Sunday, March 30, 2014

4 Lent

Lataere Sunday
March 30, 2014

Ephesians 5.8-14; John 9.1-14

+ Things sure are looking rosy around here this morning, aren’t they? No pun intended, of course. I really love it when we do the Rose Sundays. Especially in Lent.

Today is, of course, Lataere Sunday. Lataere, of course, means "Rejoice" in Latin. We are now at the midpoint of Lent.  And because we are, it is a time to rejoice. Essentially, we get a little break from Lent on this Sunday.

You’ll notice  flowers, which are normally forbidden during Lent, are on the altar here this morning. Traditionally, the organ was never played during Lent, except on Laetare Sunday. Luckily, we always have the organ.

Traditionally, even weddings, which were normally banned during Lent, could be performed on this day. I’m happy we’re not doing that today.

The only other time of the year we celebrate with our rose vestments is in Advent, on Gaudete Sunday. On that Sunday, we also get a little break.

As most of you know, I was out at Assumption Abbey in Richardton, ND for our minister’s conference. Our Dustin Wallace is still out there this morning. During our Friday night social time, the Bishop again singled St. Stephen’s out as the only congregation in the Diocese of North Dakota that pulls out the rose vestments for Lataere and Gaudete Sundays. Actually, he said our vestments looked more Pepto-Bismal.  Hey, I’ll take a compliment from the Bishop any day, even if it I tongue-in-cheek.

The Gospel reading for this Sunday in the old lectionaries was John 6:1-15, the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes -- symbols of the Eucharist to come on Maundy Thursday of Holy Week.   But, I’m happy we have the Gospel reading we have for today.

This story of Jesus healing the blind man speaks loud and clear to us.   In a sense today—Lataere Sunday, the half-way mark of Lent—is a time for us to examine this whole sense of blindness. Not just physical blindness, but spiritual blindness, as well. My theme for Lent this year, as you have all heard me say by now, has been brokenness, or more specifically, our brokenness in relation to the broken Body of Jesus in the Eucharist.

In a sense, our brokenness and our blindness are similar. In our brokenness we become like blind people—or, at least, like nearsighted people.  We grope about.  We find ourselves dependent upon those things that we think give us come sense of clarity.

But ultimately, nothing really seems to heal our nearsightedness.  In fact our sight seems to get worse and worse as we age.

In our Gospel reading for today, we find a man blind from birth.  The miracle Jesus performs for him is truly a BIG miracle. Can you imagine what it must’ve been like for this man? Here he is, born without sight, suddenly seeing.  It must have been quite a shock. It would, no doubt, involve a complete reeducation of one’s whole self.  By the time he reached the age he was—he was maybe in his twenties or thirties—he no doubt had an idea in his mind of what things may have looked like.

And, with the return of his vision, he was, I’m certain, amazed at what things actually looked like.  Even things we might take for granted, such as the faces of our mother and father or spouse, would have been new for this man.  So, the miracle Jesus performs is truly a far-ranging miracle.

There’s also an interesting analytical post-script to our Gospel reading.  St Basil the Great and other early Church Fathers believe that this blind man was not only born blind, he was actually born without eyes.  This, they say, is why Jesus takes clay and places them upon the empty sockets, essentially forming eyes for this man.  When he washes them in the waters of Siloam, the eyes of clay became real eyes with perfect sight.  It’s a great story, but the real gist of this story is about us.

Our spiritual blindness often causes us to ignore those in need around us and this blindness causes distance and isolation in our lives, making our brokenness even deeper and more pronounced.  For some of us, our spiritual blindness is merely a spiritual near- or far-sightedness.

But today, on Lataere Sunday, as we head into the latter part of Lent, we find ourselves being relieved for a bit of the heavy sense of brokenness we have been dealing with throughout Lent so far.  We see a bit of clarity in our vision. Lataere Sunday, also known as Rose Sunday or Mothering Sunday or Refreshment Sunday—is a break in our Lenten half-light.

Today, even in Lent, we can be joyful.  It is a time for us to realize that our brokenness is not an eternal brokenness.  We realize today that no matter how broken or fractured we might seem, we can be made whole once again.  No matter how blind or nearsighted we might be spiritually, our spiritual sight can be returned to us once again.  And in doing so, we find ourselves almost chuckling over our brokenness, over our blindness.

 We, in a sense, find ourselves on this Lataere Sunday—this joyful Sunday in Lent—laughing at our brokenness. Lataere Sunday is a great to remind ourselves that, even in our brokenness, we will not be broken forever.  We will be made whole like the blind man, we too will be made whole.  We too will see with clarity and vision.  And like him, we too will see the darkness lifted from our lives and the dazzling light of Christ breaking through.

 So, today, on this Lataere Sunday—on this joyful Sunday in Lent—let us be joyful.  Let’s be joyful, even in our brokenness. Let us be joyful even as we grope about, spiritually half-blind as we may be at times.  Let us be joyful, because our brokenness and our blindness are only temporary. But our joy is eternal.



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