Daily Scripture and Prayer August 2020
Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church
The final verses of John 8 show us just how the establishment chose to make sense of Jesus when they couldn’t see past their own blinders, habits of mind and convictions. They did what we all often do when threatened and knocked off balance, they decided he was crazy and should be either ignored or disposed of. Chapter 9 gives us Jesus’ third healing story. It is about a man born blind and deals poignantly with both physical and spiritual blindness. This long and wonderful story shows us what life is like for the ‘blessed, healed, redeemed and enlightened’ who live in a fear based world unable to accept the light of Christ. Remember, that John was probably written during the time shortly after the followers of Jesus, who believed that he was Messiah, were expelled from the synagogue. Prior to that, Jesus’ disciples understood themselves to be a reform movement within Judaism. That soon became untenable for both sides. The bitterness of the conflict in these verses is best understood against that background.
August 1 – John 8:48-49 – The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.” [There was long standing antipathy between Jews and Samaritans, centuries long. Each believed the other had perverted the faith. Each believed that they were the only true descendants of the 12 tribes. Surely they know Jesus is not a Samaritan, but they can come up with no other explanation for him. He was either a heretic of possessed by a demon. This is pure projection! When the powerful are threatened, or any of us really, it is common for us to project our own evil or brokenness onto others. It is easier to say “This guy is nuts” than to listen, look within and open up. The word ‘demon’ was used to describe any presence, force or process that was destructive to human life, truth, and that made it difficult to see and enjoy God.]
Prayer: Dear God, it is so easy to project our own unhealed hurts on to others and vilify them rather than try to understand them. Help us today to examine our hearts for any hardness. Open us up to receive your word and will afresh, even if it makes us uneasy. We want to meet and serve you. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 2 – John 8:50-51 – “Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my words will never see death.” [‘Judge’ again is krisis which means to separate and force a decision. ‘Very truly’ is literally Amen. Amen. This is a signal formula used to introduce major and for all time teaching. ‘Keep’ means to watch over and guard from harm. There are a number of words for ‘see’ in Greek. A general word for to see with the eyes is horao. It also means to be subject to. The word used here, however, is from the root thorao which means to discern clearly. What he is saying is that those who live in the light and guard that light will never (never ever…the word is a strong one) see death as having any power for them. They will always see it as a passage to what is even greater.]
Prayer: Dear God, sometimes we can see neither with our hearts nor our minds. We look on the surface of things when depth is called for, so we look for answers to the wrong questions. Forgive us and help us to discern clearly your presence and your promise. Heal our fear and calm our wandering minds. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 3 – John 8:52-53 – The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our Father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?” [How these folks could have missed what Jesus was saying so totally is a testament to how conditioning and literal mindedness miss all nuance! They think (as did many of Jesus’ early followers, by the way,) that he is saying that their biological bodies will not literally die. So, of course, they use that misunderstanding to harken back to what they see as a greater authority: Abraham. If Abraham died, then just who did Jesus think he was? The phrase they use here is interesting. They don’t ask Jesus who he thinks he is, like we might. They ask, rather, who are you elevating yourself to be?]
Prayer: Dear God, it is so hard for us, too, to imagine eternity. What does it mean for us to live forever? As we watch friends and family members leave this life, as we prepare for that in our own hearts, as we watch the toll of covid-19, of cancer, of violence, help us to see beyond our senses. Helps us to live beyond our fears. Help us to rest in your certain love, to trust that for us the future is always bright and filled with love and restoration. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 4 – John 8:54-57 – Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and keep his word. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad. Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”[There is a lot here. In the first verse, Jesus is basically just saying, “I’m not elevating myself to be anybody.” Then it gets even testier. The word for ‘know’ (ginosko) in ‘though you do not know him’ is the word for coming to know from intimate experience over time. The word for ‘know’ in ‘But I know him’ is from oida which means to have seen or perceived from observation absolutely. For any of what Jesus is saying to make sense they must see from a much broader perspective.]
Prayer: Dear God, how can we see from the wide and wild perspective of eternity in which there is no time? It boggles us. And yet it is our truth. We are living already in ‘eternity.’ Help us then, to stay in the moment with love. Help us to search each breath for the whispers of your eternal Spirit breathing in and through us. Help us to lift our hearts and live with the confident hope of never ending love and life. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 5 – John 8:58-59 – Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the Temple. [Here Jesus uses the Divine Name (I AM) to try to help them see who he is and from whence he really came. It is too much. They can only hear blasphemy (which is the charge that actually sticks for his crucifixion). The penalty for blasphemy is death by stoning. In writing about this verse, St. Augustine said “As man he fled the stones, but woe to the ones from whose hearts of stone God flees!”]
