In the New Testament, the word "brethren" describes a community of men and women who chose another way of living: the way of Jesus. The Church of the Brethren, begun three centuries ago in Germany, still draws people who want to continue Jesus' work of faithfulness and loving service.
Though the Brethren as a group have existed for three hundred years, we subscribe to no formal "creed" or set of rules. We simply try to do what Jesus did.
Jesus brought a message of life, love, and hope. But he offered much more than inspiring words: He understood that people's spiritual needs also include day-to-day human ones — food, health, rest, comfort, friendship, and unconditional acceptance. "I am the way," he told his followers. He showed them how to trust, how to care, and how to help.
Steadily, lovingly, even radically, Jesus went about saving the world — by serving its people. Because we believe his message, we seek to do the same. from http://www.brethren.org/about/
In this week's story of the healing of "the man born blind," John uses "seeing" as a metaphor for believing, for coming
to perceive, past outward appearances, to the truth deep in the heart of things. (Remember his use of metaphors like "light and darkness,"
and "living water" in the readings for the past two Sundays?) The man whose sight is given to him by Jesus makes his way, like all
of us, toward belief and understanding, not suddenly or easily but in the course of a long story that leads to another personal encounter
The former beggar's openness and growing faith contrast sharply with the fearful, hesitant questions of his neighbors (how cynical they are not to rejoice!) and the downright judgmental reaction of the religious establishment. Curing on the Sabbath, breaking religious rules--how can this Jesus truly be "of God"?
Metaphor and irony
And yet "the man born blind" sees God's truth so
much better than those who spend all their time studying and talking about God. Metaphor, and irony. While the other characters in
the story remain at the end where they were at its beginning, the healed man's life is transformed, and he finds himself in a very
different place. And Jesus is there, in that very different place.
John told this story and used these images of seeing and not seeing, believing and not believing, to help an early Christian community find themselves in that story. They knew what it felt like to be driven out of the synagogue by the religious authorities, to be expelled from their "church home." (They were really feeling the lack of "extravagant hospitality"!) John helps them to connect their loss with the gain of grace in their powerful experience of conversion and healing, understanding and trust.
2017 Reflection: by Kathryn Matthews