CAMINANDO WITH JESUS: Electric Faith
Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 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.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
- Mark 10:46-52
Here we go again. Jesus is pulling another miracle out of his bottomless bag of wonders. It’s not as spectacular as raising the dead, curing 10 lepers or feeding multitudes; in fact, this is the second blind man that Jesus has cured in Mark’s Gospel. But this miracle is much more than a rerun.
Jesus cures Bartimaeus with the words: Your faith has saved you. In the 39 books of the Old Testament, there are only two references to the word faith. Yet in the far briefer New Testament, faith is cited scores of times, and never more powerfully than in this week’s gospel.
After a lifetime of blindness, Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus in desperation. Jesus hears his cry. He clearly sees the blind man’s faith fighting through the darkness. Like Bartimaeus, we turn to Christ in frustration, fear and anxiety when all else has failed. Jesus is used to that. He knows our frailty, our shaky mix of fear and faith. And I suspect that’s as it should be. It is the human condition. Our faith is not a destination. It is a journey. And the journey is fraught with detours and potholes as well as potential and possibilities.
There are the roadblocks we build ourselves—our doubts, our inhibitions, our reluctance to let go and put things in God’s hands. Then there are the obstacles that others erect. Some were quick to tell Bartimaeus to pipe down and stop bothering Jesus. They thought Christ had better things to do than bother with this blind nuisance.
Today these are the same folks who tell us that it’s definitely not cool to publicly proclaim Jesus. But being uncool is at the very core of our faith. So uncool in fact that Paul writes to the Corinthians: That we are fools for Christ’s sake.
We know that electricity is a powerful force that changed the world in the 19th century. But since then it has been so taken for granted that we are only aware of it when it fails. And yet electric power is all around us, pulsing through power lines; buried in the walls of our homes; powering the systems that feed us, shelter us, inform us, protect us, transport us—powering all that sustains life as we know it. Yet we never see it unless it arcs in the atmosphere.
Faith is the electricity of the spirit. It is generated by the grace of God and activated in baptism. Faith informs our hopes. It inspires our love. It is the foundation of the New Covenant. We do not come to God through genetic descent from Abraham. We come to God through our faith in Jesus Christ—through our belief in a miracle that took place 2000 years ago.
Far greater than the discovery of electricity, the internet, the theory of relativity—far greater than all the acquired wisdom of the ages—is the transformative power of faith and the journey to Becoming Beloved Community. Yet it is a miracle we have grown up with, one we take for granted. Like electricity, we see faith when it arcs in the atmosphere: in the lives of saints, in the sacrifice of martyrs, in the daily witness of Christ’s love all around us.
For such a simple, familiar word, “faith” is a highly complex challenging concept. It is a gift from God. It is a gift we must actively accept each and every day. That requires getting and keeping our minds and hearts in sync with God’s grace.
Stacks of theology books have been devoted to articulating the many aspects of faith. But you probably have a pretty accurate explanation in your pocket or purse right now. Fish in your wallet for a dollar. On the flip side, you’ll see the words: In God We Trust.
That’s what Bartimaeus did. In his blindness, he clearly saw in Jesus the face of God. After years of doubt and discouragement—in the teeth of ridicule and abuse—through the grace of God, he had the will to believe. He trusted God’s gift of faith and called out to Jesus. And that’s the real miracle in this gospel.
I could use a miracle today. I bet you could, too. And we’ll get one if we lay our blindness on the Lord, if we call him in our frustrations, in our temptations, resentments and anxiety of the pandemic! My faith tells me every prayer is answered.
That’s because the age of miracles isn’t over—if we actively embrace the faith that God’s grace is giving you and me today.
The Rev. Canon David Sellery is the canon for congregational mission in the Diocese of North Carolina.
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