Rev. Tracy Ogden Johnson

A letter from the Pastor’s desk - March 2017
I used to take dirt baths.  Back when I was a kid we had a tree swing in the back yard, where the grass beneath had been worn away, and the most soft, fine, perfectly tan-colored dirt remained.  Once I got tired of swinging, I’d sit down in the shade in that dirt under the swing, and I’d rub the soft dirt up and down my arms.  I have no idea why I enjoyed doing that on a hot summer day, but I hate to admit that I did!
I have a colleague, a fellow pastor and Bible teacher, who writes that she went to a specialty spa once, and took a mud bath.  It was a big bathtub filled with fine, black-as-tar mud that she was invited to get into and totally cover herself up to her neck.  She soaked there for an hour as I recall.  Maybe I should try that sometime—not!
Dirt baths are one thing, and I suppose mud baths might be OK for some, but having mud—made out of spit and saliva, mind you—well, that seems to be something totally different.  Yet that’s exactly what happened.  The story is in the Bible—in John chapter 9.  Jesus comes upon a man “blind from birth,” and proceeds to heal him by making mud out of his own spit then sending him off to wash in a nearby pool.
Every time we come across this story in family devotions, Scarlett hacks and chokes and says how gross it is.  She loves Jesus, but still she sputters, “why, oh why, would Jesus do a thing like that!?”  I think most of us would agree.  (Though probably without the sound effects).
Good question.  The answer is interesting.  It seems, at least by some interpreters, that Jesus was trying to bring to light the fact that the Pharisees, those who were most upset by this action, were consumed with the Law.  So consumed, in fact, that they were so focused on Jesus’ “working on the Sabbath,” than they were about the health and well-being of the previously-blind man.  They had a rule that forbid spitting on the Sabbath.  Michael Card writes that they specifically cautioned “that the spit might run downhill and make mud, and making mud is work” (Card, John: The Gospel of Wisdom).
Something happens to us when we focus on the Law.  When we spend our time remembering all the rules we are supposed to obey, and which of course we fail to obey with perfect success, we begin to get the wrong ideas.  We start dwelling on things like:
·      I’ve done too much wrong,
·      I’ve committed too much sin.
·      I’m not worthy of forgiveness.
·      How can God love me?
What we forget is that, in this story, Jesus focuses instead on grace as opposed to law.  He doesn’t worry about human-made rules and laws to the neglect of the life-giving power of healing and forgiveness.  It’s a lesson we’d all do well to remember.
I shared more about this passage in Sunday morning’s message, so if you missed it feel free to give me a call and we can discuss it further.  But it’s important to remember that the “blind man” didn’t stay blind—either physically or spiritually.  After he washed as Jesus instructed him, he could see for the first time in his life.  More significantly, though, by the end of the story he saw Jesus for who He truly was, the Lord and Son of God.  During this season of Lent, as we spend time focusing on the cross of Jesus and His willingness to offer Himself on behalf of our sin, let’s give grace a try.  Let’s get all those negative thoughts out of our heads, and bask in the glory and truth of the love Jesus has for us instead.  My prayer is that your eyes will be opened—and your heart also!
Pastor Tracy


  July 2021  
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