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10/25/2009 - The Rev. Susan N. Blue - The Twenty-first Sunday After Pentecost

posted May 21, 2010, 6:43 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:43 PM by Terry Brady ]
This story from Mark is the last healing by Jesus prior to his entry into Jerusalem for the final time. It is distinct in that the name of the healed person is used – Bartimaeus or Son of Timaeus. Further, Bartimaeus recognizes, in some instinctive way, that Jesus is the awaited One, the son of David. As Jesus leaves Jericho he is surrounded by a crowd, one that perhaps is anticipating that a conflict with the Roman authorities is imminent. One suspects that their way was lined by beggars, hoping to profit by the large number of people. It is, therefore, remarkable that Bartimaeus dares to call out to Jesus by name asking for pity. Despite the shushing of the crowd, he calls out even louder. It is also amazing that Jesus can hear his cry.
Jesus then calls blind Bartimaeus to him, and, with that, the crowd parts and enables his passage. The blind man throws off his cloak, a treasured possession that not only kept him warm but also served to be a repository for the coins tossed his way. Jesus, with compassion, asks what he wants, Bartimaeus asks for his sight, and he is immediately cured. Bartimaeus then follows Jesus.
What a contrast to the rich young man who was so blinded by his possessions that he could not put them away to follow Jesus! It is also a profound contrast to the disciples, James and John, who asked for power and position rather than the faith and understanding that they needed.
It is no surprise that this healing is a metaphor for all who would follow Jesus Christ. Every person has ways in which they are blind or burdened. Most of us, at some point in our lives ask for Jesus to have pity on us. We ask when we are desperately ill, terribly frightened, extremely sad, or in any way very needy. Many of us have cried out from the edge of the crowd for pity and a healing of our burdens. For some, the darkness in our lives is well known to others, whereas some live in secret darkness. In either case, Jesus knows what we need, loves us, and will be there for us.
Jesus calls us to him with compassion, and we are called to empty ourselves, to cast off our cloaks of protection, and to move toward him empty-handed, asking only his healing. To empty one’s self is no easy task. We have to look internally, to let go of anger, fear, resentment and anxiety. We need to examine all that which blocks us from embracing the love of God. It means letting go of the need for power, possessions and self-righteousness. It means to set aside many of the values so highly regarded in the world.
We are often more like the disciples than the blind beggar. We are slow to “get it” and reluctant to embrace God with blind faith, trusting that putting ourselves in God’s hands will relieve that which burdens us.
The story continues with, after he is healed, Bartimaeus following Jesus. He has gained new life and recognizes that life source. Again, this is a metaphor for the disciples and for all Christians. If we are to follow Jesus we must see others through the lens of compassion, with the heart, not just the mind. There was so little time that day, for the beggar and for the disciples. It was Bartimaeus’ only chance for healing and a vivid example for the disciples of what they were to do were they to truly follow Christ.
Through this story we are called to a self-emptying and a harsh self-evaluation as we examine what we truly need. We are then to trust, to have faith, that we are loved, valued and will be cured…just as we are, in all of our nakedness. The time is short…we do not live forever…and our call is to act now before it is too late.
Bishop Fred Borsch has said that “…we act as though we are in charge. We look for God in liturgy, intellect, the institution of the Church, in the creeds and in Holy Scripture. However, our relationship with God doesn’t happen through our own efforts. We nee to let go, to wait, to be quiet, vulnerable and naked, despite the dark and the cold.” (Copied)
Many years ago John Newton fled his creditors and joined the Merchant Marines. He continued his pattern of gambling and drinking, however, and became more and more in debt. One night he fell overboard, too drunk to even grab the life preserver thrown to him. Finally, he was shot with a harpoon and dragged aboard the ship. As he recovered his eyes were opened, and he began to experience a religious conversion. In his own words, familiar to all of us, he penned:

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace my fear relieved
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.”
(John Newton -- Copied)