Sermon for Pentecost 23 2018

+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

One of the nice things about both the college and the seminary I attended was that we always seemed to have relatively impressive people come and give public lectures. Occasionally I was able to endear myself sufficiently to the people in charge that I got to assist in transporting these VIPs from place to place and even to entertain them during their down-time. For the most part, these speakers didn’t have much time for anything but the most cursory pleasantries, and I couldn’t blame them. They had come to give a talk to a full lecture hall, and I was just the lowly undergraduate or seminarian they’d been stuck with.

This was not always the case, however, and I was particularly impressed with one speaker who came to the seminary during my middler year. I don’t know how I got to be Desmond Tutu’s escort, especially considering my size (granted, I am much larger than he is), but it was an opportunity I would have been crazy to pass up.

In any event, it ended up being one of my more frustrating tasks during my time at seminary. As I struggled to get him from point-A to point-B around the seminary’s campus and on the streets of Manhattan, always staying uncomfortably close to him, he was constantly distracted by people who recognized him, and we always ended up arriving late to our destination. You see, everyone who approached him had his own story or problem or prayer request, and never once did the elderly archbishop say “I have to be on my way to stay on schedule.” He heard everyone out, he always had something appropriate to say, and it was clear that he was paying attention and that he truly cared about each and every person who approached him.

Too often we think God is less like this and more like the aloof VIPs. Too often we say, “God’s got more important things to worry about than my little problem.” We sometimes think of God as the “big-picture guy” who is more interested in the full lecture hall than the curious fellow on the street. But, the truth is really quite the opposite.

Consider the story of blind Bartimaeus. Jesus had been on his way to Jerusalem for several chapters. He’d been on his way to the site of the biggest show of his career, the largest lecture hall on earth with his last lecture. He had been traveling inexorably to his fate, death on the cross. In fact, after this morning’s Gospel, the very next thing we read in Mark is that Jesus has arrived, he’s got his donkey and he’s entering Jerusalem to die.

But what does Jesus say when he learns that Bartimaeus is calling out for him? “Sorry, but I have to go die for the sins of the world now.”? No. He says “call him here.” We are told that there was a large crowd surrounding Jesus, and even amidst the busy-ness and noise of that great procession, he hears the faint cry of the poor blind man, and he gave that Bartimaeus his sight.

This is tremendously good news for all of us. We need never think that our problems are too small to trouble God about them. We need never worry that we’re taking up Jesus’ precious time when we go to him in prayer.

That’s the good news, but here is the challenge which accompanies it: “Go ye and do likewise.” You see, each of us is on his or her own journey to Jerusalem. Each of us is, if we are following the commandment of our Lord, walking the way of the cross. Bartimaeus figured that out without having to be told. Jesus simply says “Go, your faith has made you well”, but Bartimaeus does him one better. “Immediately,” Mark tells us, “he regained his sight and followed him on the way.” He immediately understood what took the disciples so long to grasp, namely that the proper response to Jesus’ healing, saving work was to follow, living a life of sacrificial service to mirror Christ’s own.

Let us, then, follow Christ, seeing opportunities to serve in small ways neither as distractions nor nuisances, but as the fortuitous prospects that they are. Perhaps, like blind Bartimaeus, we need to be given eyes to see such opportunities, but God will grant that vision if we only ask Him.

+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.