do Crazy People Go Through The Forest? 
       - They Take The Psycho Path.

   What Lies At The Bottom Of The Ocean And Twitches?  
       - A Nervous Wreck. 

   What's The Difference Between Roast Beef And Pea Soup?  
       - Anyone Can Roast Beef.
   Where Do You Find A Dog With No Legs?  
       - Right Where You Left Him. 

*** Share   Share   Share ***

   What Do Fish Say When They Hit A Concrete Wall?      
       - Dam! 
   What Do You Call A Boomerang That Doesn't Work?      
       - A Stick. 
   What Do You Call Cheese That Isn't Yours?  
       - Nacho Cheese. 
   What Do You Call Santa's Helpers?      
       - Subordinate Clauses. 
   What Do You Get When You Cross A Snowman With A Vampire?  
       - Frostbite. 
   What's the difference between single woman and a married woman?   
       - A single woman will go home at night, see what's in the 
       refrigerator and then go to bed,  while the married woman will go
       home, sees what's in bed and goes to the refrigerator!

   And a final one a little bit related to today's gospel reading...  
   Why Don't Blind People Like To Sky Dive?             
       - Because It Scares The Dog. 

   A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. "Give glory
   to God," they said.  "We know this man is a sinner." 

   He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know.  One thing
   I do know. I was blind but now I see!" 

   Then they asked him, "What did he do to you?  How did he open your

   He answered, "I have told you already and you did not listen.  Why
   do you want to hear it again?  Do you want to become his disciples,

   Then they hurled insults at him and said, "You are this fellow's
   disciple!  We are disciples of Moses!  We know that God spoke to
   Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes

   The man answered, "Now that is remarkable!  You don't know where he
   comes from, yet he opened my eyes.  We know that God does not listen
   to sinners.  He listens to the godly man who does his will.  Nobody
   has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man
   were not from God, he could do nothing." 

   To this they replied, "You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare
   you lecture us!"  And they threw him out. 

   Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he
   said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" 

   "Who is he, sir?" the man asked.  "Tell me so that I may believe in

   Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking
   with you." 

   Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.  

   Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the
   blind will see and those who see will become blind."  

   Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked,
   "What? Are we blind too?" 

   Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but
   now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

L  This is the gospel of our Risen Lord
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

* HYMN:  "All the Way My Saviour Leads Me"                           VU 635

SERMON:  "None So Blind.... (As They Will Not See)"

   O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds
   and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in 
   the thoughts that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. 

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him,
"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened
so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 

Thus began this morning's Gospel Reading.

The entire passage that Janet read today deals with blindness  - 
   but strangely enough it is not the blindness of the man who was born
   blind that is central to the passage - despite how this man is
   mentioned throughout it,
rather it is the blindness of those around him 
   and most especially the blindness of the religious teachers and
   authorities that is central to the passage
   - their blindness and their sin.

And this is so much so that the closing words of the story about the Man
Born Blind    - which come after the man born blind has been questioned, his
              parents questioned, and he has been questioned again and then
              thrown out of the synagogue by the priests and teachers of the
              law and has then been found by Jesus and has professed his faith
              in him and worshipped him are these -

       "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind
       will see and those who see will become blind." 

And then we hear that some Pharisees who were with Jesus heard him say this
and asked, 

       "What? Are we blind too?"

   And Jesus replies 

   "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you
   claim you can see, your guilt remains.

What are we to make of the story of the man born blind?   Well, it is a
very rich passage - and today I have time only to touch on a couple of

The first thing I would like you to grasp is this -- while all people sin
and fall short of the glory of God not all afflictions, perhaps not even
most afflictions, can be blamed on the sin of the person who must bear that
affliction, or - as in the case of a genetic defect or a birth accident
like that the man born blind must have had - upon the sin of the parents.

God doesn't work that way. 

While some afflictions obviously are the result of one kind of sin or
another - for example someone driving drunk may have an accident in which
they are crippled for life or in which they cripple someone else for life - 
for the most part many other afflictions can't be blamed on someone, nor
should we try to blame them on someone. 

Rather we should try to bring healing to those who are afflicted

Which is the second point I want to make.

Jesus answers the question about who sinned that the man was born blind by

   "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that
   the work of God might be displayed in his life. "

And he healed him with mud and spit and the touch of his own precious hand.

