“Beggar”

GOSPEL | JOHN 9:1-11

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes,  saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.  The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”  Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”  10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”  11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 

This man born blind was known as a beggar by his neighbors and his community. Several questions spring up for me:

  • Do I know the beggars in my community?
  • How do people recognize me?
  • What do I “beg” for? What do I need that I can’t get for myself?
  • Why don’t I let people know what I need, or when I am in need?
  • Would I be willing to own up, like this man did (end of v.9), to being a beggar if that’s how people recognized me?

My wife and I only have one car. In some ways, this is intentional (we usually can get by on one car), and in other ways it isn’t (we can’t afford the gas or insurance or maintenance of a second car). This means that, on wintery, sleety days like today, I need a ride. Thank God (and thanks, friends!) that I have good friends who are willing to either lend me their cars or even give up their own time to drive me places.

I hate asking for things. Wish lists repulse me. Needing help frustrates me. I could blame my proud Dutch roots that demand I do for myself. I could blame my rugged country upbringing, where what I don’t earn or make for myself isn’t worth having. I could blame the whole American culture of self-sufficiency. All things considered, though, I still am what I am: a beggar-in-denial.

Because I need. I can’t do for myself. It is Monday morning, and I am already exhausted and behind. “I am the man.” Usually when I feel like this — when I feel like I can’t get what I need to do what I am supposed to get done — I retreat to what feels good, to what I want: movies, junk food, couch.

Jesus doesn’t work an extravagant miracle here. He didn’t put on a big scene so everyone could see this man’s sight restored. He got his hands dirty. A little spit, a little mud, a little water. Lord knows I don’t need much today: a little energy, a little inspiration, a little dedication. But I am in need.

Jesus Christ, please provide. Amen.
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4 thoughts on ““Beggar”

  1. Here is my response using Henri Nouwen’s prophetic words:

    Daily Meditation: March 18, 2013

    Coming Together in Poverty

    “There are many forms of poverty: economic poverty, physical poverty, emotional poverty, mental poverty, and spiritual poverty. As long as we relate primarily to each other’s wealth, health, stability, intelligence, and soul strength, we cannot develop true community. Community is not a talent show in which we dazzle the world with our combined gifts. Community is the place where our poverty is acknowledged and accepted, not as something we have to learn to cope with as best as we can but as a true source of new life.

    Living community in whatever form – family, parish, twelve-step program, or intentional community – challenges us to come together at the place of our poverty, believing that there we can reveal our richness.”

    Text excerpts taken from Bread for the Journey, by Henri J.M. Nouwen , © 1997 HarperSanFrancisco. All Scripture from The Jerusalem Bible ©1966, 1967, and 1968 Darton, Longman & Todd and Doubleday & Co. Inc. Photo by V. Dobson.

    • Todd, thank you so much for posting this. I have been reflecting a lot lately about the incredible journey our particular community has made over the course of the Apprentice journey, from a group of people who probably would never have willingly hung out together to a true community of poverty, according to this, where we come with a real sense of our own need and a joyful acceptance of each other’s gifts. Thanks for posting.

  2. While I don’t know that this really relates, I just finished reading 1 Samuel 8-10 (to be posted on March 20), talking about the anointing of king Saul. This directed me back to Deuteronomy 17 which spoke of the rules of Israel’s King, long before their was one. God directs the kings do not amass horses or wife or wealth lest they return to Egypt and not rely on God Himself for the strength they need.

    Instead, Deut. 17 says, they are to get a copy of the Law and “Shema” all over it… (read it day and night). Until now, I had never thought of this as creating a “culture of poverty,” but the point is well taken. The more we have, the more we rely on ourselves and think we can do it ourselves. This can lead to dangerous places to be sure.

    Thank you for this post!

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