Monthly Archives: October 2015

Faith that Heals

“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. (Mark 10:51-52 NRSV)

Jericho. Galilee is in Jesus’ rear view mirror. He can almost see Jerusalem ahead of him. Jerusalem and betrayal and denial and trial and death. It’s out there waiting for him. It won’t be long.

He’s been teaching and preaching and healing for a long time. The more his disciples learn, the more confused they become. Here, in Jericho, another lesson awaits them.

Bartimaeus means, “Son of Honor.” He’s blind. We don’t know how it happened or when. All we know is that he’s probably an honorable man from an honorable family. Daily he sits by the roadside begging.

Then he hears that Jesus is in town. He’s leaving today, though. Bartimaeus has one chance to catch Jesus’ attention. So he positions himself on that road that leads out of Jericho towards Jerusalem. As he hears Jesus approach, he calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Son of David. This is the first time Mark has used this description. Son of David: Bartimaeus understands Jesus’ role as Messiah. But, he and his followers are blinded by this, as well, because they’re unable to see Jesus in a new and different light. This Messiah doesn’t arrive in a suit of armor riding stallion.

Bartimaeus is creating a scene with his obnoxious yelling. “Hush up! Jesus is leaving town. He’s tired. Give him a break.”  “Would you please be quiet!?!”

But, this is his last chance. With every fiber of his being, he calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Help me!”

Jesus hears him. He stops. He looks toward the source of the yelling.  His focus is on Bartimaeus; not the crowd’s attempt to push Bartimaeus further back to the fringes of society; nor their rudeness toward him.  He lets them be, for now.  They’re about to receive an eye-opening lesson on discipleship.

“Call him here.”

Suddenly, the crowd changes its demeanor. “Come on,” they tell Bartimaeus. “Have courage. Take heart. He’s calling you.”

“They don’t have to tell him twice! He bounces up and throws off his cloak. He throws off his old way of life; his security; his everything.  Whatever Jesus has in store for him, he’s ready.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Now, suppose Jesus asked you that question right now. What would your response be? Would you have an immediate request? Or would you need to think about it?

Bartimaeus has had plenty of time to think about it. “My teacher. Rabbouni. Savior. Let me see again.”

Let me see the world that I once knew so well. Let me see the world through new eyes, with fresh insight. Let me see the world through your eyes: the hurting world, the joyous creation, the evil that would tear it down. Let me see again.

A couple of weeks ago a rich man approached Jesus wanting salvation. Jesus saw that his wealth and his possessions were holding him back from a relationship with God. So he told him: Go. Sell all your possessions. Give the money to the poor. Come. Follow me. (Mark10:17-22)

Go. Sell. Give. Come. Follow.

This time, he only says, “Go. Your faith has made you well.”

How about you? Are you needing to go, sell, give, come and follow? Is your faith being interrupted by wealth or anger or any number of other things that get between you and God? Or do you simply need to go, because your faith is healing you? I don’t know about you, but it depends on what’s going on in my life. Sometimes I need to Go and Sell. Others times, I’m ready to serve my Lord.

Bartimaeus is ready. He follows Jesus “on the way.”

Maybe he followed Jesus to Jerusalem. He may have been one of those who fled from the cross.

Or, maybe he remained in Jericho, leading a community of followers of The Way.

Either scenario or others are possible. While we don’t know how he led his life, we can be sure that his eyes saw. They wept the day Jesus died. They wept with joy at news of his resurrection.

And through all this he saw: both physically and spiritually.

All glory and honor be to God.

Ame.

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What Must I Do?

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money[a] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

If you were to meet this man on the street, would you like him?

Is he a kind man, seeking God’s call in his life? Does he take care of those who aren’t as wealthy as he is?

Or, is he full of himself and his wealth and power?

Is he looking for salvation out of a sense of longing for something he can’t buy? Or does he think that his gifts and talents can be put to use to help the Master?

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” (vs 21.) He looked at him, through him, to the center of his being. Perhaps what others saw was the facade that the man put on every morning with his Brooks Brothers suit. But, Jesus saw beneath the surface.

When the man asked him what he needed to inherit eternal life, Jesus answered him by quoting the last half of the Ten Commandments. These are the easier commandments. Yes, lying comes easily enough, but most of us don’t tend to go around murdering and stealing and defrauding. Jesus didn’t quote the first half of the Decalogue. That’s the hard part! Especially that point about no idols.

And that’s what Jesus knew this man had: the idol of money.

