Monday, October 29, 2012

Sermon for Year B Proper 25


What do you want me to do for you?

That is the question Jesus asks 
when blind Bartimaeus comes bounding up to him.

What do you want me to do for you?

Well, duh, Jesus--I’m blind. I’m a beggar. What do you think?

What do you think, Jesus?

But isn’t it interesting that Jesus does not make assumptions.
Jesus does not make assumptions about a person
that the world only sees from the outside.
Jesus always takes time to gaze inside our hearts.

Jesus asks the question.
What do YOU want ME to do for you?

Teacher, let me see again.

I want to see AGAIN.

This let’s us know that Bartimaeus has not always been blind.
Once upon a time he must have seen the sun rise 
and the faces of his family
and dogs chasing after a sticks  
and women dancing--he remembers.
Bartimaeus remembers how beautiful and amazing 
it was
to live in technicolor.

Teacher, let me see AGAIN.

Sometimes we have to lose something
before we know how much it means to us.

We don’t know from the gospel reading
what happened to Bartimaeus.
How did he lose his sight, his vision?

We know that he is the son of Timaeus.
What happened to his family?
Did they die? Did they reject him 
         because they saw blindness
as a sin?
Did they throw him out on the street to beg
because he was so obnoxious, so pushy?

We are clear that Bartimaeus is a beggar.
He’s poor.
And even in those days, even in Jericho,
the poor were to be quiet.

Sit by the gate, beg if you must,
but don’t make a scene.
Don’t yell. Don’t bother people.

Bartimaeus must not have read the instruction manual
on how to be a proper beggar.
Or pehaps he is just desperate--
and this Jesus he has heard about--
this Jesus, 
sounds like his last chance.

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!

He doesn’t whisper that as a prayer under his breath--
he shouts it out. He is yelling.
He wants to be heard.

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!

Jesus, you are my last chance. My only hope!

This yelling and screaming 
is unacceptable to the people around him.
They tell him to “Stop it!”.
No, not nice words like “Now calm down, Bartimaeus.”
They tell him sternly to be quiet.

And then aren’t the people surprised.
Jesus calls Bartimaeus over to him.

And Bartimaeus jumps up so quickly
         that his cloak goes flying off.
He is taking no chances 
         that Jesus might change his mind
 or that the crowd might prevent him 
         from getting to this man.

And Jesus heals him.
Jesus says, “Your faith has saved you.”

So isn’t this a nice story?
A nice story about a healing of a blind man.

But there is more.

Because you see, all of us are blind.
In some way or in many ways,
all of us are blind.
There is a part of the truth about ourselves 
         and others and the world
that we just don’t see.
Maybe we don’t want to see it.

Maybe we don’t want to see 
       how we have hurt other people.
Maybe we don’t want to see 
      how deeply other people have hurt us.
Sometimes we choose blindness  
      over facing the clear vision of truth.

Bartimaeus is tired of being blind. 
Bartimaeus is tired of being a victim, a beggar.

Bartimaeus’ healing had begun even before Jesus spoke to him.
Because in his heart, Bartimaues knows,
he wants a different life.
He wants to see AGAIN.

And maybe this time,
he will realize how precious, how beautiful, 
how full of life and color the world really is.
Maybe this time
he won’t take things for granted.

I think about that moment of healing.
That moment when suddenly everything comes into focus.
The very first thing Bartimaeus sees--right in front of him--
is the face of Jesus.

The last line in this gospel is this:
Immediately he saw again, and he followed him on the way.

Bartimaeus is no longer blind.
Bartimaeus has shed his beggar’s cloak.
And he is truly transformed--
transformed enough to follow Jesus.

And let’s remember--
following Jesus is not an easy path.

There is nothing lukewarm about Bartimaeus.
He JUMPS up.

And the fact that he leaves his cloak behind--
tells us that he is leaving behind 
        his old way of life,
his life as a beggar.
A cloak was not for warmth,
the cloak’s purpose was to spread it on the ground,
so that people passing by
would leave coins or food 
       or whatever else they might give.

Leaving his cloak behind means 
Bartimaeus really really believes that Jesus will heal him.
He has no doubts.
He will have no use for that cloak ever again
in just a few minutes.
Think of the cloak like an open guitar case
     at the feet of a busker
     on a downtown Asheville streetcorner.

Remember last week’s gospel?
James and John--
           when Jesus asks them what they wanted?
They wanted power and prestige.
They wanted Jesus to pick them 
               as the next in command.

How different that is
from what Bartimaeus wants.

What would you say? What might I say?
If Jesus walked up to you right now
and said,
What do you want?

Would we say,
“Well, I’d like to win the Powerball lottery.”
“ I’d like to look like Brad Pitt --
or for some of us, “Marilyn Monroe.”
I’d like to be powerful or famous or rich or free.
That’s what I want, Jesus.

But that is not the point or purpose of this story.
Jesus does not show up like a Genie 
coming out of a magic lamp
to grant a wish.

This story is about a person 
who recognizes that he is blind.

This is a story about each of us--
and a call to recognize
that we too are blind in some ways.
This is story is about a person who recognizes--
even in blindness--
that Jesus is the Messiah.
This is a story about each of us--
and a call to stop pushing away a truth
that we too know.

This is story is about a person who BOISTEROUSLY believes.
Who JUMPS up when Jesus calls him.
This is a story about each of us--
and a call to us to be more BOISTEROUS
in our own faith.

For many of us, our faith as Episcopalians looks like:
Hey! I love Jesus. I really do. I really do.
       But let’s just keep calm and carry on. 
                      Shhh...don’t make a big fuss.

But this story is calling us to be a boisterous follower:

    I love Jesus.

What Bartimaeus is saying is this: I love you Jesus
I know who you are and I love you
and even though I am blind and poorer than dirt,
I know you love me.

And you love her...and him...and them...
and all of us. 
I know this.
I know this, Jesus.

We, like Bartimaeus, are called to leave 
our cloaks of fear and anxiety and victimhood
by the side of the road
and step forward in love., 
knowing how much we are loved.

“Teacher, let me see again.”

Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.”     AMEN

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