First Thoughts on the Lectionary: March 30, 2014

 John 9:1-41

…So for the second time they (the Pharisee) called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man(Jesus) is a sinner.”   He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”   …Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.   We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.”  


The Pharisees were the local authorities, not just of all things religious, but of all things. The Synagogue was not just the place of worship; it was the village assembly – the town hall. Israel was a theocracy; the religious/civil division didn’t exist. The Pharisees had gone through the training to be the leaders. They were credentialed. They knew what it meant to be followers of Mosses.

Jesus had none of this. He was a carpenter. 

Who do you believe?

The choice is not about belief; it is about life and how it is organized. For the Pharisees it was about the foundation of their position in society. For the people, it is about “civilization as they knew it.” To believe that Jesus had power that came from God is to believe that the whole system around which life was organized was false. Yet they were faced with indisputable evidence that Jesus had power that only God could give.

 What were the options here? For the Pharisees the options were: give up their position of authority – give up their standing in the society – their means of earning a living.  Or, they could live in denial. They, like us, most of the time, chose denial.

For us, what are the “truths” that we hold so strongly that we refuse to believe clear evidence that they might be wrong? What are our non-negotiables?

Those of us who spend time thinking, writing, even preaching, trying to communicate important thoughts and ideas to others, continuously face the dilemma the Pharisees faced in this passage from John. What do we do when we are faced with clear evidence that our “non-negotiables” might be wrong?

Change our lives?

Stop talking?

Live in denial?

I think the third option is the most common. “If we can get enough people to follow this choice, it becomes easier. Normative behavior is powerful. It isn’t truth, but it sure helps with denial.

 What do you do when you come across the passage where Jesus tells the rich young man to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor?  Do you sell all of your possessions? Do you stop reading the bible, or stop preaching, or talking about religion? Or do you look around you and say, it can’t really mean I should sell all my possessions because no one else is doing that.

 This is the first of two posts that I am writing this week. The second will be my post for the synchroblog “Spirit of the Poor” which will go up on Wednesday at Caris Adel’s blog. In that post I will talk more about some specific “truths” about which I believe we are in denial – big things. But here, I just want to say that I think we (and I include myself) are more often like the Pharisees than the disciples who followed Jesus.

 Let me try out one idea here. Treason.

 Whoa!!   Where did that come from.

 Well, it came from another scripture in today’s lectionary.

1 Samuel 16:1-13

16:1 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”


Overthrowing a king? That’s treason. And that is what God told Samuel to do.

 What if our convictions led us to believe that our country, maybe even the concept of country, was a violation of our beliefs? Where are our allegiances?

 But we live in a Christian country. That would never happen.

 Those of us who lived through the draft of the Viet Nam war may have a different opinion.

 My point in this post is to say that we are constantly faced with the choices of:

  • changing our lives,
  • living in denial, or
  • stop talking – writing – or limit what we talk about or write about.


Why do we writers sometimes feel we don’t have anything to write about, that we need a prompt? Maybe it’s because we don’t want to change our lives, or live in denial – just a thought.





About Newell Hendricks

I have lived a good life. Maybe a counterculture life, maybe a normal life. I have written operas, built houses, been involved with cross-cultural education between Latin America and the U.S, and hardly ever had a job I have helped raise two wonderful children with my amazing wife. It's been a good ride. And I go to church. I've just finished a book of stories from my life, I am still connected to an organization in Nicaragua that promotes sister relationships between communities, faith communities, or schoold, and to the extent that my cancer doesn't pull me down, am attempting to share some of what I have learned, or at least tried out. Welcome, and let's share.
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One Response to First Thoughts on the Lectionary: March 30, 2014

  1. Potent thoughts throughout your post… “For the Pharisees the options were: give up their position of authority – give up their standing in the society – their means of earning a living. Or, they could live in denial. They, like us, most of the time, chose denial.”

    It’s true, many of us continue to live in denial, but there are those of us who have chosen to abandon everything, to lay down our ministries – even when they were “thriving” – and “waste” our lives. But there’s never anything wasted in God’s economy. It’s worth it all. Besides, sooner or later we’re all going to wake up. Better sooner than later, I believe. I wish I had awakened a lot sooner! Good words, Newell!


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