March 19, 2023
Fourth Sunday in Lent
10:00 am



God of grace, you have given us minds to know you, hearts to love you, and voices to sing your praise. Fill us with your Spirit, that we may celebrate your glory and worship you in spirit and in truth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

PRELUDE I Am Coming To The Cross Tom Birchwood

CALL TO WORSHIP No. 451 Open My Eyes, That I May See v, 1

Open my eyes that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful key, that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee, ready my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine.
Come, let us worship God

*HYMN No. 351 All Who Love and Serve Your City

All who love and serve your city, all who bear its daily stress,
all who cry for peace and justice, all who curse and all who bless
In your day of wealth and plenty, wasted work and wasted play,
call to mind the word of Jesus, you must work while it is day.
For all days are days of judgment, and the Lord is waiting still,
drawing near a world that spurns him, offering peace from Calvary’s hill.
Risen Lord, shall yet the city be the city of despair?
Come today our judge, our glory. Be its name The Lord is there.


As people seeking to see all things in Christ, let us look within ourselves as we confess our sins together.


Holy and merciful God, in your presence we confess our willfulness, our shortcomings, and our offenses against you. You alone know how often we have sinned in wandering from your ways, in wasting your gifts, in forgetting your love. Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we are ashamed and sorry for all we have done to displease you. Forgive our sins, and help us to live in your light, and walk in your ways, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen

Response No 471 “O Lord Hear My Prayer”

O Lord, hear my pray.
O Lord, hear my prayer.
When I call, answer me.
Lord, hear my prayer,
O Lord, hear my prayer.
Come and listen to me.


The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to overcasting. I declare to you, in the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. May the God of mercy who forgives you all your sins, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen

*RESPONSE No. 288 “Spirit of the Living God”

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me; fill me; use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.


ANTHEM I Can Only Imagine Amy Grant
Soloist: Wendy Hill

CHILDREN’S MESSAGE – Kristen Franchetti


SCRIPTURE Karen Criscillo John 9: 1-11 24, 25

RESPONSE No. 544 “Bless The Lord” x3

Bless the Lord, my soul and bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord, my soul, who leads me into life.

SERMON Reveal – Now, I Can See

For those of you who are astute followers of the liturgical calendar you may have noticed that it calls for the gospel scripture reading to be all 41 verses of John, chapter 9. Now, I wasn’t trying to provide a cliff notes version by having only 13 verses read, nor was I trying to save Karen’s voice, because she is an excellent reader and would have done just fine – it just seemed to me, that more than one sermon would be required to adequately address the entire chapter, and I had a hunch, a 40-minute sermon may not be the wisest choice for today.

Almost a month ago, one of the key elements of my message that day was that learning is forever – we are never too old to learn and to have things revealed to us, often in ways we might never had considered.

Thus, as I was going through this week’s scripture and initiating my reading, research, study, music and prayer to help me find the framework for a fitting message, I read and reread the scripture, and kept being drawn to verses 24 and 25. “a second time, they (the Pharisees) summoned the man who had been blind. Give glory to God, they said. We know this man is a sinner (referring to Jesus). The man replied, “whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know,  I was blind, but now I see.”

I was blind, but now I see. Those familiar words, I am sure are quite well known to most of you as they are from the first verse of the hymn John Newton wrote in 1772 to accompany his New Year’s day sermon in 1773, entitled, “Faith’s Review and Expectation” on the gift of grace.

This hymn, rated the most famous of all time in many quarters, is sung in many different settings, but most often appearing in funeral services. And I get it, that is easy to understand, especially with the assurances of the last verse; but the more I read this first verse, I got to thinking, is it possible that we may have shortchanged – or pigeonholed this hymn? For all of the verses are applicable to many periods in our life. In fact, each time the glory and grace of God are revealed to us – just as the faith of the man born blind opened his eyes that a new world might be seen, a new light, the light of Christ shines for us and a myriad of visions appear. Visions of blessings past and present, and to borrow a line from another hymn, strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

In that same veil, let us return to a hymn we sang a month ago in worship, and to the first line of our call to worship today. “Open my eyes, that I may see, glimpses of truth thou hast for me” I just love that phrasing, for it speaks to us of the need to be unselfish in our prayers in what we ask for, as in the Lord’s prayer to only give us this day our daily bread. The author of that hymn, Clara H. Scott, became the first woman to publish a volume of anthems – in this hymn she asks only to see glimpses of the truth that God has in store for her, and for us. As we wait silently for thy will to see.

This verse, indeed, this hymn asks us to be patient, to not seek more that we can take in at one time, but to always be steadfast in our faith, and, if we do so, we shall see, and hear and bear witness, just as the man born blind did. And what an incredible story would unfold because of that faith. It is so interesting to note, that in chapter 9 we see four different reactions to Jesus. The neighbors revealed surprise and skepticism, the Pharisees showed disbelief and prejudice; the parents believed but kept quiet for fear of excommunication, but the healed man showed a consistent growing faith.

Does it kind of make you wonder, if Jesus walked among us today, how many of us would actually take notice, who would be doubtful still, who would challenge his message, who would be afraid to speak his name, and who would have the consistent growing faith and choose to follow  him. A little later, right before the benediction, we are going to sing a wonderful hymn, but for now, I have to send part of it out to you, the 4th verse of that hymn to hopefully enhance this argument:

Will you love the you, you hide if I but call your name
will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around
through my sight and touch and sound in you, and you in me?

I feel the need to shift gears for a moment, but fear not, this is not the beginning of a second sermon. We are dealing primarily this morning with the restoration of sight and what is revealed to one born blind; but we should point out what a sensory experience a worship service can be. We look to the many references to hymns and lyrics, the deep appreciation of music in this church has a long tradition, and we embrace it all – the organ and the piano, the incredible choir and singing together the hymns and responses; sending out to each other and to all, the poetry and harmony of God’s music each and every Sunday. We were asked to pray earlier to listen to God’s word in scripture and we are always cognizant of the feeling of being in communal worship and the touch of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and what a revelation all of that can be.

Returning to our scripture

A powerful, yet incredibly faulty premise is brought up in the first two verses of chapter 9. They certainly set the stage for the story and message which will unfold, but if we are being realistic, an argument could be made that for centuries we, as Christians may have clung for far too long to the first two sentences and not the message of Christ, which follows.

The chapter starts as he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Now Jesus answers quickly, neither this man nor his parents sinned.

Jesus is trying to explain to them and to us that being born blind, or deaf, or slave, or Samaritan, or Greek or Jew, or of a different race or culture brands you having sinned to earn whatever clothing you come into this life with. Jesus wants us to know that hardships, and poor  health, and circumstances shall arise in our lives; but that God is with us in them all, to comfort us, to bring us hope and to help us deal with whatever comes our way. This is where faith is tested, but faith will always help and can sustain us. The blind man didn’t complain, he didn’t even ask for healing. He saw Jesus and followed him and his message. He was blind and a good and kind man came and touched him and he  was healed. And he knew, he saw.

I taught American history and literature for almost 35 years, and as part of our unit on the early 1900s I always liked to focus on major cultural changes in various time periods, the Harlem renaissance, the jazz age and the early days of films and their contributions to the American story. One of my favorite silent movies was city lights in 1931 starring Charlie Chaplin and Virginia Chervil.

In the movie, Chaplin plays his signature role of the little tramp. The story unfolds as the little tramp meets a blind girl selling flowers on the sidewalk who mistakes him for a wealthy duke. When he learns that an operation may restore her sight, he sets off to earn the money she needs to have the surgery. In a series of comedic adventures, typical of a Chaplin movie, he eventually succeeds, even though his efforts land him in jail. While he is there, the girl has the operation and afterwards yearns to meet the one (whom she believes to be the wealthy benefactor, not the tramp) who gave her the opportunity to have her sight restored.

With her sight restored, the girl opens her own flower shop. One day when a rich man comes into the shop, the girl wonders if he is her mysterious benefactor. At the same time, the tramp is outside the shop, looking in. Seeing a flower that the tramp has retrieved from the gutter falling apart in his hand, the girl kindly offers him a fresh flower from her shop, and a coin. The tramp begins to leave and then reaches for the flower; the girl takes hold of his hand to place the coin in it. Recognizing the touch of his hand, she realizes who he is. “You” she asks, “you”. She then holds his hand to her heart as the film ends.

In a touch between a tramp and the once blind flower girl, assumptions are shattered and truth is revealed. At the heart of the matter is the identity of the benefactor. Likewise, John’s account of the healing of the man who was born blind moves the reader to focus on identity. Who is the one who sees this man born blind, and, without waiting for a request for healing, goes ahead and initiates healing with his touch? Who is this Jesus?

Who is this Jesus indeed? The one who calls us to follow him, to toss away assumptions, preconceived opinions, and prejudices but calls us instead to reach out to touch the lives of others. If Jesus walked among us now, would we see him? Well, in fact, He does. Look around at all those we don’t normally notice, or those we so often take for granted, or casually ignore. If we look a little closer, Jesus will be revealed to us, the mud shall be washed from our eyes, and we all will be able to say now, I can see.
Thanks be to God. Amen

“AFFIRMATION OF FAITH from “A Statement of Faith, Jesus Died For Sinners”

We believe that in the death of Jesus on the cross God achieved and demonstrated once for all the costly forgiveness of our sins. Jesus Christ is the Reconciler between God and the world. He acted on behalf of sinners as one of us, fulfilling the obedience God demands of us, accepting God’s condemnation of our sinfulness. In his lonely agony on the cross Jesus felt forsaken by God and thus experienced hell itself for us. Yet the Son was never more in accord with the Father’s will. He was acting on behalf of God, manifesting the Father’s love that takes on itself the loneliness, pain, and death that result from our waywardness. In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not holding our sins against us. Each of us behold on the cross the Savior who died in our place, so that we may no longer live for ourselves, but for him. In 
him is our only hope of salvation.

*HYMN No. 684 Faith Begins By Letting Go

Faith begins by letting go, giving up what had seemed sure,
taking risks and pressing on, though the way feels less secure
pilgrim age both right and odd, trusting all our life to God.
Faith endures by holding on, keeping memory’s roots alive
so that hope may bear its fruit; promise fed, our souls will thrive,
not through merit we possess but by God’s great faithful ness
Faith matures by reaching out stretching minds, enlarging hearts
sharing struggles, living prayer, binding up the broken parts
till we find the common place, ripe with witness to God’s grace




OFFERATORY Choral Selection

*RESPONSE No. 605 “Praise to God the Father”

Praise to God the Father; praise to God the Son;
Praise to God the Spirit; praise to the Three in One.
Sing praise, sing praise to the Lord on high.
Praise to God Almighty, praise to the Holy One.


*HYMN No. 726 Will You Come and Follow Me

Will you come and follow me, if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known;
Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?
Will you leave yourself behind, if I but call your name?
Will you care cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?
Will you let the blinded see, if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free, and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such s this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?
Will you love the you, you hide, if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around
through my sigh and touch and sound in you and you in me?
Lord, your summons echoes true, when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go where your love and footsteps show
Thus, I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.