This Sunday we held a small dedication service for the many projects we have done in the past two years and the quilts we have almost finished. The lectionary scriptures used for this day were Mark 10:46-52 and Job 42:1-6, 10-17. Our title was as seen above. Here is what they heard, maybe, we had Jaxon and Ana with us. Ana left the security of her grandpa and aunt Paulina’s side during the hymns and came and danced beside the piano. I was almost the only one who could see her. She was the entertainment committee. Pictures of her and Jaxon will be on lucindagardens later today. Thanks for the visit.
Next week when we take some time to light candles for those of our church who have passed on this last year, I would like to include a candle for Willis. I know that technically he wasn’t a member here when he passed away, but anyone who shared music with and for a church as long as he did for us, it just seems to me that he should be remembered as we remember those whose services were held here. If we look at the prayer concerns list or the local paper’s obituaries in the past month or so, it feels like our community has had about enough of people passing on.
I have read and re-read the verses from Mark, and imagine how many people would like to hear those words, “Go your faith has made you well.” How many times would we like to be able to feel the security that if we just believe enough all will be fine? Years ago, in what we might call, “the early days” or well maybe not even the so long ago days, we had faith healers in some communities just north of the border. My aunt remembers going to one when she was quite young, and the first thing the woman asked her was if she believed because she said unless she believed, it would not work. I don’t know if there was anything to those types of things, but I am sure belief was the majority of the battle. Wouldn’t it be great if belief/faith in a healing or a healer was all you needed to make it work?
Perhaps the trick is to place our trust in the right healer as Bartimaeus did. For a blind man, he saw some things pretty clearly. According to Mark this was the first time anyone referred to Jesus as the Son of David. Bartimaeus recognized something that no one else mentioned before. Son of David is an indication of Jesus’ lineage. This is one of the clues that Jesus is the Messiah; he comes through the parentage of the great King of Israel. He is the chosen one. He is the only one who has the power not only to heal, but to cleanse us from the sin that keeps us apart from God. Bartimaeus saw this, perhaps even more clearly than the disciples who were closest to Jesus at the time.
The stories we have been covering in Mark the past few weeks have been drawing us closer and closer to the entry into Jerusalem when Jesus is first recognized on what we celebrate as Palm Sunday, and then the events that lead to his betrayal and death on the cross. Jesus in the past few stories that we have been reading has been trying to make his disciples understand what is to come for himself, and all of them. And mostly he is trying to get them to understand who he really is, or maybe it would be better to say, what he will need to endure and they will have to watch.
But let’s back up to our Old Testament lesson for a bit. I almost chose the other lectionary suggestion for this week because I was hesitant to use this in a message when we are so far from this part of Job in our Bible Study. It almost feels like when you are reading a book and can’t wait to find out the ending. You know those times when you stop in the middle of chapter 8 or 10 and go read the last chapter, then go back and finish the book. I can’t tell you how many times I have done that. But this piece in Job is the part that finally makes it all fall into place.
The book of Job is likely one of the very oldest written of all the books of the Bible. Its author is unknown yet it seems to have some serious insight into some of the earliest of times. The story is about Job. Job was a righteous man. He did what was right in the eyes of God and because of it, he attracted the attention of Satan. And it wasn’t in a good way. No, Satan was jealous beyond belief at what Job had been given. Let’s think about all the evil that Satan did to Job. He was wiped out financially including crops, animals and even servants. All of his children were killed in one day, and to top that off he had sores all over his body. The only thing Satan wasn’t allowed to do was kill Job, and throughout the story, Job keeps begging for death to end his misery.
We often ask why bad things happen to some people who seem to us to be good. We don’t know the answer. We don’t understand, but when we read the book of Job, we begin to know that it was Job’s goodness and resulting rewards that really made Satan jealous, and he tried everything to get to Job, to turn him against God. So in this case it was because he was good, that Job ended up suffering. I am not trying to imply that everyone who suffers does so because they are really good and evil is trying to turn them around, but it might be a possibility, a thought, an alternative to the idea that bad things happen because people are bad and they have sinned and so deserve their punishment.
