- The Rev. Arianne Rice
“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.” (Mark 10)
Why do we always try and tie everything up in a neat, little bow? This morning's excerpt from Job is Job's reply to God's (4 chapter!) soliloquy making clear who is in charge, and who has been in charge since the beginning. While poor Job - subject of a divine bet to see if a truly upright man would stay faithful to God despite non-stop calamity - had been begging to be heard for about 38 chapters, when God finally does reply, it isn't the "answer" he wants to hear.
He want's to know - why? Why the suffering? Why the pain? Why - when he didn't do anything "wrong"? God doesn't address that question - because there is no answer. It is an aspect of existing, of existence. It is simply part of the human experience. So God "speaks out of the whirlwind" telling Job to "gird up his loins like a man" and understand that he will never understand.
And, Job finally gets it. "I've uttered things to wonderful for me." Job realizes its not a quid pro quo system - this whole relationship with God. Its just being in it, together, even when its hard and there aren't answers. Job repents.
And that's the end of the book, the oldest book in the OT, until some writer comes along and tacks on the fairy-tale ending. Job gets rewarded! Job gets lots of stuff! He gets the prettiest daughters! (ugh, really?) and then he dies old and full of days. The End.
Is that a helpful ending? Does that accord with your life experience - or with a Hollywood movie? What is it about accepting not knowing that we have always found so hard? The same thing happens in Mark's gospel. The oldest of the canonicals. It ends with women coming to the tomb, meeting a man clothed in white who says - he isn't here. Jesus has risen. Go and tell Peter and the disciples he will meet y'all in Galilee just as he foretold! And the women fled in terror and amazement. But then writers came along and buttoned it up. Added that the disciples got commissioned, went out and healed, cast out demons, did what they were told. The End.
Terror and amazement. Fear and wonder. It is harder being in that space, a space of betwixt between where we hold conflicting awareness that points to how finite our knowing is and how much we need to cry out to God to support us, to guide us, to help us trust God is there no matter what happens.
I would imagine that blind Bartimaeus felt fear and wonder and terror and amazement when he heard what Jesus of Nazareth had been up to in Jericho. And I'll bet he was as excited as he was scared when he cried out "Son of David, have mercy on me!" He knows that no one cares what a blind beggar wants. He knows he is of no account. But amazement and wonder and hope he knows even more.
Is it any surprise to you that the crowds want him to keep quiet? Who wants to hear from the blind, poor guy? We don't want to hear what he needs - he represents so much that we can solve or fix. He represents suffering that we don't want to get to close too. So of course they tell him to shut-up. Don't get in the way of our chanting crowd with your problems that have nothing to do with us. But he cries all the louder and Jesus hears him. Jesus stands still - and listens. Jesus wants to speak to him - call him over.
Jesus doesn't assume he knows what he wants because he's poor or he's blind. Jesus doesn't lump him into a category of people - but meets Bartimaeus, unique child of God that he is. And Jesus asks him what he needs. What does that model for us - that Jesus who has all the power and surely knows what ails this man - still asks him what he needs?
Today we launch our Grace to Generosity Gathering which kicks off our stewardship campaign. That time when the leadership of this church asks you to consider how you give your time, talent and treasure to this community - and how you will promise to do so in the year ahead. The point of all our ministries be they outreach ministries to neighbors in need - or - ministries that keep this church running, like altar guild or worship leader - the point of all of them is to be "relentlessly personal" (Eugene Peterson) in modeling how we live in the kingdom of God, now.
It matters the questions we ask one another. It matters that we don't assume we know everything about what someone is going through. It matters that we respect the dignity of every human being. This is the point of ministry - mutually transformative relationship that helps us bring forth God's dream, God's kingdom into all of our world. We are never going to fix or solve all of the suffering that is around us. But we can choose to be people who are not afraid of the terror and the amazement. Are not afraid to know that we don't know everything - but God does! And so we have the faith and courage to cry out or take in words we hear today - Take heart! Get up! Christ is calling you!. Amen.