“Willie’s Story”

 

Dr. Clifton Howard, Assistant to Bishop

Central Texas Conference

 

 

 

It begins on a normal day. Willie (as we shall call him) is already into his daily routine. He is at his job, doing what he must to provide for his needs. Willie expects this day to be no different from all his other days. But OMG, this day, he quickly realizes, is like no other!

 

Willie is blind—born blind. Born into a time when there is little hope for someone like him. There are no optometrists. No ophthalmologists. No specialists or amazing technology or cutting-edge procedures. For Willie, there is no chance of ever experiencing the beauty of God’s good creation. The best he can hope for is that as he daily sits in his regular place passers-by will be generous and drop a coin or two into his cup.

 

This day, however, something extraordinary happens. This one guy comes by where he is sitting. He doesn’t know the guy. Never heard of him before. This guy puts something on Willie’s eyes and instructs him to go wash in a nearby pool—which Willie does.

 

(This is where the story gets very interesting.) To his amazement, after Willie washes in the pool, he can see! Incredible! No one ever heard of such a thing! A tremendous thing has been done for Willie!! Willie is overcome with gratitude, amazement, and joy.

 

One would expect that when his friends and family get the news that they too will be overjoyed. But it doesn’t work out quite that way for Willie. What he didn’t know is that community leaders didn’t like this guy who had done this thing for Willie. In fact, they were looking for any chance to discredit him.

Instead, they interrogated Willie. “Who did this thing for you? It could not have been done by someone sent from God since this deed was done on the Sabbath—not according to established protocol. And of course, anyone who breaks the Sabbath is a sinner.” By now Willie is wondering why folks aren’t praising God for this amazing miracle instead of using it as an opportunity to get at the guy who opened his eyes.

As they press Willie, insisting that this guy who did this thing was a charlatan, Willie gave this marvelous testimony: “Whether the guy (Jesus) is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” Indeed.

 

Perhaps you remember this story from John’s gospel. It is an awfully wonderful text. It would seem that Jesus did this deed without any thought for anyone but Willie. In the moment when Jesus touched Willie’s eyes, it was as if Willie and Jesus were the only two people on the planet. Such is Jesus’ love for Willie—and for us, each and every one.

 

But no sooner does Jesus pour out this special blessing on him, that Willie is thrust into a situation where he must testify, an arena which will not permit anonymity. This powerful, wonderful, amazing thing Jesus has done just for Willie, is not, it seems, only just for Willie. Is it possible that someone who heard Willie’s testimony was drawn closer to Jesus? So this makes me think. All the ways Jesus blesses me (us) is not just for me (us). His blessings are at the same time an appeal for me (us) to witness, to testify like Willie did, “One thing I know. I was blind but now I see!” It is a call to not be silent—even in the face of trial or difficulty or hardship—on the outside chance that someone might hear and turn toward the one who makes the blind see. Lord make me a faithful witness.

 

Shalom.

 

 

 

February 19th, 2021 – Waco, TX – 9:00-3:30

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