I was 10 when I first needed glasses. I was a little bit nearsighted, nothing unusual or significant. That is, until I first wore my glasses in school. Then I was teased relentlessly. I learned to only put on my glasses for reading the blackboard or watching a movie. That was good for a couple of years. By the time I was in middle school, I needed my glasses for everything except reading. And I was still teased so much that I begged for contacts. I got them and wore them for a few years. My eyesight continued to get worse throughout my adolescence. Then in college I suddenly developed double vision for anything within five or six feet. And I got the news that I could lose my sight completely if my vision was not treated properly.
Of course, at 19 I panicked. I did not want to be blind! My vision continued to worsen as did the double vision until quite recently. My vision is somewhat stable and slightly improved as happens when we reach a certain age. Two years ago the cause of the double vision was finally diagnosed (nothing quite like 30 years of misdiagnosis) and I had surgery to correct it. For 18 months I wore contacts and enjoyed the freedom of not needing prism in my glasses. However, because the underlying cause still exists, the double vision has returned and I need prism again, very little, but enough so that contacts are not an option anymore. My vision is also not ever going to be 20/20 with or without corrective lenses.
Fortunately, I no longer get teased for wearing glasses and no longer feel bad about my need for them. I still wish I didn’t need them, though. I have often dreamed of having perfect vision. In my younger days, when I read the story of Bartimaeus I prayed for my own vision to be healed. Now, I read the story with a different kind of longing. I ask myself what might it take for my eyes, and the eyes of the Body of Christ, to be opened.
The texts this week point toward an answer. Having our eyes truly open has less to do with the acuity of our vision and more to do with our capacity for repentance and the recognition that God is God and we are not.
Job’s restoration came after he acknowledged that he could not begin to fathom the ways of God. Job repented for his arrogance and then God restored him. This story is powerful when taken as a metaphor for our spiritual life. How often do we get distracted by things of little importance and lose track of home, relationships, and faithful service to God? For Job, repentance led to restoration. Perhaps this could be true for us as individuals and as the church. Of course, restoration might look a lot like reformation because the past (for better or worse) cannot be re-established. However, when our eyes are opened to God’s steadfast love, it becomes possible for our present to be re-formed into a future filled with hope and goodness.
If not Job, then Jeremiah also supports that it is God who does the restoring, or in this case, reclaiming. God will always regather the people of God, especially when said people trust in God’s promises and return to God’s ways. What do we need to do to allow ourselves to be regathered and reclaimed by God? Or where have we turned away from God’s ways? Who or what do we choose not to see?
The Hebrews text invites us to live in relationship with Christ, who is the ultimate high priest. Christ is the one who has been made whole, complete (Greek is usually translated as “has been made perfect”) by the power of God. Wholeness is the key here. In Christ we can journey toward our own wholeness, a wholeness with which we are already gifted by God. It’s this wholeness that we fail to see in ourselves or in our neighbors. We also tend not to require the seeking of wholeness from the church, either. Who is it that we exclude? How can we repent and embrace the wholeness with which we have been blessed?
Mark’s account of the opening of Bartimaeus’ eyes demonstrates the power of repentance. Bartimaeus relentlessly asks Jesus for mercy. Jesus takes notice and opens his eyes. Then Jesus tells Bartimaeus that his faith has saved (Greek is usually translated as “healed”) him. Bartimaeus’ faith in God saved him from his inability to see. Maybe we should all pray for mercy and trust God to remove our shortsightedness and our reluctance to see our neighbors as whole and beloved children of God. Jesus, son of David, have mercy on us and save us from our limited vision.
Where are you with these texts? Please join in the conversation so we might share the journey together.
Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com.
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