30 Aug Twenty-Second, Sunday after Pentecost
October 24th, 2021
Holy Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord, our Saviour and Redeemer. Amen
In both the Old Testament and the Gospel Readings today we hear that, in the end, everything is good. Despite the trials and tribulations of Job, despite the years of blindness of Bartimaeus, in the end everything turned out well…. Sort of like the end of many popular movies, right?
There is a major difference between the scripts of popular movies and our readings this morning. In the movies, the end is a foregone conclusion. The Screenwriter has already pre-determined how things will end, that the boy and the girl will go off together into the sunset to be happy ever after. In the readings, the stories are different. The “happily ever after” was not guaranteed, was not a foregone conclusion. Both of the protagonists had their fate in their own hands, could make their own choices based on their own free will…. And both chose faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ.
Have you ever been at a point where you had to make a choice like that? I sure have, more often than I would like to have been… And that choice, that decision is not always an easy one to make. Like Job, we may often experience times of hardship, of disappointment, of loss. I freely admit to having my moments of wanting to rage at the sky and shout “Why me Lord? What did I do to deserve this trial THIS time?” I will even admit to you that when walking in the woods and no one else but God and my dog could hear or see, I might have even DONE this once or twice… And you?
When one reads the whole book of Job, we realize that we are actually in pretty good company and, in comparison, actually pretty tame.
I have a proposition for you to consider: Let’s imagine that Bartimaeous was not really “blind” in the sense that we consider blind – reading by Braille, needing assistance to get around, handicapped, and such. Instead, let’s imagine that Bartimaeous was, instead, unable to see the path that God had set before him, unable to see the glory of God in the world around him. This is probably not such a rare occurrence, is it?
Jesus told Bartimaeus that his faith had healed him, had made him well.
I think Jesus was saying something like this. “Sure, I can make you see. But you’re going to get more than you bargained for. Once your eyes are really opened you won’t be able to see yourself, other people, or your own effect on this world the same way ever again.” That is, Jesus is about doing more than healing physical eyes. He’s here to give us life-transforming moments of clarity, where we are and who we are.
In other words, with a moment of clarity comes the challenge to learn to tread the earth in a radically different way. Tentatively and gradually at first. With greater confidence over time. Always imperfectly. And there will be trials and tribulations on the way. How we react, how we respond to those trials makes the difference. Maybe our response is simply being open, willing to expose and express ourselves to God in Prayer? Maybe even like “Hey God, would it kill you to give me a break here?”
That’s what a prayer for help can sound like when we’re raw with fatigue. It’s a little edgy. Maybe not so pious-sounding. But there’s honesty and sincerity in it. It’s the heartfelt prayer of the overwhelmed. It’s comes down to something like this:
“Okay God, all the evidence to the contrary, I still remember who you are and trust you to act like you. You know, right here and now in this horribly messy confused overwhelming life of mine. And, you know, it sort of feels like you’re not really being you right now.”
For some people, the only faithful response is to say that everything happens for a reason. God has a plan. Our prayer should simply be: Thy will, not mine, be done. After all, that IS what Jesus said in the end, isn’t it? It is true that obedience and trust in God’s benevolence are staples of the life of faith. But the Bible also tells us that sometimes arguing and maybe even confronting God when we feel let down is OK. We see this repeated in the Bible, believe it or not. Maybe not in our readings today – they are what comes AFTER “wrestling” with God, with our faith.
But look at Psalms 88 & 89. The writer is pretty much calling God on the carpet for breaking promises and leaving the Korahites in Psalm 88 and the lineage of David in Psalm 89 high and dry. How about in Genesis, where God plans to wipe Sodom off the face of the planet for its sinfulness and Abraham bargains with God to spare them if he can find 50 righteous people… and bargains it down. Will you hold off, Lord, if I can find 10 righteous people? Just 10?
In this story, Abraham is poking and prodding God back towards being the merciful loving God we worship, towards acting like GOD instead of acting like one of those spiteful, capricious deities worshipped by the other tribes. In other words, “Hey God, remember who you are. You are love itself. Your justice is always merciful and gracious. Be yourself with us. OK?”
As much as these stories revolve around struggles of life between God and humankind, they are a cake walk in comparison to Jesus’ exchange with the Syrophoenician woman in the 7th Chapter of Mark. We heard the story, the one where a Gentile woman asks Jesus to heal her sick daughter, to cast out the demon that’s killing her and he rather rudely blows her off and tells her
“Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
We expect compassion from Jesus. And yet in this instance he’s not merely indifferent, he’s downright rude and condescending. This woman is at her wit’s end. But instead of becoming cynical, she expresses her faith with a snappy response. She’s following the pattern we see in the Psalms and in the stories of Abraham and Moses and Job and today’s Gospel. The woman is reminding Jesus—reminding God—who he really is and expecting him to act like it.
Jesus answered her: “For saying that, you may go. The demon has left your daughter.” In Matthew’s version, Jesus responds to the woman this way: “Woman, great is your faith!” much as Jesus responds to Bartimaeous in today’s Gospel reading – “Your faith has made you well.”
God wants an honest relationship with us. If we’re angry, disappointed, confused, broken-hearted, or frustrated with God, that’s exactly what God wants us to express. Anything less would be phony piety. When we’re overwhelmed, our prayers might very well be raw and edgy. After all, that’s who we are at that moment. And who we are is who God wants because who we are, at any moment in our lives, is who God has created us to be. By being open, honest, and raw with God, we allow ourselves to be welcomed back into the loving arms of our Creator, to be guided, to be healed, to be forgiven and, most of all, to be richly blessed with God’s Love.
Holy Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.