He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23)
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Whenever I read the name of someone who is featured in a Gospel story I learn two things. One is that someone thought enough of the person to remember their name and two that the story is like the underline in a written document as it is meant to draw our attention to something important. I do not know about you, however, these days I have difficulty remembering a person’s name within minutes of having been told what it is. I am much more likely to remember their face what they wore or some part of what they shared with me than their name. It is different though if they have a dog. I will remember the dog’s name. And from then on the person who I met will forever be remembered as “Fluffy’s” mom or dad. I do not care how famous they are or how well known they may be in the community, for me their primary identity will be as a pet.
What we remember about each other can provide a clue about what we consider important to know. When we meet someone for the first time, we may often think but do not say out loud, “Are you like me? Are you different from me? Do we have anything in common?” And, yes truth be told, we might be thinking, “Do I like you enough to make you worth remembering?” So the fact that we know Bartimaeus’ name and that he was the son of Timaeus is significant. Someone realized that people hearing this story would want to know the name of this man as well as his condition. His name matters because it provide more information about who he is and how he is known in the community.
Personally, I think that what we don’t know may be equally important. How did he become blind? Was he born that with sight only to lose it as he got older? Why was he begging? Where was the community support? Did he have a family who depended on him? Did he have any friends or family assist him? Was he homeless? How many times per day I wonder did people pass him by ignoring his plight and hoping he would just go away?
We often do not know much about each other’s stories. Occasionally we might learn of someone’s trial or tribulation because they ask us to pray for them or a friend we have in common might share some information that they think we should know. More often, I fear, we do not know important things about their story; that someone barely has enough to eat; is physically or emotionally in danger at home; is in a great deal of pain; or sadly has given up hope and is thinking about ending their life.
Our society supports our ability to disappear from each other’s lives and our communities. I think the term young people use these days as ghosting. We disappear from each other’s lives. We were once present and now we are not. We are too busy, too scheduled, too technologically enslaved sometimes to pause long enough to notice that it has been weeks, months, maybe even years since we last had a significant conversation with a friend or family member.
There are people who attend our services and who are part of our church community who otherwise live alone and have few to no people in their lives who know their story or care deeply about what is going on with them. And then one day we hear that they have been hospitalized or moved away or died. They are no longer a part of our lives and we realize that we have missed the chance to share our stories with them and to learn their story.
There is a theme running through today’s scriptures. The theme is restoration. God promises to restore the people’s fortunes, to provide for them, to make them whole and in doing so to release them from their difficulties, their loneliness, and their pain. The message is clear. The Lord is the source of all that is good in our lives and is every ready to restore us to wholeness. Jesus, having lived among us, especially knows how to provide what we need when we need it once we ask. Jesus knows our stories and he knows our names. He never forgets us even when we may have forgotten him.
To restore is to bring back or to replace. The Gospel tells us that Jesus brought back Bartimaeus’ sight. His request was to “let me see again.” And, Jesus granted that prayer. Scripture says that Jesus did so because he saw in Bartimaeus a seed of faith and used that as a foundation for granting the request. It seems to me that when Jesus grants miracles he does so because he has something with which to work. Someone’s faith or belief is enough of a foundation for a new beginning, a new life, restored sight. God knows our stories, understands our needs, and hears our prayers. However, we need to meet God part way. That I think is the essence of today’s lesson. We need to bring something to the table in addition to our prayers and that is the belief that God can and will make all things right.
Once we are restored, I think God hopes that we will then take this new beginning and use it well. Our actions after a restoration are a big part of our faith journey and whatever we chose to do becomes the rest of our story. Bartimaeus did not say, “Hey, thanks, Jesus,” and then run off to enjoy himself his new gift. He took his new beginning and used it to follow the one who made him whole.
Whenever I set aside time to reflect I can often recall moments in my life when Jesus restored my sight. Jesus helped me to see something situation or experience anew that then changed the direction of my life. Sometimes, Jesus helps me to see that my spiritual life needs a boost. He restores my commitment to a spiritual practice like getting on my knees morning and night to ask for his direction and to give thanks for getting me through the day. Sometimes Jesus helps me to experience a meditation during which scripture is read word by word and line by line in ways that help me to connect with Jesus on a deeper level new possibilities. Jesus helps me to see how to change my life for the better and to restore my faith.
I hope that sometime this week, you will set aside time for reflection on today’s lessons, especially the Gospel and ask yourself, “What is Jesus helping me to see? How does this knowledge impact my life? By granting me this gift of grace, what is being restored? How will I use this gift?”
In the days to follow let us also consider sharing our stories of restoration and of faith with one another. Sharing our stories will help us to remember who we are as children of God. Sharing our stories will help us to remember that we matter. Sharing will lift our spirits. And I daresay, it might also restoreth our souls.