“Come Correct” John 9:1-7
9:1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.
9:2 His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
9:3 Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him.
9:4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.
9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
9:6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes,
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.
For the past two weeks ago, the rave across the country by Senator Hillary Clinton and others has accused Illinois Senator Barak Obama of speaking flowing and flowery words without substance. They were glad to announce that he had lifted words from another man’s speech. He was basically accused of plagiarism, for using words and not giving credit to the original speaker. This original text of the speech was by Devall Patrick Governor of Massachusetts in 2006 and the same words were spoken by Brother Barak in 2008 seemed to me to be the highest form of flattery. The statement went like this, “Just words, Just words; we hold these truths to be self evident…that all men are created equal…just words, just words; We have nothing to fear but fear itself…just words, just words; ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country…” The accusation by his pundits is that words don’t matter. It takes skill to be real, time to heal each other And though it seems heaven-sent We ain't ready, to have a black President, huh…Tupac, Just words? How many shots does it take, to make my heart stop and my body start to shake, if I should die before I wake…Notorious BIG, Just words…Seem like everybody got something to say. That’s the beauty of Hip-Hop anybody that can speak can have some words.
In the hip hop world, repetition of another artist’s words is called getting jacked. I don’t know what you call it when someone lets you borrow your stuff. Preacher’s do the same thing from time to time. We lift words from wherever we can to make a point. Word’s do matter. Word’s spoken in the right time and season have impact. We grew up with the rhyme, “Sticks and stones make break your bones but names will never hurt me.” The words your momma would use to repair your hurt feelings when others would hurt you with words. Words mean so much at the right moment. Timing is everything, in comedy; hip-hop and preaching a word must be in season. We all look for words of encouragement and enlightenment to help us make it through the day. For some of us, to be encouraged and no one speaks a word we write our own. The words we write are words that give life, John puts it this way “believe on me as the scripture has said and out of your belly shall flow rivers of living water.” In the first chapter of John its says that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us we beheld His Glory as only begotten of the Father.”
When we write from the soul we feel it, there must be a flow, a rhythm, which is derived from life. We preach and talk about what we feel. We live this thing called the word. In the hip-hop world your words must be authentic, keeping it real. In the hip-hop world we got a problem when your stuff ain’t original or it’s not based existentially. What is deepest in our soul God communicates it through us. Some of us are not the strongest, the smartest, the most educated, but we have a real, on-time, authentic, anointed word.
Michael Eric Dyson reports that Hip hop is the soul of a generation that is expressed in their outward expression of their hope, dreams, disappointments, telling the stories of despair yet in the frame work of overcoming the powers that be. Gangsta Rap has caused the world to forget the true roots of hip-hop. Darby & Shelby - Hip-Hop & Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason talks of The Fifth Element … Knowledge. The fifth element of hip-hop has always been knowledge. This element is a broad one, and can be seen to include everything from self-consciousness and cultural awareness to social and political philosophies and new patterns of thinking. Yet this fifth element is continuously, almost blatantly, ignored, so much that everyone nowadays appears to believe that hip-hop is, and always has been, composed of the more mundane aspects. Michael Eric Dyson Author of Know What I Mean? Says, “There are some, like jazz great Wynton Marsalis, who dismiss hip hop as adolescent “ghetto minstrel-(see)sy.” Critics like Marsalis see rap as little more than ancient stereotypes wrapped in contemporary rhymes.” Other prominent observers, such as social critic Stanley Crouch, Dyson says, claim that the deficits of hip hop blare beyond the borders of ugly art to inspire youth to even uglier behavior. Crouch contends in his column for the New York Daily News that hip hop’s “elevation of pimps and pimp attitudes creates a sadomasochistic relationship with female fans.” I believe just as there are critics of hip hop there are critics of the church and just as there were critics of the church there are critics of Jesus.
The problem is that the ‘good news,” the word that we preach, rap, talk about is sometimes not what folk expect. Sometimes in the church folk are looking for the normal three pointed sermons, filled with biblical nomenclature. But words, poetry, rap and even sermons that change the world don’t use the language and the words of the religious. They are different and bring about extraordinary results. I paraphrase Dyson’s words Hip hop is hyped in overstatement, misrepresentation, tastelessness, dramatic license, double entendres when ambiguous or other words are used to cover the risque’, implications, and other mythical and artistic standards to get its point across. Yet the true artist and hip hop lover finds a way to push past the hype and deliver the truth.
