46As [Jesus] and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Not only does God desire us to boldly call out for what we need, he brings us to him, and brings us together. We were created to pray and created to gather. Now – this story from Mark’s Gospel may not make you think right away of praying. But listen, through all the texts we’ve hear today for the common theme of calling out to God.
proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.”
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,…..
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
“My teacher, let me see again.”
This story also may not make you think of stewardship right away, but Bartimaeus is an striking example of stewardship, as a response to answered prayer. He is given his sight back and he responds by following Jesus.
Mark returns to the theme of blindness and sight in his Gospel over and over again, and sets the concepts of physical blindness against spiritual blindness. Mark also like to line up stories to compare and contrast. Foremost Mark scholar Ched Myers writes “This blind beggar stands in piercing contrast to the rich man and the disciples at every point. He is poor, landless, and disabled — a victim of the system, not its beneficiary. … Yet Bartimaeus is willing to give up what little he has to achieve liberation; the beggar’s cloak he casts off represents the tool of his panhandler’s trade”.
He Throws off his most valuable and practical, and likely only possession and follows. It is what would have kept him warm on a cold night. It is what would have shielded him from the hot sun on a warm day. That cloak has an essential garment, and we can only surmise that it was the only one he had. But he left it behind and went to Jesus’ side. What the rich young ruler could not see, blind Bartimaeus did.
His prayer was not eloquent and poised – the towns people were attempting to silence him as he cried out obnoxiously – kind of like the time that the disciples were trying to keep the kids from Jesus. Thinking the messiah doesn’t have the time or energy to waste with these nobodies…
He responds to Jesus with energy and immediacy.
“The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy,”
Stewardship is or joyful response to what the lord has done for us. But it is not only an individual act. The people of Israel responded in community, because they had been saved and rescued and led through the wilderness in community. But the people had also been separated from community, sent into exile in foreign countries, and suffered the loss of community. How precious then indeed, when the Lord answered their prayers, and brought them back.
And didn’t just bring the ones that were strong enough and healthy enough to make the journey. The Lord gathers the ones for whom the journey would be the most challenging. The Lord gathers the pregnant women and the women in labor. When I was greatly with child I could barely make it to the grocery store and back, let alone a trip through the wilderness on foot. Its not an easy journey and Jeremiah makes note of that too…. With weeping they shall come. But the psalmist reminds us Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.
The Lord brings us together as a community through trauma, exile, and disaster. And the seeds of hope we plant as we mourn and weep, grow into joy at the harvest.
It will be sometime that our country recovers from this exile and isolation of the Covid pandemic. Every congregation I know is still waiting for the members to come back. Waiting for them to make that physical an emotional journey back to regular gatherings after so long separated. But the crisis of global pandemic immediately shifted our practices and routines, and they are slow to switch back.
In an article entititled, “They’re Not Coming Back” Pastor Rob Dyer writes, “The story many are not acknowledging is that we are a traumatized people. For each and every one of us — all at once — our world stopped. And now, every single person — from the ones present to the ones we claim to miss to the ones we don’t even know yet — everyone is recovering from a shared trauma. The events we’ve walked through have had many questioning their livelihoods, their safety and their relationships. And if the church hasn’t offered answers for those questions yet, then we need to figure out how to do so now. We need to figure out what it means to be a spiritual trauma center for our communities. We need to reintroduce ourselves as a place that can tend to the wounds this pandemic has opened.”
Prayer is the first place to turn, because we were created to be in communication with our Creator. Calling out to God in our need and our confusion, believing that God will answer those cries. And as God answers he gathers. He restores. He redeems. He brings us back from far places, even us for whom the journey is treacherous and difficult. Those with extra baggage and those who need accommodations.
We return with prayer to the foundations of our faith – to the word and the sacraments where we are fed and nourished for the journey. Thought the journey is long, may we recognize that we are always given opportunities to respond with joy for what God has done for us. Amen