June 29, 2018 Mourning, Dancing, and the Joy of the Lord- Psalm 30, Philippians 4:11

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I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”  By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy. “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?  Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!”

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30 (ESV)

Sometimes we fail to understand our thorough dependence on God when things are going well for us. We tend to be a bit too self-reliant when things are going well. The distractions of daily life and our own pursuits can cause us to forget that we were made and named and claimed by God to be Christ-reliant.

The apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Phillipi: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, I am strong.” Philippians 4:11 (ESV)

It can also be true that hardship can cause us to question our faith and cause us to doubt God’s love and care for us. Even so, mourning and trials are times in which God draws close to us, in which we realize how desperate we are and how much we need Him.  When we come to that point of “it’s Christ or nothing,” all we have left is to fall upon the tender mercy of Jesus so He can put us back together again.  Jesus brings us back from the darkness of mourning and the despair of trials and comforts us with His peace and gives us joy that is not dependent upon our circumstances or material standing.

David (the writer of this Psalm) understood that God walks with us through times of mourning. God alone heals and restores us even as we know that we will not have complete or total healing in this lifetime.  For now we have to walk by faith in the promises of God. We will be made new and whole. We can rely on Jesus and know He cares for us until that day when the world is remade.

There is a morning coming soon when mourning will be gone forever.  Until then, even through our tears, we can sing.  We can dance.  We can trust that we have the joy of the Lord.

March 21, 2018 – Jesus and Blind Bart- Mark 10:46-52

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Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mark 10:46-52 (NIV)

“Son of David, have mercy on me!” One can almost imagine hearing that urgent voice rising up from a crowd. It would be easy to write off a blind beggar’s cry, or even to write him off as a nut job.  Blind Bart probably didn’t look or smell very nice.  He might have been seen as an embarrassment to some, especially to those “respectable people” who were telling him to be quiet.  He pipes up in the middle of the pomp and circumstance- and responds to the awareness that Jesus is near with an emphatic faith that cries, “I want to see!”

Our society is still ambivalent toward those who have disabilities. We love to hear the stories of those with disabilities who manage to overcome them, but what about people like Blind Bart?  Here was a guy who was a beggar, who was entirely dependent upon the charity of others, someone at the very bottom of the social ladder, whose only claim to fame is that he is screaming for the attention of Jesus.

Bart gets it. All he can do, if he wants to see, is to call on Jesus. He is at that point that C. S. Lewis describes as being “Christ or nothing.” Jesus is the only hope he has of ever being able to see.  Blind Bart has nothing left to lose. So why not be loud about it?

It’s that simple, and that difficult.

God is the Author of all healing. Even though we deal with physical afflictions that God does not always choose to take away from us, He brings us healing- and gives us vision- in many different ways.  Often times we don’t realize this until we find ourselves at that point of it being “Christ or nothing.” We cry to Jesus more loudly and with more urgency when we can’t see any other option- when we are at the end of ourselves, and when other people don’t have answers for us either.

Jesus heard. He made time for Blind Bart. Jesus had a lot of other things on His mind, but He made time to address the beggar’s cry.

Jesus makes time to hear our cries too, even when we are loud, or demanding, or seemingly out of line. When we admit to our blindness and ask Him for vision He gives us the eyes and the heart to see as He does.  Are we praying- and it’s OK to be loud- from that “Christ or nothing” place where Blind Bart was coming from?

“Son of David, have mercy on me! Rabbi, I want to see!”

And Jesus replied to him: “Go, your faith has healed you.”