Posted by: Titus Presler | February 13, 2012

Missional transformation and the Pool of Siloam

“Mission is Transformational” is the theme of World Mission Sunday in the Episcopal Church, according to publicity for the church’s upcoming observance on 19 February 2012.  Personal transformation is indeed a major testimony of Christians about their experiences in reaching beyond their home communities in witness and service.

The story of Jesus’ healing of a man born blind that is begun in today’s Daily Lectionary reading – John 9.1-17 – is an especially vivid account of missional transformation.

Etymologically “mission” concerns sending and being sent (from the Lattin mitto, mittere, misi, missum).  Thus it is missiologically arresting that John highlights how the Hebrew name of the pool – Siloam – to which Jesus sends the blind-but-now-anointed man means “sent.”  The Greek rendering in the text is apestalmenos, from the verb apostello, from which we have the noun “apostle,” meaning “sent one.” 

“We must work the works of him who sent me,” declares Jesus in his pre-healing reflections, that sending being rendered as pempsantos, from another Greek verb for sending, pempo.

So Jesus is the one sent from God, and in this story he sends the blind-and-anointed man to a pool the name of which means “sent.”  Lots of sending here.  The spittled clay with which the blind man goes to Siloam testifies to how the humus of the man’s life has been touched by Christ.  It is a witness to how Jesus has interacted organically with his story – that is his anointing.

The man is indeed healed as he washes in the pool.  Beyond that he becomes not only a witness, but an especially stubborn witness who tells his story over and over again despite opposition and ultimately exclusion by the end of the narrative.

In today’s portion of the story he initially does no more than recount his healing.  That is the substance of witness – not necessarily making a huge theological claim, but simply telling the story of what has happened with us.  Yes, that may imply a theological state of affairs, but that is for the hearer to assess and infer.  The Pharisees do assess and infer, so they press the healed man for an interpretation.  When pressed, he replies, “He is a prophet.”

The man is on his way to being transformed.  His interpretations become more radical the more he is pressed, on through the end of the narrative.  Jesus sends him on an errand that transforms him into a witnessing missionary.

Yes, mission is transformational.

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