Sunday, November 15, 2020

Exclusive Inclusivity and the Church

Sermon for the twenty-third Sunday after Trinity

Have you ever been forced to do something you didn't want to do through sheer peer pressure?


The way that a human society holds itself together is by making the idea of being an outcast very unpalatable. These days, being inclusive is something that we strive for: everyone must belong to our society as a valued part. It's very reasonable and well-intentioned. We Christians know full well that every single human being is a precious child of God.

These days we would not exclude people from society for being blind. We involve them in playing an active part and give them access to the same opportunities that are available to everyone. The fact that they are blind does not pose a barrier to being included in our society.

Unfortunately, this is not the case with the man born blind of whom St John is speaking in his gospel. This man is excluded precisely because he can't see: he can't work or contribute or participate in the temple; he probably looks different too if his eyes are not properly formed. The assumption that society makes is that he is blind because he has sinned and therefore he ought to be avoided by polite society. 

To an extent the Church agrees with that. Both St Peter and St Paul say that unrepentant sinners are to be put out of the Church until they do repent: those who seek to sin damage the community and that's not on.

But the blind man hasn't sinned. There's no sin here. There's no reason for his exclusion. What there is is incompleteness.


And so, God in Christ - He who formed Man in His own image from the dust of the earth - He takes the dust of the earth and completes the man's eyes Himself.

This is direct evidence that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

The man acknowledges his blindness and receives sight. And, just because he is healed by Our Lord, he is cast once more from polite society because he dares to tell the truth. He is cast out because he bears witness to Our Lord.

The sad thing is his parents do not stand by him. 

Oh yes, the world must hear of this wonderful healing from the lips of one who was blind but now sees, but his parents sell him short. They do not stand with him. They want to remain part of polite society and will not tell the truth so they don't get thrown out.


No society can be truly inclusive. Groucho Marx says that he would never join a society that would have him as a member. There is always some rule of conduct.

The Church is no different. The Church enjoys communion with God in Christ. Those who sin separate themselves from God therefore they separate themselves from the Church. But God gives a way back - repentance. Until we repent of sin, we remain apart from the Church. And only God can say what sin is because sin depends on what God is not.


Jesus seeks to bring the once-blind man back into society from which he should never have been excluded. And, thankfully, we have learned from this that the blind are to be included in our society to the fullest. If, however, a blind man tries to drive a car then he is acting unlawfully. Even in an "inclusive" society there are things in which it is for everyone's good to exclude the blind. It isn't cruel to do so nor diminishing but acknowledging the truth. 


The same is true for each of us. Human nature is broken and imperfect. It is true and honest to recognise and accept our imperfections and limitations. There are things which we cannot do without sinning. It is true and honest to recognise that we are tempted to go beyond our limitations and so fall into sin. It is true and honest to see where we have sinned and turn back.


As for the once-blind man, he is excluded from society for telling the truth. Our Lord shows that it is worth being excluded from such a society. The Church seeks the Truth because the Church seeks Christ. How can the Church embrace the falsehoods that Society wants us to hold?

It is better to be excluded from falsehood and included in the Truth for there is Christ and there is God. If you offend Society by telling the truth then Society will cut you off as Our Lord predicts. If you seek the Truth, however, then you are very much welcome in the Church.

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