Sun, 1 December 2019
St Luke 18:35-43. The healing of the blind beggar.
Jesus Christ is and was God. It is fitting that He reside in the throne room of God, surrounded by the cherubim and seraphim, with His holiness reflecting off all the angels and archangels around Him. But as the being of perfect love, He had to act on behalf of his beloved children (US!). So He took flesh and became man.
Some would have expected Him to take up residence in the Temple or in the Governor’s House. But instead He lived among common men and women and, for the last three years of His life, went from town to town so that everyone would know the Good News of salvation. His body was the temple and He took His holiness, His healing love, and the truth of the Gospel everywhere He went.
We must do the same. God resides within us. We are called to love others as God loves us. We are more than just disciples, we are Christ to the world– we are members of His body, the Church. Others expect us to keep the reason for our joy and hope here in this building, but that is not how to love! Yes, we invite the world to be transformed by joining us here, but love requires that we share the reason for joy and hope in the world. We don’t hide it under a bushel (no!) we let it shine!
The Lord was traveling in today’s lesson, and we give a glimpse at what happened as He did. We see that it isn’t always neat.
The world is a messy place. Look what happened in today’s lesson: Christ and His entourage are almost to Jericho, and a beggar disrupts their travel. This comes on the heels of other messy encounters: people having the nerve to bring their children up to Him to be blessed … a Rich Young Man questioning Jesus, and now this beggar! I am willing to guess that, in their weaker moments, the disciples would have preferred Jesus stay in a place where they could control Him. Then He could teach them – and anyone else who knew how to behave and knew what kind of questions were appropriate.
But that would have been a different God, the God of Ivan Karamazov’s “Grand Inquisitor”. Life is messy. People have real problems, questions, and needs that do not fit into neat little categories. And God goes out to meet them where they are. As with the Rich Man, He may not always tell them what they want to hear, but there is the real sense that love required meeting people where they are (out in the world)… and then leading them to the cross and, through that, to the Resurrection and life eternal.
We have to recognize the way our desire to control and mediate grace is more often a result of our own totalitarian pathology than a genuine desire to do God’s will. Yes, grace leads to harmony; but demanding harmony before offering grace is like withholding medicine until a patient is well enough to deserve it.
My final point may seem obvious, but it demands attention. How did the people respond to the blind man’s healing? Did they attack Jesus (they did in other places, as when He healed on the Sabbath)? Were they upset that He wasted His time and power on a simple beggar when He could have done something more important? Were they upset that they did not get their fair share of Jesus’ miracles on their own body (I bet all of them suffered from something!)?
No, the Gospel says; “And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.”
This is the proper response to God’s love and power no matter how it matches our desires or expectations: glorification! When we glorify God, we become more human, more happy, more resilient. And when others see us glorifying God, not just here in the temple, but everywhere we see Him and His miraculous action in this world, they are naturally drawn to worship Him as well.
Yes, let’s continue to praise God and enjoy His miracles here within these walls, but let’s be like Jesus Himself and take the Good News out into the world and let our friends and neighbors – even our enemies – feel the healing grace that flows through our love for them. Yes, it’s going to be messy and it may well mean that more unworthy beggars than kings feel the benefit of this grace; and it may end up meaning that we bring more grace to the lives of the people in our humble community of Anderson than to those in the great halls of Washington D.C. (that may seem to need it more).
But Christ cured the blindness of the beggar on the way to Jericho despite the all terrible things the powerful were doing in Rome. Evangelism is local; it begins with the transformation of our hearts into overflowing fountains of grace that pour out to bless everyone we meet. May the Lord strengthen us as we spread His grace in a messy world.