That is where we find our text today. Jesus, who was not normal religious figure of his time, sometimes distancing himself from Pharisees and Sadducees and he who was not typical did battle on this day with the religious folk, who did things in a normal religious way. He pushes past the hype and delivers. He is confronted by the Pharisees after his act of healing a blind man who was born blind. Being born blind had and has stigma. The disciples observe the man and get theologically deep asking “Rabbi who sinned?” It moves from a problem of physical proportion to the spiritual. In Jewish culture it was assumed that disorders or disease of the nation or individuals were attributed to sin. An age old discussion as summarized in the rabbinic saying from around A.D. 300 that "there is no death without sin and there is no suffering without iniquity" (b. shabbat 55a). The existence of suffering poses an obvious problem for the monotheistic religions. Why does an all-powerful, benevolent God allow humans to suffer? And given that God does, what is the appropriate human response? Responses to Suffering in Classical Rabbinic Literature By David Kraemer
But the case of a person born blind raises the question of whose sin caused this condition, that of his parents or of the person himself while in the womb. The idea that the parents' sins can affect their children finds support in the Old Testament itself (Ex 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,), as does its antithesis (Ezek 18:20 "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.). Likewise the rabbis debated whether fetuses could sin, some arguing they could and others that they could not. Similar to the debate whether a fetus is viable prior to the 22 week mark or gestation.
Where I would like to focus today is the 6th and 7th verses. The miracle of sight is spiritually is the crux of the text, but today as you celebrate the Hip-Hop Mass, the 9th chapter of John is perfect. The Revised Common Lectionary was designed for this day, because Jesus takes that which would be least expected, mud; or that people has not use for mud; he uses to heal a blind man.
Compare and contrast mud and hip-hop. Hip ho is viewed by many in the same vein as slave songs, negro spirituals, boogie-woogie, the blues, swing, rock and roll, soul, rhythm and blues and funk. At one time they had no place in the church, however they have made there way in one form or another. They church uses the (Oreaumus) hymnal of 1982 (85), but the LEV, reaches back to the soul of our people and incorporates that which was once rejected. Soon and Very Soon, by Andre Crouch, at first rejected by the church. We’ll Understand It Better By and By; Charles Tindley, rejected. I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired by James Cleveland, rejected. Oh Freedom…before I’ll be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave a form of protest and rejection of oppression. The church has not always been receptive of the moves of songs and worship which were once referenced as cultish and for the ignorant who knew not God.
Those educated in land grant colleges, the black men and women, the hope of the slave, et.al. those rejected by the church, Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, Fannie Lou Hamer, Medgar Evers, Martin King, Malcom X all rejected by the mainline majority church, yet their mere words and their mere songs of freedom all have some way somehow incorporated themselves into the church. The reason is that they touch the soul. That is the key to hip-hop does it touch the heart and soul. Jesus after hearing the question from his disciples “Who sinned this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus Answers in 9: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. He then spits on the ground. Makes a pack of mud and applies it to the blind man’s eyes. How radical is that? Today Hip-Hop becomes the radical mud pack applied to the eyes of the religious and the spiritually blind.
The critics, just as in the world today were here in the text. Vs. 6 represents the unorthodox way Jesus makes the pack, just like hip-hop and vs. 7 Just like those here today that are thinking how in the world could he see, without coming through the temple priesthood and can see, can hip-hop when you wash in the words of it make an impact? When they leave here today and someone comes to know the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. They too will see. That’s the point of Hip-Hop Mass, use hip-hop as the vehicle, to heal the broken hearts of your young friends, use hip-hop to go places old folk and religious folk, won’t go, use hip-hop to express your anger and use hip-hip to express your love. Hip-hop to the hibbie, ya don’t stop, no matter who don’t like it, and while your at it, look for blind folk, and lame folk, and hungry folk and folk in prisons, and folk naked and homeless, then we will see the true power of words.
The man testifies, 8His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, "Isn't this the same man who used to sit and beg?" 9Some claimed that he was. Others said, "No, he only looks like him." But he himself insisted, "I am the man." 10"How then were your eyes opened?" they demanded. 11He replied, "The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see."
Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see.