Jesus stopped for Bartimaeus, by Pastor Noel

October 28, 2018    Proper 25,B


      Who do we stop for?

      Everywhere I drive there are people standing at crossroads holding signs asking for help.

      Sometimes I stop right beside them.

      What to do?

      I rarely have any cash with me, so I can’t help that way. I don’t have any of the “blessing bags” that some folks carry to hand out. (These are bags with things that might possibly be helpful—maybe some socks, a bottle of water, a protein bar, hand sanitizer, a gift card for a hamburger or coffee.)

      I know that it’s painful to be ignored, so, when I can, I catch their eye and say that I’m sorry I can’t help.

      But there I am in my nice car and nice clothes and a nice place to go home to.

      I smile, and I keep on going.

      Jesus didn’t keep on going at such times.  He never did.

      Jesus stopped for Bartimaeus.

      The folks in the cars around me don’t want me to stop for the beggars at the stoplights. They want me to keep going, so they can, too.

      The disciples didn’t want Jesus to stop—not for Bartimaeus, not for the woman who touched his robe, not for the woman whose daughter was sick.           

      They were headed to Jerusalem and Jesus was going to show his glory! Keep walking!

      The crowd didn’t want Jesus to stop for Bartimaeus. They told him to be quiet! They wanted him to be invisible so they could ignore him.

      Jesus stopped for Bartimaeus. His glory is in giving himself for others. All others.

      Jesus and the disciples go to Jericho. Why? Mark doesn’t tell us—just that they were there and then they were leaving.

      Perhaps Jericho itself has a message for us.

      I’ve read that Jericho is perhaps the oldest settlement on earth, and that it is the lowest below sea level.

      We all probably think of “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho” when we hear of it.

      Even though Joshua’s trumpets didn’t really make the walls fall down, Jericho has a long history of being knocked down, and then powerful again.

      Perhaps Mark is telling us that we need to look at the bigger picture than our present moment.

      Tom Erich says “the arc of history is long. God’s eyes are on countless sparrows and moments. God walks the longer road.”

      As Jesus walked his part of that longer road, he did all he could to make the arc of history bend toward justice. (to paraphrase MLK who was paraphrasing Theodore Parker)

      Justice doesn’t happen automatically. When there is injustice there is work to be done to right it.

      We are called to bring about the values of God’s kingdom, to work for and live God’s justice.

      Jesus worked for and lived God’s justice. The gospel is filled with stories of his justice work.

      Mercy, compassion, healing, forgiving, empowering—these are just some of the ways Jesus shows us how God’s works.

      God’s justice transforms us, and the world.

      The name Jesus can mean “the new Joshua.”     

      He shows that God’s kingdom comes in helping others, not in violence and destruction.

      The name Bartimeaus may mean “son of the unclean.” 

      In stopping for Bartimaeus, Jesus is saying that no one in unclean in God’s kingdom.  Even the lowliest blind beggar is worthy of God’s love.

      So was the woman who dared to reach out and touch Jesus’ cloak to be healed. So was the synagogue ruler’s daughter. Jesus stopped for them.

      Like Bartimaeus, they had faith, and that’s what Jesus commends. Faith is trust in God’s goodness for us. We can see that lived out in Jesus, and in many other ways.

      Jesus stopped for the young man who couldn’t live without all his property. Jesus looked at him with God’s love, but the man loved his wealth more than he loved Jesus, and he couldn’t follow him.

      Bartimaeus had very little, and he left that to follow Jesus. When he got up to go to Jesus he cast aside his cloak—the only thing he owned. It was his coat and blanket and what he spread on the ground to receive the gifts of food he begged for.

      Even in his blindness he knew that Jesus was his savior and healer.

      His faith in God led him to healing and following the way of Jesus. The young man’s faith in himself led him to trust in his wealth and not follow Jesus’ way.

      That’s the choice we all have.

      This week we saw the results of other choices.

      Packages resembling bombs were sent to many prominent people. Someone made a choice to send death and destruction through the mail.

      Two places of worship were targeted. In KY a man found a church locked and then went to a market and killed two people there.

      The church was a predominantly black church. The women killed were black.

      In Pittsburgh, Tree of Life Synagogue became a place of killing. The shooter yelled “death to all Jews” before he fired. At least 11 dead, 6 injured.

      The men who did these killings made conscious choices to harm others.

      And Gene Robinson, who’s had death threats more than once, carried Matthew Shepard’s ashes to their resting place in the national cathedral. He was murdered 20 years ago, but his family feared a grave would be desecrated so he has finally found a safe resting place.

      All of this because some people think other people deserve to die because of who they are.

      Jesus died to show us that violence is not God’s plan. God’s plan is peace. 

    Peace and healing and inclusion and compassion—and all the other words I preach from time to time.

      In our Collect we prayed that God would make us love his commandments.

      If only God would do that!

      If we all loved God, our neighbors, and ourselves, there would be no killings in synagogues or markets or churches or embassies or theatres, or…

      Instead of making us love, God shows us how to love and be loving. God shows us, in Jesus especially, the way of love that is God’s plan and hope for us.

      We can turn our backs and keep walking past all that’s happening these days. Or we can embrace and live the way of love God offers.

      Then we stop and help however we can.

      Jesus stopped for Bartimaeus.

            Will we? That is my fervent prayer for us all.

The Rev. Noel Bailey

The Reverend Noel Bailey was born in Providence, is now back in RI for the 4th time, and hopes that this stay is longer than some of the others. She was ordained Priest at St. Michael's, Bristol, in May 1988, More details