Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
There are many people like Bartimaeus around us – people who are either blind physically, or socially. We know that they don’t see fully what we can see and it makes us appreciate what we have but also it makes us uncomfortable around them. Sometimes we look at them and we don’t know what to do, how to help a person to see again. When people like Bartimaeus cry out to Jesus we sometimes feel embarrassed for them. Such desperation! Why don’t people take care of their business without trying to ask others to fix their problems? It reminds me of how little kids embarrass us parents by throwing a tantrum in public places. Especially if we take our children to work, we don’t want them to interrupt our boss or someone next to us who is very important. Embarrassed, we attempt to quickly quiet our children. Similarly, the crowd tries to hush Bartimaeus who is like a child is not that important comparing to Jesus. Doesn’t he know that he shouldn’t interrupt? Too often we hide our seemingly ordinary lives, including our family, behind a façade to impress others. The question is if we are not genuine, how can we address the problem? Does transformation happen if we do not admit we have a problem? Besides, Jesus does not need to be impressed. He sees us as we are.
If we seek transformation, we need to be open about who we are, we need to admit our sins, and we have to name the issue. Naming has an amazing power. Healing begins with naming. Bartimaeus knows he is blind and he also believes in the power of healing. If we want to heal we don’t need to worry about being embarrassed. That is humility, and it in that full humility, God has the freedom to act and to heal what is broken.
Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this, he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not presume to take this honor but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
Suffering often seems unfair because it comes unexpectedly. Aren’t we all look for peace and wholeness in our lives? Bishop William Willimon once shared his experience with meeting a church consultant, who taught his church leaders how to grow their congregation. “First find where people itch; then find a way for the church to scratch that itch,” the consultant advised. “The church is here to meet people’s felt needs,” he said. Bishop Willimon argues that that was not what Jesus promised. Jesus is very transparent about his suffering. We cannot accuse Jesus of false advertising because he says, “You will drink the cup that I drink; you will be baptized with my baptism.” Many churches understand evangelism as a guarantee of fixing any human need: “You have a problem? We can fix it. Jesus is the answer.”
Real faith in God does not seek benefits of following Christ. Jesus is very transparent about his suffering. We cannot accuse Jesus of false advertising because he says, “You will drink the cup that I drink; you will be baptized with my baptism.”
As sci-fi author Spider Robinson wrote in his series The Callahan Chronicals, “Shared pain is lessened; shared joy is increased.” Continuing with the story of Job, double the feeling of tragedy with Psalm 22. Drill down into Job’s overwhelming feelings of isolation, despair, defeat, hopelessness, and puzzlement that God would abandon anyone in their time of deepest distress. Affirm the need we have to protest the perceived injustice of God and the freedom we have to do so. Note the reality that life is not always fair. Job’s three friends sat with him on the garbage heap in silence for seven days. Perhaps they knew a bit of the pain Job was experiencing, even if their words were not too helpful. Remind folks that when Jesus quoted Psalm 22 on the cross, the women were there to share in his misery as companions who loved him even when it hurt.
Question: Why is it easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle?
Last year, several of our church members and guests of the congregation studied Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. We still have a few books available if you are interested to read it. Rohr proposes to faithfully embrace the abundance of the blessings in life, regardless of how, too often, they may feel like punishment. Life is a blessing as it is. Let’s learn to take it one day at a time and enjoy what we have.
Job 1:1; 2:1-10
In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.On another day the angels[d] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him.2 And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”
“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish[e] woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.