The Gift of Memory

Vol. 19 No. 41 | October 15, 2017

This past Thursday, I headed to Memphis to join a friend for a charity golf tournament. The typical, random ‘thoughts-while-I’m-driving’ were floating around in my head until I got about forty miles from Memphis. I was suddenly consumed with the memory of driving down this same interstate exactly two years ago this week.

My sister had been very ill for several weeks. The family had kept in close communication with updates about changes in her health. After several days of little to no progress, I decided to go see her, despite the fact that she was so sedated, she most likely wouldn’t know I was there. As I was approaching Memphis, the late afternoon October sun hitting me in the face, I received a call from my brother saying she was not doing well at all, and he didn’t know how much longer she had.

My heart started racing as I sat trapped on I-40 West, stuck in the heavy, afternoon traffic, trying not to beat myself up for not going sooner. I finally got off the highway in an effort to find a quicker route and had just merged back on when my other brother called. She was gone. My heart sank and I could feel the pain rise up from the bottom of my soul.

As I approach that same intersection this Thursday afternoon, that scene and those events from two years earlier wash over me as if it had all just happened last week. And although I made it to my friend’s house and had a lovely evening of reconnecting and a beautiful day on the golf course, that painful memory lingered. It was a bitter-sweet reminder of the blessing and sometimes curse that our memories can be.

The curse of our memories is that they have the potential to enslave us to our past. If not channeled correctly, our memories will haunt us with our sins, mistakes, and failures. If we grant them the power, they can weaken and destroy us.

The blessing of our memories is that they can remind us of people, places, and events that have played a part in transforming us forever into who we are as God’s children.

When I remember that drive to Memphis two years ago, I am reminded of the unfathomable gift my sister was (and still is) to her husband, children, grandchildren, to me, my siblings, our families, and the multitude of other people who were fortunate enough to have their lives intersect with hers. There are few, if any, blessings that can ever compare with the memory I cherish of my sister.

I believe God has given us our memory as an opportunity to learn from our past and to remind us of who He is and how much He wants to be actively involved in our lives.

The rainbow is one example of a gift God has given us that serves as a reminder of His nature and love for us. It’s a rare and beautiful opportunity to take pause and reflect on His love and the magic that is all around us.

I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.” (Genesis 9:15-17, NIV)

Communion is another sacred gift God has provided to cultivate a relationship with us through his Son, Jesus, giving us an opportunity to regularly pause, reflect and express our gratitude for His amazing love.

For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:18-20, NIV)

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25, NIV)

The drive to Memphis will always remind me of a very sad October afternoon. But it will also always provide an opportunity to remember a wonderful lady who powerfully influenced my life. A rainbow can create a pause in my day that reminds me of how, from the very beginning, God has been by my side and is always doing good in my life. Even the simple act of eating and drinking creates an opportunity to remember that with God in my life, there is hope that is real, there is joy that is real, and there is peace that is real.

For me, it is a drive to Memphis. For you, it may be a song, a picture or letter, a piece of jewelry, or family tradition that serves as a reminder that God has been and always will be with you.

So this week, here is my gift to you – a reminder to take a moment when the opportunity presents itself, to remember, reflect and enjoy the gift of a memory.


A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved

I Love a Good Surprise

Vol. 19 No. 40 | October 8, 2017

I am writing this on an airplane headed to New York City on my way to Brooklyn. My wife had planned to make this trip to celebrate our oldest granddaughter’s sixth birthday. I had not planned to join her until a week ago when my schedule freed up last minute. We called our son to tell him but asked him not to tell the ladies (my daughter-in-law and two granddaughters). Surprise!

I have made similar trips through the years. I once surprised my daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter, and wife by walking into their church in Texas just as worship began and asking, “Excuse me. May I sit here?” I did a similar thing to my wife on Labor Day weekend on another visit to Texas. Surprise!

I have also been the beneficiary of a few good surprises myself. One Father’s Day, my son showed up at church to surprise me, and another time, my daughter showed up on Mother’s Day. On my 40th birthday, my wife went all out by planning a big celebration which included videos, letters, cards and a “Hats Off to Tom Salute.” I did get a little suspicious on that one, however. For months leading up to my birthday, every time a certain friend called, my wife would take the phone into the bathroom. That was pre-cell phones, so that meant stretching the phone from the kitchen into the bathroom.