Prayer: Dear God, where are hearts are hard, soften them. Where we dismiss the ones you send to help us see, forgive us. Take the stones from our hands. Help us to hold, even our most deeply held understandings to you in uplifted hands for further illumination. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 6 – John 9:1-2 (third healing story) – As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” [The ancestors believed that everything that happened came directly from God by intention, good or bad. So, if something bad happened it had to be a matter of God’s justice. Therefore, they thought of all illness as having a theological origin. Job being an exception. Remember too, that for John blindness was a symbol for lack of insight, spiritual darkness. Hearing this story read to them, John’s community would have been on their toes thinking, ‘What this man really needs is to see Jesus!]
Prayer: Dear God, why is it that we need somebody to blame for everything, even if that someone is you? What would it be like for us if, in praying with these verses, we focused not on trying to understand suffering and assign blame, but rather, on the fact that you walk near, see with your own eyes what we are going through and move to respond? It would be like a peace that passes understanding, wouldn’t it? Help us, Lord, to live in that peace and to share it with others. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 7 – John 9:3 – Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind do that God’s works might be revealed in him.” [There are times in the gospels when Jesus does acknowledge a connection between illness and behavior. Not here. Here he says that nobody caused the problem. Rather, it was permitted and would be made useful. Trouble often provides the means through which God’s greater power can be discerned. Jesus is talking about the context of this man’s spiritual transformation. That is the glorious work that will be revealed, as we will see.]
Dear God, Help us today to remember that nothing with you is ever wasted, no situation, no opportunity, no hardship, no failure, no suffering. In everything you work for good and use even the painful circumstances that we cannot avoid to bring transformation. Help us to open ourselves to all of your healing work. Use us today and every day to show your glory. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 8 – John 9:4 – “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” [It is not immediately clear to whom the ‘we’ refers. Is Jesus talking about him and his followers? Is he speaking in such a way as to urge his detractors inclusion? Is he speaking of himself in the Godhead? The verse has a nuanced meaning in each case. The word ‘work’, erga, simply refers to what one does. ‘Day’ and ‘night’ in John always point to enlightenment and its lack. In a sense, Jesus is day, and his absence is night.]
Prayer: Dear God, you are our light and in you there is no darkness at all. Shine brightly on us and within us today, that we and others may see more and more of your truth. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 9 – John 9:5 – “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”[‘As long as’ could better, in my opinion, be translated as ‘when.’ When Jesus is present, enlightenment flows. ‘World’, kosmos, refers to the earth. It is sometimes used to refer to the present condition of the whole universe. John does not use ‘world’ in the negative sense that Paul does to refer to systemic sinfulness in individuals or groups. John refers to that concept as darkness.]
Prayer: Dear God, each day you fill the world with the light of your love and truth. Sometimes we forget to notice and so we stay stuck. Even then, light pours forth from you, throughout the whole universe. Where you are, the light of love shines. Thank you! Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 10 – John 9:6 – When he said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes,” [The use of spittle for cure is ancient and rooted in the belief that the life essence of a person was contained in their bodily fluids. This ancient thinking lay behind a number of the odd holiness codes. It was why menstruating women were considered unclean. It was why semen was considered sacred. (You can see the gender bias there, I assume.) In this context, people probably thought that a bit of the power of Jesus was contained in his saliva so making a paste from that would be powerful medicine indeed.]
Prayer: Dear God, You share your essence with us in so many ways! In the sacred words of scripture, in the mysteries of nature, in the blessed sacrament, in your indwelling presence. We thank you, O God, that we do not have to search for you. You have already found us and offered us every healing gift we could possibly need. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 11 – John 9:7 – saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. [ Jesus uses a different word for ‘see’ here. This word comes from the root blepo which means both to see with the eyes and to see with the mind and heart. In other words, physical and spiritual sight. In Greek there are several words that mean ‘to wash.’ Plyno means to wash a garment. Louo means to wash the whole body. Nipto means to wash only a part of the body. Nipto is used here. He only needs to wash his eyes. To the early readers this would have had great significance! Jesus was reaffirming that sin was not the problem. He did not need the ritual cleansing of whole body washing.]
Prayer: Dear God, we want to see with eyes, minds and spirits! Help us to cleanse, with your presence and essence, anything in us that gets in the way of that. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 12 – John 9:8 – The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” [People with disabilities had no choice but to beg in the ancient world, unless, of course, they had family money. Begging was accepted but frowned upon because people blamed the disabled person for his fate.]
