“Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’” Mark 10:51
Here it is! A new year is upon us. Did you like the one which just passed? How did things go for you? If you are like most people, there are things you would like to revisit. Perhaps there are words you wish you could unsay. Maybe you would spend a few more moments with a special someone. Think, wish, desire as we might, there is no going back. The past is the past and, as someone has stated, “Today is a gift that is why it is called the present.” People look toward a new year as a space of possibility. We resolve to do certain things which will make our lives better in some manner. We promise not to make the same mistakes as yesterday. We want to be different, improved, more, less… You get the picture. Of course, much of this change is focused upon us individually: “I wish to be…”, “I want to…”, “I need…” We ponder those things which we can do to and for ourselves. But…maybe we need to consider Jesus’ question as quoted at the top of this page.
The context of the inquiry was an encounter between Jesus, his disciples, and a man known as “Bartimaeus” while traveling through Jericho. This “son of Timaeus” (as his name meant) is described as having been blind and spending his days as a beggar. Chances are good that he was a fixture within the community and one who had become a nuisance for some. The crowds’ insistence that he be quiet when attempting to call out to Jesus could provide credence to this latter suggestion. He was there, but, if he did not matter to the crowd, he must not have mattered to Jesus either. Their attempts at silencing Bartimaeus only served to draw Jesus’ attention to the blind beggar. It was sufficient enough that Jesus stopped in his tracks and called upon him. I have often thought of this as one of those “pin-drop” moments within Scripture. Much like the awkward hush which comes upon a noisy classroom when a certain teacher walks into the room and leaves one child still talking. Far from condemning this man, Jesus did exactly as Bartimaeus had requested and “showed mercy upon him.” This mercy was initiated with a question: “What do you want me to do for you?”
Take a few moments to ponder this question for yourself. As we begin a new year, what is it that you need God to do for you? I do not mean to pose this question in a selfish manner. I am not speaking like a televangelist who promises health, wealth, and prosperity if you say or do the right things. I am, however, encouraging you, me, and our church family to do some honest searching as we begin the new year. We each have places in our lives where we continue to have need of molding and shaping toward Christlike wholeness. It may be that we struggle with pride, apathy, jealousy, anger, or lust to name a few personal vices. How about as a church? Are we true to the mission of Jesus Christ? Are we committed to the purposes outlined by our mission statement? Are we really wanting to reach people with the Gospel or are we content with where our congregation is at the present time? We “say” that we wish for God to use us and to allow us to make a different in our community, but do we truly mean it? If not, what does God need to do for us? What needs to change? What attitudes must be sacrificed? These are amongst the many considerations which must be made as we look toward the future.
To say that I am burdened by the present state of the Original Free Will Baptist (OFWB) Church would be an understatement. I am concerned for the local church especially those in a predominately rural denomination. We have a rich history and heritage for a body of believers who have faced our fair share of challenges since our arrival in American as General Baptists. However, I long for us as a denomination and a congregation of the OFWB faith to have more than a history. That is, I want us to have as many good years to come as what have been experienced in our past. We can dwell upon the “good old days,” or we can start right here and now praying, dreaming, and discerning for what God’s tomorrow might have in store. I will be honest; it is not going to be easy. We may have to be uncomfortable. We will most likely need to do some things differently. For certain, we will have to get out of the way and yield to the Holy Spirit.
Some years ago, a statement was made that Christianity in American “is only a couple of generations away from losing its faith.” At that time, such words seemed to have been aimed at a point well out into the future. The sad thing is, the future is now. There is work to be done and God has allowed the Church to endure for a time such as this. We can become nostalgic and dwell on the past. We can give up and say that our mission is a hopeless cause. Or…we can recommit and refocus our God-given efforts so as to reach people, provide for their nurture, and grow the Kingdom within Lucama (and beyond). We cannot do it alone, but the truth is that God does not expect us to do so. That is why I return to the question posed by Jesus to Bartimaeus: “What do (we) want (Jesus) to do for (us)?” Perhaps the answer should begin with what he provided to the blind man: helping us to see again.
Blessings in the New Year,
The Reverend Kelley Smart