Money is so powerful. It’s what we need to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. We take it for granted until we don’t have any. But, it’s power is always present. Money buys us safety nets: life insurance, health insurance, home insurance… Money buys us status. The more money, the higher the status.

Next time you’re out in a group of strangers look around. Who are you attracted to, the homeless bag lady or the smartly-dressed businessman? What do you do when you meet up with poor asking for a handout?

Money buys us everything we need plus more. Money holds power over us in ways we can’t even see. This man was just as attached to his money and possessions as many of us are. Yet, Jesus loved him.

Yet, Jesus loves us. He looks into our hearts and sees the greed and shame and guilt and regret. He sees our longing for something better than what we have; that elusive something that money can’t buy. But, he refuses to offer cheap grace.

Go. Sell. Give. Come. Follow me.

Sell? Sell it all? Just like that? And then follow you? Follow you where? What will happen to me? What about my family and friends? I have obligations, people relying on me. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll just go and keep on going.

What holds you back? What gets in the way of your relationship with the Master? Money? Possessions? Drugs? Alcohol? An eating disorder?

Jesus told the rich man to go, sell and give and then come and follow him. “Go, drop that idol (money, possessions, drugs, alcohol…you fill in the blank for your life) and then you’ll be ready to follow me. Because the act of giving up what you hold dearest is scary, but necessary in order to free you up for a life of transformation.”

It’ll take time. There’s no 10-step approach that can be found in a self-help book. It could take days, months or years or even a lifetime.

And while you’re doing the hard work, Jesus is doing the heavy lifting. You’re not alone, ever. There’s a yolk ready-made for you and Jesus invites you to join him. The load will be a lot easier to handle and much easier to drop off along the way.

Go. Sell. Give. Come. Follow Me.

Maybe he wasn’t much of a man in others’ eyes, but he was special in Jesus’ eyes.

And so are you.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


God’s Grace and Welcome

“Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (Mark 10:2 NRSV)

It was the perfect test question to pop on Jesus. Today we would ask him to take a stand on same-gender marriage or immigration or the war in Syria. These issues are so hotly contested that no one can come out alive.

The question on divorce in Jesus’ day was just as divisive. In Deuteronomy 24:1 Moses states that a man can give his wife a certificate of divorce if “he finds something objectionable about her.” Rabbis argued over this during Jesus’ day, some saying that a man could divorce his wife for showing up at the door with curlers in her hair or other equally frivolous reasons. Others, said that the only reason for divorce was if she committed adultery.

As I said, this was the perfect question in which to trap Jesus.

He has them look at Moses’ command. For them, the crux of the problem is how to define “objectionable.” They are interested in arguing over a word that permits divorce rather than discussing how to nurture a marriage and the covenant of fidelity, provision and love.

Jesus makes a turn in the road, though. He points out that Moses’ command in this matter, in fact all of the Law of Moses, was created because we don’t always get it right. We’re human. And since leaving the Garden of Eden we’ve been messing up God’s intentions with sin and evil.

Those intentions are what Jesus speaks to: God intended for marriage to be a covenant of fidelity and loyalty to each other; that each person is provided for; and that they love and respect each other.  They become one in all senses of the word.  No one is meant to get in the way of that.

Those same intentions are what God intends in God’s relationship with each of us.  Fidelity, provision and loyalty.

Sadly, it doesn’t always work, does it?  God’s intentions are destroyed by abuse, infidelity, loss of love.  Jesus recognizes that we’re human and can’t get it right.  Therefore we need rules to guide us.

This points to other ways in which God’s intent is destroyed by sin and evil.  Murder and war: the result of anger and evil intent.  Poor business practices that hurt others: a result of greed and hubris.  Elder and child abuse, spousal abuse, sexual misconduct, lying and cheating.  God doesn’t intend any of things.  God created a world built on covenant relationship where God provides for our needs and loves us deeply and we care for God’s creation and everything and everyone in it.

It may seem odd that Mark reports on the Blessing of the Children immediately following this discussion.  But, I suggest he had a purpose to it.   Jesus doesn’t block anyone from coming to him for anything.  And when we accept the kingdom with the trust and dependence  and loyalty of a child, we begin to understand God’s intentions for you and for me.  For when we protect and honor our spouse as a child created in God’s image, we set aside thoughts of treating each other as chattel to be set aside on a whim.

When we accept God’s grace with the trust and dependence and loyalty of a child, we further understand God’s intentions for you and for me in all aspects of living.  War and famine and abuse and murder and evil and sin take on new meanings for us.  And we are free to love and be loved in wisdom.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


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