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Clean Slate - Sermon, 3/22/2020
March 22, 2020, 10:14 AM

Opening Day of the new baseball season should be rapidly approaching. In fact, the first games of the new season should be on Thursday. I have to admit, however, that I never really liked watching baseball. Even when I lived down the street from Camden Yards, the baseball stadium is Baltimore, I never really enjoyed going to games. Singing the National Anthem and getting a diet coke during the 7th inning stretch were the only parts of a baseball game that I enjoyed.

So why am I talking about baseball in the middle of Lent?  In the middle of a pandemic? It’s because I am interested in the way the new season starts. There is a blank slate at the beginning of every season. It does not matter who won the World Series last year. It also does not matter who ended up in last place at the end of the last season. At the start of the new season, each team starts on even footing.  Even the poor Baltimore Orioles have a fair shot at the pennant when the new season starts every spring, regardless of how their last season ended.

So why am I talking about baseball in the middle of Lent?  In the middle of a pandemic?  It’s because the new opportunities available at the start of the baseball season make me think of the new life we hear about in today’s Gospel reading. The man born blind is abandoned by his society and his parents to a life of begging. There is a belief at the time of Jesus that people born blind or with any disabilities are being punished by God for sin. That is why the religious authorities question the man born blind, his parents, and Jesus about the source of the man’s blindness. Who sinned? The people want to know.

Jesus, however, is not bound by these old and invalid understandings of sin and disability. Instead, Jesus sees the potential for healing in the man’s situation. Without even being asked, Jesus heals the man born blind, knowing that healing is possible, even in the worst of circumstances. The man follows Jesus’s directions and washes the dirt from his eyes and his sight is restored.

When the man born blind experiences the healing from Jesus, he returns to the town of his birth. But he is not recognized in his home town. The people who used to see him beg do not recognize the man Jesus healed. They debate whether this is truly the man born blind: is this the same guy? Or is it a man who simply looks like him?

His interaction with Jesus so changes the man born blind that he is now unrecognizable. And the crowd’s questioning continues as does their disbelief. “If you are the man who used to beg, how were your eyes opened?” The newly-sighted man answers multiple times: “Jesus. It was Jesus who healed me. Jesus put mud on my eyes, I washed them, and my sight was restored.”

You can almost hear the man’s level of frustration rising as he continues to answer the crowd’s questions. Perhaps my favorite answer comes toward the end of the reading: “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his followers?”

The man born blind faces the gift of a clean slate in his life, at the beginning of a new season. The man born blind encounters Jesus and his pain washes away in the mud in the pool of Siloam. The newly-sighted man is facing a clean slate, a new baseball season in his life.

So why am I talking about baseball in the middle of Lent? In the middle of a pandemic?  It’s because I want to claim and proclaim that Jesus can give each of us a clean slate with his healing touch. Jesus does not care if we won the World Series or came in last place in our division. Jesus gives us the opportunity to start again, to be healed beyond all recognition.

I encourage you to see and appreciate this Lenten season and this season of pandemic as an opportunity to seek healing from Jesus, to wash away whatever ails us, to be transformed so much that we are unrecognizable, to begin anew. Let us not be bound by our past but rather let us be excited by the new season that lies before us.

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