Thoughts on the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 28, 2018
by Rev. Jim Ryan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean and I visited the city of Nuremberg on our trip through Germany this August. This city has to live with the history that it was the center of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party. It still contains the Party Headquarters building – a huge semi-circular structure with a very large area of grounds within the half-circle. The parade grounds are still there also – a massive field with a stone structure that served as the genocidal dictator’s reviewing stand of the hundred thousand or so of people who danced and marched in goose-step formations before him and his henchmen.
Fortunately, the German people have kept these structures still standing to build into future generations of German children the conviction, “Nie wieder krieg.” Never again war. They have constructed an addition to the party headquarters building. It is part of the building, but the way it juts out from it makes it appear to be a separate appendage. In this addition they have established the Nazi Archives. Each year over 800,000 visitors come there. 80% of all those visitors are German schoolchildren. The hope is the children will embed in their psyches the conviction, “Nie wieder krieg.” Never again war.
Jean and I were grateful to our German tour guides who so honestly and clearly spoke to us about the terrors of that history. At the former Nazi headquarters they had the bus drive into the interior semi-circle. They wanted us to see what the citizens of Nuremberg think today of the madness. Dump trucks are parked there now, vehicles whose primary function of collecting garbage makes this space the perfect space for them.
Needless to say, this visit was a learning experience. Let’s be clear. Words implant themselves in people’s minds and psyches. Words make people act. Some people in leadership positions use words to influence people’s actions. Some people are influenced by such words to act. Some such people use such words as motivation to murder other people.
Sadly, this clear line of words that have the power to influence action which results in murder gives evidence of how thin is the line of civility in our society. This clarity also makes it obvious that you and I, as well as any person who is entrusted with the responsibility of leadership in our society, must express ourselves with directness and simplicity in our shared life as members of a fractured society. We are surrounded by hateful speech, name calling that demeans, and verbal bullying. All of that readily marks this time in our history. Hate is easy, Love is hard.
We gather this morning – another miserably tragic morning – following a day of yet another massacre at a congregational site, this time the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At last count 11 persons have been killed and 6 wounded. It has already been reported that as he fired his weapons the killer shouted anti-Semitic words at the members of the synagogue. Words that influence action cause some people to murder. We are witnesses, yet again, to this all too obvious truth.
Today’s Gospel serves as an antidote to this seemingly ironclad truth.
The encounter of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, with Jesus in the Gospel of Mark is 15 sentences long. Most of the sentences are simple declarative ones. They tell a story that is clear, forthright, direct, and transparent. They contain an experience in which the persons involved speak words that influence actions which are nothing short of miraculous. Words truly have power.
Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want?”
Bartimaeus says to Jesus, “I want to see.”
Jesus says to Bartimaeus, “Your faith has saved you.”
It cannot be more clear. Simple words spoken, acts done.
As one who often speaks in abstractions and sometimes is a little too comfortable at the 30,000 foot level even I cannot miss this. Do not make it complicated. Jesus shows Bartimaeus that our best seeing starts from within us. And what Bartimaeus shows us next does take on a feature of allegory. We are told that, based upon the faith which he summoned up within himself Bartimaeus chose to follow Jesus.
Let’s be clear. Jesus asks, we summon faith, we follow.
When we remove the obfuscations, the complications, the hateful speech and the verbal bullying, it is then we discover the simplicity of it all. If you will share the faith of Jesus you will care for the other in need. It’s as simple as 15 mostly declarative sentences there in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark.
As the blind beggar prayed for sight, so we also require sight for clarity and understanding, Creator God. We offer gifts of bread and wine and see in our eating and drinking your Son, the Christ, among us; the Promised One whose miraculous gift is this saving grace of community. Amen
The Creator’s energy gives light that shatters darkness to brighten faith.
May the Creator give us the light of faith.
The Word of the Creator speaks love to embrace all.
May the Word give us the language of love.
The Spirit enflames a will to act.
May the Spirit give us the courage of conviction, today and every day.
Presider: We go from here in the peace of Christ, living daily our faith in action.
All: Giving thanks to God!