Over the last several weeks, my congregation has been looking at the various aspects of our worship and how it is a part of our lives: not just our life of faith, but our lives as a whole. (I prepared a devotional resource to accompany us during the series, you can find it here.) Guiding us has been the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. In her book, Calhoun describes spiritual practices that are meant to transform us – enabling us to worship – to live – in spirit and truth. Calhoun has organized her book around the acronym W.O.R.S.H.I.P.:
Open myself to God
Relinquish the false self and idols of my heart
Share my life with others
Hear the Word of God
Incarnate the love of Christ
In addition to Sundays, we have gathered mid-week for shared experiences of the spiritual practices. This week, we are on “H” – Hear the Word of the God. Last night’s gathering was a guided meditation in the style of St. Ignatius. St. Ignatius believed in using the imagination when contemplating Scripture and praying in order to enter into the passage more fully – and more intimately – finally bringing you into conversation with Jesus.
First, read the passage, followed by a slow reading of the meditation. You then have a long silence to have your conversation with Jesus. After that, read the passage one more time. While it’s best to have someone else read the meditation so you may be able to have the space to be truly present in it, you can also read it on your own. When I led it, it took me ten minutes to read through it before the long pause. May your journey on the Jericho Road and your conversation with Jesus be holy.
Jesus and his followers came into Jericho. As Jesus was leaving Jericho, together with his disciples and a sizable crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, Timaeus’ son, was sitting beside the road. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was there, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, show me mercy!” Many scolded him, telling him to be quiet, but he shouted even louder, “Son of David, show me mercy!”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him forward.” They called the blind man [saying], “Be encouraged! Get up! He’s calling you.” Throwing his coat to the side, he jumped up and came to Jesus.
Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
The blind man said, “Teacher, I want to see.” – Mark 10:46-51 (CEB)
The Jericho Road begins to climb as you leave Jericho and go up towards Jerusalem. The wide valley outside the city narrows into a gorge. The path hugs the curves of the Judean hillside, sheep and goats perched precariously on its heights.
A large crowd cannot travel the Jericho Road. At best, you can walk two across. Even then, someone is on the steep edge, that drops to the rocks below. This road forces a level of intimacy that you can avoid in a crowd.
Why are you here, walking the Jericho Road?
Is it a beautiful spring day and the walk enjoyable? Maybe your spring crops are already in and you found some free time. Have you joined the crowd out of boredom, or are you really following Jesus? Does this walk come from a place of scarcity or abundance? What are your expectations?
Maybe you have business in Jerusalem, and it’s safer to walk with a crowd than travel on your own. Were you intending to go to Jerusalem today and this parade of rabbi and his followers is a convenience for you? Or did you change your plans and move your trip up in order to travel with a crowd? Are you following Jesus or are you merely swept up in the movement of the crowd?
Or maybe you are Bartimaeus. You can feel the sun on your face but you can’t see its light. Every day is full of an over-abundance of free time because you do not have the option to work. You are always a follower because you cannot see where you are going on your own. Is your life dictated by the convenience of others – your plans always subject to someone else’s schedule?
You’ve gotten good at interpreting a crowd. You can tell this one is sizable. While you hear the murmurings of a dozen conversations, there is one voice that seems to travel the distance between the speaker and your spot on this dusty road. The voice commands your attention. And then you hear the name: Jesus.
You may not be able to see but you hear everything. You have heard of this Jesus who has been stirring up controversy from Nazareth to the Temple courts in Jerusalem. You have heard the stories – the stories of demons being cast out of men, women, and children. The stories of fierce storms that are stilled by his words. The stories of bread and fish that feed the hungry and dirty water that becomes fine wine. The stories of people who have been healed – even those born blind.
And you wonder, am I part of these stories?
Can Jesus’ story be part of my story?
Could it possibly be true?
Could it be possible?
What does it take for you to call out?
You hear a voice call out, “Jesus, Son of David, show me mercy!”
Is this a voice of desperation or certainty? Is it a command or plea? What is it that you want the Son of David to do for you?
What is mercy?
What is it that tries to silence your voice? Who tells you that this is not your time? Whose voice tells you that you are not worthy? Who scolds you saying that Jesus does not have time for you, does not care for you?
What does it take for you to call out again?
You hear the crowd stop. Do the dozens of conversations continue? Is Jesus’ voice lost in the crowd? Or like the wind and the waves, does the crowd become still when Jesus speaks?
Can you hear the voice of Jesus inviting you to come?
Maybe more out of surprise than concern for you, the crowd tells you Jesus is calling you. As you get ready to come to Jesus, is it only your coat that you throw aside? What else has been – or needs to be – thrown aside so that you can get to Jesus?
As you begin to walk, do you know the way or must someone lead you? Do hands tug at you, pulling you to Jesus? Or is there a gentleness of an arm around you, accompanying you? Has the path been made clear? Do any obstacles remain?
Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”
What is your response?
Time stopped for a while, but Jesus must still go to Jerusalem. As you say good-bye, what are your closing words to one another? Do you separate with a nod of the head, the shake of the hand, a kiss, an embrace? How will you live your life now that Jesus’ story has become part of your story? Will you return to Jericho or follow Jesus to Jerusalem?