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What do you want me to do for you?

There was a blind beggar sitting by the roadside, or so the story goes, when Jesus and his disciples were passing by on their way out of Jericho. Of course, the blind man did not know who was passing by, only that there was a commotion. But when he heard that the stir was about Jesus of Nazareth he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Perhaps it was the plaintiveness of this man’s voice or the sincerity and desperation in his tone that got Jesus’ attention. Or maybe it was the man’s perseverance and increasing volume as he shouted to be heard that gave Jesus pause. Possibly it was simply the potential and possibility Jesus saw in the life of this man that inclined Jesus to ask that the man be called upon.

The story leaves no doubt about the delight that filled that moment. Throwing his cloak aside the man jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“I want to see.”

The circumstances in our world and particularly in our nation today, leave no doubt that I am that blind man. I’m that beggar. I am Bartimaeus, son of the unclean. Lord, have mercy on me.

Help me to see where my place of privilege has kept me in the dark. Show me where my teaching has been sparse and my learning was filtered and faulty. Hear my pleading, my sincerity and my determination to come face to face with the truth — a truth I have seen but not recognized, a truth I have heard but not responded to, a truth so ugly I have turned away from it in disgust and disbelief, even as it has been shared by trustworthy friends.

Today it is clear that the truth doesn’t disappear just because it remains unacknowledged. Truth stands its ground, waiting to speak. It waits for us to address and set aside the falsehoods, biases and preconceived notions which currently cloud our vision. It waits patiently for each of us to respond to the question Jesus asks: what do you want me to do for you?

I want to see.

Lord, heal these eyes and expand my vision. Grant me the courage to look at what’s hard to see and to listen to what’s hard to hear, so I can walk closely with you and with those who bear the weight of injustices leveled by me and by those like me.

Lord, have mercy, as we learn to walk by faith into new sight.

Transparent but not invisible

I don’t know much about art. The arts appreciation sessions of my youth were probably mostly lost on me. Oh, I can describe what I see: the colors, the form, the brush strokes, the character, his expression, her touch. Perhaps, if the artist is clever I can even sense three dimensions even though the canvas is flat or the mosaic set in concrete. In this way it has more life but it’s still, well, art.

Recently, though, I’ve been introduced to the “icon” in Christian art. (An icon, according to Wikipedia, is “a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches. More broadly the term is used in a wide number of contexts for an image, picture, or representation; it is a sign or likeness that stands for an object by signifying or representing it either concretely or by analogy.”)

Icons are different. They invite me into what is beyond them, even while they stand their ground. They symbolize a whole, yet they are not whole. They tell a complete story, yet their end is not the end. By their very nature they say, there is more. More than meets the eye. They invite me to explore the more.

I am reading John’s account of Jesus healing the blind man on the Sabbath. (John 9) The disciples, accustomed to ailment or injury as signifying sin, ask, ““Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

Born blind and now he sees. We remark on the miracle, which surely it would be were it to happen today, but there’s more. He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed. We think of him as damaged goods, disabled, needy. Jesus says this has a divine purpose, to reveal what’s beyond. His blindness is iconic. Given to him so that others might see through it to the workings of God.

Was I born with something that was meant to do this? How would I fill in this blank?

she was born _____ so that God’s works might be revealed in her.

A gift, a collection of gifts, an ability, a dis-ability? My uniqueness is my allotment. If I hold them up to the daylight of God, what do I see?

Now I wish I had paid more attention in the arts appreciation sessions. What I hold in my hand doesn’t look like much. Doesn’t shimmer or reflect. Really quite plain. Dusty from lack of use. Pretty heavy to hold up for long. I’m tempted to just tuck it away and pull it out again when it’s sunnier.

But I’m curious. There is a place it fits just so. Never tried it there, but why not? The moment I snap it in, it starts to rumble and shake. There’s a small sound and a bit of light. Does anyone else hear it? Does anyone else see it? It propels me into words and into action, into conversation and activity. My goodness, this _______ seems to have a life of its own!

Can’t people see it has bored a hole right through me? Right through my torso, from front to back, a big gaping hole!

But no, apparently not. They’re not bothered. They say things like, “Thank you, that makes sense.” and “Oh, my knee feels pretty good now.” and “So good to have you aboard.” and “We are excited to work with you.”

Who is this they are speaking to? It’s not me. It’s the one they see through me. My goodness, this _______ has become transparent. Through it, they can see the One who made it, made me. Do you suppose it can help them see the One who made them?

Are we all meant to be “icons”?  Windows through which others can see and be with God Himself? I thought I was just supposed to get out of the way. Make myself invisible. Duck, so those in the back can see. Perhaps the ______ adds a certain transparency.

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