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The Very Rev. Johann Vanderbijl: “Followers of Christ – Rising Up for the Blind”

April 27, 2011

From Fr. Johann Vanderbijl of the Anglican Church of St. George the Martyr in South Carolina, here is another edifying sermon, titled “Followers of Christ – Rising Up for the Blind”; this was preached for Easter Sunday:

Easter Sunday 2011

Psalm 93    Isaiah 25:1-9    1 Corinthians 5:6-8   St. Mark 16:1-8

Followers of Christ – Rising up for the Blind

Reading or listening to the news today is very much like reading through the Prophetic books in the Old Testament with one notable exception.  Modern media coverage very rarely, if ever, gives us any good news.  As one reads through story after story of global doom and gloom, from rioting to full-scale warfare, to earthquakes and atomic energy crisis, to global economic woes and threats of government shut downs, one is tempted to think that we are all trapped in an inescapable downward spiral into the dismal abyss of despair and hopelessness.   It is really not that hard to come to that conclusion if all you focus on is the steady diet of the modern media.

It was probably not that hard to come to a similar conclusion reading much of what was written in the book of Isaiah.  Unavoidable calamity seemed to be thundering in from every side as the spiritually rotten and largely unrepentant nation of Israel began to feel the sharp pruning shears of their Divine Husbandman.  In spite of the many clarion calls for confession and the bright promises of restoration for the penitent, the people of God blundered on their way as if totally blind to the inevitable.  “Come now,” the Lord said to His people, “let us reason together.  Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword”; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”  But reason has very little impact on those who prefer blindness to sight and darkness to light.

On Palm Sunday, we saw this same unreasonable blindness as our Lord Jesus sobbed over the city of Jerusalem.  “If you had known, even you, especially in this, your day, the things that make for your peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes.”  In both cases, with Isaiah and with Jesus, the blindness of those admonished and exhorted resulted in the destruction of their city and the deportation of their people.

However, again in both cases, the powerful message of hope was never far behind.  Even in the midst of death and destruction, the greatness and goodness of God shone through the gathering storm clouds to dispel the darkness.

The contrast between judgment and mercy is quite startling in Isaiah.  One moves, almost seamlessly, from vivid pictures of the earth reeling and staggering like a drunkard to the stable, peaceful, and glorious reign of the Lord of Hosts in Zion and in Jerusalem.  The same is true in the Gospel accounts of the Passion of our Lord.  From the awful cry of Jesus on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ and the final gasp, ‘It is finished’, we are brought quite suddenly into the very presence of the risen Lord as He opened the eyes of His disciples, spoke words of peace to them, and brought an end to their bewilderment through comforting words of explanation.  “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  And you are witnesses of these things.  Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

But that is the message of the Gospel, both in the Old and New Testaments.  The sins of mankind that have wrought such havoc since the Fall, have been paid for in full through the substitutionary, sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And the requirements are the same.  To receive remission of sin all that is needed is willing and obedient repentance of sin and the acceptance of that remission through faith in the finished work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The bottom line is, Jesus died and rose again to restore sight to the blind…and this message…this message of the Gospel – the Good News – has been entrusted to us…we are His witnesses…and therefore we are the ones to preach that message in His Name to all nations…the message of repentance and remission of sins.

But before we consider delivering this message, we have to consider a blindness of a different kind…the kind of blindness that makes us believe we are exempt from our Lord’s call for us to be His witnesses…the kind of blindness that fools us into thinking that the power of the resurrection is limited to an assurance of heaven after death…the kind of blindness that makes us lose sight of the fact that as citizens of heaven, we ought to be playing an active role in answer to our own prayers, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”!  You see, the message of the resurrection is not simply a spiritual event to be debated by heavenly minded individuals, but the very foundation of new life and hope and meaning for the whole world.  The message of the resurrection speaks directly to the gloom and doom of our modern media reports and brings light into that darkness as it promises reconciliation between God and Man and Man and Man because it is the message about a new creation.

And the only One Who is able to remove this blindness from us is the Promise of the Father…the Holy Spirit Himself.  So, as we contemplate the joy of the resurrection this Easter Day, let us take heed to the command of our Risen Lord to watch and wait in prayer to receive the power from on high, so that He might raise us up together with Jesus for the sake of the blind of this world.  May our Lord open our eyes, as He did those of His disciples, so that we might comprehend His call to follow Him and to bear witness to the good news of the hope that is found only in Him, even in the very midst of the bad news of the blind modern media.

©  Johann W. Vanderbijl III 2011

And that is what evangelism is all about: “to follow Him and to bear witness to the good news of the hope that is found only in Him.”  He is our Hope, He is our Peace…how can we not share that with the blind of this world, that they might see the Light?

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