Blinded Sight

Preacher: Julia Baker-Swann

Scripture: John 9:1-41, Ephesians 5:8-14

Date: March 19, 2023

Audio can be found here:

I have a lot of compassion for the Pharisees in this story. They have witnessed something outside of their ordered world and they are freaked out. I see them scurrying around from person to person trying to get all the facts to line up. They are so desperate to make the story fit within their boxes, narrative and views, to get clear answers and return their world to a sense of order and comfort.

Oof I have those parts of me, I know within my body that scurry and desire for neat aligned stories, clamber within that wants answers — now.

As some of you know, my husband Thomas died in December. I probably feel especially kin to the Pharisees these days because in this grief, in this new landscape of unknown I have places within me that are sure that with the right detective work, the correct analytical processing I will be at peace. It doesn’t bring peace….but I will get to that later.


This account in John is an amazing story of a healing miracle — the man born blind can now see. And it is multi-layered that spans out in all directions. I sense it is a story inviting us into blinded-sight. I was struck newly with the answer that Jesus gives to the disciples who asked “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (again here compassion for the disciples also trying to make things neat and ordered).

And Jesus’s answer…”Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

And right here we are invited into this expanding lens Jesus enlarges the disciples’ paradigm that blindness of course came through someone’s sin.

He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.

Revealed — to make known this man’s blindness and magnificent new sight was to invite us all into the larger story, the sight of a God who…. summed up in these words of Jesus ending the story “I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”

What does this mean to become blind? In Annie Dillard’s beloved book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek she has a stunning essay about sight called Seeing. In it she explores everything from studies from patients who have been blind since birth who are then exploring the world with sight for the first time to watching the sunlit play over rocks and water in Tinker Creek.

This from her essay: …I analyze and pry. I hurl over logs and roll away stones; I study the bank a square foot at a time, probing and tilting my head. Some days when a mist covers the mountains, when the muskrats won’t show and the microscope’s mirror shatters, I want to climb up the blank blue dome as a man would storm the inside of a circus tent, wildly, dangling, and with a steel knife claw a rent in the top, peep, and, if I must, fall.

But there is another kind of seeing that involves a letting go. When I see this way I sway transfixed and emptied. The difference between the two ways of seeing is the difference between walking with and without a camera. When I walk with a camera I walk from shot to shot, reading the light on a calibrated meter. When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens, and the moment’s light prints on my own silver gut. When I see this second way I am above all an unscrupulous observer.

Another kind of seeing that involves a letting go.

I wonder if this is some of the blindness that Jesus invites us to.


So back to the scurry parts of me within this grief that want all the knowns to be answered now, want the story of why Thomas died so soon, so suddenly to be wrapped up neat. None of it brings true peace.

I assume some of you might be familiar with a good old midwestern summer thunderstorm. The kind that you watch brew on the horizon all day the air thick and electric, buzzing. This is what it feels like in my body when I am ignoring the sadness, the worry and fear and instead scurrying around battening the down hatches with fix, trying to see everything, getting all the answers.

And oh the relief when the rain and thunderstorm finally comes the deluge when the heat is cooled, the humidity cut. The skies let go.

What relief when I finally stop and cry the rain of grief and let go —- let go in that hands open humbled human way saying “I don’t know, I can’t know”. Releasing the need to makes sense of, releasing the need to know all the answers now, Releasing into the peace that surpasses understanding. Releasing into the faith of the blind man, now healed, who says “Lord, I believe.”


In our world that wants the neat Jesus invites us into the messy, complexity of the unknown, of true letting go, of a different sight, of  trust and faith. I love that Jesus heals the man with spit and dirt.

In poetry we talk about showing not telling. The power of using image and metaphor, the sensory to convey rather than direct telling. I smile here at Jesus doing just that— showing us with the tools of healing that the stuff of our lives the spit and dirt, the mud and muck is sacred.

Is where healing is found


Where in your life are you being invited to allow yourself to let go into blinded-sight to be healed by the good messy tincture of dirt and spit, trusting that you are looking into the eyes of Christ, who is gazing with love upon you?


I invite us to listen now to this beautiful song by Rachel Weasley as prayer of compassion and invitation to these parts of us, our of world that need the spit and dirt of healing.

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