Friday, August 16, 2013 — Week of Proper 14, Year One
[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 978)
Psalms 102 (morning) // 107:1-32 (evening)
2 Samuel 15:19-37
It’s sometimes refreshing to recall that our faith is simply a way: a way of life, a walk with God. In today’s world, we often use established terms like “Christianity” or “the Church” to label our faith. Not so in our second reading: Paul just calls Christianity “this Way.” Christianity was a Way on the move and gaining followers, not a fixed place setting boundaries and getting stuck. Christianity had momentum and traction. But the key to feeling this momentum and traction is understanding how our faith is like a Way. It’s not a Way that you find by following a map or following a road. When God invites us into the Way, he asks us to follow a person.
Consider Ittai the Gittite, who wants to follow David rather than follow the boundaries of a map. David, who is on the run from Absalom, tells Ittai the Gittite to return to his own homeland and not to wander with the king in exile. Ittai tells David that he will not go home: “wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there also your servant will be.” His response is very similar to Ruth’s promise to her mother-in-law Naomi when Naomi, like King David, says, “Go back.” Ruth replies, “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge . . . Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17). Both Ruth the Moabite and Ittai the Gittite choose to follow another person, to share their life and to share their God, rather than follow the limitations of a map.
Paul also depended on other people in order to follow the Way. He was a man used to following clearly-marked and well-trodden roads, represented by the road to Damascus. While he was on his way, a sudden burst of light blinded him and threw him to the ground. To continue his journey, he needed to be led by others: “Since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, those who were with me took my hand and led me.” He couldn’t simply follow a road. Holding someone else’s hand, he was now taking his first steps along the Way.
Finally, the blind beggar Bartimaeus in today’s gospel chooses to follow Jesus rather than a map or a road. Bartimaeus doesn’t fit into the neatly enclosed communities of his day. Instead, Jesus, his disciples, and a large crowd encounter Bartimeus as they are leaving Jericho and heading somewhere else. Bartimaeus also doesn’t follow the established paths of his world: instead, he is “sitting by the roadside,” waiting for someone worth following to pass by. He shouts for Jesus to have mercy on him, and Jesus calls to him. When Jesus tells him that his faith has made him well, Bartimaeus immediately “regained his sight and followed him on the way.”
Notice how the exchange between Jesus and Bartimaeus resembles the encounters between David and Ittai and Ruth and Naomi. Jesus—Son of David, as Bartimaeus calls him—tells the blind man to go. Instead, the blind man follows Jesus.
Following Jesus is not like following a map or following a road. We can’t rely on set boundaries, on prescribed paths, or on our own sight. Instead, we follow people: the person of Jesus first and foremost, but also others who stretch out their hands or offer their unexpected fellowship. All of these show us the Way.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.