Amy Jones,
Agape Coordinator
Dear God, we come to worship you today. 
We come to pray, and listen.
You always hear us. 
Help us to hear you. Amen
Mark 10:46-52

46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 49Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ 52Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
When Matt Hay learned he was going to lose his hearing he prepared in the ways you might expect. He took a sign language class. He learned to read lips. He also made an independent study of all the music that he loved. Imagine learning you would never hear your favorite song again. Matt made it his mission to memorize every crescendo, every lyric, every riff of all of his favorite songs. 

When Matt finally did lose his hearing completely, it wasn’t exactly the experience for which he had prepared. There were other things he missed: the sound of his wife’s laugh, hearing the words “I love you,” his unborn child’s first words. When his doctor offered him an auditory brain stem implant to restore some of his hearing, the technology was still new. Uncertain about the benefits, Matt ultimately decided that it would be worth it to hear his children. 

Just as he did not lose his hearing all at once, neither did the surgery restore Matt’s hearing immediately. His brain had to relearn how to hear with the new device, and the device needed to be constantly “tuned,” sort of the audiology version of getting fitted for eyeglasses. Matt would be given certain sounds to identify and an audiologist would “tune” his device based on what he could hear. Suddenly, all those songs Matt had memorized became useful in a way he could have never predicted. Having such detailed knowledge of so many songs now gave him the perfect opportunity to practice hearing sounds again. As his aural acuity improved, he sang some of those songs as lullabies to his children. Songs he had memorized so that he could remember a time when he could hear, now attached themselves to memories he could never have imagined. 

What strikes me with Matt’s story is that his preparation for becoming deaf was also his preparation for hearing. I wonder if Bartimeaus’s blindness was also his preparation for seeing? 

In the short span of the story we read, Bartimeaus is on the receiving end of the range of responses many people with non-normative bodies might receive: dismissal and disdain (“shut up, Bartimeaus!) and pity (“cheer up, Bartimeaus”). When Jesus addresses Bartimeaus, he responds to him as a human being not to his perceived disability. He simply asks what he can do for Bartimeaus. He makes no assumption that Bartimeaus is his blindness.

We never find out what happened to Bartimeaus after that, only that he followed Jesus. The responses to Bartimeaus’s blindness are very similar to the responses people will soon have to Jesus’s death and resurrection. Dismissal. Disdain. Pity. I wonder if the experience of having a non-normative body enabled Bartimeaus to better understand the resurrected Christ as someone also with a non-normative body. Was his experience of blindness his preparation for sightedness?

It is often the case that what society sees as a “disability” is actually simply a body that does not fit some predetermined, arbitrary understanding of what is “normal.” If we can only ever see how bodies are different, we miss the God that is right in front of us.
God of all creatures, we are often blind to the ways you have gifted us with sight. Open our eyes to all the ways you create beauty in our lives. Amen

Amy Jones
Amy Jones, Agape Coordinator
Amy Jones our Agape Coordinator is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. In this tradition, deacons are ordained clergy who bridge the ministry of the church with the needs of the world, and vice versa. In more than 15 years of ministry, she has worked in churches, in children and family ministry, higher education, and nonprofits. In each setting, her focus has been on matching the resources of the church with the needs of the world. Agape Community Kitchen is exactly the type of work she was called to do. 

Amy can be reached by email at:
The Presbyterian Church in Westfield continues to burn as a light in the darkness as our community weathers this fearsome storm of illness. Our reach of care continues to extend far beyond our immediate borders. You can help us make a real impact in the lives of others by joining in our work through your time, your talents, and also in the fruits of your labors.
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