“What Do You Want?”
August 26, 2012
II Samuel 23:1-7
Some people turn to the Bible to look for answers.
More often than not, I find myself looking for questions. The questions of the Bible challenge us to search our souls to discover what really matters to us. The questions that Jesus puts to others echo through the centuries, and encourage us to think about our own lives.
Jesus looks at a blind beggar and asks: “What do you want?”
So often we in the church forget about what we want.
A thread runs through the Christian faith that denigrates our desires,
that labels our longings as “selfish,”
that encourages us to keep our distance from what we want.
But this is only a thread in the larger tapestry of faith. Looking at it alone, we miss the larger picture.
The Wisdom literature of the Bible expands our field of vision so that we can see much more.
We start to look with new eyes when we read in the Book of Proverbs: “Desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
And what was the hope and blessing of the psalmist? We read it together this morning: “May God grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans.”
Your heart’s desire. What is it?
I’m not talking about that iPad that you’re saving money from working after school to buy. I’m not talking about the new car that you’ve got your eye on, or the trip abroad, or the remodeled kitchen.
You may want any of these or all of these or something else. You may want them very much. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
But these things are not, I hope, your heart’s desire.
Certainly we can all do better.
As C.S. Lewis suggested, “God finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak; we are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and ambition and greed, when infinite joy is offered to us. We are far too easily pleased.”
What is your heart’s desire?
How would you recognize it?
Maybe it begins with a feeling of emptiness. “Everybody has a hungry heart,” Bruce Springstein told us years ago.
Such a hunger can be a voracious pit that is never filled. Many will try to fill it with things or endless work or mindless leisure. But these can never really meet our heart’s desire, for they do not fulfill us. No matter how much we have, we will always want more. No matter how hard we work, we will always find more that needs to be done. No matter how long we rest or how hard we party, we will not be satisfied.
And yet that hungry heart can hold a yearning that will move you forward to your goal. Can you identify what is missing, that place of emptiness in your life?
Is there a deep passion that won’t let you go?
Is there a desire that, fulfilled, would make your life worth living, a desire that would, indeed, be a tree of life?
Heart’s desire is about a way of life, a way of seeing and doing.
It’s the desire that makes you feel alive.
Rightly understood even salvation is a matter of the heart’s desire, for that word speaks of wholeness, the fulfillment of desire. Which is why I’m convinced that the question “What do you want?” is a very religious question. Indeed, it was often the only question Jesus asked of those he encountered.
It asks about what is most important to us.
It is a question about passion.
It is a question about what we love, what we value, about our ultimate commitments.
What do you want?
Jesus walks out of Jericho and comes upon Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, sitting by the side of the road.
Like many blind people in the gospel stories, he is similar to the disciples, who also must have their spiritual blindness cured by Jesus before they can see the new way of life to which they are called. We today sit with that blind man, we stand with the disciples, needing new, clear sight.
In his misery he is not thinking of others. He cries out for attention. Listen to him: “Jesus, have mercy upon me!”
The crowd of people following Jesus responds very much how we might expect followers of Jesus to respond. They tell Bartimaeus to be quiet. Oh, we wish it weren’t so, but you know how followers of Jesus can be—knowing just what everyone else should do, silencing those who are too loud.
Jesus responds differently.
And asks: “What do you want me to do for you?”
The God of mercy comes to each of us asking a simple question: “What do you want?”
What is your heart’s desire? What would it be like if God granted it?
Well, without missing a beat, Bartimaeus says: “My teacher, let me see again.” He knows what he wants. He knows what is of great importance to him.
Are we willing to say it?
Many people have a good idea of what is bugging them. Many are good at saying quite quickly and clearly what they don’t like. Many know what they would like somebody else to do.
Do you know people like that?
Ask them what they want.
Or ask yourself what you want.
Few people are able to give much of an answer. Maybe they will say: “I know what I want, but it’s not possible.”
Let yourself know what you want—and give voice to that desire. Make it grand enough that, when that desire is fulfilled, it will be worth it—it will be a tree of life.
When we speak from our heart’s desire we can enter into genuine conversation with one another in the presence of God.
Only then will we be like that blind man, knowing and saying what he wants. “Jesus says to him: ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’” With renewed sight, Bartimaeus follows Jesus on the way.
When we say what we want, when we give voice to our heart’s desire, we take the first step toward making it a reality.
But this is not some magic at work. There is another part of all of this.
Recall the other story from Mark that we heard this morning.
James and John come up to Jesus and say: “Jesus, do us a favor.”
Again, the same question from Jesus: “What do you want?”
Well, they say, they’d like to sit by Jesus' side in his glory—one at his right hand, one at his left. It seems only appropriate to them, I guess. After all, they’ve been hanging around him for some time now. There’s got to be some reward coming for all of this.
This time Jesus asks another question. I know. It sure would be nice if he’d cut the questions and just tell us something. But Jesus asks: “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”
Saying what we want is an important first step. If we don't say what we want, we will never get it.
But once we have spoken our heart’s desire, then we are asked: “And what are you willing to do, what are you willing to give, to get it?”
Desire calls forth commitment and action.
It’s like the story that’s told about the novelist Sinclair Lewis arriving to deliver an hour-long lecture to a group of college students who planned to be writers. He opened his talk with a question:
“How many of you really intend to be writers?”
All the hands in the room went up.
“In that case,” he said, “my advice to you is to go home and write.”
And with that, he left the room.
I don’t know if such an approach would work down the street at the Writer’s Workshop, but it would certainly give the faculty more free time.
Being honest about what we want, we move from listening or talking to action.
If we lived out of our desires, if we acted upon our deepest commitments, we would astound ourselves with all we could do.
Your heart’s desire—what is it?
Developing a loving relationship, nurturing a family, doing the work that you’re best at and like to do best, creating a work of great beauty, making this city, this world a better place. What do you want?
What do you want for this congregation? That it would be a place of acceptance, of love, of kindness, a center where forgiveness is encountered, where the love of God is shown to the world?
What do you want? And what are you willing to do?
Ultimately, I think this becomes an issue of stewardship. Your heart’s desire is a gift from God. Being aware of what you want is another part of the responsible use of all that God has given to you. Desire needs to be nurtured. Right stewardship of your desires will give new vision. How are you taking care of and using the passion in your heart?
Let us learn to be good stewards of our desires.
May we encounter the God of whom David spoke with his dying breath, the God who will cause to prosper all our help and all our desire.