When I was writing last weeks blog, which talked about persecution and the church community, the terrible events that unfolded in Charleston, SC, had yet to happen. The racist murder of nine good folk, gathered together for bible study, reminds us that acts of violence towards people of faith are not just things that happen to people overseas or part of history, but are a reality in our society. (Sermon from Sunday here)
We continue to focus this week on some of the characters we'll be introducing the kids to during Vacation Bible School. This week, it's Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, who finds a new vision for his life when Jesus comes to town. (Mark10:46-52). It is a hope filled story.
The message of hope in this story is that people's blindness can be healed when love invades their personal space. We all have blind spots. The perpetrator of the violence in South Carolina had a world view that was blind to the value of all human life and the constitutional notion that all are created equal. That wasn't how he saw the world. His blindness led him to horrendous and evil actions.
In our Bible story Bartimaeus is a hopeless case. He shouts out for help only to be told that he needs to be quiet. He is an embarrassment. Nobody cares. He keeps on shouting into the void, but nobody is listening. Then Jesus enters the picture. Jesus acknowledges his presence and asks him an odd question. 'What do you want me to do for you?'
An unusual question to ask a person who has no sight! Surely his need was obvious. As is the way of love, Jesus is concerned with the whole person. Physical sight was a crippling disability, yet there were other things in the life of Bartimaeus that needed to radically change.
As a nation struggles to understand the events in South Carolina, it is clear that no single solution is going to bring wholeness. There are many elements to this tragedy. How is it, that so many years after slavery has been abolished and the rights of people of all colors to participate equally in the freedoms our society enjoys, it is still possible for a young person to grow up thinking that their skin color makes them superior?
How many more massacres, shootings, and homicides have to take place before the realization dawns, that having a society saturated in firearms increases the likelihood of gun violence, rather than prevents it? How long will people continue looking for somebody to blame, be it the government, or a particular segment of society, or race, or parents, or schooling, or authority, or a thousand other targets, before we take a look in the mirror and realize that part of the problem is our own misconceptions and prejudices?
It has been said, 'It takes a village to raise a child'. Expanding that notion, we are all responsible for the kind of society we live in. We are all responsible for making sure those pushed aside, those like Bartimaeus, have their voices heard and the full extent of their problems dealt with. We are all part of the conversation and decision making process that shapes the values of the society in which we live.
So think about what Jesus did for Bartimaeus. He didn't treat him as a problem or an embarrassment. He heard him. He opened him up. He exposed his hurt. He healed him. He gave him new vision. He gave him a radically different perspective. He graced his life with new possibilities and yet to be explored horizons. Can we do that for each other? Can we allow the love of God to that for us?
The message of hope in this story is that, through the action of God's Spirit, change can happen. Radical change. Lasting change. Maybe, right now, that's a message we need to hear! “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!”
For some music, 'Third Day' singing 'Cry out to Jesus' The lines "There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary, love for the broken heart, there is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing, He'll meet you wherever you are, cry out to Jesus' certainly seem to reflect the story of Bartimaeus!