Mark 10:46-52 Gratitude Season
Elizabeth M. Deibert 25 October 2015
Chip Schaaff, one of our faithful elders on session, always hands me a disposable eye glasses cleaner like this every time he sees me at an important meeting or service. At first I thought he was communicating that my glasses were dirty. And then I realized he was communicating that I needed clear vision. Thank you Chip. This gesture always slows me down to think, to pray, “God help me to see. Remove my blindness to the people and things I need to see.” “God help us all to see, remove our blindness to your truth, heal and save us, that we might follow you and know the way.”
46 They 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. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 49 Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 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." 52 Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. (NRSV)
Let me remind you that the disciples have shown repeatedly that they were more blind than the blind man, not knowing what they really needed, when Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said, “Give us power.” The blind man said, “Let me see again.” Two weeks ago, we read the story of the rich man approaching Jesus. What did he want? To secure himself with eternal life by his good works, and Jesus said, “You can’t buy this ticket. It is impossible for you. You have to give it all away to God and others – sell out completely to the Great Commandment. Be more generous in that, and you will have life eternal as you follow me. All that stuff is weighing you down.” The rich man was striving to secure himself with possessions, and Jesus said, “Let go, give it up.” The disciples were trying to secure themselves with power, prominence, and Jesus said, “We’re going to suffer and die. You don’t know what you’re asking.” The blind man simply expressed his need, saying, “Jesus have mercy. Help me to see again.” His faith made him well. What faith? Did he articulate faith? Seems like he just expressed a desperate need to see and trusted that Jesus could provide it. Is that faith? Must be.
Faith is the recognition of our need and the trust that God will take care of that need. We get ourselves all turned up in knots and messes when we forget this simple truth. First of all, we forget we are blind (read that as needy). We cannot see our own need, nor can we heal ourselves. The rich man tried to get Jesus’ advice on how he could take care of himself. Jesus said, “Give up trying.
James and John had illusions of grandeur. Jesus said, “Forget that!” The blind man, sitting by the side of the road, begging. This is one with faith. Just like when the disciples figured Jesus did not want to be bothered by the children, so they think he doesn’t have time for blind beggars, but Jesus does. Jesus always has a moment for the people that others want to ignore. Jesus is giving vision to outsiders, while the insiders do not seem to get it. So that informs us to pay attention to those we deem to be outsiders, whether they are outsiders to the church, outsiders to the country, or outsiders to our way of living. Jesus was particularly attentive to outsiders.
Lastly, it helps to remember our own personal neediness. Sometimes this recognition is forced upon us by circumstances. Like the families of Brendan and Jared, teens killed on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard – they desperately need the support of friends and faith. I expect there have been some desperate cries for mercy from those in the wake of Hurricane Patricia this week-end. I expect there have been some desperate cries for mercy from those who go to Beth-El for food supplies, only to find that the cupboards are bare. I know some of you have cried out to God for serious matters in your relationships and your family members and friends’ health needs. Stories of Kim Adams and the Seiters and Peg Papsch.
But there are also those less obvious cries of desperation that assault us daily and we need to turn to God in our stress and strain. If you had been at my house on Thursday morning, you would have heard me pleading with God over something that is minor compared with all the big troubles I just mentioned. But for me in the moment, it was a big deal. Wednesday night, after a very busy day, I walked out of the church at 9:30 pm chatting with Gia. I was digging in my purse for car keys, and set my computer on the back of Gia’s car. I found my keys, just as Gia realized she had left her phone inside, so we went back in together. Then we went to our cars and drove home. Not more than fifteen seconds after I awakened on Thursday did I wonder aloud “where is my computer?” and then realized what I had done. I know it is just a piece of equipment, but I was praying hard! I quickly drove out to church to find my little miracle. There was my computer (which had not been backed up in more than a year – time flies when you’re having fun!) lying in the driveway of Peace. And I opened it, and it worked – at least long enough to get backed up. Proof that God exists. But this experience provided a valuable lesson in the importance of slowing down. Some of us have to slow down our actions and others of us our mouths and some of us our thoughts. Slow down. Be thoughtful and prayerful and careful. Others of us need to speak up – call out for help, stop pretending you’ve got it all under control, because you don’t. Nobody does. Be humble. Acknowledge to yourself and others how much you need God.
We are at our best when we are constantly acknowledging humbly our need for God’s help and for the help of others. It’s called authenticity – being real. Perhaps Gratitude Season makes you uncomfortable because your finances are tight. You can be real. You can say, “I’m having a hard time with this.” Remember Jesus told the rich man, it was impossible, except with God. Put all your trust in God; don’t walk away sad, the rich man. Make loving God and humanity your life’s purpose. Don’t look for accolades, like James and John. Simply trust and follow wherever Jesus goes. Even if you feel as desperately needy as a blind person with no way to earn money, God will provide for you so keep following. Know that with God’s mercy in Jesus Christ, there is amazing grace, the grace that gives you vision and courage and hope.