This is how God operates.  This is what Jesus is about.
He has come to give us relief from those things afflict us 
   - to give sight to the blind and to heal the lame, 
   - and to set free those who oppressed and to proclaim the acceptable
   year of the Lord to those who are poor.

Indeed - even if - and this is a big if -
   even if the particular affliction or tribulation that rests upon a
   person is the result of a direct sin
       for example that drunken driver who has wounded himself or some one
       else - even if this is the case - 
   Jesus still wants them to be whole.  
He still wants to make the work of God manifest in their lives.

That is what the cross is ultimately all about - bringing forgiveness and
salvation to sinners, and showing the love of God to those who, by any
other standard, are unlovable. 

But some will not accept this.  
They didn't in the past.  
And they don't now.

As with some of the Pharisees and Scribes of old, they will persist in
denying that there is anything good that could come out of Nazareth.
   They will deny the good that they see done around them is being done by
   a servant of God.
       And they, despite their love for God, will attempt to stop the one
       doing good from doing good.

They are many modern day self-righteous ones, both in the church and
outside of it.  They don't want  the boat to be rocked - they don't want to
have to change their comfortable accommodation with the status quo, they
don't want to change the way they see the world.

And like some of the Pharisees and Scribes of old they will continue to
seek to blame the condition of the poor upon the poor; and of the sick upon
the sick; and the oppression of the oppressed upon the oppressed.

It is safer that way isn't it?

It means that they - or is it we -  don't have to do anything - we don't
have to change.

We can give tax breaks to the rich while we close down hospital wards. 
   We can ignore the hunger in the third world while spend massive amounts
   on ski trips and vacations.
       Or we can call those who seek to help the street people and defend
       the abused women in our society unrealistic idealists who don't
       fully understand that those folk are responsible for their own
       condition - and cheer as the welfare rolls are reduced and funding
       for shelters and for counselling programs cut.

There is none so blind as those who will not see.

There is none so blind as those who will not accept the call of our Lord:
- the call to allow the work of God to be displayed in their lives 
- the call of God to bring healing and salvation to those around us who
really need it - regardless of what sin those who need healing may have or
may not have committed.

I don't know if you noticed, but all the hymns this morning except "Give To
Us Laughter" and the "23rd Psalm were written by the same person.   

"All the Way My Saviour Leads Me", "Jesus, Keep Me Near The Cross", 
"Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine" and "Pass Me Not Gentle Saviour" were
written by a lady by the name of Fanny Crosby.   

I chose hymns by her today because Fanny Crosby could not see.

When Fanny was six weeks old, she had an eye infection.  Her regular doctor
was out of town, and a man posing as a doctor gave her the wrong treatment. 
Within a few days, she was totally blind.   

If that happened to some people, I am afraid they would be very bitter and
would probably spend a lifetime feeling sorry for themselves.  Fanny was
never bitter and she never felt sorry for herself.  When she was only eight
years old, she wrote this poem:

Oh, what a happy child I am,
Although I can not see.
I am resolved that in this world,
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don't.
To weep and sigh
Because I'm blind,
I cannot and I won't!

Instead of being bitter and feeling sorry for herself,  instead of blaming
the doctor for his "sin" against her and dwelling in darkness all her days,
Fanny used the gifts that God had given her to write over 8,000 hymns and
poems to praise and glorify God.

We might know who caused her blindness - but to Fanny knowing who caused
her blindness didn't matter.  Nor did it matter to her that she was blind -
because in her mind - and in mine - she could see.

As a Australian preacher by the name of Bruce Prewer put it this way in a
discussion of the story of the Man Born Blind three years ago:

   "Some people have excellent eyesight but do not see further than
   their noses.  Some have good vision yet choose to see only a little
   of the way, the truth and the life.  And some have no physical sight
   yet who see brilliantly along the path of Christ  "

Christ didn't heal the physical blindness of Fanny Crosby as he healed the
sight of the man born blind, but like that man at the end of today's Gospel
reading - when he knelt at Jesus' feet and worshipped him, she saw more
than we can imagine - she saw more - and felt more blessed - than millions
about her with eyes to see, but no will to look past themselves and their
own vision of what is and what should be..

The next time we you someone who is afflicted - in body, mind, or spirit -
remember what Jesus said about the man born blind - remember how Jesus said
that his affliction happened so that the work of God might be displayed in
his life and then healed him . 

