Reflection for Reformation Sunday
Based on Job 42; 1-6; 10-17 and Mark 10: 46-52
Opening Prayer: Gracious and amazing God, as we reflect together on God’s word for us this day-may the words on my lips and the thoughts and feelings in our hearts and minds and bodies be acceptable in your sight, amen.
Our readings from scripture for three of the four weeks of the month of October have brought us up close and personal now with three stories from the Book of Job and its central character, Job.
Some of you may recall from the Rev. Brian Burke’s sermon last week, his description of Job as ‘the greatest living philosopher of the world’.
Some others of you here might recall the in depth theological discussion we had about the story of Job a few weeks back. What did we discern together?
We discerned this:
Perhaps it’s not God who causes bad things to happen to good people
Perhaps life just happens, all of it-the ordinary and the extraordinary all mingled together.
We also discerned that
Regardless of the extremes of his life experiences, Job continued to be in relationship with God
Though his wife and family might choose to reject that belief, Job persists in learning and growing through it all.
One of the gifts from the story of Job is his skill at embodying a patience for an acceptance of the mysterious enormity of an imminent and transcendent God.
Another is how Job’s experience of God whose enormity reaches far beyond his own understanding.
This is the background for us for this morning’s reading. Here, this morning we encounter Job in this particular conversation with God, his decision to live out his circumstances from a place of enduring humility and prayer.
The result of this decision?
Here in the final verses of the 42nd chapter of Job, we learn that Job appears to rewarded for his endurance and his prayers as we are told that his fortunes are restored and his family ties are renewed.
So much so is this the case, that the latter days of Job’s life seem to bear little resemblance to all the suffering he experienced over the course of his life.
For those among us who like to think about the Bible in critical terms, we might well shake our heads or raise our eyebrows and wonder-
How is it that in one part of the book of Job, all was lost to him and then here at the book’s end, the story would take such a different turn?
All as it previously was would be restored?
One theory biblical scholars pose is that the story of Job, his suffering, his lamenting to God, and his enduring faith in God’s enormity mirrors none other than that of Jesus as well, especially as he finds himself in the Garden at Gethsemane immediately before his death.
Other biblical scholars would say, that this happy ending spun for and by our ancient brothers and sisters might simply be a way to give to find hope as they put one foot in front of the other in difficult circumstances
Regardless of what we think the purpose of the stories from this ancient text taken from the Wisdom Tradition might be, it does seguay nicely into the second story Mary read for us this morning, the story of Blind Bartimaeus.
Here we have another story of a marginalized biblical figure who experiences transformation and restoration of sight resulting from his courageous faith and his seeking out of God in Jesus.
So, let us take a little closer look at the context and events of this morning’s story from Mark’s gospel.
Once again Jesus and the disciples are surrounded by an ever growing crowd of witnesses and observers gathered as he and his followers pass by.
And where are they headed?
Here, this morning, they are headed out of Jericho onto the steep curve towards Jerusalem leading to Jesus’ and their own fateful entry into the folly and the call of the Cross.
It is here where Bartimaeus or ‘son of Timeaus’ (also known by some as ‘son of honour’) addresses another ‘son of honour’ in his native Aramaic tongue:
“Jesus”, Bartimaeus shouts, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!”
Now, in my mind’s eye, I can imagine the drama of the scene:
Bartimaeus, clearly on the margins living with the disability of not being able to ‘see’
Bartimaeus, an individual clearly shunned because of his disability, relying on his sense of hearing and his voice, shouts out his proclamation of Jesus as the longed for Messiah
Jesus, the One come to bring about God’s vision of Shalom in the most oppressive of settings-life in 1st Century Roman-Occupied Palestine.
Can’t you just see Bartimaeus jostling his way into the middle of the thronging crowd, crying out
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Imagine, too, his courage and his skill at the disciples’ attempts to shush him up.
Bartimaeus’ courage and skill at being seen and heard is so effective that he immediately captures Jesus’ attention.
In as equally loud voice, Jesus orders the disciples to bring him forward and so it is he asks:
‘Bartimaeus, what is it you want me to do for you?”
For those of us familiar with the stories from the gospel according to Mark, this is not the first time Jesus has been approached by strangers seeking healing, and it will not be the last.
It’s also not the first time that Jesus breaks convention with the social order of the day and welcomes the last and the least and most especially, their curiosity and their requests for healing and restoration.
And so it is, we learn that that, Bartimaeus, the blind man who had the faith and the courage to seek out God’s healing through Jesus, experiences just that and he is told:
“Go. Your faith has made you well.”
Instead, however, Bartimaeus now restored to sight and so enlivened by his faith, chooses to joins the disciples and thronging crowds moving relentlessly in the direction of their fate at Jerusalem.
For our purposes today on this Reformation Sunday, the day five hundred years ago when Martin Luther whose 95 theses of faith provided the impetus for the Protestant Reformation to occur, were nailed to the castle door at Wittenburg in Germany, we have these two stories for our consideration.
They are but two stories and two biblical characters from our faith tradition whose lives were shaped by pain and suffering.
Job and Bartimaeus were but two men to whom bad things happened just because.
The bad things they experienced excluded and marginalized them from their community and yet, they relentlessly and courageously sought out a faithful relationship with God in the midst of their experiences of despair and isolation.
Ultimately their courageous dreams for themselves led to healing, transformation, and restoration.
Their experiences also led them to see and understand and relate to God in new ways.
Perhaps this is our take-away for today.
Healing has happened here at Knox. Relationships are being restored.
Still God calls us into the relentless work of being a transformed and a transforming congregation.
May our courageous dreams for ourselves a church community now perched on the margins of secular culture.
May these dreams include learning to see and to understand and to relate to those who come knocking on our doors, and may we learn, like Job and Bartimaeus to grow in patience and endurance.
May our relationships and understanding of God as both imminent and transcendent at the same time as being much deeper and wider than we might imagine help us discern who and whose we are.
May it be so, amen.