What happens when we get lost?
So, I pretty much use Google Maps every time I drive anywhere, even when I know where I am going… I’m sure I am not the only one… For those who you who haven’t used it, things like GPS are so clever that when you take a wrong turn, or decide to make a detour, it just works it out and updates its instructions to suite. No getting annoyed, it just faithfully tells you the next step you need to take.
I was talking to Shannan the other day and reflecting that these days we seem to be missing out on the experience of driving and getting lost, with the “energetic discussions” that we both remember going along with this on family road trips from when we were kids…
Going on a journey was a very different proposition back then. I still remember having to find the street in the map, work out what the route would be and then either remember it or write it down. And after all of that you still didn’t have any idea where the actual street number you were looking for was…
Printing and sharing these plans was a routine part of road trips with friends and was especially important if we were driving west of Gatton, off the edge of what our Brisbane books covered… The other thing that was a routine part of these trips was people getting lost… The navigator in the passenger’s seat making a mistake, someone deciding to do a quick unplanned detour… The list goes on…
Journeys are fun, but sometimes things didn’t go to plan and you found yourself lost.
Let’s be honest, being lost can really suck. Being confused, frustrated and desperately seeking to find your way back to something familiar… Hopefully before you ran out of fuel… Being lost is not nice.
Psalm 23 – A Psalm of Comfort… Ish…
Is it any surprise then that our Psalm for today, perhaps one of the most well-known and reassuring Psalms, paints a picture of the exact opposite of being lost and hopeless…It speaks of the life of faith as a journey of trust. A journey that winds through nice places, through dark places, but always a journey where God, like a shepherd will be there to lead, to guide and protect…
This is all very well and good, but what about those times when we realise we are lost. What about those times when we wonder off course, giving in to our own brokenness, struggling with porn online, abusing alcohol or choosing to be selfish or dishonest in our professional or relational choices? What about those times when we feel lost because life sucks, whether due to grief, physical or mental health issues and God feels far away? What about those who don’t feel they know where to start, let alone which direction to head towards God. What about those times that we have drifted away from the path, and haven’t even realised yet…? (We are still on Autopilot)
The ambiguities of the journey of faith and life are the kinds of things that we see in the reading from John that we heard today.
We have a story of Jesus performing a miracle, healing the sight of someone who was blind from birth. It is an odd story, because this isn’t someone who is healed because they asked, this wasn’t even anyone who had even the slightest idea who Jesus was. Rather this act of healing this man somehow points to what God is doing in the world through Jesus.
The thing is that this man who was healed was someone who was seen by others as broken, as far from God, someone who has nothing to teach those who understand what faith should look like.
Jesus healed this man and much drama followed… I would encourage you to have a read of it at home.
All this drama concludes with this man who was healed being thrown out by the religious leaders in his community because of his suggestion that Jesus wasn’t as bad as they made him out to be…
John 9:34–41 (The Message)
34 They said, “You’re nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!” Then they threw him out in the street.
35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 The man said, “Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You’re looking right at him. Don’t you recognize my voice?”
38 “Master, I believe,” the man said, and worshiped him.
39 Jesus then said, “I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind.”
40 Some Pharisees overheard him and said, “Does that mean you’re calling us blind?”
41 Jesus said, “If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you’re accountable for every fault and failure.”
Not realising you are lost…
Lent is a time of self-examination…
The very people who should have known best, had no idea what was happening under their nose… The very people were the most familiar with Gods story, the very people who everyone expected to have it together, had no clue… They were so self-assured that even when confronted with this man being healed, they wouldn’t budge in their condemnation of Jesus…
The biggest warning in this passage is of faithful people not taking seriously our own brokenness and the way it can prevent us seeing what God is doing… The worst way to be lost is when you have no idea where you going, but you think you do. The most disorientated you can ever be is to think you are heading in one direction when you are really going in another…
The question is whether we can have the humility to be honest with where our own sinfulness and brokeness requires repentance and grace. Can we be honest about the ways that we have wandered off, gotten lost.
John 9:4–5 (NRSV)
4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Jesus calls his follows to share in God’s work in the world. It is one thing to say that “Jesus journeys with me” but what does it mean to be those who continue Jesus work and make that real, those who are prepared to reach out into the darkness and brokenness in our community and shine the light of Jesus.
Not simply to stand far off as a beacon, but to step into that space. Easter is perhaps the time when we see clearly the extent to which Jesus is prepared to step into darkness and brokenness to bring forgiveness, healing and hope. As his body, today, we are called to be that for both one another and our world.
Grace is never more than one step away
One of the most powerful messages of Christianity is that the journey to find God, to encounter forgiveness, grace and wholeness is made up entirely of one step of trust in Jesus. It is a journey of one step, irrespective of how lost or broken we are…
The very first step is the experience of grace, forgiveness and hope. The realisation that even amid darkness and fear, that Jesus still seeks to be near, still longs that you would simply turn and reach out and follow him one step at a time…
You see, both the Psalm that we heard today and the story of Jesus healing this blind man reveal the heart of God as one who seeks to draw us to himself, seeks to bring wholeness and life. They reveal a God who is faithful, even when we haven’t been, a God who seeks to be the good shepherd, the one who leads us through all the challenges we will face in our journey through life.