Sunday, October 24, 2021
Lectionary 30, Year B

Prayer of the Day
Eternal light, shine in our hearts. Eternal wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance. Eternal compassion, have mercy on us. Turn us to seek your face, and enable us to reflect your goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Readings and Psalm
Jeremiah 31:7-9The Lord gathers the remnant of Israel
Psalm 126
Hebrews 7:23-28Christ the merciful high priest
Mark 10:46-52Christ healing the blind man Bartimaeus

Sermon
Title:  Finale:  A Vision of Healing

Today has been weeks in the making.  The build up has been intense, engaging, challenging.  There has been corruption. There has fast talking-wheeling dealing.  There has been attempts at power grabs. Not to mention mind-twisting tests, loaded questions with even more loaded answers, outrageous demands, mysterious subtext, and blatant confrontations.

No, I am not talking about negotiations in our nation’s capital. And I am not even talking about the latest must-see limited series that is available on Netflix or streaming on Hulu.

So then, what has been going on for the past three weeks?  What episodes have brought us to this fourth and culminating Sunday?  Well, if you have been worshipping with us, or another community that uses the Revised Common Lectionary, then you know that we have been working our way through the 10th chapter of Mark’s gospel – a chapter that I for one have a whole new respect and fascination for as it reports on the last days of Jesus’ earthly ministry before the events of his passion begin with Palm Sunday.

And while we could just take the well-taught lessons we have learned about the pitfalls of trying to manipulate God’s law to our own benefit, lessons of grace overshadowing any of our futile attempts to work out the salvation that only God in Christ can provide, and of course last week, there was the all important lesson regarding where true power lies. Yes, those lessons are rich and valuable and there for the wise to apply to their own lives.  Learning and applying them would be enough.

But Mark reports one more episode in this 10th chapter before he calls it complete and goes on to tell of Jesus entry into Jerusalem on a donkey surrounded by palm waving crowds.  There, in the final verses, is that wonderful blind Bartimaeus calling out from the roadside, calling out from the crowd of Pharisees, rich men, and disciples – Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. And boy does he have something to teach those Pharisees and the rich young man and the disciples who have all preceded him with their inflated egos and their manipulations and misconceptions. He has something to teach us.

In all humility and surrender, it is the blind man who sees Jesus for who he really is. It is the man who has nothing in the world’s eyes, who understands that the riches of God’s mercy is all that he needs. It is the one who holds no power that prays to Jesus, not for a share of his power, but to be made whole by his power.

In addition to finishing out this chapter to perfection, Bartimaeus could not be more properly placed or welcomed on this day when we remember the ministry and writings of Saint Luke.  Luke, the physician turned evangelist and missionary. Luke, the author of the gospel that bears his name as well as the sequel that we call the Acts of the Apostles.  The message throughout both books is that the good news of the gospel is for all people, that Jesus the Christ’s healing presence brakes through the brokenness of our lives with mercy, and that God’s reign brought to earth in Christ, seeks to bring justice to every aspect of our world – political and economic systems, class division, military prowess, gender equity, wealth distribution – make up the short list.

And as we stand in this intersection, with the culmination of Mark’s 10th chapter, with Bartimaeus there stopping traffic, and Dr. Luke joining him bearing witness to the Christ who heals, we are most fortunate to take all this in, and, as we do from time to time, make room to remind ourselves of, to bask in, and to celebrate, the healing presence of Christ that continues through the work of the Holy Spirit by including the Healing Rite in our liturgy. 

Now, typically, we hear healing, and we immediately think of the physical healing that we and/or loved ones are in need of.  Our list of those concerns may be long.  Our pains and our bodies, may for one reason or another, be well placed with Bartimaeus and have good reason to cry out to Jesus in prayer with “Have mercy on me.”  And that is all appropriate and welcomed and certainly what this time can be for.  However, with this culminating Sunday, looking back at those encounters with folks who just were not getting what Jesus was trying to teach about the law, salvation, and power, this Bartimaeus-inspired finale, is for us an invitation to broaden the reason for our own cries of “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

I encourage you to take time today.  In fact, we’ll do it now in preparation for our time of healing.  Take time to think beyond the physical healing, don’t neglect it, but don’t stop there as you seek healing in the name of Jesus our savior, as you call out, ‘have mercy on me.’

Perhaps you are one who has been attacked and wounded by others who have thought that God’s law was for them to inflict on others, on you.  They proclaimed themselves judge, jury, and executioner.  Have you been shamed by them and their desire to shape you into their image and rejected you when you did not conform to their laws?  Have they been to you like the crowd was to Bartimaeus, trying to block you from making contact with Jesus? Do you still carry the wounds?  Do their words and those wounds continue to hold you at a distance from the one who heals with his radical and perfect welcome? Whose mercy is beyond anyone’s comprehension.

(Sung)  Come bring your burdens to God, Come bring your burdens to God, Come bring your burdens to God for Jesus will never say no. +

Maybe you are wounded by relentless doubt that Jesus’ promise of salvation extends even to the likes of you. You hear it, but you are still thinking, surely you have to do something, be something, believe something, in order for the gift of salvation to be yours.  Rejoice with me that Luke is the one who tells of the thief on the cross next to Jesus who says – ‘Remember me when you come into your kingdom.’  There is no time for the thief to get his life in order, to do enough good works, to qualify for what we may think is required to pass through the pearly gates.  And yet, Jesus assures him that he will be there with the savior of all creation. Next Sunday, Reformation Day, we will reflect on the centuries of misguided teachings and practices that wounded so many, scared so may to death (pun intended).  Cry out to Jesus who brings us new and eternal life, resulting in a peace that is beyond our understanding. 

(Sung)  Come bring your burdens to God, Come bring your burdens to God, Come bring your burdens to God for Jesus will never say no. +

Maybe today you are seeking healing around issues of power. “Let go and let God” looks great on a t-shirt or bumper sticker, but living it is another issue.  Or maybe you have grown more aware of the power you hold because of the color of your skin or the assets that you hold. And while we want justice for all people, it’s not so easy to face up to the privilege and the power, it is not so easy to work towards the reforms and the changes that will lift up others.  What will we have to give up?  Who is going to be my neighbor now?  Refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants, formerly incarcerated.  Perhaps it is the fear of God’s justice that plagues us and for which we need Christ’s healing presence. From our pain-filled positions of power, we are calling:  Jesus, have mercy on me.

(Sung) Come bring your burdens to God, Come bring your burdens to God, Come bring your burdens to God for Jesus will never say no. +

Then Jesus said to Bartimaeus, now Jesus says to us, “What do you want me to do for you?” Together with Bartimaeus we say, “My teacher, let us see again.”  In mercy and grace, Jesus says to us all, “Go; your faith has made you well.” With new sight and new life, we are free to follow Jesus on the way.

(Sung) Come bring your burdens to God, Come bring your burdens to God, Come bring your burdens to God for Jesus will never say no. +

The Rev. Mark Erson,

Pastor

+ Traditional South African song, transcribed and arranged by John Bell, of the Iona Community.

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