I love a good surprise, and I know someone else who likes them, too. His name is Jesus.

There are countless occasions when Jesus surprised both His disciples and His enemies, beginning with His decision to leave His Father in heaven and come to earth to lead us to salvation. He surprised those who followed him and those who opposed him by healing the sick on the Sabbath; by turning a few fish and pieces of bread into a meal that fed thousands; by showing compassion and offering forgiveness to a woman who was caught in the act of adultery; by spending time with members of the community considered outcasts or deviants; and by changing water into wine (what was said to be an exquisite wine at that!).

He surprised His family by describing the Kingdom as more important than his father, mother, brothers, and sisters. And He surprised His disciples by choosing passive resistance when attacked and asking them to do the same. He surprised the world when He selected ordinary and seemingly unsavory people to join Him in building a new kind of Kingdom, describing his purpose as serving instead of being served.

He continues to surprise us by the fact that He was willing to suffer and die on the cross as a way to provide forgiveness and salvation for all of us. And then there was the ultimate surprise, when He came back from the dead, rolling away the stone that covered the entrance to His tomb and proving us proof that he had in fact, risen from the dead.

Our God loves a good surprise. The surprises I have had a part in planning and the times I have been surprised pale in comparison to God’s surprises. And although I try to imagine it, I am pretty sure that what we’ll experience when our time here has ended will be the ultimate surprise. Perhaps the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit will be greeting us with open arms, a big smile on their faces, shouting, “Surprise!

When was the last time you were really surprised? When was the last time you surprised someone? I hope you get the opportunity to surprise someone this week. And I hope you will allow yourself to be surprised by the One who started this whole business of surprising. Maybe it will be an awe-inspiring sunset, maybe it will be something profound you read in His Word. Even if you’ve read it before, maybe this time you will be surprised by the beauty and relevance His words have in your life.

God loves to surprise, so don’t be surprised when surprises you.


A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved

Don’t laugh. Believe

Vol. 19 No. 39 | October 1, 2017

Have you ever laughed at God?

A friend made a request of God that seemed outlandish. She boldly asked God to intervene and basically fix her son’s marriage. When you heard what she had prayed for, you couldn’t help but laugh. You gently tried to remind her that God doesn’t work like that, but she doesn’t care what you think. She is desperate and believes God can do it, so she asked.

A few weeks later you saw your friend again and asked how things were going with her son’s marriage. She immediately began to cry. “You cannot imagine what God has done. The very day I started praying for he and his wife, my son had lunch with an older gentleman from his church and shared what was going on. The man listened to him, prayed with him, gave him the name of a Christian counselor, and promised to stay in touch with him. He and his wife made an appointment, and after three sessions with the counselor, my son called and told me things have greatly improved and they are on the road to recovery.” Perhaps you shouldn’t have laughed, you thought to yourself

At the dinner table, your wife mentioned a friend from church who received a frightening diagnosis from her doctor. This friend has meant a lot to your family through the years, so your wife suggests that the family remember to pray for her. Later that night, you are putting your son to bed, and he begins to pray, “Dear God, please take care of Mrs. Thomas. She is really sick and we want her to get well. We don’t want her to die.” You kissed him on his forehead and smiled at his innocence as you walked out of the room. When you shared it with your wife, her eyes welled up with tears as she said, “Well, I said we needed to pray for her.”

For the next two weeks when you put your son to bed, he prayed the same prayer for Mrs. Thomas. And when the family prayed at meals, he reminded whomever was praying to pray for Mrs. Thomas. Then one night, just as you were about to sit down for dinner, your wife receives a call from Mrs. Thomas. All you heard was, “Oh, I am so thankful and happy for you. Thank you so much for calling.” She wiped tears from her eyes as she sat down. “That was Mrs. Thomas. She’s okay. The doctor told her today the tests showed that everything is clear.” Your son listened intently, and as your wife finished talking, he did a fist pump “Yes!”

There is a scene in the Jesus story where He was laughed at for doing the seemingly impossible.

