We had such a special morning at RCC! I presided over a double baptism – a mother and son. It felt different to gather around the font with someone who was coming to it of their own free will. Don’t get me wrong – I love infant baptisms, they are honestly one of my favorite things in the world to do. But this was special and it felt like such a privilege to have the opportunity to preside over this moment.
If you are looking for the video I talk about in my sermon, you can find it here.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
February 24, 2019
My star word this year is affirmation.
When I first shared that, Deb Woodard reminded me of a video that went viral about ten years ago of an adorable curly-haired four-year-old girl standing on the counter in her bathroom, in her pajamas, looking in the mirror saying her daily affirmations.
My whole house is great!
I can do anything good!
I like my school!
I like my dad!
I like my mom!
I like my sister!
I like my hair!
I like my stuff!
I like my room!
I like my whole house!
I can do anything good!
Google, “Jessica’s Daily Affirmation” when you get home today, it will be well-worth the 49 seconds of your life.
So at first, I thought perhaps this year I could try to start the day with my own daily affirmations.
I love my family!
I love my church!
I love my house!
I can do anything!
Not a bad idea, right?
Then Dave DaSilva chimed in on the discussion about my star word and suggested that, perhaps, my word, affirmation, meant that other people were supposed to affirm the things I said.
So then I promptly asked him if he would make the King Cake again for Mardis Gras.
Which he really had no choice but to then affirm.
A few days later I was listening to a podcast; and the host was talking to her guest about how to be more confident and successful in business. They were talking about the fact that if you set your goals in a tangible and public way – if you write them down and post them somewhere where you can see them, if you tell other people what they are, if you are bold in claiming your intentions and your gifts that are going to get you to them – that you have a better chance at being successful in reaching those goals.
The reason this whole conversation peeked my interest was because then the host said something to the effect of, “These affirmations of who we are and what we want to do are so important.”
And there was my star word, affirmation.
I think the point they were trying to make was that so often people shy away from setting goals in a tangible and public way because they are afraid of what might happen if they do not reach them. But if you want something – if you want to accomplish something, if you want to do something – you have to put it out there. You have to be bold in your affirmations of who you are and who you want to be.
But that is scary, right? Because what if you fall short? What if you put something out there and it does not happen?
I was thinking about this discussion when I first looked at this week’s scripture reading, the healing of Bartimaeus, a blind man. Y’all know I wrestle with these healing stories – there have been several of them in the Gospel of Mark and every time I have reflected on them I have either eluded to or begged the question, but what if healing does not happen?
We live in a world where the reality is that sometimes healing does not happen the way that we want it to. Our own community is constantly wrestling with this. Our bodies are human and imperfect and they fail and there is an element of randomness in the world that is often unfair.
And I have to be honest: Sometimes I have a hard time praying for the healing that I want, but know might not be possible, because I do not want to have to eventually wonder why my prayers were not answered.
In the same way that I sometimes have a hard time saying my goals out loud because I do not want to not reach my goals, I sometimes have a hard time praying for the really big, miraculous, seemingly-impossible stuff because I do not want my prayers to notbe answered.
I am a very practical person; and this means that sometimes it is challenging for me to be bold in my prayers. I pray for wisdom, I pray for courage, I pray for comfort and I pray for grace in the midst of the struggle and a healing that surpasses understanding – but sometimes I have a hard time praying for that big miracle because, if it does not happen, I do not want to think that God was not listening.
In this morning’s scripture reading, Bartimaeus is bold in his prayers.
I love this story so much. Jesus and his disciples are en route to Jerusalem and – even though the stakes are high and time is of the essence – there is still healing that needs to be done and we see it here, as Bartimaeus sits on the side of road and shouts out, “Jesus … have mercy on me!”
Bartimaeus is blind; he a beggar; he has no power or stature in society. As he shouts for Jesus, people try to silence him.
And yet, that only makes him shout louder.
And when Jesus finally hears him and has the disciples call to him, Bartimaeus throws off his cloak, springs up, comes to Jesus and boldly asks, “My teacher, let me see again.”
Bartimaeus is bold in his prayers. He does not care that he is an outcast and that people are trying to silence him. He does not care that he is blind and that he is asking for a miracle that is nearly impossible to comprehend in our human world. All he knows is that he is standing in the presence of Christ and that somehow, someway healing is possible.
We should all be so bold in our prayers.
Then 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,’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. (Mark 10:51-52, NRSV)
The skeptic in me wants to say, but what if healing is not possible? But this story reminds us that, in faith, we are called to pray boldly anyway. Because you know those really big, miraculous, seemingly-impossible prayers? Those are God-sized prayers. Those are bold prayers.
We are called, even in the midst of our own struggles and adversities, to be bold in our prayers. We are called to cry out to Jesus by name – and to cry even louder when others try to silence us. We are called to throw off the cloaks that cover us and, with the same haste of Bartimaeus, spring up so that we can stand in Christ’s presence and ask to be healed.
We cannot hesitate.
We cannot be timid in what we are asking.
We cannot be afraid of what might happen if our prayers are not answered the way we want them to.
We have to be bold.
We have to affirm that we are worthy of what we are asking God to do in our lives.
Because we are worthy. If there is one thing that this story teaches us – the story a man who has been cast out of society, yet is still worthy of having Jesus call him by name and heal him – it is that we, too, are worthy.
I would hate for any of us – whether it is out of fear or realism or skepticism – to miss out on the opportunity to have God transform our lives through the power of prayer.
The reality is, we do not know how our prayers are going to be answered. We do not know if miracles are going to come in the way and form and timeline that we ask for.
But we have to be bold in asking.
This morning I empower you – I embolden you – to be like Bartimaeus and be bold in your prayers. Do not be afraid to throw off your cloak, to spring up and to stand before Jesus in prayer. Affirm not only who you are, but who you need God to be and what you need God to do in your life. Do not let anything – or anyone – hold you back. Give your prayers to God in the most vulnerable and real way.
Because you never know how God will take those prayers and transform your life.
What is something you have always been afraid to pray for?
Pray boldly for that.
What is something that you desperately what, but think is impossible?
Pray boldly for that.
What is something that has the capacity to change your life?
Pray boldly for that.
And may we, like Bartimaeus after he receives his sight, follow Jesus on the way.
Thanks be to God!