Blogging Towards Sunday October 25, 2009
What's the real miracle? [article]
This passage comes at the conclusion of a long section in Mark (chapters 8-10) which begin with another encounter with a blind man and address the notion of discipleship: what does it mean to follow Jesus? What does it cost? At the conclusion of this central part of this gospel is another healing: Bartimaeus the Blind Beggar becomes Bartimaeus the Free Follower.
Blind, he has only begging as a career option. In being healed, despite his obvious marginalization by society manifested in the ways the crowds tell him to "shut up" when Jesus passes by and he cries for help, he re-enters society not on his knees but on his feet. Jesus makes him whole: meaning that he's healed, not just his eyes, but his relational place in society, his relationships with his family, his self-view as unimportant and forgettable. He leaves behind what is quite possibly the only way he ever knew to make a living: begging. He gets up and walk forward, step by step after the One that not only invites him to a knew life but who also makes it possible in all its various levels.
Walking requires leaving where we are in order to enter the place we want to go. It's a movement not just a contemplation. Jesus invites us to walk after him, to GO - it's not just an explanation of faith, but an invitation to live it, to serve to know and be known. Faith is a being-reborn, not just in the spiritual or interior sense but in the daily sense in which we live our lives and make meaning of life.
What's the real miracle in the story?: his healing? that his life in changed for ever? and/or that he follows after Jesus? Maybe we're so often trying to explain and understand God that we don't hear the divine invitations to find meaning in active contemplation, doing what the African proverb says: "pray with your feet"
How might we more experientially teach/embody this meaning-making miracle in worship? How can we hope to "get it" when we hear the story sitting down or immobile, when this story is about mobility, putting faith into motion and faith putting us into motion? Maybe that's the experiential EPIC way to embody the story and somehow facilitate a spirit-filled moment that might move (literally) those that are engaged by the text. This Sunday is Reformation Sunday: the time we pause to celebrate our reformed roots, in particular our doctrinal foundations in the belief that we are called to be a people "reforming and continually being reformed by the Word of God through the life and action of the Holy Spirit". I wonder what this text has to say to us in terms of what faith and community-faith-life is like in an age when we see our churches shrinking in terms of active population, finances and creativity? Maybe we've become used to our place in life, like Bartimeaus and his begging. But where Bart is able to give it up for something new, we're too afraid - or too complacent - to get up and GO.
Image by Ian Pollock