From Pastor Kenny's Desk
October 28, 2018
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with the disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar names Bartimaeus, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, “Heir of David, Jesus, have pity on me!”
Many people scolded him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the louder, “Heir of David, have pity on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” So they called the blind man. “Don’t be afraid,” they said. “Get up; Jesus is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, Bartimaeus jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Rabbuni,” the blind man said, “I want to see.” Jesus replied, “Go, your faith has saved you.” And immediately Bartimaeus received the gift of sight and began to follow Jesus along the road.
~Mark 10:46-52, the Inclusive Bible translation
I’ve just one thing to say about this sacred text. Just one thing … it’s ALL about freedom.
The story about Bartimaeus, I mean. He won’t shut up. Even though people tell him to. And that’s hard. We are so quick to fall into silence in general, worried about being hurt and having hurt feelings, offending or hurting feelings or being rejected, ridiculed, made fun of, laughed at and so much more. And so, when folks tell us to shut up, we’re all too quick to oblige. But Bartimaeus won’t … and I say, “Good for him!” He is free. Free to defy his neighbors. Free to call for help. Free to make his needs known to Jesus. Free. Perhaps he’s suffered enough, or feels like there’s nothing left to lose, or just doesn’t care anymore. Or perhaps he just senses … or, really, sees … that in the presence of Jesus all the rules change and he is no longer “Blind Bartimaeus” but instead “Bartimaeus, Beloved of God.” Whatever the reason, he knows he is free and seizes his faith and his courage to live into that freedom and Jesus says that’s what made him well.
It’s about freedom.
Jesus says that we are no longer second-class citizens in the Kin-dom of God. Which was a crazy thing to say in the first century, because there were totally second-class citizens everywhere. Except they weren’t called citizens at all, they were called slaves. Jesus knows this. He’s knows people are going to have a hard time believing that someone can move you from being a slave to being free. That can only be done by the king or the heir of the king. And that’s what Jesus does because that’s who Jesus is. He is the heir, the one who can … and does and continues to … pronounce God’s freedom. The one who can invite people to leave their chains behind and claim the rich life and freedom God offers. That is the truth that makes you free: that God has already made you free and calls you a beloved child.
It’s about freedom.
For many, it is the past that traps us. The past that reminds us of all our shortcomings, our failures, our disappointments, our pain and brokenness. In scripture we read that God tells Israel through the prophet Jeremiah that even though Israel forgot their identity … and fell short in a hundred different ways … God would not … and would never … hold this against Israel. That God will … and already has … willingly forgotten all their wrongdoing. And here’s the deal: no memory of the past, no memory the things we’ve done wrong … or the pain of being told we are wrong … we are ALWAYS embraced in God’s love and grace … and the future is open. Whenever we feel we are not enough God reminds us that in God we are MORE than enough. We are free.
It’s about freedom.
In scripture the Apostle Paul reminds us that we have ALL been justified … that is, made right with God … become inheritors of God’s love, hope and grace … just the way we are …the fact is we don’t need to do anything, earn anything, say anything, accomplish anything, or buy anything to earn God’s gift of love … we already have it, period. I believe most of the Church’s problems … as well as the problems in our communities, government leaders and the world … start when we forget we already have love and worth and dignity as a gift from God and sadly we try to earn it or take it from someone else.
It’s about freedom.
A loving relationship with the Divine ... this IS the good news of what God has done … and continues to do … in and through Jesus for us and ALL the world. It’s about freedom. From time to time, we might wonder what the sacred texts have to do with our lives today and ask how they are relevant. We might wonder how the words and actions of faith leaders throughout time mean anytime for us or how we can learn from them. The truth is the message of God’s love has always … and will always … be the same and relevant. Nothing will ever change the fact … God loves more than we could ever imagine and God desires for us to embrace that love by being free … God’s love is all about freedom. Freedom to grow, to be empowered to live and experience the riches of life in God’s loving embrace … just the way we are. No matter what we may have done, no matter what may have been done to us. None of these things define us. We are free and in God the future is open.
I know all too well that this can be really, really hard to believe. Some of what’s happened to us is so huge, so important, so all-encompassing and drastically impacts us all … illness, disappointment, rejection, hate, brutality, the effects of stigma or at times the pain of living openly and honesty as who you are … all these things matter and they may, in fact, be descriptively true of us, but they do not define us. Nothing we have done … or has been done to us … captures the essence of who we are completely. Only one thing can do that: God, the creator and sustainer of all. God has choses to call us beloved children, holy, beautiful, fabulous, precious in God’s sight, the Beloved of God … that’s what defines us!
And so we are free. Free to be our authentic selves, free to risk, to serve, to help, to care, to try, to fail, to live, to explore, to struggle, to laugh, to cry, to learn, to heal, to become and discover more and more of your authentic self, free to own that we are ALL created in the image of a loving God who says we are good … very good. Most importantly, we are free to love … just as God loves us.
That’s what living a life of faith is all about … this is the gift Bartimaeus teaches us … that freedom comes from the essence of God’s love … a gift given to ALL people. Our mission as God’s people is to live and help others experience God’s freedom. Free from the past, free from regret, free from fear, free from self-limitation, free from old hurts and mistakes, free to discover and embrace all of who you are and who you are becoming. We’re free because of God’s love for us … nothing more and nothing less. Sometimes this is hard to believe … so we need to be reminded over and over again … it can take a while to get used to this truth and this love … because embracing God’s freedom takes practice to REALLY believe God loves us … just the way we are.
So, I invite you to do your best this week to really live and be aware of God’s love and freedom. And when you start to doubt it … drop by church or come to Living Wednesday Dinner Church for a little touch up and a dose of God’s love shown through the members and friends of MCC Richmond. Tell someone at church what’s happening in your life and listen to them share about their life … remind each other that God’s love sets you free from the fears and worries of life, free from the ups and downs of living, free from the drama, shame and blame we experience, free from the thoughts that we are never enough. Keep coming back to be reminded it’s all about freedom … it takes a little while to sink in ... but it will and when it does … give it away to someone else. This is what we do in sharing God’s love with ALL people … we set people free, free to be what … and who … God calls us to be! Amen.