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Living the Word

Turned Upside-Down
By Verna J. Dozier
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In September the ordered world of Proverbs and James is read against the cross of Mark’s world. Walter Brueggemann reminds us of Karl Marx’s dictum, "The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class."

Who benefited by our pious simplistic characterizations of the Hebrew scriptures as law and the New Testament as grace? How did reading Proverbs and not the Prophets prepare us so easily to turn the symbol of the authorities’ answer to those who defied them into a symbol of the devotional life that posed no threat to the authorities? September’s meditations will bring a chill to "whatever is, is right."

October 23
What Do You Want Me to Do for You?

Job 42:1-6, 10-17; Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22); Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52

The God of the whirlwind has made the case. Job’s surrender is unconditional. He even uses God’s words of judgment. He admits to speaking about things too wonderful for him to understand. He repents in dust and ashes. The friends are rebuked by God because they had not spoken of God as God is.

If only the compilers had left the poem there! The mystery of God is too great for us. There is no reward deserved for comprehending that elementary fact. The only right relationship between creature and creator is faith.

We might have wished for Psalm 139 as the responsive psalm: "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me/It is so high that I can not attain it." But our lectionary chose Psalm 34, a praise for deliverance from trouble. Like the ending of Job, it makes no place for the non-deliverance in life. "And they all lived happily ever after" is the stuff of fairy tales. We need the prophetic faith that affirms that the creating Word of God will accomplish that which it intends.

The gospel is the dramatic story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus. Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. With the audacity of the desperate, Bartimaeus calls out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Son of David? Is that a recognition of royal lineage? Are the powers of Earth and hell being put on notice? The minions of the status quo order him to be quiet, but he is already moving in another world.

He calls out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stops, saying, "Call him here." The blind man with reckless abandon throws off his cloak—the mark of his way of life—springs up, and comes to Jesus. Those first young fishermen he had called had not responded more readily.

And then Jesus’ startling question: "What do you want me to do for you?" The obvious answer is, of course, I want to see. But is it? What you don’t see you don’t have to take responsibility for. A queen, told her subjects had no bread, replied, probably as much out of ignorance as callousness, "Let them eat cake." A president of the United States, sponsoring a trickle-down theory of economics, propounded, "A rising tide lifts all boats."

Blindness protects us from harsh realities. Blindness also means someone else will take care of us. Think, Bartimaeus. There is cost as well as promise to the new life that will open up for you. "What do you want me to do for you?"

"I want to see."

He regained his sight, and the record is that he follows Jesus on the way. The way to the cross.

VERNA J. DOZIER is an educator and lay theologian in Washington, D.C. She is the author of The Dream of God: A Call to Return (Cowley Publications) and The Authority of the Laity (The Alban Institute).

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From Sojourners Online, copyright 1994 Sojourners, July 1994, Vol. 23, No. 6.

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