Mark 10:51 Jesus said, “What can I do for you?”
The above is Jesus’ response to Bartimaeus, a blind beggar he met along the road. The needs of a blind beggar should be pretty apparent, so why does Jesus ask? The only reason I can think of is that Jesus wants to interact with this person on a deeper level than just that of miracle worker. He wants the opportunity to hear the man open himself at the level of his deepest needs and desires. Maybe that is what he wants with us also. If Jesus asked you this question what would be your response? Ruth Haley Barton in her book Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation (pg 24) comments on this:
Now if I had been in Bartimaeus’s shoes, I might have gotten a little impatient with a question whose answer is so obvious. “What do you mean, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Isn’t it obvious? And besides, this is getting a little personal, don’t you think? We don’t know each other that well!” But on another level, the level where the spiritual journey is unfolding, it is a question that penetrates to the very core of our being. And it is very, very personal. It brings us face to face with our humanness, our vulnerability, our need. If we let it, such a question strips away the layers of pretense and superficiality to expose what is truest within us. And that is a very tender place indeed.
Live with the question “what do you want Jesus to do for you?” this week. Don’t be satisfied with your first response but ask it over and over on different days in different settings. You might be surprised at what you find.
Luke 9:28 About eight days after saying this, he climbed the mountain to pray, taking Peter, John, and James along. While he was in prayer, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became blinding white.
Thus begins Luke’s account of what we call the Transfiguration. The traditional churches always take note of this on the last Sunday before Lent. The gospel writers view this event as a glimpse of Christ’s glory that gave strength to the disciples as they followed Jesus to Jerusalem and witnessed the suffering he experienced there. The church uses this event in the same way as we figuratively journey with Jesus during Lent. The interesting thing about Luke’s account is that he alone of the gospel writers frames the action with prayer. Maybe the other authors assumed their readers would know that Jesus took the three disciples apart to pray and that, of course, that’s what Jesus was doing when Moses and Elijah showed up. Luke doesn’t want to leave any room for his readers to miss that point and states it plainly. In our culture we often think of Lent in terms of giving up something: candy, TV, whatever. But giving up something is only significant if it makes extra, special time and space to focus on God. More than anything else, Lent is a call to prayer. It is an opportunity to come away from all the motion and stress of the regular routine and be still in the presence of the creator and redeemer of the world. It just may be that like the disciples in this story, in doing so, we will see Jesus in a new or deeper way. Take the gift of Lent this year, the gift of carving out an added place in your life to be with God.
Luke 2:41-43 Every year Jesus’ parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up as they always did for the Feast. When it was over and they left for home, the child Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents didn’t know it.
Did you ever lose a child? I’ve done it. Fortunately they survived, and I don’t think did any long-term damage. But in that moment of discovery that this life that has been entrusted to your care is no longer with you, you experience a range of emotions from anger to bewilderment to panic. Then you turn around and retrace your steps hoping to find where your paths parted. It happened to Jesus’ parents in this story. It sometimes happens to us with to Jesus and our faith. We can be going along and all of a sudden realize that somewhere along the way Jesus, who once seemed to be with us, isn’t there anymore. Maybe that’s where you are now. The only thing to do is to turn around (this is what repentance means) and return to where you were last connected to Christ. It may be in church at the holidays. It may be in an experience of nature. It may be in reading the Bible. It may be in sharing with a friend. Where ever you are in your faith, look around. If Jesus isn’t there, turn around and reconnect. Just like in the story, Jesus is still where you left him.
Mark 10:13-14: The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom.
As we read through the New Testament together in our congregation I find it interesting the extent to which conflict is in the forefront. In this passage the disciples are irritated with the people bringing their children, and Jesus is “irate” with the disciples. Some of us thrive on a good fight, but most people find conflict to be negative. We are more drawn to the Jesus who preaches peace and love. But this is the same Jesus who stands up and confronts. Are the two qualities mutually exclusive? Can love and peace be a real presence even in the midst of disagreement, conflict and the attendant emotions that accompany them? The gospels seem to indicate that this can be so. In fact, conflict may open us up to a deeper encounter with God and others, as was the case here. If you have no conflicts in your life this week you have reason to be very thankful. But if you do, and most of us do on some level, you may have the opportunity, albeit a difficult one, of going further into a holy place. May you find the grace to go there.
Mark 4:33-34: With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots. (The Message Bible)
My encounter with the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods was a very meaningful experience for me. It expressed certain ideas in a beautiful and powerful way, some of which have stayed close to my heart for many years now. In one song he reminds us: “Careful the tale you tell, that is the spell. Children will listen.” The stories Jesus told he told purposefully and we need to listen to them with our hearts as well as our ears (or eyes if you read). And we also need to be mindful of the stories we tell with our words and actions. Are we being just as purposeful? Children of all ages listen attentively to those stories whether we are aware of it or not. Jesus’ stories were stories of forgiveness and compassion and comfort and the mystery of God’s kingdom in us. How about yours? “Careful the tale you tell, that is the spell. Children will listen.”