While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep. “But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region. (Matthew 9:18-26, NIV)

Is there something you want to ask God to do, but you are hesitant because it seems like too much to ask? Please, ask.

Are you seeking God’s help in a situation that seems hopeless? Please, keep seeking.

Are you knocking on a door that has not opened, and you are beginning to wonder if it will ever open? Please, keep knocking.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7, NIV)

The more I learn about the way our Father works, the more I am reminded that He loves to do the impossible, surprise the unsuspecting, convince the doubter, and amaze even the believers. Laugh if you want, but I choose to believe.


A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved

The God of Peace

Vol. 19 No. 38 | September 24, 2017

The headlines from the last few weeks have included hurricanes, earthquakes, racial protests and riots, major tensions with Korea, terrorist bombings, and then someone predicted the world was going to end. If that does not make your blood pressure rise, think about your own stuff: your boss puts you in charge of a huge project with a very short turnaround; your child gets sick at school and then gets sick again in your car on the way home; your dog has to go to the vet; a strange light appears on your car’s dashboard; you forgot to pay your electric bill; a crown comes off your tooth; and you realize the milk has gone bad just after you started drinking it.

This is the world I live in. How about you?

You rush to get things done only to discover you have more to do. You feel stressed, rushed, overcommitted, overworked, and overwhelmed. You cannot concentrate, you have trouble sleeping, you can’t find time to exercise, and you want to eat everything in sight.

I can relate. I get that way too sometimes. But usually, after I fume and stew for a while, frustrated that I cannot fix everything, I eventually realize that God is nudging me back toward Philippians 4. So, I read it again.

5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:5−9, NIV)

Then, I read it again, asking God to show me what He wants me to see. And this is what He shows me.

Remember to be gentle to everyone. When you are under stress, you may get angry, irritated, and frustrated and forget the fact that I am near. Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with others. I am near you. (5)

Relax, takes a few deep breaths, give all your anxieties to me so that you can receive and enjoy the peace I have for you. (6-7) You cannot handle all of this alone. I can. Let me take it from you in exchange for my peace.

Get your head back where it needs to be. You have drifted away from healthy thinking. Think about the lovely things and lovely people. Think about truth, nobility, and purity. Focus on things and people who are worth admiring and strive toward excellence. Think about these things, focus on these things, and take time to meditate on them. (8)

Live the way you have learned. You have had been taught by good people, and you have learned well the things of God. Stay true to that. (8)

Enjoy my peace. I am with you. I am always with you. I am near you. My peace is your peace because you belong to me. (8)

Does it seem like the world is going crazy? Does it feel like the things you cherish most are slipping away from you? The fact that you are reading this is proof that it is not too late to make some changes. Try reading Philippians 4 a few times, and let the peace of God work into your heart.


A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved

I Found the Answer

Vol. 19 No. 37 | September 17, 2017

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32, NIV)

I think I found it, the answer to the questions we have been asking ourselves since the beginning of time. 

How can I make the world a better place?

What can I do to help stop the violence that is happening around us?

What can I do in my own little circle of influence to make life better for the people closest to me?

The answer isn’t profound. It doesn’t require a lot of energy, nor will it cost you a cent. It is actually very simple and something we all have the ability to do. \

Are you ready to hear what is going to change you and the world around you?

Be kind.

That’s it. Just be kind.

Be kind to your spouse, your boyfriend or girlfriend.

Be kind to your children, your parents and grandparents.

Be kind to your neighbors, your doctor and your patients.

Be kind to the cashier at the grocery store, the department store and the pharmacy.

Be kind to animals, the forests and our oceans.

Be kind to policemen, firemen and first responders.

Be kind to the postal worker, the FedEx driver and even the person who calls to tell you your credit is fine, but…

And most importantly, be kind to yourself. It starts there. It always starts there…


A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved

Everyone Is Welcome

Vol. 19 No. 36 | September 10, 2017

I have recently seen several church signs that say, “Everyone is welcome.” Maybe they have been there all along, but in light of current events, these signs seem to convey a more important message.

But my question is, ‘Why is it necessary for churches to say everyone is welcome’?

