Rev. Martha Jacobs
Guide Us On The Way
Psalm 23, Mark 10:46-52
October 15, 2017
The first Sunday of this month, we used this same text about Bartimaeus to begin our conversation about my sabbatical that will happen in 2019. For those who were not at that service and didn’t read my September Carillon article, I will do a brief recap. We are hoping to apply for a grant from the Lilly Foundation that will benefit both FCC and me.
One of the main criteria is that the congregation is doing work on its spiritual life together while I am doing work during my sabbatical that will restore, renew and enable me to continue to grow as your pastor. The Congregation must fully support this and be willing to come together while I am away and work on what you believe God is calling you to work on.
At that service, I lifted up Jesus asking Bartimaeus what he wanted Jesus to do for him and then, when Bartimaeus says he wants to see again, saying to Bartimaeus, “your faith has made you well.” I talked about how powerful our faith really is, and that we don’t always know or trust that. So, I asked you to consider this question: What might we want God to do for us at FCC while I am on sabbatical? During our dialogue, we had some great ideas come forth and we will continue to be open to God’s Spirit as we begin to have more direct conversations about this in early November.
So, why am I using this same text 2 weeks later? Well, you know how I ask that you close your eyes and listen for something new God might be wanting you to hear in our reading, before I offer our second reading on Sundays? Well, when I read this text aloud that Sunday, I heard something new. So, I wanted to revisit this text today and talk about what I heard, because I believe that it can help us as we continue to consider what God might be wanting us to do while I am on my sabbatical.
As I was reading the text aloud, I heard these words – “Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way,” and I heard them in a new and different way.
First, we learn that this man, had, at one time, been able to see. It says “he regained his sight.” We don’t know how he lost it, only that he regains it when he shows Jesus that he has faith that Jesus can heal him. That was new to me.
And then, it says that “he followed him on the way.” I wondered, on the way to where? What was Bartimaeus going to see? This man who had been blind, what was he about to see now? These questions came into my head as I heard myself reading this passage.
Well, I was so curious, that I went back to my Bible after worship to find out what happened after Bartimaeus regained his sight. In the very next section, they enter Jerusalem and Jesus proceeds to upset the money changers in the Temple market place, and the plotting escalates to arrest and kill Jesus. So, Bartimaeus whose sight is restored, is to become one of those who follows along the way with Jesus, sees what happens to Jesus as he moves through Holy Week and Good Friday and perhaps even Easter Sunday. But, of course, neither Bartimaeus, nor the disciples nor the other followers of Jesus had a clue as to what was in store for them.
But, there is another side to all of this that has nothing to do with Bartimaeus seeing again, or following Jesus on the way. Bishop Gene Robinson reminded me that Bartimaeus is in the predicament he is in because of society. We don’t know if his blindness came about because of something he did or something that was done to him. But, we do know that the reason he has to sit on a street corner and beg is because the people treat him as an outcast. As one not worthy to be a part of the community, not welcome to the table, not welcome in the synagogue. He is not welcome because of his blindness.
You see, blindness, sickness, and other conditions of suffering were seen at that time as evidence of one’s sin. In other words, people thought that he was getting what he deserved. It seems like what Bartimaeus really wants is to be noticed by God, since he called out to him repeatedly, trying to get his attention. He wants to be treated by God as one of God’s children, and not as an outcast. I think we can all relate to his wanting to be recognized for all that he was and not only for his blindness. Perhaps that is an aspect for us to look at while I am away – how to more fully embody our ONA statement.
Now, not only do we want to be recognized, we want to know what is ahead for us. Bartimaeus had no idea what he was really asking for when he told Jesus he wanted to see. So, perhaps, we too need to pause before wanting to know what is ahead for us.
Many years ago, I was walking a labyrinth and had an “aha” moment about seeing and knowing. A labyrinth is a meditative path that winds around in such a way that you can’t tell where it is going until you find yourself in the center. Often, people use walking a labyrinth to draw closer to God or to try to look at a problem in a different way or to just be able to quietly reflect while on a designated path. Labyrinths have been a part of my own spiritual growth for many years and I try to walk one when I have something going on that I need to focus on or when I need to be closer to God. The labyrinth enables me to do that. I recently realized that I use our columbarium as a sort of labyrinth. I often walk around the path, thinking and talking with God. And it brings me a sort of comfort to be among those for from FCC meant so much.
Well, back to my “aha” moment: I was trying to figure out what I was going to be doing when I finished my doctorate. I wondered what God had in store for me next. It was a question that was haunting me. I wanted to know and I kept asking God. I guess I was hoping I would wear God down and God would reveal to me what was ahead. As I walked the path, I kept trying to see beyond where I was and kept looking to see when I was going to get to the center of the labyrinth and hopefully have the answer. Suddenly, I heard a voice loud and clear say to me, “Just keep looking in front of you. Don’t worry about what is ahead. You will know when you need to know. Trust me.”
I realized then that I needed to let go of trying to control my future. So, as I approached the center of the labyrinth, I asked God to help me to let that go. As I arrived at the center of the labyrinth, I handed my fears and concerns about my future over to God with the promise that I would wait and trust that I would know when I was supposed to know. Amazingly, my anxiety level plunged and I felt like I could breathe more deeply than I had in a very long time.
Then, as I was walking back on the path that would lead me out of the labyrinth, a mantra came to me – “May I come to know what You would have me know, when You want me to know it.” That mantra has helped me many times as I have wondered what was in store for me, as I have tried to see what is ahead of me. So, while I would love nothing more than to know right now what paths we will individually be taking while I am on sabbatical, I am mindful that we need to proceed with care, and not jump to conclusions.
Dear friends, may we come to know what God would have us know, when God wants us to know it.
So, in the meantime, how do we move forward? We need to remain open to the way God guides us. We can seek to listen for what God wants us to do as we move forward serving the least of these. As we know from Psalm 23, God is our shepherd and we shall not want. God anoints our heads with oil and our cups overflow. Here, at FCC, our cup overflows in so many ways and God uses us to fill each other’s cups with love, with acceptance, and with grace. Through our conversations with each other and listening closely to each other, we will know from Jesus how to follow him on the way to renewal and growth both for ourselves and for our family of faith.
Robinson, Gene, in What Did Jesus Ask? Christian Leaders Reflect on is Questions of Faith, Elizabeth Diaz, ed.