The average cost of seminary (or at least my seminary) is $16,000 a year. This is before scholarships and not figuring in the cost of rent, books, insurance, and other things one needs for seminary. Seminary, if you’re going to be a Pastor, takes 4 years on average. This means that before any kind of assistance, a Master of Divinity degree would cost someone over $60,000. Why am I sharing this with you? Because it would be good for us as a church to start saving up now to help our 5 confirmation students in the future when they answer God’s call to serve God’s church. Now, we may laugh at that, but it could be a real possibility. I say that confidently as I’ve gotten to know these 5 young people over the last two years.
As I read each of their faith statements (which you should do as well) I was amazed. I was inspired. And, I was scared. I was scared because these 5 could put me out of a job. In the last two years, we’ve laughed, we’ve prayed, we’ve debated, we’ve questioned, we’ve learned, and I have loved. I love these 5 with a Christ-like love and I love them with a great deal of admiration. It hasn’t always been Bible reading, scripture memorizing, Ten Commandments loving fun. We’ve had our fair share of a little goofing around too. I will admit that most of it has come at the cost of Nate Lange. We’ve kidded him about his old-man slippers, his colorful socks (which Sam also wore), we had a great debate over whether or not donut holes would bounce, and I think he still is positive about the location of the Dollar Store. We’ve all attended the gun show more than once, and we’ve played our fair share of sardines. In the midst of all of it, we have grown to love God, we’ve grown in our faith (me included), and we’ve grown to love and respect one another.
It’s so interesting that on a day like today we have a story about blindness. On a day when we will celebrate these 5 young people and their faith journey, we hear about blindness. On a day when we mark the start of Martin Luther’s Reformation, we hear about blindness. On a day when we will loudly (and proudly) sing “a mighty fortress is our God..” we hear about blindness. Bartimaeus was a blind beggar. He was socially an outcast. He was forgotten about. He was left, literally, on the side of the road, relying on the kindness of strangers or anyone for that matter. And when he hears Jesus coming, he doesn’t cry out for a cure, he just cries “have mercy on me.” It’s only after Jesus calls to have him come near that Bartimaeus requests to see again.
Blindness is a common theme in Biblical stories. Most of the time, these stories were told not to highlight the plight of literal blind people, but as a metaphor to those who were blind to the things going on around them. This illness was not eradicated with Jesus. I think we sometimes choose to be blind because we can fake innocence or we can fake knowledge. How long will we be blind to the fact that there’s been a rash of church burnings in St. Louis and all of them happen to be African American churches? How long will we be blind to the problems meth causes in our community? How long will we be blind to an unjust judicial system that puts African Americans behind bars at double, almost triple the rate of whites? And how long will we be blind to the young people in our congregations that hunger to serve God and we desire to stick them in a box and say “thanks to your age, you can only do this…”
Jesus doesn’t care about the age or gender of those who want to serve and follow him. He cares about one thing: their faith. Just as we hear today, Bartimaeus’ faith made him well. It wasn’t because he was male, it wasn’t because he was a beggar, it wasn’t because he was on the side of the road, it wasn’t because he was the son of Timaeus, it was only because of his faith that he was made well. We shouldn’t look at these young people and put restrictions on them. We shouldn’t say “but Taylor is a girl, and Jarrett is differently abled, and Nate is too busy with sports, and Sam is too quiet, and Mason is from Camanche…” Instead, we should look at these 5 young people and admire their faith. We should emulate their faith. We need to stop putting our own expectations on our young people and instead trust that God is at work in them just as much as God is at work in any of us. Their faith may not look like yours, and that’s okay.
Next year, we will celebrate a milestone: 500 years since Martin Luther’s reformation. But, we don’t need a special occasion to reform. We don’t need a big event to start changing our thinking. The time is now. The occasion is now. If you aren’t impressed by these young person’s faith statements, I don’t know what is going to impress you. Can you imagine what would have happened to Jesus had he been stopped in his ministry just due to his age, gender, or abilities? People of God, open your eyes. These young people are hungry. Let’s not stop feeding them after today.