The Rev. Kathy McAdams
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Franklin, MA
October 28, 2018 Proper 25B
Job 42:1-6, 10-17 / Mark 10:46-52
Is there anything in your life that makes you beg like Bartimaeus? Is there anything that takes away or masks your human dignity to such a degree that you resort to groveling? Is it a disability, an addiction, a dysfunctional relationship? What if you asked Jesus to heal you of that thing so that you might follow him on the way? Do you know Jesus well enough to ask such a favor?
Our faith makes us well, and leads us to make Jesus our way, as our Presiding Bishop calls it, the Way of Love. How might our faith make all of Creation well - all the people on the planet, and the animals and plants, and the earth itself? How might our faith make the world well, and lead us to make Jesus our way? In following Jesus, we strive for the vision that God provided us in Creation; we hold onto the hope that such a vision is possible; we hold onto the faith that healing and transformation does happen through Christ Jesus, just as it did for Bartimaeus. Our faith will fuel us as we go about the work of transforming ourselves and our society.
Job was a person of great faith…or so it seemed, until his faith was challenged by a painful ailment. Apparently, he had been complacent about his faith, until the disease uncovered his intense inward agony, and he began to doubt the presence, or even the existence, of God. Don’t you just get a picture of him stomping around, yelling, and flailing his arms? After all his arguing and ranting, he finally becomes aware of God and is no longer estranged from him or from the world. He finds God at the center of a storm, in the midst of darkness and chaos. Like Bartimaeus, he sees God for who he really is, and is transformed into a new man. No longer does Job see God as a puppet for managing his day-to-day affairs; he comes to know a God who is awesome and worthy of adoration. Perhaps Job’s willingness to open his heart and pray for his friends made room for God to get in as well. Perhaps this transformation that allowed intercessory prayer, also opened Job to his friends’ love for him, which was never really gone, just as God was never really gone.
How often do we go about our lives, without any God-consciousness, stopping to pray only when we need something, and then blaming God if that part of our lives doesn’t fall into place the way we want it to? We forget that it’s really not our life to live, but a life that has been entrusted to us for God’s purposes. We forget that God is present with us at every moment, and only think of God when we’re in need. We forget to look to the stories of the people of God (in Scripture and in our community) as testimony to God’s greatness and mercy. We forget that others may need to hear our story as well. We forget to keep our faith muscle strong, praying daily whether we need it or not, just so that we remember how, so that we keep the phone line open for two-way communication. Even when we don’t think we need God, God may be trying to tell us something.
Unfortunately, when most of us usually remember God is when a crisis arises - a physical or mental illness, a struggle with addiction, the loss of someone we love, or the loss of meaningful employment and income. Record numbers of people filled churches and synagogues on the weekend after September 11, 2001 and they were looking for answers. But the church couldn't provide them with all the answers they needed in just one day, and many of them left disappointed and never returned. They had no foundation on which to build their faith, and like Job, they felt abandoned by God.
It’s not that people with strong faith recover from disaster quickly. It’s just that when we have exercised our spiritual muscle, it’s strong enough to carry us through a crisis. For that reason, we need to ask and explore the hard questions when things are going well; questions like, “Why do bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people?” Exercising that spiritual muscle might include a private prayer practice, the study of Scripture, regular corporate worship, Sabbath time, and service to the community, all of which is aided by having a faith community, such as St. John’s.
Don’t you want your children and grandchildren, and children alive 100 and 200 years from now to have the benefit of what you’ve found here at St. John’s? Don’t you want to invest in St. John’s, to leave a legacy for those who come after you, to be sure that this spiritual gymnasium is here for them to workout their faith?
Pioneering American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie once set the standard for giving back: "No man can become rich without himself enriching others," he said. "The man who dies rich dies disgraced." Many other wealthy individuals are following this advice. Warren Buffett, and Bill & Melinda Gates started the Giving Pledge, a commitment by 186 billionaires from 22 countries to give away a majority of their income to help make the world a better place. They were inspired by what they saw from people of lesser means, who give so much, often at great personal sacrifice. Buffett himself has pledged to give away 99% of his fortune, and has already donated over $35 billion, which caused him to drop in rank from the world’s wealthiest man to only 3rd wealthiest. He has provided for his heirs, but is equally concerned about the welfare of the world. He told a group of wealthy investors, “You should leave your children enough so they can do anything, but not enough so they can do nothing.” I don’t think any of us have to worry about that.
Perhaps our financial reach won’t be as broad as Warren Buffett. We may not be able to eradicate Malaria or AIDS in Africa, but we can buy mosquito nets for families through Episcopal Relief and Development, we can help churches and families in Puerto Rico who are still rebuilding their lives after the hurricanes a year ago, we can help hungry families right here in Franklin, and we can be a welcoming presence for them when they need a place to pray and worship and be in community. In order to do that, St. John’s has got to be here, and in order to insure that, we all need to invest in it – invest our time, our talent, and our treasure. Continue to exercise your spiritual muscles, that you might grow so intimate with Jesus that, like Bartimaeus, you and he recognize each other instantly and call each other by name, and you don’t hesitate for a moment to ask him for healing.
We don’t invest in the Church or exercise our faith to manipulate God into being present to us, or to earn salvation. God is always present to us and we already have salvation through Jesus Christ. We do these things so that we won’t forget these things, so we’ll always be aware of God’s presence, and that we may be constantly giving thanks for our salvation. We do these things to be stewards of the faith that God has given us, to be sure that it continues into future generations, to keep our faith strong enough to carry us through crisis, and to grow it that we may have an abundance to share. Your faith has made you well. Follow Jesus on the way.
- Forbes on-line Jun 1, 2018 “Warren Buffett's Advice On How To Raise Well-Adjusted Heirs”