Do you know that there are over 300 hymns in Voices United that deal in some way with ‘seeing.’ And they usually have nothing to do with actual physical sight. And neither does the gospel reading this morning. In Mark’s gospel, ‘seeing’ is a metaphor for faith in Jesus.
In fact, it is the first time in Mark’s gospel that Jesus is given the title that denotes him as the one who will come to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
It is the blind man, Bartimaeus, whose name means Son of Timaeus, it is he who uses for the very first time, the messianic title, Son of David. He ‘sees’ who Jesus is. In this story, Jesus asks the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus wants to see… and remember that seeing is a metaphor for faith. He wants to have faith. There is an interesting little twist in this story… not only does Bartimaeus want to see, but he wants to see again! In other words, not only does he want to have faith, but he wants to have it again! Apparently he must have had faith once, but perhaps he had lost it living under the oppression of Roman rule. Lost beneath the struggle of everyday life. But Jesus hears him, responds to him and heals him of his blindness. And Bartimaeus casts off his cloak of blindness and follows Jesus.
As I pondered this text, the words of a Christmas Carol kept ringing through my head.
Said the night wind to the little lamb,
“Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite,
With a tail as big as a kite.”
It seemed to echo in my head this week as I went about my work as your minister… in visits and meetings, in Bible Study and phone calls, in prayer and reflection. Do you see what I see when I reflect upon this faith community? When I look at this faith community I see a tradition of service that stretches back into the past. I see much loved traditions and practices that provide a grounding for today and tomorrow. I see volunteers who shovel snow, cut grass, teach Sunday School, do repairs and maintenance, provide funeral ministry to friend and stranger. Cook, bake, collect bottles, sell grocery cards, clean and organize. I see all those who have carried great responsibilities over many years. I see people wrestling with the Bible readings each week… exploring faith in evening study groups, I see the United Church Women faithfully living out its mission and vision. I see a community of faith which is open to different ways of worship. I see people giving faithfully to the Mission and Service fund so that we can fulfill our mission to share the Good News of Jesus Christ beyond the walls of this church. I see how you genuinely care for each other and like each other.
Do you see what I see?
I see a wheelchair accessible, very functional building, with LOTS of parking. I see outreach, through the Family Resource Institute, which goes way beyond what most congregations can offer. This is not to say that we don’t have our challenges… We have financial challenges. We have declining attendance as some people die and others choose a different way to spend Sunday. And yet, we are here… faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ, in this time and place.
Do you see what I see?
I wondered if Bartimaeus was sorry that he asked Jesus to see. I wondered if now that his eyes were opened and he could see the dirt and the poverty and the cruelty if he would have rather been left blind. Or did he embrace the new opportunities that were open to him because of his sight?
But beyond the story of healing are at least two other stories in this passage.
One is a story of recognition, that Bartimaeus, who called out to Jesus, Son of David, knew who Jesus was. He knew that Jesus was the one to set him free from his prison of blindness. And the other story is that Jesus, despite the people trying to silence Bartimaeus, Jesus heard his voice and responded.
Do we recognize that Jesus it is to whom we must continually turn? Do we trust that he will hear out cries? Do we embrace what he offers us? Jesus had such a great understanding of his purpose. He let nothing, or very little, deter him from his purpose… which I have come to understand as proclaiming and professing God’s love for all people and to call God’s people back to what God intended for them. He was probably not the most comfortable person to be around all the time. For all we have stories of him taking children on his knee and welcoming outcasts, he also had harsh words for those who would prevent others from having a relationship with God. He had a way of questioning and challenging practices that were long held… And it seems apparent that the disciples were often confused and misunderstood him. This Jesus, in a world that believed that illness and disease were caused by sin, this Jesus, heard the cries of Bartimaeus and healed him. This Jesus shared hospitality with the outcasts. This Jesus invited us to follow him. This is the Jesus I follow.
As a Christian community of faith, we have something unique to offer to each other, this community and the world. Acceptance in a world that says how much money you make is the most important thing… Compassion in a world that is too often cold and heartless…Hope in a world that can seem so bleak… Comfort to the sick… Food for the hungry… Companionship to the lonely….
Was Bartimaeus sorry he regained his sight? I don’t think so.
Take heart my brothers and sisters in Christ. Take heart, get up, he is calling you.”
Thanks be to God, amen.
(C) Catherine MacDonald 2015
Psalm 34, Mark 10: 46-52
October 25, 2015
St. Paul’s Spryfield