Thursday, November 12, 2015

You might be the voice in someone's head

My sermon for this week was based on Mark 10:46-52.

To download a podcast of my sermon, click here.

We all have voices in our heads.  Not literal, of course, and if you do, please seek medical help.  But we all have figurative voices.  These voices often consist of things our parents told us since we were a child, things siblings told us as we were growing up, things partners told us while we were together.  Some of these voices might still be alive an present and still speaking.

This can sometimes be good: if our parents were supportive, if our siblings were encouraging, if our partners were kind and loving, we will likely feel pretty confident moving through life.

This can also be bad: if our parents told us we were incapable, if our siblings told us we were stupid, if our partners told us we were worthless, this can create an internal monologue that can be very difficult to overcome.

Here's the point I want to make: you could be the voice in someone else's head.  You could be the monologue in a person's mind that says, "I am worthy/unworthy, I am smart/stupid, I am capable/incapable".

If you are a parent, teacher, friend, boss, partner, or any one of a million other roles that people look up to and look to for guidance, you run the risk of contributing to their overall sense of self.

So.  If you think you might be a voice in someone's head, how do you think that voice is heard?  Do you think that voice is a voice of support and affirmation, or does your voice undermine or discourage?

Jesus makes this point in the Gospel for today.  Those who were ill or crippled or infirm for any reason were reviled in Jesus' time.  Truth be told, they still suffer stigmatization and discrimination today, but in Jesus' time, to be sick was a double whammy: not only were you sick, but you were sick because you or your parents or grandparents had done something to displease God, and you were sick because God was mad at you.

Consequently, no one wanted to hang around with you just in case God found you guilty by association.

Fortunately, our theology is a bit more sophisticated today.

But not so in the time of Jesus and Bartimaeus.  Bartimaeus was blind beggar.  As such, he was not like most of the other people surrounding Jesus who could get up and follow him, or at least see him out if they wanted to meet him.  Bartimaeus would have a pretty limited route.

So when he realizes that Jesus is passing the spot that he is begging, he raises his voice and cries out to him.  Here is the interesting point: the crowd shushes him!

People with disabilities , then as now, were considered to be less important.  Whether this is because they could not contribute to society as much or because people thought there was likely a darn good reason why God had smote them, they were reviled at least to some degree.  This is why some people in the crowd shushed Bartimaeus: he was not important enough (like they were) for Jesus to bother with him.

But Bartimaeus would not be silenced, and this is the touching and powerful thing about this story.  He refused to let the people quiet him.  He recognized his own worth and value, and somehow realized Jesus would see that, despite the fact that he had probably spent much of his life (if not all or it) being told he was unworthy, being mocked and ridiculed.

This is one of several times when Jesus uses the words, "Your faith has made you well".  Every single time Jesus says this, it has to do with a person rising above the voices of those around who tell them they have no right or are not good enough.  It is not so much about the miracle that Jesus ostensibly performs each of these times.  It is about people not listening to their shitty internal monologues, it's about people who recognize their basic human value.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could all do that?

Wouldn't it be even nicer if we were the voices that encouraged others to do that?

Don't be a shitty voice.

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