My Spiritual Advisor doe NOT endorse the bad language used in this clip, but would like you to get the overall message.
#GodsPeople is the reflection for October 25, 2015. What does it mean to be “God’s people”? What does this mean to how we order our lives, our faith communities? Can we even see ourselves? Listen here in this reflection by Mark Kurowski: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #ChristianCommunity #Community #Mission #Poor #Homeless #Tithing #Blind #See #GoodWillHunting #RobinWilliams #MattDamon
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 10/25/2015 The 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 10:46-52.
There is a scene in the movie “Good Will Hunting” where the psychologist played by Robin Williams responds to Matt Damon’s character, Will Hunting, after a recent therapy session. I have posted the clip of the scene at the website MySpiritualAdvisor.com and I do not endorse the bad language used by William’s character. Yet, the point of the scene is magnificent.
At a recent therapy session, Damon’s character, Will, tears apart a painting by William’s character as a deflection. Will Hunting wants to deflect because he is afraid to face who he is. He wants to tear down because in tearing down his psychologist, he doesn’t have to face who he is. Discredit the messenger so that the message cannot get through. What the character Will is afraid of is talking truly about who he is. He is afraid of the truth, or encountering the truth.
There is no healing without the truth. Without dealing in realities, we cannot identify the disease. Without dealing with the disease, we cannot get the proper treatment. Without the proper treatment, we die.
In our passage from the Gospel of Mark, we see that Jesus is a polarizing figure. He is a person that folks cannot understand or identify. We can see this because Mark masterfully brings the issue of blindness into the fore. If we understand the context, then we can understand that there is blindness all over in this story.
First, we have Bartemaeus, a blind beggar, son of Timaeus,. It was not unusual to have blind beggars in Jericho. We think of Jericho as the fortress city along the Qelt Valley that protected the road to Jerusalem. It is the city that Joshua marched around seven times and then shouted the walls down. At least, that is what we think of when we think of Jericho. What we don’t think of is a lush spring of water that creates a waterway with beautiful gardens, ponds, and fountains, sort of like San Antonio, Texas.
Jericho was known for its moderate temperatures year round, its beauty, and wealth. It was the winter capital of Israel under Herod, in Jesus’ day. Therefore, there were all kinds of beggars in Jericho, because that is where all the rich people were.
Of the beggars, those who were blind were the ones that we could expect from the society. Those who were blind were understood to have contracted blindness from their sin or the sin of their ancestors. Blindness is listed as one of the reasons to exclude someone from the priesthood in the Torah. For Judaism, blindness was both a curse and a reason for others to have mercy and pity. God did not forget the blind. Listen to what God said through Moses in Leviticus 19.14: “You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind.” Even more importantly for our story is this from Deuteronomy: “Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind person on the road. All the people shall say, “Amen.”” (Seriously, the scriptures themselves say, “All the people shall say, “Amen.”” It is right there in the text.).
These injunctions to take care of the blind are not even as numerous as the number of times the Old Testament says that the society should take care of beggars. The Old Testament law is especially strict with the wealthy on how they should treat the poor because the wealthy are seen as being blessed by God for the purpose of caring for the rest of humanity. No one’s wealth is their own. It all belongs to God.
So, in the face of all this evidence of how good Jewish people in the days of Jesus are to treat beggars; and how they are to treat “the blind by the side of the road,” why is it that Jews would turn to Bartemaeus and shush him, “sternly”? God’s own people are called to be good to “the blind person by the side of the road.” That must mean that the usual place where you could find blind folks was by the side of the road begging because there is a law in the Old Testament specifically for it. We don’t make laws for things that don’t happen, well at least not honestly.
God must be saying, “It is bad enough that ya’ll kicked these disabled folks to the curb! Why are you going to shush them, too?” Yet, that is exactly what the good Jewish folk of Jericho in Jesus’ day do. They hush the blind man who is calling to the one who has been going all around Judea, Israel, all of Palestine, healing the blind, the sick, the lame, and raising the dead. How could you mislead a blind person by the side of the road any more than that?
The people of Jericho are God’s chosen people. They are the people who are to show the rest of the world how to live in righteousness. They are the people who are supposed to see the blind person’s plight and be kind to them. They are to see the plight of the beggar and understand their situation. They are to advocate for the blind beggar by the side of the road in their service to God. The people of God are called to see Jesus for who he is, the one who can bring healing to the blind man, Bartemaeus, but they do not. The “people of God” do not see Jesus as the source of healing. The “people of God” do not see the blind man. The “people of God” do not see their wealth. The “people of God” do not see how they can serve rather than be served. The “people of God” just do (pause) not (pause) see!
Yes, there is a blind man in this story. There are plenty of blind men, and women, too!
Remember James and John from last week? They were blind to the purpose of Jesus and their calling as apostles by power, prestige, and glory. This week, the people of Jericho are blinded by their luxury, their status, their wealth. They cannot see the poor among themselves.
So, with the coming of Jesus, who welcomes the blind beggar to himself, do the people respond by making a place for the blind beggars among them? No. They will go on in the Gospel to celebrate the killing of the Messiah, Jesus, who heals all around him, gives peace to the afflicted, because he gives affliction to those who are falsely at peace.
Look at our churches. How many blind, homeless, begging people are in church with us across the world? Is that who we invite to our churches? Who do we have sitting next to us? Who do we seek? Who have we reached out to to offer the healing of Jesus Christ? Are we any different than the Jews of Jericho in Jesus’ day from our story? Do we favor our own sense of propriety over doing what the word of God explicitly says?
I have a daughter who always breaks a $20 bill before she goes to Chicago. Luke 6:20 says, “Give to all who beg from you.” So, she puts a dollar in the cup of each beggar she encounters in her trip to Chicago. I have a spiritual daughter who was so moved by God to meet a homeless woman, that she befriended one. When I say befriended, I mean, she seeks the woman, takes her shopping, eats with the woman, finds a way to help the woman stay at her favorite room for at least a night, and listens to her without judgment. I know a man whose father had a house full of children during the depression. When the father died, the man saw in his father’s old check stubs that regardless of how little they made, his father always gave 10% to the Church.
How is it that the people of Jericho, the Jewish people, who are the “people of God” disregard the commandments of God concerning beggars? How could James and John disregard the words of Jesus and think that being part of the Church is about power, prestige, and glory? They can do it because they are no different than Will Hunting.
The clip from the movie shows how good Will can know things from books, but is terrified to live. Will is terrified to experience life because it just may hurt, be inconvenient, and be not what he thinks he wants. The people of Jericho, the apostles James and John, and to some extent, we are afraid to read the words of Scripture and actually live them. Like Will Hunting, we are afraid to look at ourselves. I know I am afraid to look at myself sometimes with my misplaced priorities and my sin. I do it because God wants me to. God tells me to confess my sin and make a firm purpose of amendment, in other words, I am called to walk the talk. I do it because I dare to call myself a “Christian.”
Is it enough for us to listen to stories of others who live the Christian life? Or, ought we to make living what we read in Scripture as part of our everyday existence?
Who are we? Are we God’s own people? Have we patterned our lives after Jesus and his calling for us? Have we patterned our communities of faith after God’s word? There is only one way that the world will know how to live as God intends for us to live with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. That way is if we believe it and live it.
So, one last thing. What exactly is it that we are called to believe and live? We are called to believe in the one who raises the dead, heals the sick, and gives the blind sight. It is not as if we are asked to go into the world without the power of the living God, or anything. So, be courageous. Be strong. Be humble. Be reflective. Look. See. Believe. Live. Change the world. Amen.
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