I have been trying for years to wrap my mind around the dilemma, the plight of the homeless, the hungry, the jobless, the wayward. Last weekend when we were in Fargo for our nephew’s wedding, we were turning at a semi-busy intersection and a young girl was sitting cross-legged in the median holding a sign that said, “Homeless, pregnant, need help” and she had a large dog with her. My first thought was how some would condemn her for the dog and others for the confession of being pregnant. And I wondered how we live with ourselves as we drive through the busy intersection without looking back. And yet I always question the truth of sign. Why do we still have beggars? Am I no better than the disciples?
Bartimaeus was a blind beggar sitting at the side of the road. From the way the others in the story acted about him, I am thinking they have seen him so often that they are immuned to his condition, and he has become almost invisible. When he recognizes that it is Jesus the Messiah passing by he begins to shout and the others around him try to hush him, to make this unimportant, lowly beggar close his mouth so as not to bother Jesus. Wow, have you ever felt that way? How many times have we felt that maybe our problems aren’t really that important, our problems aren’t something we should be bothering someone else about, maybe not even worth a prayer?
We know from Jesus response that it is worth the bother. Jesus heard Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, Bartimaeus who recognized Jesus as the true Messiah, the Son of David, and Jesus called him to him, and he healed him and he sent him on his way, but Bartimaeus didn’t leave, instead he followed. The Blind Beggar was so sure of who was passing by that when he was called, he left all that he had (his cloak) on the side of the road to go to Jesus.
The disciples had been following Jesus for quite some time. Most of them had left everything behind, occupations, businesses (fishing nets) and family to follow him, yet they didn’t see Jesus quite as clearly as Bartimaeus the blind beggar did that day from the side of the road. They even were in on trying to hush that beggar so Jesus wouldn’t be bothered. Maybe they were noticing the tiredness, the strain on their teacher. They had also tried to stop the children from coming to Jesus, they complained about the man who was casting out demons in his name and a couple of them even got into a bit of an almost contest about who should sit at his right hand or his left hand in the world beyond earth. Really?
See here is the part where I finally get the book of Job. Here is where I see the jealousy and pettiness and the rage that Satan must feel about the absolute goodness of Christ. Here is where I can understand why the artists centuries ago began to depict Satan as this completely red creature. It’s the blood pressure. It’s the jealous rage! If you can’t get to the person you want, get to those who are closest to them. It almost feels like Satan was working on getting to the disciples in an effort to stop Jesus ability to spread his good news of Salvation. Satan was using the disciples to keep people from Jesus, to block their way to salvation and a chance to follow him. Bartimaeus recognized Jesus and was able to be healed and instead of going on his way, turned his life to following Jesus.
I think the hardest part of reading stories like this is trying to decide which character to relate to. As much as we might not want to think of ourselves as blind beggars, I am thinking that is where I would like to relate. I want to be like Bartimaeus who recognized Jesus and after being healed begin to follow him without need for fame, he was not mentioned again after this and no one is sure what became of him. I don’t think I want to relate to the disciples, at least not in most of this story.
Perhaps the “don’t be like the disciples” is more of a moral for us as a church. No place of worship, no Christian congregation should ever-present themselves as blocking someone from coming to a faith in Jesus Christ. None of our actions or policies or common practices should ever be about preventing a fellow Christian from belief in Jesus. Jesus asked his disciples to love each other when he left them. He also asks us to love each other as a church and as part of the Christian community.
Today is what is considered Reformation Sunday, which means this is the time certain of the Protestant Churches might be celebrating the break from the formal church that came about from the early Christians, the Roman Catholic Church. The Reformation happened because Martin Luther presented the 95 Thesis against the practice of selling Indulgences and granting absolutions for payment. The story is that the 95 Thesis were nailed on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. If they were or weren’t physically tacked to a part of the building is of least importance today. The fact that writing them and presenting them caused a major revolution in Christianity and how we look at the scriptures and worship is what is important.
Church Reformation is something that should be and is ongoing. Reformation is something that goes on within Christianity, within individual denominations, inside individual churches and even within ourselves. We need to be always looking at our own actions, both individually and as a church. Who do we embrace? Who do we support? And how do we do both of those things? How do we accept others and share our faith? Are we like the disciples who for at least this time pushed away or tried to suppress those who might be taxing the strength of their teacher, or are we like the blind beggar, who after being healed followed Jesus? May God be with us to strengthen us in all we do.