First Presbyterian Church – Cedar Rapids

September 2017

Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Mark 10:49-51

In each of the synoptic gospels, we find this story of Jesus healing a blind man, and in Mark’s gospel, we find he is named Bartimaeus. Sitting beside the road begging, Bartimaeus calls out for mercy as Jesus walks along the road. Jesus responds, calling Bartimaeus before him, but before anything else occurs, Jesus pauses and asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Really, it seems a bit of an odd question. One might think that obviously this blind man standing before him wants healing, but yet, Jesus asks the question and in doing so opens up a space for Bartimaeus to express his own deepest need. This is a pattern for most of Jesus’ interactions. He allows those with whom he interacts the space to express their own needs or voicetheir own questions.

In an interview last year with Krista Tippett of On Being, a Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast, activist Ruby Sales shared, among other things, the influence being brought up within the church has had upon her work. One of the exchanges in the interview particularly stuck out to me. Reflecting on her earlier activism, she recounts a time when she felt that her faith had nothing to say to her work. However, in an encounter with another young woman, she was moved to ask the question, “Where does it hurt?” and learned the breadth and depth of that other woman’s sorrow and despair. It was in that moment, Ms. Sales relates, that she realized that her work for justice needed a spiritual foundation as well.

Where does it hurt?

At this moment in our community and in our country there are many places where anger and outrage, hurt and despair have made their homes among us. Fractures along lines of race, nationality, class, and political affiliation, that have heretofore presented as small cracks in our country’s puzzle, seem to have widened into gaping canyons between us, separating neighbor from neighbor, breaking apart families and friends. It can be hard to imagine how we can find a better way forward.

Where does it hurt?

Perhaps asking that question first as we speak to each other can help us move to a more constructive conversation. Just as Christ opened up space for those he healed or forgave or fed to express their needs, their hurts, asking that question puts us in the place of relationship rather than judgment or false assumption of motive. Taking time to hear one another’s stories, to push past our own prejudices, is important work, and perhaps the only thing that can help us to untangle the intricacies of our present moment and work toward a more hopeful and generative future. I believe the church can provide an important witness in this effort and perhaps this is one of our most important callings in this time. May God grace us all with compassion, and the ability to see each other fully and clearly.

Peace,

                                      

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