Mud and Oil, Light and Understanding
- 1 Samuel 16:1-13
- Psalm 23
- Ephesians 5:8-14
- John 9:1-14
Come, Spirit of blessing, anoint me with your oil of promise. Do not look upon my appearance, but look at my heart, and choose me into courage for the future you have planned. (A Gift of Improbable Blessing by Maren Tirabassi, United Church Press, 1998).
Today’s readings are full of meaning and action: As David was being anointed by Samuel, he was empowered to speak for God as Israel’s king. In the story of the man born blind, Jesus spat on the ground to make a paste with his spittle, which he anointed the man’s eyes. Through this anointing, the blind man could see to follow Jesus. We are anointed by the Holy Spirit at Baptism, with the invitation to see anew and follow Jesus. The early church saw the healing of the man born blind as a metaphor for enlightenment: the Christian is called to see things differently.
Questions for reflection:
- What does it feel like to be chosen?
- What does it fee like not to be chosen?
- What is the relationship between oil and spirit?
- What is God’s mud?
- Does being healed make you unrecognizable by your former associates and friends?
- Where do you find traces (or more) of the belief that people cause their own misfortunes?
- What fears divide parents and children?
- What kind of healing is driven out?
- How do blindness and sin play off each other in today’s Gospel?
- How do judgment and healing play off each other in this passage?
Encounter the Story
After discussing today’s readings, gather around several bowls of mud and sweet-scented oil. Let everyone put their fingers in both substances and play. Ask some open-ended questions: How do we feel about mud and oil after these passages? What do we want to do with them – touch ourselves, our hands, our eyes, our heads, with one or the other? touch someone else? Does one or the other bother us? What prayers can be informed by such play? (Don’t forget to provide some wet towels!)
A reflection from Helen Keller
We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hands she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a mist consciousness of something forgotten – a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.
I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me . . . I learned a great many new words that day. I do not remember what they all were; but I do know that mother, father, sister, teachers were among them – words that were to make the world blossom for me, “like Aaron’s rod, with flowers.” It would have been difficult to find a happier child than I was as I lay in my crib at the close of that eventful day and lived over the joys it had brought me, and for the first time longed for a new day to come.
Thank you for the insights.