Psalm 34: 1-8
MARK 10: 46-52
October 28, 2018
SHALOM … yhey retsevn shalevheym yebrek atekm. May the Lord God bless each and every one of you.
We come to church this morning by choice; the EAGLES are on TV but we chose to come to worship God and to again discover God’s call and hold onto God’s Holy presence while sharing in praises to the One who created the universe. But, we come to worship in sorrow … in mourning torn by the evil actions of men this week that threatened leaders of our democratic nation and then yesterday, slaughtered beautiful people worshiping. We enter shiva with our those in Pittsburgh who lost loved ones.
Terrie Lewin Gilbert. Not a name any of you here know but as the news alert flashed on my phone yesterday morning it was Terrie who came to mind because you see Terrie is my friend, Terrie is Jewish … Terrie lives in Pittsburgh and the description of the TREE of LIFE Synagogue where innocents gathered for Shabbat … family and friends gathered for the celebration of the birth of a baby boy reflected in the bris … in a place where men, women and children were subject to shouts of JEWS MUST DIE and that horrid gunfire … it sounded like the type of house of worship on a quiet day of peace she and her family would go to to praise God just as we are here to do today. And, friends … it is her synagogue but Terrie and Michael, thank God, were not there yesterday morning but they have prayed to God where blood was spilt … no weapons of war should ever be in God’s house … ever! God’s house is a place of worship and has always been a sanctuary from the world’s hate … people rush to places of worship for sanctuary not to embrace the killing power of weaponry. And, hate should never be accepted against any person … any faith … anyone created in the image of God.
I mourn … that we have come so far down the road of hell … we all know it; have seen it; and some who attend worship services this morning are fully entrenched on it. I wonder … I wonder how Jesus can reach the blindness that has truly taken us away from accepting what Jesus lived for … and the reason we pray “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Not a wish for another day but what we want now.
Shalom … I am a white male of Irish German ancestry who has always chosen to worship in Protestant churches while living in the middle class communities. I am the stereotypical white male American whose place in the majority of our national population is quickly diminishing as we grow more into the beautiful blending of the splendid tints of brown, black and yellow in our collective skin tones. I have never felt hate for the person I am based on my sexuality, my ethnic roots, my religious faith nor the color of my skin. There was one point in our history however when my ancestors from the Emerald Isle were not welcome facing NINA … No Irish Need Apply … or worse.
I wonder … I truly wonder and mourn and this week … a week so difficult my friends and I am not even talking about why I almost smoked a cigarette for the first time in 40 years … I pause to hear the Psalmist lament … “Hear my prayer, O Lord, let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. I lie awake, I have become a bird alone on a roof. I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears. I wither away like ashes.”
This is a week when children and adults wear costumes hiding themselves from their every day appearance in the hopes of gaining smiles or looks of fear from those whom they shout ‘trick or treat’ at. There are creative costumes and mundane ones including those worn by teenagers ringing your door bells dressed as themselves. It’s a cultural event … getting into costume; being in disguise … the transformation is temporary.
On this day … we have heard the Gospel of Mark’s history lesson of Good News. I imagine that we each have heard the story of BARTIMAEUS many times in our lives. Blind beggar … son of Timaeus … sitting along the roadside desperate, in need, and unable to do much of anything. Every day a day of begging and every night a beggar’s night such was his life. But friends … along that Jericho Road, that Jesus would immortalize in teaching of the Good Samaritan, BARTIMAEUS heard Jesus … Jesus of Nazareth … and this blind man begging shouted “JESUS, Son of David … have pity on me. Take pity on me.” Nothing more … no brand new car; no pockets full of coin … pity
But the crowds … those who could see Jesus … those who may have witnessed the miracles … scolded BARTIMAEUS; he was not like them … he was hurting; he was blind.
