Seeing "Different"

Leave all screens turned off and outside of the gathering space/room.
Set a single candle in the center of your space or on a child’s nightstand or headboard.

As you light the candle, you might sing or say, Healer of our Every Ill1

“Healer of our every ill,
Light of each tomorrow,
Give us peace beyond our fear
And hope beyond our sorrow”

This is a time to become fully present with one another and with God.
Invite everyone to take a deep breath in and exhale fully.
Repeat this deep breathing for about 20 seconds, everyone at their own pace.

Excitement over past or future events - or, worries, pain and/or guilt - can keep us from immersing in God’s loving Presence, right here and now.

You might invite participants to Let Go as follows:

“In one or two words, when has it been hard to see God’s light today?”

Allow time for a response from each individual.

Breathe in: know that you are, right now, being filled with the Holy Spirit and the light of God.
Breathe out: release into grace any guilt, shame or pain caused by the darkness you may have felt today.


You might invite participants to Receive Grace as follows:

“How have you followed the Spirit’s lead, today?

Allow time for a response from each individual.

Breathe in: notice how the Spirit is as close to you as your breath.
Breathe out: thank God for filling you with what you need for each day.”


Before moving on, take two more deep breaths.

Then share a summary of this evening’s text. Using your own words is strongly encouraged. If that feels uncomfortable or overwhelming, or if you would like a young person to lead this portion, here are some thoughts on this story:

The theme of sight continues in tonight’s reading, when Jesus heals a person born blind.
Some people wondered if the person’s blindness was punishment from God.
But Jesus points out that people who have different abilities and different challenges can help everyone see God in new ways.
When Jesus is called a “sinner”, we see how easy it is to put negative labels on anyone who is different - either in their body or in their thinking - from what we think is “normal”.
This reading challenges us to reconsider what we think is “normal”, how we see people who are “different”, and how we see God working through all sorts of people in unexpected ways.

Readings can be shared around the circle by verse, or a different reader can lead each night.

A reading from John 9:1-232:

1As Jesus walked along, he saw someone who had been blind from birth. 2The disciples asked Jesus, “Rabbi, was it this individual’s sin that caused the blindness, or that of the parents?”
3“Neither”, answered Jesus,
“It wasn’t because of anyone’s sin -
not this person’s, nor the parents’.
Rather, it was to let God’s work shine forth
in this person.
4We must do the deeds of the One who sent me
while it is still day - for night is coming,
when no one can work.
5While I am in the world,
I am the light of the world.”
6 With that, Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with his saliva and smeared the blind one’s eyes with the mud. 7 Then Jesus said, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” - “Siloam” means “sent”. So the person went off to wash, and came back able to see.
8 Neighbors and those who had been accustomed to seeing the blind beggar began to ask, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said yes; others said no - the one who had been healed simply looked like the beggar.
But the individual in question said, “No - it was me.”
10 The people then asked, “Then how were your eyes opened?”
11 The answer came, “The one they call Jesus made mud and smeared it on my eyes, and told me to go to Siloam and wash. When I went and washed, I was able to see.”
12 “Where is Jesus?” they asked.
The person replied, “I have no idea.”
13 They took the one who had been born blind to the Pharisees. 14 It had been on a Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud paste and opened this one’s eyes. 15 The Pharisees asked how the individual could see. They were told, “Jesus put mud on my eyes. I washed it off, and now I can see.”
16 This prompted some Pharisees to say, “This Jesus cannot be from God, because he doesn’t keep the Sabbath.” Others argued, “But how could a sinner perform signs like these?” They were sharply divided.
17 Then they addressed the blind person again: “Since it was your eyes he opened, what do you have to say about this Jesus?”
“He’s a prophet,” came the reply.
18 The Temple authorities refused to believe that this one had been blind and had begun to see, until they summoned the parents. 19 “Is this your child?” they asked, “and if so, do you attest that your child was blind at birth? How do you account for the fact that now your child can see?”
20 The parents answered, “We know this is our child, blind from birth. 21 But how our child can see now, or who opened those blind eyes, we have no idea. But don’t ask us - our child is old enough to speak without us!” 22 The parents answered this way because they were afraid of the Temple authorities, who had already agreed among themselves that anyone who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why they said, “Our child is of age and should be asked directly.”

At the close of the reading you might begin with basic questions, such as:
Did this reading have any words or ideas that anyone doesn’t understand?
Let’s explore what those might mean, together.

If you are ready for further discussion, you might consider these questions:
This reading raises more questions than it answers:
*Who decides what is considered “normal”: in your family, among your friends, at 
school, or at church?
*Do people with perfect vision really see reality more clearly than people whose eyes 
can’t see?
*What’s a “sinner”? And if Jesus is accused of being a “sinner” does that change how 
we understand the word?
*Do you see God’s miraculous healing, today? How can we recognize it?

From your devotional basket, please take the following items:
~Notebook or binder for everyone
~Drawing or coloring utensil(s) for everyone

Be sure notebooks/binders and utensils are handy but not a distraction.
You might invite the group into prayer with these or similar prompts:

I invite everyone to find a comfortable posture appropriate to prayer and I encourage everyone to close their eyes.

Allow a few beats for the movement to settle down.

Let’s all take a few deep breaths to settle our minds:
~let go of the discussion questions and conversation;
~let go of the Bible story;
~let yourself rest for a moment in the love of your family and the presence of

After a few deep breaths, share the following:

Open your notebook to a blank page. 
Sit with God in that open, blank space for a few moments.


Choose a color that represents “different”.
Draw a picture, shapes or word cloud of how it feels or what it means to be “different”.

Allow about two minutes for contemplative drawing.

Choose another color: one that represents “normal”.
On the same page, weave in some drawings that reflect what you think it means or 
how it feels to be perfectly “normal”.

Allow about two minutes for contemplative drawing.

Pay attention to your drawings for a few moments and look for God in your picture.

At the end of your silent time, invite attention back to the room with words like these:

I invite you to return your awareness to this place.
You might wiggle your toes and fingers or gently roll your shoulders or your head.
Slowly bring your body and mind back to here and now, and rest for a moment.

Resting is important: the transition from silence to immediate action or thought can be very jarring. Let the movement from rest to engagement be gentle.

After a few beats, while people are still transitioning, introduce the reflection questions, as follows:

As we bring our awareness back to here and now, let’s consider how God was with us 
in this time. 
Reflect on a thought or feeling that seemed powerful or meaningful to you.
Where or in what way did you experience God in this time?

Allow about 3-5 minutes; gauge the activity-level of participants to determine when they are “done”.
Invite people to share their reflections with the group/family, only as they are comfortable. Not everyone will have something to share or feel comfortable sharing their experience. Let this be okay: not everyone needs to share.

Listen carefully to one another.
Acknowledge each sharing with words of affirmation.
Discussion can and should be about curiosity, clarity and/or affirmation.
This is not a time for correction or psycho-analyzing experiences.

As the following song is sung or said, the Leader should gather all materials utilized during the practice. Stow them in the basket for easy removal and future use.

As adults prepare to leave the room, you might sing or say, Healer of our Every Ill1

“Healer of our every ill,
Light of each tomorrow,
Give us peace beyond our fear
And hope beyond our sorrow”

As they blow out the candle, children can offer the following blessing/prayer with their adults:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”

Adult(s) can share the following blessing/prayer with the child[ren] as they turn out the lights:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”

  1. Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Augsburg Fortress; 2006: #612.
  2. From The Inclusive Bible (Rowman & Littlefield; 2007). Used with permission from The Quixote Center.


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