A Sunday reflection*.
The readings for the twenty second Sunday after Pentecost are here.
I’d like to start off this reflection with a short explanation: I know that not everyone who may be reading this is part of a congregation that uses the Revised Common Lectionary and there are some who do but don’t know that this is where the scripture readings they hear on Sunday come from. The RCL is a three year cycle of readings from scripture that is used by many denominations. For each week there is an Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament, and Gospel reading assigned appropriate to the church season. I link to the readings each week in my Sunday posts and these are the readings with which I prepare my sermons (and now these every-other-week reflections). I briefly touch on the RCL in my Episcopal 101 video The BCP Part 2 but now wish I had given more information. Perhaps it’s time for an additional video! But I digress … back to the topic at hand.
As I approach the assigned texts for each week, I first ask a two-fold question: What do these readings teach me about who God is and who we are as God’s beloved children? In seeking to answer these questions, I always have to keep in mind that the parts we read on a particular Sunday do not stand alone. They are part of the whole of God’s story as revealed to us in the scriptures.
In today’s Gospel reading, we encounter a blind man named Bartimaeus who is making a ruckus because he desperately wants Jesus to notice him. The crowds try to silence him but he cries out even louder. Jesus stops and asks for the man to be brought to him and suddenly the crowd’s attitude does a 180* and they encourage Bart to approach Jesus. Oh, the fickle, fickle crowd.
As he comes near, Jesus asks, “what do you want me to do for you?”
“Teacher,” Bart says, “I want to see.”
This is the same question Jesus asked James and John when they approached him and told him to give him whatever they asked. The juxtaposition of these two stories highlights the disparity of understanding between the ones who walked closest with Jesus and the man in the margins of society. The disciples were presumptuous: ‘give us what we ask.’ Bart called out from a distance “have mercy.” The disciples wanted recognition and prestige as they defined it so that they could place themselves above others. The man from the margin wanted to be healed so that he could move in from the margins and wholly be a part of the community again.
The comparison forces us to ask ourselves, “what do we ask Jesus to do for us?” Do we demand what we want or look for healing so that we can participate wholly in God’s Kingdom?
After restoring his sight, Jesus tells Bart to ‘go’ and yet we are told that he followed Jesus on the Way. Bart wasn’t disobeying Jesus; his way was now Jesus’ Way. Where else would he go? Do you remember the story in John’s telling of the good news where many have walked away from Jesus because of the difficult teaching about the Bread of Life? When Jesus asks the disciples if they too want to leave, Peter says, “where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Which way do we go? Do we follow Jesus on the Way with healed eyes to see and ears to hear the words of eternal life, wanting to participate wholly with Jesus on earth as in heaven?
What do these stories teach us about who God is and who we are as God’s beloved children? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
*Now that I am back in parish ministry, I will be preaching every other Sunday. For the alternate Sundays I will still do a short(ish) reflection on the lectionary readings.