Prayer: Dear God, how many times have we seen your children, broken and in need, and passed by with judgement? No, don’t tell us. We couldn’t bear it. How many times have we been surprised by the transformation of someone we had given up on? Help us today to trust that you are at work in every person, in every circumstance. Help us to be those who see potential and offer hope and not those who are stunned that others might really change. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 13 – John 9:9-10 – Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” [The whole community is flummoxed. So much so, that they don’t even trust their own sight!]
Prayer: Dear God, sometimes your greatness is too much for us to comprehend. We look at the grace of our own lives and can hardly believe it. We see how we ourselves have grown in spirit and hardly recognize our old small selves. Oh God, may we be people who, when other see us, they marvel at what has happened in our lives so much that they ask again and again. Help us each time they ask to simply say: “Jesus!” Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 14 – John 9:11 – He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” [I love this verse! It reminds us that healing is participatory. Jesus saw, acted, commanded action. The man obeyed. The point here is that healing (emotional, spiritual or physical) is entered into through obedient action.]
Prayer: Dear God, concretely and specifically show me this day what I am to do to partner with you in my own continued healing and transformation. And one further request, when you show me what to do, strengthen me with you own power to respond in obedience. Without your help, there is no hope. With you, there is everything I need. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 15 – John 9:12 – They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” [It is interesting that Jesus did not feel it necessary to accompany the man to the pool. He simply offered his essence, gave direction and set the man off to follow through.]
Dear God, Sometimes my zeal exceeds my follow through. I expect you, not just to guide me to right action, but to take my hand and walk me through it. Sometimes that is what I need and I trust that in those times that is what you will do. Sometimes what I need is to grow up and take responsibility for my own healing by doing as you suggest. Help me Lord to claim with confidence the freedom that you offer. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 16 – John 9:13-15 – They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” [Yikes! It was Sabbath and no work was allowed on Sabbath. Emergency healings could take place if the person might not live until the next day. Or one could get one’s ox out of a ditch to prevent it being injured and the like. Still, this man had been blind all of his life. Why did Jesus not wait until the next day? Sabbath was always intended as a day or reorientation of our hearts and lives toward God. Not knowing how, or even really wanting to do that, we set elaborate rules that gave boundaries to the day. In doing so, we sometimes substituted rules for being ruled, custom for reorientation. That is an over simplification, obviously. There is much that is truly holy about the ancient Sabbath practices. But for the purpose of this text, the issue is that to adhere to the rules would have been the opposite of reorienting life toward God. Those who took the man to the Pharisees may not have taken him for judgment or they might have. The Pharisees were scandalized in either case.]
Dear God, sometimes we, too, are scandalized by your love that knows no boundaries and refuses to stay in the neat boxes in which we so carefully try to place it. Forgive us, Lord, for trying to make you so small, for assuming that we always know when, who and how you will love, heal and transform. Help us just to rejoice and get out of your way! Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 17 – John 9:16 – Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. [‘This man’ refers to Jesus. Some were firmly entrenched in their ideas and saw Jesus as a lawbreaker not from God. Others wondered how the power Jesus displayed could have any other source. The word ‘divided’ here is scisma and it means to pull apart by taking sides.]
Dear God, We know too much from our own lives about taking sides and losing sight. We know how to divide and push people outside our circles. We know a lot less about how to live in, and rejoice in, your ever expanding circles of love and inclusion. Help us to relinquish our dualistic thinking, that I am right automatically means that if you differ, you are wrong. Help us to live in a bigger light in which we see our truth, cherish it, but do not claim to own it exclusively. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 18 – John 9:17-19 – So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” [‘Prophets’ were holy ones from God who were considered to be so close to God that they could speak and act for God. The authorities were not convinced. Human beings often discredit what seems to threaten us.]
Prayer: Dear God, when we look at this scene it is almost comic. The healed man is courage in skin. He knows his truth and who has brought God’s power into his life. The leaders, utterly undone, tell him to call his mom! Help us not, in the name of rationality or education or privilege, to discredit the stories of amazing grace with which we are presented. Help us, rather, to examine our resistance and open to a little more light. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 19 – John 9:20-23 – His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” [The parents are so afraid of the authorities power of them that they can’t even celebrate their son’s healing! These parents are so afraid that they even throw their own son to the wolves. The word for ‘afraid’ here, comes from the root, phobos. Big fear. It means to run in fright. The word ‘agreed’ is for formal agreement, a verdict. This is courtroom language. ‘Confessed’ is also a formal legal term. To be put out of the synagogue meant that they would no longer have access to the sacrificial system and would therefore have no way to deal with their sin.]
