Preparing for Ordinary Sunday 30B

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2009 at 11:31 pm

It’s sometimes the most unlikely lines that jump out from a reading.

This Gospel (Mark 10:46-52) tells us blind Bartimaeus springs up and comes to Jesus.
A bit of a Tigger.

I don’t know if you’ve seen Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”.
Perhaps you remember the scene with the beggar
who springs up and bounces around Brian and his mother saying,
Spare a talent for an old ex-leper.
– Did you say… ‘ex-leper’?
That’s right, sir. Sixteen years behind the bell, and proud of it, sir.
– Well, what happened?
I was cured, sir.
– Who cured you?
Jesus did, sir. I was hopping along, minding my own business. All of a sudden, up he comes. Cures me. One minute I’m a leper with a trade, next minute my livelihood’s gone. Not so much as a by your leave. ‘You’re cured mate.’
– Well, why don’t you go and tell him you want to be a leper again?
Ah, yeah. I could do that, sir. Yeah. Yeah, I could do that, I suppose. What I was thinking was, I was going to ask him if he could make me a bit lame in one leg during the middle of the week. You know, something beggable, but not leprosy..

That’s fundamentally the situation we’re in with our Gospel.
Or rather it’s not.

Jesus doesn’t wander about,
randomly bestowing healing on a passive Judean countryside.
Giving sight to the blind
just, as you might say, for the look of the thing.
Quite the opposite.

Blind Bartimaeus seems to have to go to some effort to attract Jesus’ attention.
Calling out – and being told to be quiet,
before eventually being embraced by the Jesus entourage when he is called up.
A parable about need and disability that may be all-too-familiar to some.

Bartimaeus calls out.
And seems, on the face of it, to be roundly ignored.

I think that part of that is because
Bartimaeus thinks he knows who Jesus wants him to think that he is:
the Son of David.
A term with distinct Messianic overtones,
but clearly politically and nationalistically oriented
in a way perhaps Jesus didn’t want to own.
Sounding for all the world like many other voices
that demanded Jesus’ attention and tried to put him in a box
for their own purposes.

But Bartimaeus called out again.

Blind Batrimaeus, sitting at the roadside, gets Jesus’ attention
and is asked that fundamental therapeutic question:
“What do you want me to do for you?”

No assumptions.
No “isn’t it obvious?”
No “I know what you need”

The “What do you want me to do for you?”
which sits alongside that other encounter with a streetside beggar
where Jesus asks
“Do you want to be made well?”

These are deep and profound questions of us,
we who come to Jesus,
wounded and aware of our impairments.
Some of us know all too well that our cries for healing, for ourselves and others,
are not always answered as we’d imagine.
Perhaps we can understand this story:
where we cry from for healing
and hear those who order us to be quiet,
and dare not have the courage to call out again.

But I do believe, too, that our cries are heard.
We need to cry out to God – for others and for ourselves.
I don’t know if that changes the world or changes God,
but I do think it changes or challenges us,
and in that we grow.
We become something other than simply victims.

We may call out to this Jesus figure who walks near to us,
but this gospel story says
we must then be able to be present to and be part of our own healing.

Perhaps sometimes it doesn’t fall on us –
unlike the beggar in the Life of Brian –
before we are ready to incorporate healing into our lives.
Before we can let go of the shape of a life, an identity.

We may trust that God knows what is good for us,
but that does not allow an abdication of our part
in the journey towards wholeness and wellness
and the other marks of the Kingdom.

The end of this story, if you can call it an end, is significant.

Blind Bartimaeus regained his sight and “followed Jesus on the way”
That is a story of discipleship.


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