Year B Proper 25 Mark 10
Lord, I Want to See
As bad as blindness is in the 20th century, however, it was so much worse in Jesus' day. Today a blind person at least has the hope of living a useful life with proper training. Some of the most skilled and creative people in our society are blind. But in first century Palestine blindness meant that you would be subjected to abject poverty. You would be reduced to begging for a living. You lived at the mercy and the generosity of others. Unless your particular kind of blindness was self-correcting, there was no hope whatsoever for a cure. The skills that were necessary were still centuries beyond the medical knowledge of the day.
Little wonder then that one of the signs of the coming of the Messiah was that the blind should receive their sight. When Jesus he announced his messiahship, he said: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has sent me to recover sight to the blind."
The story this morning of the healing of blind Bartimaeus would suggest to us that there are three kinds of blindness.
- The first kind of blindness is the blindness of Bartimaeus.
- The second kind of blindness is the blindness of the disciples.
- The third kind of blindness is the blindness of you and me.
Now that we're deep into fall, it's the time for an annual battle to begin again. For those of us in cold climes the yearly ritual of feeding the over-wintering birds is underway. And with that tradition comes yet another annual event the war against the squirrels.
Why it matters so much to nature lovers that they feed only the feathered and never the furred creatures is somewhat of a mystery. But there have been thousands of dollars spent in the name of squirrel defense over the years. Anyone living in a rural, wooded area can testify to the plenitude of both fur-bearing and feathered free-loaders queuing up to the trough.
From personal experience I suspect that the squirrel wars may camouflage the ugly truth that what we are actually trying not to feed is the squirrel's universally hated naked-tailed cousin . . . the wood rat. A bird feeder alive with the twittering presence of juncos, nuthatches and chickadees is one thing. A feeding station squirmingly full of fat and sassy rats is quite another!
Have you seen any of those video-tapes (you can purchase them) that chronicle the tireless, sometimes hilarious, often balletic attempts of the wily squirrel to beat all the safety devices humans install to keep them away from the birdseed? Demonstrating tremendous problem-solving abilities as well as physical dexterity, hungry squirrels have figured out how to climb around baffles, ride whirlygigs, leap unbelievable distances, and hang from their toenails in order to reach and pillage the beckoning bird feeder.
[At this point you may want to show-off some squirrel proof feeders that either you have in your yard, or that your people have devised for their yards. You can show pictures of these and get their inventors to tell the story of how they created them, or just show off a couple. One of the best I've seen was created by Paul Hammer, senior pastor at Mount Washington Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and installed off his deck. It used multiple pulleys and was threaded through at least three trees.]
Our own squirrel-proof feeder took our resident fox squirrels about fifteen minutes to figure out. Because the feeding tray has a weighted cover that closes over the seeds if too heavy a creature sits on it, the squirrels simply attack from above. They shimmy out to the end of the branch, hang upside down from their back feet, stretch their bodies down just as far as they can, reach out with their front paws, and delicately scoop the seed out with their nimble fingers. Only very occasionally do they slip off, and then it's probably because they are so weighted down with their full tummies that they can't hold up their own weight anymore.
The squirrels have found that their persistence eventually pays off. If they keep working at it, keep trying new ways to beat it, keep their minds and their muscles focused on the prize they will surely find a way.
In this week's gospel text blind Bartimaeus is a bit like one of those pesky squirrels. Hearing that Jesus of Nazareth is coming his way this blind beggar begins hollering out into the dark that surrounds him, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me" (verses 47-48). But the crowd surrounding Jesus tries to shush up Bartimaeus. Jesus offers spiritual sustenance to all who hear him...