worship

Let Me See Again
Dr. Baron Mullis
October 25, 2015 - Mark 10:46-52; Jeremiah 31:7-9

 

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Let Me See Again                                                               
Mark 10:46-52; Jeremiah 31:7-9        

Dr. Baron Mullis
Morningside Presbyterian Church
October 25, 2015

 

There’s a wonderful scene in Go Set A Watchman, where Scout, who is now called a very proper “Jean Louise”, is in a rather heated argument with her uncle, Dr. Finch.

I am not giving anything away to say that Watchman is a story about race and awareness.  Dr. Finch draws a somewhat elusive analogy and Jean Louise, who is rather naive reacts.

“But I don’t get the connection,” she says.

“That’s because you haven’t looked,” he replied.

And that is when he uttered the line that I remembered even after I finished the book:

“You’ve never opened your eyes.”1

Now, I am not generally a fan of having my blind-spots pointed out to me.  Generally I prefer to figure them out for myself which is why they remain blind. 

But the thing about a blind-spot is that’s where the whammy is waiting.  You know what I mean. 

Last spring, I bought a car that has what it calls “Blind Spot Detection.”  It flashes a bright strobe-light at you when there is something close to the car that it perceives you are about to hit.  It’s not perfect – I have very nearly started a panic maneuver to avoid my neighbor’s mailbox, but by and large it has helped me to avoid plowing into a least a few cars on the highway.  It’s a wonderful feature.

But I’ve never encountered blind-spot detection in real life.

In real life, blind-spots are not so easily detected.  And very significant things can lurk in our blind spots.

Miracles live in the blind spots. 

I sort of suspect that you are waiting on me to give you a miracle story here.  It’s what the Gospel lesson this morning seems to set up for us.  Jesus is walking along with his disciples, and in Mark’s version of Gospel story, this is the part where Jesus is about to turn toward Jerusalem, and we know what happens there – lurking in Jerusalem is the cross.  It has been foreshadowed and hinted at – we know it’s coming, but for just a minute more, Jesus is enjoying relative ease with his relatively obtuse disciples.

We have seen how they are obtuse – for a while they argued about which of the disciples is the “greatest of all time.”  Jesus shook his head in bemused bewilderment at their thick-headedness, plopped a child on a tabletop and said to the disciples, “Stop being like that, be like her.  For to such as these belongs the kingdom.”

Then a little while later they were wandering along again, and two of them sidled up to Jesus and said, “You know, it would be mighty fine if you’d give us the two best spots in the kingdom, one on your right and one on your left.  You know, in the kingdom, when you’ve fixed everything for us and we don’t have to worry anymore – you know we’ll be right with you up to the moment you get it all sorted out and we’re in the kingdom and well, if nobody else has asked, can we sit next to you?”

Jesus has been telling them that the kingdom is all around them.  He is walking toward Jerusalem, he’s walking to the place where he is going to have to pay for all that kingdom-talk, and they want to know the seating chart.

Blind spots. 

Just as the disciples are indulging these blind spots, he wanders next to a blind beggar named Bartimaeus.  Everybody is shushing the beggar, because you know, he was a distraction to the kingdom, and then Jesus says, “bring him over,” and naturally the same people who were shushing him are now his best friends, “He’s calling you, come on, let’s go.”

It’s a quick exchange, over in an instant, and the end result is that Bartimaeus can see and he’s following Jesus.

Mark’s Gospel is full of little, unnamed people who advance the story, folks like a woman with a disease, a Syrophoenician woman, a Gerasene or Gadarene man who suffers from demons.  They all do the same thing that Bartimaeus does, but they don’t get called by name.  Have you ever noticed that?

But Bartimaeus has a name.  Bar just means son of, we see that in the Bible quite regularly, which leaves us with the remainder of the name, Timaeus. 

So the blind man is the son of Timaeus. 

Do you remember Timaeus? 

Timaeus was a character from Plato’s  Dialogues, written a few centuries before Mark.  Timaeus wanted to understand the world, and he concluded it was the handiwork of a divine craftsman, and this is the key: the craftsman was good and wanted the world to be good and beautiful. 

So Mark has the disciples blundering along, not getting it, and he uses a blind man named after a character known for seeing what is good and beautiful to call out after Jesus and follow him. 2

The blind man sees what is good.  And then he follows.

The miracle is that he follows.  Because seeing means following.  It means knowing what the cost is and following. 

You see, for the ancients, everything about life was always a miracle, whether it was spectacular in its presentation, such as Jesus’s roadside healing, or simply the reality that the rain falls in the quantity that is needed, or that the sun goes down in the evening and rises again in the morning.

The disciples are only doing what most of us do, I suspect, most of the time.  They were wandering along with some vague notion that there’s something important in the way-off, distant horizon called the kingdom and they’re missing what’s right in front of them.  I know that’s true of me at least part of the time.  Blind spots.

