...gonna kick the darkness 'till it bleeds daylight... musings of a hungarian in texas

©2003 by Annamaria Kovacs. All contents of this blog are the property of the author. Use with written permission only.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Words of the Week is back!

I like this one in particular as the basis of my translation and starting point for my own thoughts was a very characteristically Hungarian Calvinist weekly contemplation in the style that my grandfather also practiced in his Sunday services.

Sigh. When I am back next time in Hungary, I need to see if I can get some of his handwritten notes (he wrote out all his services in longhand on Saturday evenings while listening to Radio Free Europe that we kids were forbidden to tell anyone) and type and translate at least some of them. Note to self--must email cousin who supposedly has all of these somewhere in a chest.

Mark,10: 46-52.

46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went
out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind
Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.
47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of
Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.
48 And many charged him that he should
hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.
49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.
50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.
51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.
52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

It should not be too difficult imagine ourselves in the same situation as the old blind beggar. He hears that Jesus and a great crowd are coming and he tries to cry out for Him in that exact moment he is approaching. But where is He? Which direction to shout? How far? Can he hear his voice? Bartimaeus was in the state of utter uncertainty regarding this, but still, he kept calling Him. He did not start asking around about which direction to turn his head or how many feet He was from him. It was not important. He must have thought he only had to shout and He would hear it. We need our will to triumph over difficulties.
It must not have been easy to cry out for help without any signs that his plea had been received. How many times our faith is tested in our daily lives? How many times he asks us: Do you really believe what you say that you do? During the deepest despairs of my life, I had to experience this again and again: “Do you really think it is true now? God loves you, He gives you His gifts, he carries you on his palm…” “No, he does not carry me, He beats me up, rather…or at least that’s how it feels.” Sounds familiar?
This battle can take many forms, but the most important is never to give UP, Never to give IN, and stick to what we know, what is sure as a rock. When the Devil sneaks question marks to the end of God’s sentences, we need to stick to what we know: that there is a full stop, or an exclamation mark there. If it was true before, it should be true even more, in this present, difficult situation. If I believed when it was easy, now I should stick to it even more now. Bartimaeus did not give up when no immediate answer came. Do we really believe that our prayers did reach not only the ceiling but to the ears and heart of the Son of God?
Bartimaeus also had other obstacles—the people who were around Jesus. A rabbi in old Palestine, kept teaching and preaching even as he traveled from one place to another. He walked in the crowd around him, slowly, from time to time he turned to them, said something, and then they kept going, contemplating on what the rabbi said. However, usually more and more people wanted to hear what he said, and for that they would have needed silence. This is why Bartimaeus’ shouting was so disturbing to the others, because they wanted silence. That’s why they told him to keep silent, that’s why they were so rude to him. In the original situation this might have sounded like this: “Shut up! We are not here to listen to you; you should also listen to the Rabbi!”Apart from this, calling Jesus the son of David, the title of the Messiah, was dangerous too. You can almost hear them: “Are you mad? Shut up! We’ll all get into trouble because of you! Shout as much as you want, but do not call him the Son of David!”
And what do we read? ”He cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.” Bartimeus must have felt that he had to cry louder and louder; louder than all the naysayers, all the doubters, all the would-be hangers-on. Sounds familiar? “I can’t believe you are religious, you are so…educated!” “I can’t believe you spend money and time on this…”
Then there was the third obstacle: after it was quiet, Jesus did not go to Bartimaeus, but he sent someone to get him. Should Bartimaeus to believe to those who just a minute ago wanted him to shut up? We have this happening in our lives as well: sometimes we tend to believe the Word of God better or less depending on who is saying it. But it is the other way around. We need to look past the messenger—it is always the Word that is important. Bartimaeus wanted to meet the person who sent the message: this is why he has passed the third, the final obstacle as well. He did not get offended; he did not make remarks that ‘hey, you said something completely different not a minute ago!’. He only had ears to the message’s sender. It did not matter who said it, he took it seriously, and he rose up and went to Him.The fourth obstacle now, that is the temptation of doubts. Bartimaeus was blind, he was worn out, by his predicament, by the wait, by the crowd, by the uncertain outcome—and now he gets the shock of his life: he can actually meet Jesus. Is it certain that he’s the Messiah? Are all those things I’ve heard about him true? Is it certain that I will be important enough for Him to pay attention to me? Can he and will he help me?
I don’t know if these questions are familiar to you—they are certainly are to me. The fourth obstacle is there to make us uncertain—the Devil tries to discourage us from the meeting with Him, from the true turn of our life.Bartimaeus has finally a fifth obstacle too: his own clothing. In Jesus’ time men were wearing long tunics or caftans that reached the ground. You could not really hurry in these: if you so much as leaned forward, the hem got under your feet and you might have fallen on your face. SO he could not really run. But he could not waste time either with the usual solution: folding it to his knees, tucking the excess to his belt, cinching the belt, and march up to Jesus in his short tunic. He might have left by the time he finished that. So he rather threw his garment off and run to him only in his undershirt. This was the mirror of his faith. He really wanted to meet Jesus: so he threw away his clothes and went to him.
And this is the final message of the Words for this week. Can you throw aside everything that hinders you on the road to Jesus? Are you ready to throw away everything, like a cloak, like a long robe, like a mask under which so many things can be hidden? Too often we have an honest desire in our heart to meet Him, but our outer garments, our conventions, our masks hold us back. If we don’t throw away these, they stay with us, and we cannot get there on time to meet Him. Are we ready for a radical confession of our sins: are we ready to part from everything that was known, that was comfortable, that was our life before, in order to get the obstacles out of the way leading to Him?
Bartimaeus could only meet Jesus when he passed through Jericho in his travels. God gave us a lot of opportunities already: he called us, He talks to us—but these opportunities are not endless. Bartimaeus was called to His presence like iron to a magnet. It was not Bartimaeus who went to look for Him, but Jesus stopped by him, because the blind man was tied to one place. Furthermore, he was not a hero, although he is an example to us: he was helped through all the obstacles listed by the mercy of God. He had faith, but his faith alone did not heal him: only Jesus did.
So what was his faith for, then? For the same than ours: to hold it up, like a cup, to the fountain of all mercy, so that God can fill it full. This is how, for Bartimaeus, it was Jesus whom he saw the first time when his eyes started to see.


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