Grieve, Cry Out, and Give Thanks
October 28, 2018
Bartimaeus Story played out at beginning of sermon
Crowd1, Crowd2, and Bartimaeus, blindfolded are facing the congregation along the side of the road (by the side of the altar) while Disciple 1, Disciple 2, and Jesus are walking along slowly the road with Jesus in the middle and do not notice the conversation until the second time Bartimaeus shouts)
Disciple 1 - Look, you guys! I am finally seeing the road out of Jericho and toward Jerusalem!
Disciple 2 - I will be really glad to get away from this crowd. It is a miracle no one has begged you for healing, Jesus!
Crowd 1 -I think that is Jesus of Nazareth on his way out of town. I wish I had the guts to go meet him. I wish I could tell him what I need.
Crowd 2 - I am still afraid they will kill him and things will get worse for us. While I want things to change, I am scared to believe in Jesus.
Bartimaeus - What did you say?! Jesus is here?! Where is Jesus?! Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!
Crowd 2 – Hey Bartimaeus! Be quiet, don’t stir up trouble or change.
Crowd 1 - Be quiet, we can’t just go to him like that! He is a holy man, interested in more than us!
Bartimaeus - “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus - (Jesus stops, looks at Bartimaeus, and then says to his disciples) “Call that man, Bartimaeus over here to me”
Disciple 1 -Bartimaeus! You lucky one! Take heart and come, Jesus is calling you! (Bartimaeus throws off his cloak and the disciple leads him to Jesus where Jesus takes both his hands)
Jesus (to Bartimaeus) “What do you want me to do for you, Bartimaeus?”
Bartimaeus - “My teacher, my teacher, let me see again!”
Jesus - “Go; your faith has made you well.”
Bartimaeus - (throws off his blindfold) “I can see! I will follow you everywhere you go, Jesus”
What were the thinking, feelings, actions of the Crowd? What were thinking, feelings, and actions of Bartimaeus? What were the thinking, and feelings, and actionsof Jesus?
Where do you put yourself in this story?
I thought a lot about blindness when I first read this scripture. I have often thought that if I had to lose a sense, I would rather be blind than deaf because of how much I love music and how much I would rather listen to a book than read one. I thought about how I can select clothes in the dark as not to wake my husband, but just feeling their texture.
I thought of how much I do not see. I can’t read small print anymore. I do not see the sun rise every day. I do not see the ice caps melting in the arctic. I cannot see my parents anymore.
I thought of how I am blind in other ways - blind to specific micro aggressions I may commit because of privilege and education, especially when I exert power or control in a social situation or just when I speak sometimes. This makes me blind and ignorant to the powerlessness that Trump voters must suffer through in order to choose a hater like him.
I thought of how blindness is a form of powerlessness, how medicine is blind to correcting cognitive delusions that some of my clients have and my son’s visual and auditory hallucinations. I suspect modern medicine will grow replacement eyes before they fix hallucinations.
I texted my older sister, Whitney. She is an Episcopal priest, and I just asked her
“So what if Bartimaeus did not really regain his sight? What if this is another one of those ways in which we must trust God with our brokenness, to make it different or better somehow, a path for us to all have more compassion and the entire world will be better”
Now you are preaching like a Jungian AND then she countered with the question,
What if Bartimaeus DID regain his physical sight and became less blind in other ways as well?”
Our God is the creator of all that is seen and unseen. She may just leave us to grow eyes from stem cells and ask us to see differently. We most definitely need to see differently. That may be the greater miracle. In my mind, Bartimaeus was ALREADY seeing differently before he even was cured.
FAITH as seen in the Bartimaeus moments…..
This story is bigger than sight, it is about faith Bartimaeus is showing us the miracle of FAITH. This story describes faith beyond a belief in God or Jesus. Faith is part of our head, our heart and our actions. What kind of world would it be if it were filled with Bartimaeuses?
Saipan is an island in the South Pacific. It was hit hard by this last typhoon. Many homes were destroyed, but a friend of mine with the Jesuit Intl Vol Corps reported that no one was homeless after 24 hours, because that just is not the way the people of Saipan live. I felt like there must be many Bartimaeuses there, crying mercy, and the God in each person, woven in their culture, responds in kind, with their homes, a Bartimaeus miracle.
I was almost Bartimaeus this week. I attended the monthly Arlington County mental health committee meeting this past Wednesday where the mental health emergency services staff gave statistics on the number of people served, the number of first timers, the amount of staff available etc, over the last year. The room is full of a variety of people – the head psychiatrist, counselors, parents of people with mental issues, mental health consumers themselves, vendors of mental health services that serve Arlington County – when they reported that they had six staff and no peers to cover their 24/7 emergency services that also includes calming rooms, etc. I just about fell out of my chair. The shoestring nonprofit that I work for has a minimal twelve staff with one peer to cover six crisis stabilization beds at the crisis home they run. This was a potential Bartimaeus moment, “What do you mean you only have six staff and no peers? God have mercy on us and help us!” Our ultimate and more measured response was to vote for only one extra position, and we had to pick if it would be in emergency services, the jail, or a peer position for the mobile PACT team that goes to people’s homes. Just two days before, with my peers at the Hearing Voices group in the same building, we were remembering the moments of crisis where we needed mercy. One man shared about his three-week stay in jail for not taking his medication. Another, her confusion and powerlessness during her crisis as police rummaged unnecessarily through her medications and drawers for contraband. This client is well-known and a repeat customer’ they did not need to treat her as if she was hoarding illegal drugs.
When have you had your Bartimaeus moments? I think of Jenny and her cry for mercy for the Arctic. I think of Jordan and his cry for mercy for Syria when the decimation was just beginning.
Most of the time I feel like a disciple. Bartimaeus’s seeking and finding are the essential steps of discipleship – 1.) knowing our need and longing, 2.) not being afraid to grieve, not numbing ourselves to grief, 3.) faithfully responding with mercy to cries of need and knowing together we will be laughing and our dreams, 4.) practicing gratitude and celebration
This gospel and readings give us the essence of being a disciple –
In Jeremiah, we ask the Lord to save the remnant of Israel. The blind and the lame from the corners of the earth, the vulnerable in labor. In Psalm 126 those that weep will be filled with laughter, shouts of joy, their dreams will come true. Those who cry for all the afflictions will understand shouts of joy. Seeds of grief are the source of life for hope and joy.
This is not the formulaic following of disciplines. Our spiritual practices set us up for a constant listening to the weeping and lost in the dark corners of the earth and making space in our lives to respond to our pain and theirs and making space to remember when our tears have turned to laughter.