I heard the other day that they are going to open a new Indian restaurant, called Karma here in Spring Hill. Yes, it is supposed to be beautiful, made in the shape of the Taj Mahal and everything. The only odd thing is when you go in you will not get a menu from which to order, they simply will give you what you deserve, after all, it’s karma.
What do you deserve? McDonald’s used to tell us that we deserve a break. Monster earphones tell us that you deserve a better earphone. But the question remains, what do you deserve; what does anyone deserve? Do you deserve a life with no sickness? Do you deserve a good job? Do you deserve lots of money? Do you deserve to be loved? Do you deserve a good education? Do you deserve to live in the United States with all our benefits? If you were, did you deserve to be born without birth defects? What do you deserve?
This is an important question to ask because there are many times when things happen that our first response is, “Hey, I don’t deserve this to happen to me.” Right? Or you might say, “What did I do to deserve this?”
And those are valid questions. We know from experience that one frequently does get what one deserves. After all, the Bible says that one will reap what one sows. We know that what we do has repercussions, if you don’t study you probably will not do well on your exam, if you don’t exercise, your body will not stay fit, if you aren’t careful with your spending, you may not have any savings. This is why we say “What did I do to deserve this?” We say it because we understand this fact of life. We understand that we do affects what happens to us.
But how are we to think about the things that happen in our lives that we have not “deserved?” How do we react when bad things happen to good people, good people, you know like you or me? Sometimes we can blame it on the parents, right? If a baby is born a crack baby, it is not the poor baby’s fault, it is obviously the fault of the parent. If I have a genetic predisposition to some sort of physical weakness, it is not my fault, it was the genes; it was my parents or perhaps, my ancestors. Sometimes we respond behaviorally in certain ways because of the way our parents raised us. Psychologists tell us that most abusive parents were abused when they were children. So there are times we can say it is the fault of the parents.
But when bad things happen to good people we cannot always blame the parents, can we? The Gospel reading today starts off with this very question in mind. Jesus sees a man who was born blind and his disciples asked him, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” You see the thinking? Nothing comes from nothing; we all get what we deserve. If something bad happens it is because it was deserved. It was Karma. This is what the disciples were thinking.
But look what Jesus said. He said that neither this man nor his parents sinned. The disciples had it wrong. The blind man didn’t deserve to be born blind. He had done nothing to deserve to live his life as a beggar. He didn’t deserve to be on the bottom rung of society despised, forgotten, and neglected by practically everyone in the world. So then it begs the question. Why, why had God allowed this terrible thing to happen? Jesus said to his disciples that the man was born blind so that God’s works would be revealed in him. What does that mean? It means what we are to be looking for is not to be the ‘why’ of the bad thing, in this case the blindness, but the focus is to be on what God is going to bring out of this situation. Jesus shows the disciples that out of this bad thing something wonderful is going to happen. God is going to take this and turn it around for good. And sure enough, that is what happens. Jesus heals the man and this formerly blind man comes to know and worship Jesus.
So how does this story apply to us? You and I tend to focus on the ‘why’ bad things happen, just like the disciples did. When bad things happen to us or to those we love, we tend to react with a “Hey I didn’t deserve this, or my loved one doesn’t deserve this.” And then we complain to God, “God you messed up. This is not fair. I have been pretty good, or so and so has been pretty good, why did you allow this to happen?” But the sort of thinking that Jesus brings us is, “What good will God bring out of this?” The Apostle Paul tells us that God works everything for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose. God loves to take what is broken and hurting and fix it so that it is better than before. We need to remember that our life here and now is not the whole story. Our life here on earth is only the first chapter. What is really important to us is not always what is really important to God. What does God want for us? God looks beyond our material and physical desires and sees what we really need. We need God in our lives; we need to be able to love and trust him more. We need hearts to be changed so that we are able to love our neighbors more. Scripture teaches us that one reason we go through times of suffering is so that we will then able to comfort others who go through the same suffering. Other times we go through sickness and deathly illness and God heals us so that we are able to give praise to His wonderful love and power. But then there are also times He does not heal us and in those times we are to grow in faith and learn to trust that He loves us. You know, the fact is that it may very well be that one of us, here at St. Andrew’s contracts the virus that is spreading around our nation. The reason for the contraction might be because the person has been acting foolishly. But it might not be that at all. It might not be that person’s fault at all. Just because bad things may happen to us does not mean that God is angry or is punishing us but because he loves us and wants us grow closer to him; he wants us to grow; to grow up as Christians. God takes the long view; he is not as interested in our short term happiness as he is in our eternal state. We tend to be more interested in our short term happiness but we need to have the same perspective as God does.
Our lives are precious and important. God has given each of us life and it is a precious and wonderful gift. He wants our lives, our souls, to be the strongest and the best they can be. What do you deserve? What do I deserve? You see that is not really the right question is it? It is not about deserving. It is about who we are becoming. Right now we are living in a time of great uncertainty and flux. And it may not get better right away. It is a perfect time for us in our society to learn to trust in God better. We need to remember that our God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us so we can know Him. It is a perfect time for us to grow in our faith. Faith is a gift from God, we need to ask Him to help us have more faith, but faith is also a choice we make. Sometimes we need to pray for the courage to make that choice.
It is the 4th week of Lent. It is a great time to consider our lives, to consider who we are and then what kind of person God calls us to become. Amen