1. Those of you who know me know that I like two things; Movies and Germany
2. And so, it should not surprise you that one of my favorites is the movie version of Kander and Ebbs famous Broadway musical Cabaret, starring Joel Grey and Liza Minelli.
3. The plot is about a group of people who frequent a cabaret, set against the rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s.
4. The acting is great of course, but the play is a musical and one of my favorite pieces is sung by the cabaret Meister Joel Grey.
5. “If you could see her through my eyes” is a love song he sings to his veiled beloved; part of the way through the veil is removed and we see that his beloved . . . is an ape.
6. He sings about how people mock him for his love of her,
7. wonders why people won’t just leben und lebenlassen - live and let live
8. He even offers her a wedding ring – which he places in her nose!
9. The song is funny, poignant and moving, right up to the last line – “if you could see her through my eyes – She wouldn’t look Jewish at all”
10. IN true cabaret fashion the point is driven home with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
11. All in good fun – but it is not – neither in the 20th century nor in the 21st. For the question in that song is the question of the whole musical- how could they be so blind
12. Many of us are horrified that people could be so blind,
13. But who are we kidding?
14. For example, Jordan Peele,
a. the writer of the wildly successful horror film Get Out
b. reportedly has said that the film grew out of his desire
c. to mock the idea that after the 2008 election
d. we had suddenly become a country where these divisions no longer mattered.
15. When of course they still do – more than ever – it’s just that we do not want to see it.
16. Interesting, isn’t it, to think that the problem facing our country isn’t just the divisions
17. But the anger that drives them,
18. The hurt they cause
19. And the fear which blinds us to them.
20. Not because we can’t see them, but because we do not want to.
21. No one want to go blind; Which is what makes willful blindness such a mystery; both to us;
a. And to a small community of Christians at the end of the first century AD.
b. They lived amongst Jewish communities
i. which had rejected them for their belief in Jesus.
c. This community had a member we call John,
i. Who wrote the Gospel we hear from today.
22. John and his fellow Christians simply could not understand
a. How the Pharisees could not see Jesus’ holiness.
b. How the elders could not see his wisdom.
c. How the priests could not see his death as the perfect sacrifice.
d. How they could be so blind?
23. How? Because, according to John,
a. they were like the people in the story about the man blind from birth.
b. From the very beginning people refused to see the blind man,
c. Deciding that his blindness was due to his sins,
i. or the sins of those who bore him.
d. And even after Jesus heals him, they refuse to see him,
i. Calling him a liar
ii. Calling him a charlatan
iii. Calling him a sinner
24. OF course, in their rejection of him,
a. they are really refusing to see the one thing clear to them all;
b. That this man, born blind, could now see.
25. Of course, in their rejection of him,
a. they also refuse to see the one thing clear to everyone else;
i. That these priests, these Pharisees, these elders who could see,
1. were the ones truly blind;
ii. Not because they could not see;
1. but because of their fear and their anger
2. would not see Jesus for the savior
3. John and his community knew him to be.
26. Of course, John, in the very way he tells the story of rejection of the man born blind, reveals something he may not have intended;
a. That because of their hurt, their anger and their fear
i. John’s community had rejected the larger Jewish community,
1. Calling them murderers,
2. And using a label that would reverberate through two thousand years of history, the Jews.
27. For two thousand years John and his gospel have been used on both sides of the ongoing battle between Christian and Jew –
a. Christians using it as proof of God’s rejection of the Jews
b. Jews using it as evidence of Christian hatred of them
28. And yet if we continue to allow ourselves to be drawn into that fight,
a. we blind ourselves to one thing which
b. despite all the hurt the hatred and the fear
c. despite all the name calling and the prejudice,
i. makes even this story in the Gospel of John
1. the inspired word of God for you and me;
d. For you see, it proclaims that Jesus is the one who heals blindness.
e. Maybe not the kind where we cannot see;
f. but the kind where we will not see
i. because of our own hurt, anger and fear.
29. I mean, think of all the people we pass by day after day and refuse to see;
a. And no I don’t mean the beggar on the street – that is too easy.
b. I mean the woman at the office
i. who gets passed over at promotion time
ii. no matter how hard she works – because she is a woman.
c. The Mexican who delivers our take out at 11pm in the rain;
i. and makes in a week what you make in a day because of his immigration status.
d. The daughter who has disappeared from our lives
i. because we wouldn’t accept her lifestyle.
e. The different looking people we push past as we hurry down first avenue.
f. Think about all the people who are invisible to us
i. because we will not see;
g. and then think of all the times we are invisible to others,
i. because they will not see,
ii. labeling us as John’s community did their neighbors,
iii. And their neighbors did them,
iv. so that they might continue in their blindness, and we in ours.
h. And then think of what Jesus would say;
i. How he would not only call us all blind; but through his words and his actions show us how to see:
1. By reaching out to those who might have angered us
2. By forgiving those who might have hurt us
3. By healing and forgiving a man born blind,
a. whom others had judged as a worthless sinner;
4. Revealing in that act that that is the way people learn to see.
i. This lesson of Jesus is even more important in a time of plague and disease;
j. How easy is it for us to shut our eyes to foreigners, to the sick, to others, and focus on ourselves and ignore THEM.
30. This blindness has been called the Original Sin of our country, but it extends far beyond our own borders,
31. And I guess, just like the first original sin, its effects remain.
32. It certainly won’t be healed by a single sermon, or even a hundred of them.
33. But then when Jesus healed, he didn’t heal everyone.
34. He healed people one at a time.
35. And maybe this is the reason.
36. He wants us to do the same.