It took a blind man to point it out.

That’s a miracle.

Do you ever stop to think about miracles?

We expect miracles to be earth shattering.  They aren’t.

They are the building blocks on which creation is made.  They’re sort of the opposite of earth-shattering, they’re earth-grounding.  They’re foundational.  They are the heart of life.

Generosity is a miracle.

Not all of life, but enough of it, suggests to us that we better get what we can while the getting is good, that we have earned our abundance when we have it and no one better try to take it from us, that it is necessary to hold it all.  Not all of life, but enough of it, suggests that it is a good thing to say, “I want, I want, I want,” because that is the only way to get, get, get. 

Some time back, I was sitting at Burnt Fork barbecue in Decatur enjoying a Cheerwine when I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between a father and a son.  The son, to his utter credit, managed to stay oblivious to his father, who was hammering home the message, “I just didn’t see you playing to win out there today.  It’s fine to have fun, but you have to have your head in the game and you have to want to win every time.”  Not all of life, but enough of it, tells us we have to win.

My friend Bill Enright writes,
“The voice crying from somewhere deep within you, ‘I want, I want, I want!’ doesn’t have anything to do with things and the accumulation of things…that voice is our starved soul crying for God.”3

Generosity is the transformed life in Jesus Christ giving of its abundance, no longer afraid.  It’s a miracle.  Do you want to see?

Having a community in a world that is dragging us apart is a miracle. 

I recently learned that the church that I served in Scotland for a summer years ago is slated for closure – the Scottish Presbyterian church is different from ours in that these decisions are made externally to the churches.  It’s a financial decision – and my dear friends there are mounting an effort to stop it being closed.  They probably won’t succeed and the church will likely close.  For a while, I was terribly down about it, even though I’ve known it was coming and the building needs more work than it’s worth.  It was a post-war church plant in a planned community, one of the first actually, and it is mostly veterans of the Second World War and I just felt terrible about those connections that are being treated, to my mind, cavalierly.

But then I stumbled across this wonderful passage from Seamus Heaney, who wrote,

“When all the others were away at Mass

I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.

They broke the silence, let fall one by one

Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:

Cold comforts set between us, things to share

Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.

And again let fall.

Pleasant little splashes

From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside

Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying

And some were responding and some were crying

I remembered her head bent toward my head,

her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives -

Never closer the whole rest of our lives.4

 

Community doesn’t dry up and end by a the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen. 

Community is a miracle.  Do you want to see?

Forgiveness is a miracle too – did you know that?

I think forgiveness is about one of the hardest things anyone of us ever really has to do. 

I know for me the greater the hurt, the harder the forgiveness.  It reminds me of Joseph in the Bible – he had to forgive his brothers for selling him into slavery.  Talk about hard to forgive.  Talk about work.  But it’s even more work to nurse that grudge.  Peter Gomes writes, “It takes a lot of work to maintain anger and estrangement.  Those of you who have been involved in maintaining your share of your family’s feuds all these years know how hard it is to remember that you are supposed to be thoroughly disgusted with your sister-in-law for something she did forty years ago.”5

And when the hurt was yesterday?  It’s the hardest thing a lot of Christians have to do, to forgive.  It happens in fits and spurts, drips and drabs, and one day, you’re free and you don’t have to do all that work anymore.

It’s a miracle.  Do you want to see?

Love is a miracle – think of that – can you manufacture feelings?  I try, but I find so much more than love wells up from within.  Perhaps the most famous passage about love is Paul’s hymn in First Corinthians, that it is patient, kind, not envious, boastful or rude, that it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

It’s a miracle – do you want to see? 

Life is a miracle.  Forgiveness is a miracle.  Generosity is a miracle.  Love is a miracle.  Community is a miracle

Are these all the miracles?  Oh no.  Not at all, not by a long shot.  Not if we’ll open our eyes.  The miracle happened, and the son of the seeker of goodness and beauty followed.  Or maybe that is the miracle – and the rest is just opening up our eyes. 

Do you want to see?  It’s going to cost you. 

Do you want to see?  Sometimes, it will be terrible. 

Do you want to see?  Sometimes, it will be beautiful. 

Do you want to see?  You’ll have to follow.

Do you want to see?

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

 


1 Harper Lee, Go Set A Watchman  (Harper: NY, 2015) p190
2 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-timaeus/
3 Bill Enright, Channel Markers: Wisdom from the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.  (Geneva Press: Louisville, 2001)  p50
4 Seamus Heaney, From “Clearances,” In Memoriam MKE (1911-1948) in A Book of Luminous Things, Czeslaw Milosz, ed.  (Harcourt: NY, 1996) p183
5 Peter Gomes, An Impossible Ethic in Sermons from Duke Chapel.  (Duke University Press: Durham, 2005) p312

Last Published: October 29, 2015 8:00 PM