Scripture: Mark 10:46-52 (NRSV)
They 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.
There was a ruckus on the outskirts of Jericho when Jesus and his followers were headed out of town. One of those along the road was a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. We don't know much about this poor soul, except that his blindness had left him unable to support himself except by appealing to the mercy of passers-by. But he had a good pair of lungs, and he was not content to let this healer from Nazareth and his entourage go by without a stab at getting his attention. The scene is set: A teeming crowd pushing through the street, a crowd of respectable citizens watching and wondering what was going on, and a lone beggar screaming for attention. When those around him "sternly ordered him to be quiet," it seemed to inspire him to yell even louder.
And then, Mark tells us, "Jesus stood still." And that was the moment when the miracle happened. And that is precisely the moment when all miracles happen, for Bartimaeus and for us who come so many years later. When the world is spinning around us, and all is chaos and confusion, somewhere we will find Jesus, the "still point in a turning world," to borrow a phrase from T.S. Eliot. It is the stillness of his peace and grace around which the world circles.
This August our middle son died unexpectedly. At the same time, my church office was to be painted and re-carpeted, and every book, every file folder, every note pad, every knickknack had to be removed and stored in boxes elsewhere in the building. It was a metaphor for my life in chaos, where nothing was where it was supposed to be, where the familiar world had lost its shape and substance. I felt like a blind beggar, crying for mercy.
In the upheaval of grief and loss, the Son of David stood in our midst, often in the love of friends and colleagues. He became the "still point in the turning world." He "stood still" in the place between tears and anger, becoming the peace in the storm, the holy silence where some kind of healing could be hoped for. That was the place where I could come to hang on for dear life.
Eliot, in his poem Burnt Norton, said that "except for the still point, there would be no dance." The journey through grief has reminded me that the movement of life and time is sometimes wild and senseless, but sometimes it is a dance. Our faith proclaims that the dance goes on, somehow, and that Jesus still can be found in our crazy world, standing still at the center, calling us to himself so that we can find our bearings and perhaps even be able to see again something of this world's glory.
God, you are the silence and stillness at the center of everything. When the world seems to spin around us, when chaos and confusion seem to be ripping everything away from the center, call us to the still place of your peace. And invite us again and again to the dance of your grace.
the pastor of the First Congregational Church in Deep River, keeper of an open gate