And the next time you see someone else engaged in disputes about who is
doing the right thing and who  is doing what is wrong - quietly remember
what Jesus said to those who were confident of their rightness and all to
ready to judge him and most others as less worthy of God's love than

Remember how Jesus said  "For judgment I have come into this world, so that
the blind will see and those who see will become blind."   And remember too
how he added when they asked him if they were blind too, "If you were
blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see,
your guilt remains."

Remember too - all of you are blessed - you are blessed to be a blessing.


* HYMN: "Pass Me Not, Gentle Saviour"                                VU 665

Gracious Lord, the disciples asked whose sin caused the blindness of the
man born blind - and you replied that it was so that the work of God might
be made manifest in his life - and you healed him.  Lord, that man had no
choice about his blindness.  But we are aware that we do have a choice -
and that - as with the man born blind - you offer to touch our lives so
that your work might be made manifest in our lives - and through our lives. 
Gracious Lord we confess, there are times when we choose to reject the gift
of your sight, times when we prefer to close our eyes rather than to see

When selfishness blinds us to the needs of others;
   Jesus, Light of the world, forgive us....
When our insensitivity blinds us to the hurt we cause others;
or when our prejudices blind us to the equal dignity and worth of others;
   Jesus, Light of the world, forgive us.....
When our pride blinds us to our own faults; and when the lure of
materialism blinds us to the poverty of others;
   Jesus, Light of the world, forgive us....

Loving God, Lord Jesus, Light of the world, help us to walk in your light
and see as you desire that we see.  Help us and help all of your church to
show forth the works of righteousness that you want to work in us and
through us.....  Lord, hear our prayer..

Compassionate Lord, touch not just us - but touch all those who are close
to us that we name before you  now, touch them and touch those who are far
off - that we lift before you in  now with the prayers of hearts and the
words of our lips...  BIDDING PRAYER...  Lord, hear our prayer....

Gracious Lord, we ask you as well to bless our congregation as we meet
today to decide on the direction we should take with our building project,
guide our thinking and our speaking and confirm in us what it is you would
have us do as we seek to minister in your name in this building and in this
community..   May indeed all we do be done for your glory and to show your
love.   We ask it in the name of Jesus.  Amen

The last chance is here.....  So if you have anything - let's hear it....

*** Share Share Share

My last words before our offering, and closing prayer and hymn are, as you
might expect them to be, Pastoral Words of Advice about how to live.   But
these words don't come from my study of the bible - and my prayer life -
they come to us from Children.  

So listen up to these very practical words of wisdom. - some of which is
aimed at children - and some of which adults might well heed as well.  
They are from a piece called "Good Advice from Kids"

   Never trust a dog to watch your food.  - Patrick, age 10
   When your dad is mad and asks you, 'Do I look stupid?', don't
   answer.   - Hannah, age 9
   Never tell your Mom her diet's not working.  - Michael, age 14
   Stay away from prunes.  -Randy, age 9
   Don't pull Dad's finger when he tells you to.  - Emily, age 10
   When your Mom is mad at your dad, don't let her brush your hair.
    - Taylia, age 11
   Never let your three-year old brother in the same room as your
   school assignment.  - Traci, age 14
   A puppy always has bad breath--even after eating a Tic-Tac.  
   - Andrew, age 9
   Never hold a dust buster and a cat at the same time.  
   - Kyoyo, age 11

   You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.
   - Amir, age 9
   Don't wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts.  
   - Kellie, age 11
   If you want a kitten, start out by asking for a horse. 
   - Naomi, age 15

* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:  As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of

   Most loving God - our prayer is simple.   Receive all that we offer
   and use it for your honour and glory - and help us to offer all we
   have and all that we are - so you work may be made manifest in us
   and through us.  We ask it the name of the one who gave his life for
   us, Christ Jesus your Son, and our Lord and our brother.  AMEN..

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross"                   VU 142

* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of
Go in peace, love and care for one another in Christ's name,
and may the blessing of God be with you -
-  may God be in your head and in your understanding, 
- in your eyes and in your looking, 
- in your mouth and in your speaking, 
- in your heart and in your thinking,
- and in your hands and in your acting
both now and forevermore.  Amen.

* CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                              - VU 964

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2005
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons

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