Amazing Grace

The Big Broadcast

One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see
John 9:1-41 or 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
was blind but now I see.

In today’s Gospel reading, the religious leaders were extremely upset about Jesus’ healing a blind man. We come upon them as they are browbeating the man who had been healed, trying to analyze and judge the episode according to their preconceived notions of how God’s Grace should work: What do you say about this man called Jesus? If He really healed you, didn’t He break the law that says we should not work on the Sabbath? If He broke the law, isn’t He a sinner? And, if He is a sinner, how can you say He healed you? What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes? The man whom Jesus healed would not be intimidated. “I don’t know if He is a sinner,” he answered. “I only know that I was blind and now I see” (John 9:25). In his simplicity, this unlettered man proved infinitely wiser than the Pharisees who cross -examined him. The Pharisees spoke with the authority of religious textbooks; the man who was blind spoke with the authority of religious experience.

They spoke what they had learned from others; he spoke from firsthand knowledge of God’s Amazing Grace. The unschooled man sensed that it was enough to know that an amazing thing had happened to him. He sensed the futility of trying to fit the event into some category. “I only know that I was blind and now I can see.”

God has given us no law against clear reason and careful analysis. To the contrary, He has given us minds to reason with, and we should use our minds to their utmost capacities. But we human beings are more than our minds. The capacity of our minds is limited. We are not just big brain capsules given a body so that we can move about. We are feelings and emotions; we are intuitions and hopes; we are fears and ecstasies. We human beings are complex multifaceted creatures. Above all, we are part of an external world that is always acting upon us in strange and surprising ways. And the most strange and surprising of all the events that happen to us is the Amazing Grace of God.

To be confident that God’s design is better than ours is at the heart of “Amazing Grace.” “Faith” is nothing less than trusting that God has better things in mind for us than we have in mind for ourselves. After all, did we really have any reason to believe that God wanted us as his children? Does this whole season of Lent make any “sense” according to our normal ways of thinking? Is it to be expected that God should become man and walk the tortuous path to the Cross, there to hang battered and bloodied, taking upon Himself the full burden of human failure? No, none of this is reasonable, or predictable, or logically necessary, or to be expected. It is all “Amazing Grace.”

In 1948, “Cosmopolitan” magazine published a short story called “The Next Voice You Hear.” In it, the majestic voice Of God is heard on the radio once a day for six days. The first Divine broadcast was made on the first Monday in March at 9:38 p.m. when a deep, gentle, benevolent but firm voice interrupted a program called “Doctor I.Q.,” saying, “This is God. I am sorry I must interrupt you. A plan of creation ought by rights to go forward under its own rule, but you, dear children of the sun’s third planet, are so near to destroying yourselves, I must step in. I shall spend this week with you” …

On Tuesday, at exactly 9:38 p.m., the voice spoke again on the airwaves: “Do not be afraid. I only want to convince you that I really am God and that I am visiting you this week”. There were plenty of skeptics, of course. A professor of logic pointed out that if it were really God speaking, He wouldn’t find it necessary to use the radio. But no evidence of trickery was discovered. Russia was suspected by some, but eventually absolved.

By Wednesday evening most Churches had installed radios, and their pews were filled with expectant people. When the voice came, it said, simply, “It is I.”

On Thursday, God presented the world with a display of modest miracles. Oranges in a Wisconsin fruit market rolled up the wall and spelled out the words, “Men are My sons and therefore brothers.”

A lion in Copenhagen escaped from the zoo, found some sheep in a field and deliberately laid down with them. In California, a woman attempting suicide jumped from a bridge and remained suspended in midair for forty-five minutes until she was rescued.

Members of “The Association for the Advancement of Atheism” gathered in New York City for a mass protest. The Thursday night broadcast had a theological tone:

“Every pebble beneath your feet, every drop of water, is a miracle, but since you have lost your ability to feel awe, I have had to perform today these other miracles … However, this will not convince the diehards. Hence on the morrow, Friday, I shall perform several sizable miracles … And promptly at noon I shall sink the continent of Australia beneath the sea for one minute.” Australia remained calm. As predicted, promptly at noon the continent began to sink. After the last Church steeple had disappeared, the BBC newscaster counted off the seconds: “Fifty-eight, fifty-nine, sixty … Up she comes, good old Australia, none the worse for wear.” Meanwhile all military equipment owned by the United States and Russia was miraculously cut into scrap metal. Friday’s broadcast was devoted to picking up loose ends: “Must My visit mean that the world is coming to an end? For heaven’s sake, listen to your soul; do as it bids you. Good night.”

On Saturday, all the dictators of the world resigned. All the exploiters of the world changed their ways. For ninety-nine percent of the human race, the earth had become a friendly, pleasant place. The Lord’s Saturday night radio address was His last: “Now I shall take my leave. You will find that most of your problems remain. You will still have pain and unhappiness; you will need to feed and clothe and govern yourselves. Need I tell you why? A planet is a school. Live, dear children, and learn.”

How do you suppose the people lived from then on? If God should appear in this awesome way to us, how would we react? Would we be like the Pharisees in today’s Gospel Lesson, intellectualizing the event and trying to make judgments concerning God’s initiative? Or, like the blind man whom Jesus miraculously healed, would we simply rejoice in the experience of God’s Amazing Grace, saying, “We only know that we were blind and now we see.” Would we slide back to “things as they were” or would we have learned how to venture into a new world of “things as they ought to be?” Would Planet Earth become for us a Divinely created school of learning how to love, or would it be the same old battleground?

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
was blind but now I see.

What are your thoughts about amazing grace?

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