Every church sign I have seen carrying this message bears in some way the name of God, or Christ, or Jesus. But shouldn’t this go without saying? If the saints of God, Christians, and followers of Jesus are gathering, would it not be expected that everyone is welcome? But this doesn’t seem to always be the case

I remember a time when I invited a friend of mine with darker skin to attend a worship assembly in our congregation. I was promptly informed, “His church is up the road.”

I can also recall a friend telling me once about visiting what she called an ‘Awe shucks!’ church. The attitude she sensed when she walked through the doors was, ‘Awe shucks, we have visitors today’.

I hear about churches that make it very clear that if you had been married, divorced and remarried, you are welcome to attend, you just can’t do anything in the way of public service.

And then there are the church leaders who tell our youth ‘we’ need them; we need their energy, their spirit, and their ideas on worship. But when they try to inject the rest of the assembly with their energy, spirit, and ideas on worship, they are quickly shut down.

Sadly, these are not just preacher stories, except for the fact that I, a preacher, am telling them. I truly thought we were beyond these acts of intolerance, prejudice, and exclusion.

But I refuse to lose hope and choose to focus instead on the following demonstrations of tolerance and love for everyone, regardless of their age, skin color, sexual preference or place of origin.

As the children flocked in the streets to follow Jesus and were being shooed away by His disciples, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.”

As demonstrated in the Gospels, Jesus reached out and touched, healed, loved, and taught everyone who came to Him, despite the fact that other religious leaders condemned his style of ministry as flawed.

When Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

When Jesus proclaimed, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

When a boy strayed from his family, squandering all of the wealth of his inheritance, yet was still greeted with open arms by his father upon his return home.

I think of those who were forced to flee the rising waters of the Texas coast a couple of weeks ago, and of those who are fleeing the winds and rain of Hurricane Irma right now. I can only imagine that they are a desperately seeking a place of refuge where the doors are open and they are welcomed with open arms, regardless of their skin color, sexual preference, ethnic background or social status.

I think of them, of the devastation they have suffered, and all I can do is hope that if you have a sign in front of your church that says, “Everyone is Welcome”, you mean it. Or better yet, I hope that these signs will soon be unnecessary, that we will all work to come from a place of love, kindness, non-judgment, and acceptance.

Let us become those churches, ones governed so completely by the law of love, that people just know:

This church is a place of God, and everyone is welcome.


A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved

Pray and Help

Vol. 19 No. 35 | September 3, 2017

Like most of you I have watched, listened, been saddened, and felt completely at a loss as to what to say or do in response to the devastation and loss in Houston and other areas on the Gulf Coast of Texas. I have concluded that any words I might share at this point would be almost completely, if not completely irrelevant.

Many of you have already responded in some tangible way through your local churches and community relief organizations, the Red Cross, or other reputable helping organizations. The road to recovery will be long and difficult for the people who have lost homes, possessions, and businesses. I am thankful to Phil Ware (for many reasons) but especially for his words posted today on I can do no better than share his words that offer practical ways to help in his post: Pray and Help.

Pray and help.


A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved

Words of Peace

Vol. 19 No. 34 | August 27, 2017

I had been searching for these words for several days. I already knew these words, but I had misplaced them in the crevices of my mind. Or maybe I had just forgotten how to recall them. But then I saw the exact words I was searching for in the words of another writer. I found them again in the writing of another. When I prayed, “Lord, give me Your words.” I found them again.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27, NIV)

These words were spoken by Jesus to His followers in the midst of political turmoil, not so different from what we read and hear on a daily basis. These words were spoken into the world where racial and religious divisions were as evident as those we are acquainted with in our age of supposed enlightenment. These words were spoken to a group of people who knew the stress of difficult decisions and living in the pressure cooker of life, not so different from what we experience in our day-to-day lives of mobility and technology.

These words are repeated today as a reminder that peace is available to us today. This peace that Jesus promised was not available only to those who were walking closely with him. This peace is just as available to us as it was for the men and women who were witnessing the miracles and opposition that Jesus was leading them through. This same peace is available to us in the midst of our own political, religious, and racial unrest. These words remind us that Jesus can give us peace.

