A sermon without application is like a joke without a punchline. What's the point?
Our pastor's sermon yesterday could have been a newspaper headline. In fact, I think it was. But let's deal with Ron's sermon first.
He based it on one of the most compelling miracles in the gospels. From John 9. The man born blind.
Upon meeting the man born blind, Jesus spat on the ground, made mud, and placed the mud on the blind man's eyes. Jesus then told the man to go wash his eyes in a specific pool.
The blind man obeyed -- and his sight was restored. His neighbors took him to the Pharisees, who were not amazed at the healing, but were scandalized that the healing had taken place on the Sabbath.
When the blind man could not answer the questions of the Pharisees, he responded: "If this man were not from God, he couldn't do a thing!” Enraged, the Pharisees cast him out of the Synagogue.
And Jesus' response? When he heard that the religious establishment had rejected the blind man, Jesus went to him and ministered to him.
This has long been one of my favorite stories because it reminds us that the religious establishment does not always get things right. Out of legalism -- out of fear -- out of utter hubris -- otherwise good and moral people can act in a way that throw people whose souls are thirsty out of their midst.
I have been there. And I know the resentment that can quench faith -- just as certainly as rain will extinguish an unprotected taper.
I hope that does not happen to Sunnie Kahle. You have probably read about her in the news. The 8-year old girl who is the very essence of an American archetype -- the tomboy. She cuts her hair short, wears boys' clothes, collects hunting knives, and loves to shoot her BB gun. In another era, she would be Annie Oakley or Scout Finch.
In Virginia, she is anathema. Or, at least, to the administrators of the Timberlake Christian School where young Sunnie attended classes.
The administrators were alarmed that Sunnie was not a bit more -- well, feminine. The principal sent a letter to Sunnie's grandparents, who are raising her, that rather missed the second word in the school's name: "[W]e believe that unless Sunnie as well as her family clearly understand
that God has made her female and her dress and behavior need to follow
suit with her God-ordained identity, that TCS is not the best place for
her future education."
Her grandparents agreed. At least, with the last part of the sentence. They pulled Sunnie out of the school.
Now, this is not one of the culture war battle lines that clutter the news. Sunnie is not at all confused about who she is. She is a girl. She likes being a girl. But she simply likes doing things that some people consider male.
I suspect that Sunnie will weather this little storm with no trouble. Just as Scout would. The quaint term "plucky" seems to be coined for her.
Sunnie's grandmother, Carroll Thomson, has it right. What she lacks in grammar, she makes up for in insight: "I don't see nothing Christian about it."
Nor would Jesus.
But Jesus would also remind us that we are to minister to the blind. And, in that sense, I pray that the administrators of Timberlake Christian School -- and those who use doctrine to bind -- would experience an opening of their eyes to share the grace they have found in their faith.
And, while we are it, I could probably use a bit of mud on my eyes, as well.