Proper 25 Year B 2021
Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
What must I do to get eternal life?
Can you arrange it so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory?
I want to see
The past three weeks’ gospels have centered around individuals asking Jesus questions.
Asking questions is what you would do with a Rabbi. Ask so that you might learn.
The first man, unnamed, comes up to Jesus in the street.
The second question comes from James and John as the disciples are walking along with Jesus.
The third question comes today, from Bartimaeus, the man who is blind, sitting on the side of the road and surviving only by the generosity of others.
The first questions seeks the life to come and what must I do to possess such a thing.
The second also seeks eternal life and prestige alongside of that desire.
The third asks for the now, the immediate, the nearness of God in his life.
All three reflect our curiosity, our own desire, our hearts.
All three reflect Jesus’ love for each person who encounters him and in each case Jesus looks at the individual(s) who ask the question of him and loves them, right where they are.
All three questions are answered directly, truthfully, honestly, with transforming love.
The young man goes home saddened and at the same time understanding that he too must be engaged in the work. Life as a disciple is much more than rule following, life as a follower of Jesus is following with the heart, mind and soul.
James and John are perplexed misunderstanding relationship status and mistaking status with the ease of suffering. They misunderstand the connection of following Jesus. Rather than letting you skate through and be relieved of suffering, following Jesus, the cup that he shares with you WILL give you strength and courage FOR the suffering and adversity that will occur.
Following means that you will never be alone in this life.
Bartimaeus, reaches towards Jesus and engages with Jesus. His question leaves his life transformed with Jesus. His question declares Jesus is the messiah publicly and unabashedly. He drops his cloak and runs to engage Jesus.
While Bartimaeus asks something of Jesus, his question is different than the disciples and the young man two stories before because Bartimaeus leaves everything behind to engage with Jesus. Bartimaeus’ joy is in encountering Jesus and he has an openness to receive right there, right then.
He leaves his cloak behind.
Unlike the young man who arrives with a multitude of possessions, Bartimaeus has only a cloak on which he would have both kept warm at night and also collected alms from those who passed by. He left this sole possession behind in his haste and desire to encounter Jesus.
I love to think about where else has clothing been important or cast off?
Remember Adam and Eve? They took on clothing to cover themselves from the God who created them and their innermost parts.
Rahab is known for her red clothing and gives shelter to Joshua’s spies, her red cord in the window saves her household.
Remember all the well-dressed Pharisees in fine robes whom Jesus talks so disparagingly about?
Remember John the Baptist and his lack of décor, his wild hair and sporting hair shirts of camel’s hair.
We will hear, later in the gospel, of the disciple who runs into the night from the Garden of Gethsemane leaving his clothing behind, leaving all behind in his fear.
Of the soldiers casting lots for the final garment that Jesus will wear on the cross
And remember the linens in the tomb, cast aside. Left behind.
Clothing has covered our shame and, also when left behind, sets us free.
Now, I am not advocating a nudist colony.
I am left wondering what we hold close that covers our fears, our shame, our hidden insecurities.
What things we too might need to jump up from and leave behind unabashedly.
Like the young man, is it the things we own?
Like James and John, are we clinging to what is beyond us rather than living in the now?
How can we live with trust and respond to nvitation like Bartimaeus.
What are the things that should jump up from and let go of?
What do we leave behind as we are transformed by the call and discipleship that Jesus invites us into.
How in your own life have you seen things creep back in as the world has picked up pace?
Is your plate overflowing again?
How are you making space to leave the cloak of anxiety, stress and angst behind and spend time with God?
Where might you be able to hear God meeting you right where you are and loving you right there?
What might you need to let go of?
This interim time at St. John’s is not just a waiting time for the next rector, this time is time for us as a parish to breath in deeply and keep growing, giving, being the faithful disciples who respond to God and say “Jesus, you are the Messiah”- we, too, should ask the questions of fear and also with curiosity in each ministry that we are actively participating.
What should we leave behind and what should we choose to clothe ourselves in?
In the book of Colossians there is a passage (one of my favorites for weddings) “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” What does it look like if our actions show these attributes, how does that form us to care for each other and our relationship with God?
And then there is Paul’s writing about the armor of God in Ephesians. Paul spoke strongly about the baptismal identity of being a follower of Jesus. We are to be in community together and keep connecting, stand firm in the knowledge that each is loved for who they are.
And each day we put on our clothes, one sock and shoe at a time.
It should be the same with our prayers, one moment at a time.
And with our actions, each with love and compassion at a time.
We should always be stretching towards God and growing towards being with each other and acknowledging God in our midst.
Bartimaeus’s restoration of sight is the last story before Jesus arrives in Jerusalem.
Mark’s gospel continues with Jesus’s arriving on a donkey and processing to the cheers of Hosanna, the story of Bartimaeus invites us to summarize all of the beginning of Mark’s gospel – and to see clearly that Jesus’ life was lived to call us into relationship with him. Restored fully to wholeness and to the community.
How do we hear and respond to the call of Jesus?
What do we leave behind, how do we engage, and how, too, will we be transformed?
Bartimeaus responds without hesitation and his life is transformed.
What cloak are you willing to leave behind in your own faith journey?