These words are repeated today as a reminder that much of humanity does not, and will not, accept this peace. The longer I live, the more I recognize that some people do not want the peace that Jesus offers. Individuals may say they are working for peace, but their words and actions reveal they are working for something else. The same offer from Jesus is still available and the same decision to accept it is still just as real.

These words are repeated today to comfort us when we are troubled and afraid about what lies ahead of us. When Jesus spoke these words to His followers, they had no idea what they were about to face. His talk of leaving them frightened them. His determination to move toward a confrontation with the powers of the day troubled them. His words remind them, and us, that there is a peace that will sustain us all through troubling and frightening times.

Maybe you have been searching for these words like I have. If so, I hope you will accept these words for what they are: words of comfort, words of assurance, words of hope, and words from the One, the only One, who can give us peace.

Thank You, Father, for these words.


A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved


Recent Tragic Events: What Jesus Might Think, Say, and Do.

Vol. 19 No. 33 | August 20, 2017

It has been a week that has certainly made many of us think.

It began with the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia, which sparked the inevitable media coverage on race, politics, who is to blame, and what the President should have said and done. Then came the senseless violent acts that occurred in Barcelona, Spain…

Mix those events in with the craze, semi-panic and resulting chaos over the Solar Eclipse. We even have predictions of major traffic issues in our area because of it. There are Eclipse festivals planned for the weekend, and glasses have become a hot item going for anywhere from free to $150 or higher. I’m thinking about skipping this one and waiting for the next.

Throughout the week I have watched and listened. I have prayed and pondered. I have tried to find words that would be helpful and also tried not to speak about it all. As I have reflected what Jesus might think, say or do during times like these, I finally arrived at these possibilities.

Jesus would weep with those who are weeping.

In chapter eleven of John’s gospel account, he shares the story of what happens when a dear friend dies. He already knows the facts of the event, and although He took his time in getting to them, once He did, He did the best thing anyone could possibly do: He weeps with them. He knows he is about to raise Lazarus from the tomb, but still, He weeps. Maybe it was because they were weeping. Maybe it was because He was disappointed in their lack of faith. Maybe He was weeping because they still do not understand who He is or the powers He possesses. Regardless, He came, He comforted them, and He wept with them.

Three people died in Charlottesville, Virginia, and at the time of writing, fourteen have died in Barcelona, Spain. I know Jesus would weep for and with those people. Obviously, we cannot all travel to Charlottesville or Barcelona to weep for and with those people who have suffered such significant losses, but we can weep for and with them right where we are. And, we can pray for them.

I think Jesus might say that this is not a time for hate or revenge.

Proverbs 20:22 says: Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong! Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.

And Paul reinforces this when he says, Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for Gods wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’says the Lord. (Romans 12:19, NIV)

Yes, there are times when hatred is understandable, but we may not always know best when those times are. God does.

There are six things the Lord hates and seven that are detestable to him:

Haughty eyes; a lying tongue; hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that devises wicked schemes; feet that are quick to rush into evil; a false witness who pours out lies; and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (Proverbs 6:16-19, NIV)

I think Jesus might remind us to lead with love, not with hate.

Jesus commands us to love our enemies (Mt 5:43–44). That is very difficult in times like these because of the many potential enemies out there. He also reminds his disciples:

 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35, NIV)

I think Jesus might say that the world is a difficult place for good people who try to follow him, but He overcame this world, as can we.

Just like Jesus knew what going to happen with Lazarus, He knew what would be happening in our world. He knew. He knows. He can handle it…in His way and in His time.

Jesus said to his disciples, A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:32-33, NIV)

No one knows what might happen this weekend, next week, or next month. We live in uncertain times. But this does not mean we resolve to be helpless victims. We may not be able to defeat the Enemy or erase evil from the world, but we know the One who has defeated the Enemy, and in time will erase evil from the world. And we can weep with those who weep, we can stay committed to loving, not hating, we can resist the urge(s) to seek revenge, and we can trust the One who created us, bought us with His blood, filled us with His Spirit, and is in control — even when it seems no one is.

These are some of the things I think Jesus might be thinking in response to these events and times, and that is what I’m doing my best to stay focused on.