Prayer: Dear God, who would we be willing to sacrifice if we were that afraid? I shudder to think! Remove from us today any fear that allows us to sacrifice others to keep ourselves safe. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 20 – John 9:24-25 – So for the second time, they called the man who had been blind and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man 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.” [This language is a traditional oath much like we would take in court. This man’s courage is truly remarkable. You can just feel the ongoing transformation happening. Contrast this with the man who was healed at Bethzatha. The healed man uses blepo for see. Remember, that is the word for whole being seeing, spiritual, physical and mental clarity.]
Prayer: Dear God, all I can say is, I was blind and now I see! Each day, I pray you to clear my vision more and more! Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 21 – John 9:26-27 – They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples?” [This whole exchange is poignant! We recognize the dynamic too well in ourselves! When confronted with an uncomfortable truth, humans tend to deny the facts. And yet, the transformed man becomes stronger and stronger by the moment.]
Prayer: Dear God, we live in a time of uncomfortable truths. All around us we see people trying to argue away simple facts. Give us the courage of the healed man to stand on what we know to be true, to grow stronger in faith and transformation day by day by day. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 22 – John 9:28-29 – 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.” [‘Reviled’ is a big word and used only here in scripture. It means to become abusive. It is a serious insult. When we can’t win an argument, people often resort to insults and personal attacks.]
Prayer: Dear God, in these verses your people were so afraid and angry they had to stretch to even find words to describe their fury, to contain their abusive actions. Wow. We see too much of these in our world right now. Lashing out when change is called for, and humility and an openness to something new. We don’t want to be like that, Lord, but we know how. Help us to grow in love and leave behind our defensive meanspiritedness once and for all. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 23 – John 9:30 – The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.” [This man is not backing down at all! He is calling them on their own contradictions.]
Prayer: Dear God, we know well our own contradictions and inconsistences, not just in theology but also in morality, in love itself. Help us to have the courage to be like the healed man even for ourselves. Help us to see when we need reform and to join in the dance! Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 24 – John 9:31-33 “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” [He is hoisting them on their own theological petards! It has become clear in the text who is really in need of healing.]
Prayer: Dear God, soften our hearts and minds that we can receive your transforming grace even if it comes at a cost to our firmly entrenched egos. Help us to see the freeing truth be set free. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 25 – John 9:34 – They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out. [They cannot tolerate the role reversal. In their anger and frustration, they blame the man for his condition. They can’t break his story or his character, so they banish him.]
Prayer: Dear God, sometimes we want to drive away and reject the very ones who bring us the truth we need the most. Forgive us and help us see what we are doing and change where we need to do so. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 26 – John 9:35 – Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” [‘Believe’ means to place one’s hope and trust into. ‘The Son of Man’ is a complex term and means different things in different Gospels. In Mark, for example, it seems to just mean ‘The Human One’ and was Jesus’ kind of humble way of referring to himself. In John, the years since Mark wrote have elevated the term to be a nearly divine appellation.]
Prayer: Dear God, help us to trust you. Forgive us when we forget and give us a new chance to try again. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 27 – John 9:36 – He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” [The healed man is eager to understand and ready to trust. He just needs to be taught.]
Prayer: Dear God, today I ask you for an open eagerness to learn more of you and to live more joyfully in your light! Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 28 – John 9:37-38 – Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped him. [The word for ‘see’ used here is the word for bodily vision, to see with one’s own eyes.. The word for ‘worship’ means to acknowledge the presence of God with reverence. It has a powerfully joyful component. It is related to the word for a dog wagging its tale when the master arrives home.]
Prayer: Dear God, today we are wiggled-tailed to greet you and to see the grace and opportunity that you will bring to us! Thank You! Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 29 – John 9:39 – Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” [What Jesus is saying here is that he came in order to create a crisis in which people will choose the light and those who don’t will go on their way in darkness.]
Prayer: Dear God, we are tired of crisis. And yet we have so much of it, all around us, even inside of us. Help us to make the choices that will lead to life and light, this and every day. Help us to look within the hardships to see the opportunities that they always contain. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 30 – John 9:40 – Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” [We are never ready for transformation if we don’t think we need it.]
Prayer: Dear God, we know our need, if we are honest with ourselves. And you know it even when we are not. Give us the grace of clear self-knowledge and the courage to find, behind clever ego’s masks, true hearts that beat for you alone. Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.
August 31 – John 9:41 – Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. [The ones who think they see everything and possess the truth as theirs alone are blind by choice. The ones who recognize their need are malleable, open, and therefore able to see. Here is the tough truth here: When our egos believe we have all the answers, we are closed to the truth.]
Prayer: Dear God, we know we do not have all the answers. We also know that you are the answer, and that in you we have light, life, grace and even a measure of wisdom. Help us to hold those gifts in open hands, always ready to be reformed, always ready for more! Open our eyes! In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.