a parable

A Parable  – Mark 10:46-52

I wasn’t always blind. I was made blind through the innocent act of my brother. He was attempting a job beyond his skill level and the job got away from him, blinding me. He didn’t intend any harm. He is not to blame, but nevertheless, his need to do the job without help cost me my sight.

You may ask, “Where was our father? Isn’t it the father’s job to guard us, keep us from danger, wisely judging when we were ready for the job?” My brother and I were products of his love, a love that loved well, but not always with wisdom. My father is not to blame, but nevertheless, his hesitancy in saying no cost me my sight.

I am now a beggar. I don’t know how to beg. I used to walk this thoroughfare as a sighted, important person. The beggars on the side of the road were inconsequential to my journey, white noise. Now I am one of them and must learn to beg without even eyes to watch them, to see how it is done.

Yet somehow within me there is an optimism, muted, but real. Not Pollyanna-ish, but a hope that all can be well. Some might call it denial. I don’t. I feel it is a confidence, no that’s too strong a descriptor; it is more a trust in Good. All will be well somehow.

The hubbub of the crowd along the thoroughfare is constant, but I sense its voice changing. It is becoming more focused in its attention. There is someone important coming toward me on the road. I can tell by the tone of the crowd. I hear that the one coming toward me is Jesus. I’ve heard of him. I’ve heard how he has healed. I’ve heard how he sees people the crowd or the important people do not see. Maybe he can hear me.

I yell out toward him, calling his name, reminding him of his heritage and begging, not for alms or aid, but for mercy. I can get alms from any passer-by…but they have no mercy for me. I long for Jesus to see me and realize that my dilemma is not my fault, to maybe use his reputed healing power to heal me. “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” My voice persists, in fact it builds. I’m aware of the crowd trying to quiet me. But instead they are quieted as I sense Jesus has stopped. My voice alone is heard – almost a whisper now in the hush. “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me. I am Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus. I am in need of your mercy.”

In the quiet, I hear your call, your call to come to you. Your desire for me advances to me through the crowd. “Come.” Unchecked, I spring up and rush to you, groping arms outstretched because I’m not sure what’s in front of me, unaware of the crowd, who in retrospect I realize must have parted to make a way for me to follow your call. I come to you and fall on your chest. My head is buried in your embrace. I smell your closeness. I feel your arms. I sink into your strength. I hear your voice, “What do you want?”

“I want my life back. I want a ministry. I want to be used for your work, for your sake, for the Kingdom.” You hold me while I weep into your shoulder. Minutes passed. (Maybe hours, maybe seconds, I don’t know. Time stood still.)

When you finally speak you commend me and say to me that my trust in you, my faith in your power to restore has made me well. I am not aware of any faith on my part. I know only my need to be near you in my desperation. Yet, when I open my eyes, while still tucked in your embrace, I see the crowds watching me lean on you. I can see again. And I see the people observing me depend on you. They see my clinging to you. And you say…”This is your ministry now; let them see your utter dependence on me, let them see your continued leaning on me, clinging to me, relying on my mercy. This is your life and your ministry now.”

I physically let go of clinging to you, so I can follow as you lead. Yet I carry this truth with me. My true self will always be clinging to you. I will let them see my need of you.

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The promise and the fine print

Thoughts on Mark 10:28-31

The rich young man, who chose his many possessions over following you got the disciples questioning the possibility of entering the Kingdom of heaven. You assure them, “God makes the impossible, possible.” But Peter still needed clarification, he spoke for all the disciples when he described how they had left everything behind to follow you; businesses, fathers, political causes all now seen in the rear view mirror. Your tone sounds gentle and reassuring as you acknowledge their sacrifices and promise a sure future both now and in eternity. In this life the Kingdom will provide homes, families and lands beyond their limited, parochial world view. All who know and love you become family members, my home is theirs, theirs is mine. Letting go of earthly ties, frees me to receive eternal connections and provisions.

But there is a fine print on the promise: I’ll receive a hundred-fold return on my sacrifices, but I’ll receive it with persecutions. This word is used 10 times in the NT, each time associated with trouble received because of the Word of God. It is what Paul was carrying out on Christians as he was bound for Damascus. Jesus gives the disciples hope, they will be abundantly provided for in this life, but he gives it in the context of reality, they will suffer.

Wow. What does this mean to me, Lord? First of all, hold your belongings loosely, and be absolutely generous with them. All I have is loaned to me, I am a steward; my house, my husband, my kids, my work, my time, my money, all available to serve the Kingdom. And in some ways, an even harder lesson, I am to be willing to receive from others of their abundance when I am in need. Ouch, a lesson in humility.

Second, expect to suffer. What? The world will not understand or appreciate the nature of the Kingdom life and Satan, the great deceiver will stir up trouble. Don’t be surprised when troubles arise, worries lift their head, fear threatens. As Jesus said, “in the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I’ve overcome the world.” Troubles will pass, persecutions will end, but eternal life is  mine and it is increasing and is forever. Thank you and amen.

The true activity of the Kingdom

Thoughts on Mark 10:13-16

Earlier the disciples were rebuking a man who used your name to cast out demons, now they are turning away parents who want to bring their children to you so you can bless them. These disciples were good intended, weren’t they helping you manage your ministry, protecting your name and your schedule. But they were wrong. They didn’t get what you were about, did they?

When you found out what was going on, you were indignant and set them straight.

Healing people and casting out demons is clean up work, deconstructing the work of sin and death so that life and wholeness can be achieved. Welcoming and blessing the children is an exact picture of the activity of your Kingdom. Your plan from the beginning  was for humankind to be child-like, innocent, playful, properly dependent. The work of the incarnation is to restore us to such a state.

Lord, Jesus, wipe my soul’s slate clean, erase the sin and death promoting choices I make; I come to you now as a child, eager to play with you, to have you carry me in your arms speak words of affirmation and acceptance. Thank you and Amen.

The sign of a maturing faith

Thoughts on Mark 10:1-12

Jesus takes his show on the road and the crowds follow; not to get something from him, there is no mention of any healing or casting out of demons, rather they gather around to learn from him. “As was his custom, he taught them.” These followers are maturing in their faith, they want you, they want to be with you, their aim is not to get something from you and then go about their business healed or restored.

By your kindness, I feel that is represents the state of my soul. You have done such great things for me, in me and through me. I trust the circumstances of my life and my body to your keeping, what I want from you now is to learn from you, to be with you so I become like you. You offer me your teaching, your presence. May it penetrate into my secret heart and then flow from me in my words and actions.

The Pharisees came to test you. I’m done with testing you, you don’t have to prove your orthodoxy to me. What you’ve given is enough. You speak your intention for humankind in Genesis, we were created for pure, reciprocal love; in the law you show your understanding of the humanity of humankind, because we are damaged and cannot contain such unadulterated love, you allow us a way to manage our brokenness; in the incarnation you reconcile your intention and our brokenness. You make a way for us to come home.

Oh, loving God. Let me live closer to the center, closer to the purity of your heart; through me woo others toward home. Oh wise God, let me be as gracious as you, may I, without condemnation offer others a “law” to manage their brokenness, remembering all the while your intention for humankind, union with Love. Thank you and Amen.