The Sunday Project
Is Our God a God of Contradiction or Just Confusion?
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time |
By David Lincoln
Thus says the LORD: Shout with joy for Jacob, exult at the head of the nations; proclaim your praise and say: The LORD has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng. They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble. For I am a father to Israel, Ephraim is my first-born.
Brothers and sisters: Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: You are my son: this day I have begotten you; just as he says in another place: You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me." And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, "Son of David, have pity on me." Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you." He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man replied to him, "Master, I want to see." Jesus told him, "Go your way; your faith has saved you." Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.
In Genesis Chapter 1 we read, “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God looked at everything he had made and found it very good.”
And then later from Jeremiah 21:5-6 “I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and mighty arm, in anger, wrath, and great rage! I will strike down the inhabitants of this city, human being and beast; they shall die in a great pestilence.”
Again, in Matthew: 28:20, “behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Set next to Revelation 20:15, “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire.”
These images of God next to each other make no sense, they seem contradictory, confusing, and even ridiculous.
Something similar is happening in this Sunday’s Readings. Jeremiah proclaims that the exiled people will exult and praise, although they are blind and lame, they departed in tears, but God will console them.
Bartimaeus the blind man, called to Jesus, the crowd rebuked him. The Crowd changes their position to “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you."
But there is more in common in these readings than blindness.
We hear in these a common human experience of brokenness, blindness, a need for healing and companion to walk with us.
We also hear that we have a God who promises consolation, companionship, refreshing brooks of water, a level road, and no stumbling.
We also hear that some are called to service among God’s people, even some who are not perfect. “The High Priest has to make sin offerings for himself as well as the people.”
In all this we trust God who calls, “You are my son/daughter/child, this day I have begotten you” will continue to confuse us and be with us in our living, loving and struggles.
Questions we might ponder for ourselves:
- In what areas of my life do I experience blindness, brokenness or need of healing in myself or another?
- When have we seen others rebuked for asking for help, love, kindness, or healing, and not responded?
- Where do we need to take courage, get up and do or lead or serve in a new way, even when we are not perfect?
- What will make us say, “the LORD has done great things for us, we are glad indeed”?
- How has God confused us? What do we need, to understand God’s love better?
Jesus is asking, “What do you want me to do for you?”