Can I tell you a secret? I sometimes – well, frequently – choke up for a moment during worship. It happens when I sing a hymn, say a prayer, or receive the sacrament, and I suddenly realize that I am not just thinking about God or talking about God. I am actually in the presence of the creator of the universe. It’s all a bit overwhelming. It would be, wouldn’t it?
Do you know the story of the prophet Isaiah’s experience in the temple? It’s found in chapter 6 of the Book of Isaiah. In one moment, the temple was just a building of stone and wood. Fires were burning on the altar. Smoke and incense were rising into the air. The sounds of sacrifice were echoing from the walls. In the next moment, Isaiah came to see himself as a participant in a divine drama. Unseen by most of the temple’s worshipers were choirs of heavenly six-winged seraphim crying out, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
Or do you know the story of Saint John in the Book of Revelation? John tells us that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. In other words, John was at worship. In the Spirit, John saw the same God Isaiah saw in the temple, with the same six winged creatures who were singing the same song: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God almighty.”
The room in which John was praying was an ordinary room, maybe a dining room or a courtyard in a church member’s home. Perhaps John was alone. Or perhaps he was assembled with the church to worship on the Lord’s Day, as became the custom. But in the midst of his worship on the Lord’s Day, John came to realize that he wasn’t just assembled with some ordinary looking shop keepers and fisherman on a Mediterranean island, he was standing in the presence of the host of heaven, of angels and archangels. He was not just standing in a in a room of stone and concrete; he was standing at the throne of God where the Lamb of God reigns forever.
In our gospel reading for today, John wants us to see what Isaiah saw, and what he saw whenever he worshiped Jesus. He wants us to see God. Not necessarily the six winged seraphim and the whole host of heaven – although they are there – but God, nonetheless.
The healing of the man born blind, John tells us, is a sign. It’s a doorway into an invisible reality. John is not just trying to give us new information; he’s trying to lead us into the perception of a new and invisible reality.