|Sunrise over Church Steeple by Alvin Trusty. Creative Commons image on flickr|
46As [Jesus] and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then 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.” 52Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. (NRSV)
During the lifetime of Martin Luther lived an astronomer and mathematician by the name of Nicolas Copernicus. While Luther is known for the “radical” ideas he nailed to the Church at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, Copernicus is known for the “radical” idea that the earth revolved around the sun (and not the other way around.) His revolutionary ideas didn’t ruffle that many feathers until a pupil by the name of Galileo Galilei put these ideas to print.
Officially, the Roman Church held that the sun revolved around the earth—and when one of Galileo’s books on the subject was perceived be mocking the pope for believing the contrary, Galileo was branded a heretic and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life.
It’s laughable to consider how hard people held onto ideas that run contrary to what we call undeniable fact, but Jack Nicholson was right about truth: we can’t handle it… We don’t like it. We don’t want to hear it.
Why? Because it defies what we wish was true!
I love the old expression, “my mind us made up—don’t confuse me with facts!”
Deep in our hearts we possess a truth filter—such that, whenever any bit of information is revealed to us, we receive or reject it. If we understand it; if it’s beneficial to us; if it’s in line with our previous knowledge and experience; we call it truth. If we do not understand it; if it threatens us; if it contradicts our knowledge and experience; we reject it.
In sum, we look within ourselves for truth. We believe truth is something we can possess. Yet in so doing, we become blind to truth that comes not from within, but from beyond…
Bartimaeus, on the other hand, has much in common with many persons I know who suffer blindness: even though they cannot see, they are not blind to the world around them. Bartimaeus is the first person in the Gospel of Mark to recognize Jesus as the Son of David. Doubtless he had been taught what God had promised in the Scriptures: that the Messiah would be descendant of David. Therefore, he saw what many would deny about Jesus’ identity. When Jesus restores his sight, immediately he sees that everything he believed about Jesus was indeed true.
This is what God does. God doesn’t keep truth a secret. God reveals truth—and gives us faith to receive it. Some of the truths are not so nice—in particular, the truth of our sin. God’s judgment brings light upon the darkest thoughts and desires of our heart—and brings to light the destruction we visit upon the people and the world God created. God’s truth reveals our vulnerabilities and imperfections, shattering like glass our pride and self-righteousness.
But the truth about our sin is met with the truth of God’s grace. Our sins are forgiven and our guilt is banished from God’s sight. We are loved and accepted just as we are. What’s more is that each and every one of us is blessed with spiritual gifts by which God reveals his love to the world. Each of our lives has a sacred purpose by which God will answer human brokenness and need through our good works. And, God’s ultimate purpose for our lives and this world is resurrection. Yet truth does not stop here—because God is not done speaking…
God is not silent as our world is being torn apart by greed, violence, and apathy. God’s announces mercy and compassion towards the poor, the vulnerable, and the lost. God’s announces judgment against those who use power and privilege for their own benefit; who turn a blind eye to human suffering; and to those who arrogantly believe they can possess all truth and righteousness.
God is speaking as we struggle beneath the burdens of sickness, grief, and uncertainty about the future. God is speaking to our church as we exist in a rapidly-changing world, and need God to inspire and equip us for new ways of speaking God’s truth.
God is speaking as the Church itself struggles to understand God’s will as we weigh difficult and controversial questions about our practices and teachings. God will still be speaking even when we vehemently disagree.
When God speaks, one thing is certain: things change. People change. Reformation happens. New life is born.
No matter how much we learn or how wise we become, we will never know all there is to know; nor will we fully understand the wonders of God’s grace or explain the mysteries of his mercy. We will be blind to God’s truth if we believe that we can fully possess it.
But if we come before God seeking truth, laying down our crowns with our burdens, failings, and frustrations, God will speak. God truth will be confirmed as we act and build our lives upon it. We will be a people and a church, reformed and reborn in the truth of Jesus Christ as Lord.