October 25, 2015
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
Today’s Gospel story is an interesting contrast to the one we just read last week. Last week, two of the twelve apostles come to Jesus and quietly ask him to do for them whatever they ask. And Jesus asks, “What is it you want me to do for you?” Well, they want authority and honor.
Today, outside of Jericho, the city of God’s miracle that the walls came a tumblin’ down, Bartimaeus, a blind man, shouts out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
People tell Bartimaeus to be quiet. It says that they did so “sternly,” so we know that they are good church members. But that does not stop him. He cries out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Well Jesus calls him and asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus wants to see.
For the two insiders, disciples, apostles, who want to be seated at the right and the left, the seats of honor and authority, Jesus answers with statements of what they will have to go through, warnings really. For this man who is an outsider…
- outside the economic systems of being productive,
- outside the family because he is blind and a beggar,
- even outside the city,
He just wants to see again. And Jesus answers,
“Go; your faith has made you well.”
Immediately he regained his sight
and followed him on the way.
Jesus brings the outsider in. His sight is restored, and he follows Jesus on the way. Before the church was ever called the church, it was called “the Way.” As in Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Being a part of the community simply meant following Jesus.
In some ways, Jesus answers the question begged by last week’s reading.
…whoever wishes to become
great among you must be your servant,
and whoever wishes to be first among
you must be slave of all.
What does it mean to be a servant to others and a slave to all? It means when Jesus is on his way out of the city and a blind beggar calls out, Jesus stops, and calls him, and heals him. Despite the stern shushings by many of those who are walking with Jesus.
Last week, I was on my way to my second bagpipe lesson. (Yes, I am learning to play the bagpipes. Please pray for my teacher, my family, and my new neighbors, the Rinckeys!) Anyway, when I got off of I-96 at MLK, I saw a woman sitting next to the road. She had a sign, but it was too dark to read it. I have no idea how old she was, or when she had a chance to get clean last.
I am so used to a debit card that I almost never carry cash with me. But as I was stopped at the light, I realized I had a lot of packages of peanut butter crackers. I keep them in the car for when I am carting around Mira, who seems to always be on the precipice of another growth spurt, or at least usually hungry. So I rolled down my window. Well, at this point the woman is behind me. So I roll down the rear window, and I call out, “I don’t have any cash, but I have some peanut butter crackers if you want them.” So I handed her a handful of those six-packs of crackers. Not much in the way of food or help. A little protein. Some calories. Sadly, I know that these crackers alone will make one thirsty.
Since then, I have seen some wonderful ideas of how to fill a gallon Ziploc bag with some things that someone who is homeless might really be able to use. We might take this on as a project soon. Something we can keep in our cars and hand out when needed.
Thinking about that night, I am reminded of the story of the apostles in the book of Acts, when they met a beggar.
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.”
And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”
And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished. (Acts of the Apostles 3:1-10, a passage strangely left out of the lectionary…)
I know how to hand out peanut butter crackers. How do we hand out healing?
- What is it that we want to ask Jesus to do for us?
- Is there some wound, some hurt, some pain, in our body, or our mind, or our spirit, which we need to have healed?
- Is there some area in our lives where we have blind spots that keep getting us into the same old messes?
- Is there some pattern that we keep reliving, some old family script whose part we keep playing, wondering why the result are never any different?
- Is there a conversation that we keep avoiding, and wondering why people do not understand us?
And we, the church, what would we have Jesus do for us?
- How can we offer Jesus, and the healing that is in him, to those who beg beside the road?
- How can we invite the outsider in, those who are outside the economic means of production, those who are cast out of or in self-imposed exile from their families, those who are outside these walls for whatever reason?
- How do we find the courage of the Holy Spirit to say, “I give you what I have…I give you Jesus” in ways that heal and make whole?
As our reading from Jeremiah proclaims this morning: For thus says the LORD: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O LORD, your people, the remnant of Israel.”
See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. (Jeremiah 31:7-9)
Lord, make of us such a church.
Thanks be to God.