Amongst the millions of families who were gathered together by their neighbors … amongst the millions of families whose Shabbat services were disrupted by men of violence who viewed people of faith as enemies, as evil, as worthy of extermination were the families of David and Lola. They were already forced to be identified by the star … the Star of David … but the level of hate poured out each day not just by one lonely crazed terrorist armed with war weapons … the level of hate reached a crescendo that caused church going people to not just turn their heads but to engage themselves in the cleansing of their society …family businesses were destroyed; we remember KRISTALLNACHT. Men, women and children were pulled from their homes … separated from each other amidst the cries and screams … shoved into train boxcars until there were no spaces and taken to THE CAMPS. Every member of David’s family … every member of Lola’s family … they had lived in communities with church going people some they knew well; others mere acquaintances but on the days and the nights when the families of David and Lola were turned to begging … pleading that their neighbors stop … the train cars were loaded … THE CAMPS as their final destination … the chambers and the burning.
Along those tracks … in the uniforms of the camp … who were the blind? Who couldn’t see Jesus? More importantly whose personal interests attempted to block the message from getting through?
David and Lola were the only members of their respective families to somehow survive … each with a number along the left arm. Each with personal scars. … they had been young, strong and healthy … their former neighbors, the church goers, had tasks for them to take on … and when the Americans arrived they still were breathing. They found each other … fell in love … gave birth to four beautiful daughters including my friend Helen. Four grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
In college I met David and Lola for the first time … saw the blue ink numbers and knowing history and imagining their history I wept.
David … tapped me on my hand and begged me to stop crying. He told me that he and Lola lived in the day not in their past and they were blessed by God. David has gone home to God but Lola is still with us and every time a picture is posted of this beautiful woman I smile but I also wonder what’s inside her. So I asked Helen if I could share their story … of course she said yes but rather than asking me to teach about the hate that led to the torturous deaths of aunts, uncles and grandparents she never knew … by hate-filled, prejudiced and everyday people who targeted the people of Abraham and Moses who on Saturdays pause for Shabbat and who greet each other with Happy Hanukkah during the season of Advent when Christians say Merry Christmas because their holiday of faith is Hanukkah not Christmas.
“Tell them that my parents chose love and creating a good life after facing evil. They didn’t want us to have hate in our hearts. We weren’t allowed to use the word hate even casually … I couldn’t even say I hate tomatoes. We were not allowed to hate Germans … only Nazi’s. We were taught that the vulnerable needed help from private individuals and the government. My mother founded a charity to help orphans be trained for work …”.
There is more to their story but Helen’s words remind us on this day of mourning, anger, and frustration that we have a choice as we head to bed every night … are we living beggars nights blocked from Jesus by the taunters of our world or are we people who don’t have hate in our hearts. Jesus clearly and directly told us not to have hate in our hearts but to love all of our neighbors … and to love God. We are not to succumb to the loudest voice but to follow the voice answering BARTIMAEUS who said, “Get up; go! Your faith has made you well.” We have the chance to believe & experience God. Give our lives to Jesus not a hand wave or nod … believe and be well.
They are cleaning the blood today from Terrie and Michael’s place of worship. The synagogue’s name comes from the book of Proverbs, “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding for wisdom is more profitable than silver and more precious than rubies. It’s ways are pleasant ways and all its paths are paths of peace. Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed.”
Our psalm today includes these words, “I prayed to the Lord and He answered me; He freed me from all my fears. Find out for yourself how good the Lord is. Happy are those who find safety with Him.”
The world wants us to be fearful .. God wants us to be faithful. John teaches, “There is no fear in love. But perfect fear drives out fear. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” And, the prophet Isaiah reminds us, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Today is our Shabbat … our day of opportunity to pause and worship our God putting the world aside for an hour of holy escape … as worship started yesterday morning in a beautifully Squirrel Hill synagogue the rabbi called out SHABBAT SHALOM not knowing what awaited. We grieve but do not fear … we love not allowing the hate mongers to change us … we live for Christ sharing His justice in the world as best we can.
SHALOM my friends SHALOM! God’s love is real; Jesus message is alive … beg for it, run to it, and rush past the interlopers whose goal is the opposite. Wisdom is God’s tree of life … I pray that each of you have Jesus in your heart and that your faith has made you well and continues to do so each day. We need to be alive for God.
Watch a video of today’s worship service: