Sunday, October 28, 2018

Light in the darkness: What do we want?

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 10:51)

We Americans have had a harrowing week, the sort of week in which our Christian belief that light shines through the darkness becomes a matter of faith more than observation. But we do believe that the light shines in the darkness and that love is stronger than hate. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s statement after the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh expresses our faith and describes the response of prayer and action that translates our sympathetic and loving thoughts toward our Jewish friends into a real sharing of love.

Nebraska Episcopalians who attended our Annual Council in Gering this week had a little more than a day of renewing and beginning friendships, being with and listening to our current Bishop and the two Bishops who preceded Bishop Barker, hearing a strong witness to Christian discipleship from Dr. Tom Osborne, and worshipping together. We were in a strikingly beautiful part of our state under clear blue autumn skies. All of this was light in the darkness. When we left Gering on Saturday morning and started hearing the news of what had happened to another faith community in Pittsburgh, I was grateful for the renewal and strength we took away with us, because those of us who are trying to follow Jesus at this point in our history need strong faith and minds and hearts. 
The Gospel lesson for today is the story of Bartimaeus, a blind man who calls out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” when he is told that Jesus is passing by. Jesus calls Bartimaeus over. Instead of assuming that what Bartimaeus needs most is to see, Jesus asks “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus is direct in his request: “My teacher, let me see again.” 

What do we want Jesus to do for us on October 28, 2018? Do we want an end to hate crimes and violence, or is there some payoff in personal status or social arrangements that makes us want a sort of half-healing where we gain some sense of protection while the currents of hatred and ignorance that fuel the violence continue? 

The week’s climate news was not only harrowing in its own right, but also very much connected to the other issues we are facing. The Red Cross president, Peter Maurer, talked about how climate change is exacerbating both domestic and international conflicts. [The Guardian: Climate change is exacerbating world conflicts…] Another article by National Geographic described the link between climate change and immigration from Guatemala. [Changing climate forces desperate Guatemalans to migrate.] Climate change is one of the societal global changes that feeds the racism and xenophobia that underlies so much of the politics of hate in the United States. 

What do we want Jesus to do for us? When we pray for our nation, do we pray for Jesus to help us find the strength and wisdom and courage to effect large scale economic and cultural changes, or do we simply long for some vague miracle that will make us safe? 

My plan for the next ten days includes standing in solidarity with our Jewish friends in Omaha, praying for real healing for our biosphere and our nation and for the strength, courage, and wisdom both corporately and personally to contribute to that healing, and keeping all of this in mind when I vote on November 6. 

We must become clear about what we truly want, and then ask Jesus for what we need to change our direction.