A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved

We are Missing the Point


I had finished writing this week’s article and sent it to my editor when images like these from Charlottesville, Virginia began to fill newscasts and social media. So as an introduction to this week’s A Norvell Note this is my plea: We must be better than this!


Vol. 19 No. 32 | August 13, 2017

The story of Jesus healing the blind man in John 9 has been the focus of these notes for the last two weeks. Thus far, we have observed that we have a tendency to want to blame others for our problems as well as demand an explanation for everything that happens to and around us. Somehow, being able assign blame or identify an explanation provides us with a sense of comfort. Or, maybe it gives us a sense of satisfaction to think that people get what they deserve.

We are a peculiar people.

As this story reaches the climax and concludes, I see a third interesting characteristic of humanity.

We often miss the point.

Jesus corrects His disciples’ view on why some things are not the consequence of sin, but are instead designed to bring a new vision of God. He proceeds to demonstrate why the wonders of God do not need to be explained or defended when the man whose sight had been restored offered no explanation other than the simple facts of what Jesus did to his eyes. Now as the mans shares his miraculous healing with the religious leaders, He reveals our tendency to focus on the wrong thing when the man attempts to share his miracle with the religious leaders.

At first, they reject the miracle all together.

Some of the Pharisees say, “Obviously, this man can’t be from God. He doesn’t keep the Sabbath.”

Others counter, “How can a bad man do miraculous, God-revealing things like this?” There was a split in their ranks.

They come back at the blind man, “You’re the expert. He opened your eyes. What do you say about him?”

He explains, “He is a prophet.”

The Jews didn’t believe the man was blind to begin with, so they called on his parents to inquire.“Is this your son, the one you say was born blind? So how is it that he now sees?” (16-19, The Message)

Next they question his parents, who because they fear being rejected from the community, offer no explanation and direct the conversation back to their son. (20-23)

When they continue to demand an explanation from the man, his response is brilliant:

“I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure: I was blind … I now see.” (25)

Yet they are still not satisfied and proceed to interrogate him, demanding details of how it happened. The once blind man chides them a bit and sarcastically ask if they want become one of his followers. I love the way Peters expresses their response: With that, they jumped all over him. “You might be a disciple of that man, but we’re disciples of Moses. We know for sure that God spoke to Moses, but we have no idea where this man even comes from.” (28-29)

The healed man continues to tease them, alluding to their lack of understanding. This incites the men to the point of throwing him out of the synagogue, yelling “You’re nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!” (30-34)

Jesus finds him in the streets and reassures him, engaging in one of many encounters with the Pharisees that will follow. (35-41)

Let me share a few observations and admonitions.

When our interpretation of the Word focuses more on adhering to rules and laws more than people, we have missed the point.

The religious leaders show no interest in this man who had been blind and is now healed. They are concerned only about the rules that have been broken. They show no concern for his parents, except for what information they might provide for finding fault with the healer. How many times do we miss this same point? Something really good happens to someone we know and our concern is more for how it happened and who is responsible than for the person who has received the blessing.

When our interpretation of the message from God focuses on power and reputation, we have missed the point.

The religious leaders know they have the power to expel this man and his family from the religious community. They use threatening and condemning language to intimidate them and to protect their authority and reputation and miss the intent of God’s message. Churches and religious leaders, who are more concerned with their reputations as the voice of authority than with the souls of people, have missed the point.

When our understanding of God excludes celebration over God’s workings, we have missed the point.

Why didn’t they rejoice with this man? This provides one of the most revealing and disappointing images of God’s people in all of Scripture. How often do we miss this? Whether from jealousy, fear, and/or stubbornness, we miss the opportunity to rejoice, celebrate, and acknowledge the wonders of God displayed through His people. What a shame! What a waste! What a disgrace!

How can we miss these opportunities to rejoice with people? How can we miss these opportunities to celebrate the power of God displayed all around us? How can we disregard God’s workings for the sake of our reputation or position of authority?

We have missed the point too often, too many times, and for too long. We have too often allowed people to be ignored and disregarded. People, all people, matter to God and must matter to us. People matter more than being the fastest growing, most innovative and influential church in our community. People matter more than being the most powerful person or leader or President or nation.

We can do better than this. We must be better than this!


A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved