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Pentecost 22 October 25, 2015 - The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
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PENTECOST 22  Proper 25  Year B
Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52
 
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday October 25, 2015
The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
 
 
 
 
“My teacher, let me see again.”
 
Bartimaeus,
blind beggar,
huddled under his cloak,
sitting by the side of the
Jericho – Jerusalem road.
 
Once he could see,
but now is blind,
and he longs only to see again . . .
 
to see the wildflowers’ riotous colors
springing up a hillside,
the glory of a sunset fading to dusk,
the way from here . . . to . . . there,
his wife’s dark and smiling eyes,
the careful work he used to do with his hands
          to earn their living.
 
He hears a commotion
rolling toward him on the road.
 
“What’s happening?”
He blindly flings his question into the air.
 
Someone nearby answers,
“It’s that teacher
Jesus of Nazareth,
and his disciples,
and a whole crowd
          following them.”
 
He’s heard of this man.
Hope ignites.
 
“Jesus, Son of David,
have mercy on me!”
 
The crowd is noisy and
Jesus doesn’t hear him.
 
And what is Bartimaeus to the crowd
but a nuisance,
a noisy bothersome bundle of rags,
not worthy of the teacher’s notice.
         
In Mark’s words,
they “sternly ordered him to be quiet.”
 
Does anyone even
look at him,
see him,
ask him why he
          cries out?
 
Perhaps they are more blind
          than he.   
 
No one
speaks on his behalf . . .
 
not even Jesus’ disciples,
 
. . . the same disciples
who rebuked people
for bringing children to Jesus.
 
The same disciples who argued
over which of them was the greatest,
which of them might sit at his right and left hand
when he would come into his glory.
 
They are so slow to understand
all that Jesus has said and done –
          which has made very plain,
                   for those with eyes to see,
          what he means by the kingdom
                    he keeps talking about.
 
It’s a kingdom
not built on
greatness as the world reckons greatness,
          glory as the world sees glory,
not won
          by the violence
          to which the world so often turns.
 
It is a kingdom brought into being
through reaching across
what separates us
in reconciling love,
 
through small one-by-one healings
of sorrowing human beings
suffering by the side of the road
while life passes them by
with barely a glance.
 
There’s no silencing the cry of the broken heart.
 
Bartimaeus shouts even more loudly,
“Son of David, have mercy on me!”
 
Now Jesus hears him.
He stops.
 
Surrounded by his disciples
he can’t  see who it is
begging for mercy.
But it doesn’t matter.
He hears him.
 
“Call him here.”
 
“Take heart,”
the disciples say,
“Get up.
He is calling you.”
 
In a few words,
Mark conveys the yearning, the hope of the man.
“Throwing off his cloak, he sprang up . . .”
 
He’s blind.
 
Does someone in the crowd
see him now
and lead him to Jesus?
 
“What do you want me to do for you?”
Jesus asks him.
 
“My teacher, let me see again.”
 
“Go, your faith has made you well.”
 
And Bartimaeus sees . . .
 
more than he ever saw before.
 
He has seen Jesus,
and follows him on the way.
 
Is it possible,
when the disciples and the crowd
see what happens,
that their eyes,
too, might be opened . . .
 
that some of them might just get
a glimpse of the world
as Jesus sees it?
 
For Jesus sees the world as it is
          in all its ugly brokenness and anguish,
and he sees the world as God made it to be,
          the world God is bringing into being through him
          in all its beautiful wholeness and joy.
 
He sees both
the wounded hearts and the mending,
the hurting and the healing,
the violence and the peace-making,
the ignorance and the understanding,
the hunger and the feeding,
the thirst and the drinking,
 
the blindness and the sudden vision
          of what is really true.
 
What does he see
looking at us?
 
I think he sees a community
of seeking and serving people,
          striving always to follow him,
to grow in the Christian faith and life,
a community with a caring and generous heart,
a community with many resources and gifts
that have been entrusted to us
by God.

And I think he sees a community
with the courage
to struggle with
one of the heart-breaking challenges of our time.
 
A challenge we can see almost every day
right on our doorstep –
people with nowhere to live
          nowhere to get out of the cold and the rain,
 
huddling wearily against the walls
of this house for the church,
this concrete sign of God’s kingdom,
asking for nothing but to be allowed
to sleep in a place that seems relatively safe . . .
 
to sleep, perchance to dream
of a room and a bed and a blanket and a pillow.
 
The Sunday magazine
of the Seattle Times       
each week features a house
newly built or remodeled
 
whose owners
employ architects, contractors,
interior designers,
to provide them with
custom kitchens and bathrooms,
artisan furniture,
indoor swimming pools,
landscaped surroundings . . .
 
. . . while the numbers of people
with not even a modest room
to call their own
increase every day . . .
 
people crammed into
          overfull shelters,
bedding down in tents
          under freeway overpasses,
living in their cars,
huddled in sleeping bags
          in our breezeway . . .
 
This need is making itself known,
right here, to us . . .
 
calling out to us . . .
 
presenting us with
complex issues
to be considered . . .
 
involving city ordinances,
the comfort and wellbeing of our neighbors,
questions of health and safety,
our own unresolved feelings,
          about suffering and hopelessness,
          and the stranger . . .
 
but presenting us
most of all
with human beings
beloved of God
whose lives have
for a variety of reasons,
come undone.
 
Do we turn a blind eye
and simply let them sleep here.
 
Then what do we do
when more and more
come with the winter . . .
and sooner or later
problems arise?
 
Do we ask them to move on,
and give them a list of
the already overburdened resources
for homeless people?
 
Might
some of our space,
one of the great resources
          God and our ancestors here
have entrusted to us,
become an emergency night shelter
in stormy and freezing weather?
 
How would that work?
Could we partner
with existing shelter organizations?
 
Those are just some of the questions
we were asking
at last Tuesday’s Vestry meeting.
 
Some of the questions our staff
has been asking.
 
Some of the questions
many of you have been asking.
 
Some of the questions
our Junior Wardens
will be exploring with
the Outreach Leadership Team
this week.
 
Only some of the questions.
There will be more.

I think it’s clear
we’re being called to a time
of discernment . . .
 
a time for prayer,
a time for study
          of the causes and effects of homelessness,
a time for discernment,
a time for action,
          for advocacy in public forums,
a time for 
walking the talk of Jesus
and putting our money
          where our mouth is.
 
 We begin our fall pledging campaign
this week,
a time when we each discern
what of the financial resources
          God has entrusted to us
we will contribute to support
          our life and ministry in 2016.
 
It is our pledges
that provide what
we must have to respond
to the needs around us –
 
that provide
these buildings,
heat, light, food, water,
our staff,
the worship that strengthens
and forms in us the mind and heart of Christ.
 
God has entrusted to us
          many resources,
and God has entrusted to us
          people who need us.
 
What do we want Jesus to do for us?
What do we want Jesus to do with us –
          for the sake of those around us?
 
 
Our teacher,
give us eyes to see,
hearts broken open with compassion,
the will and courage to serve . . .
 
that we may follow you on the way.
 
Amen.