Pentecost 23 October 28, 2018

The Rev. Janet Campbell

PENTECOST 23  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 28, 2018

The Rev. Janet Campbell

 

 

“Jesus and his disciples

came to Jericho.”

 

Seven words

heavy with meaning.

 

For Jericho was the turning point . . .

at which the road

leading south from Galilee

turned west toward Jerusalem.

 

It signifies

the final stage of Jesus’

earthly journey.

 

And it was there

that he and his disciples

and a crowd of followers

encountered

a blind beggar . . .

 

Jesus had just

told his disciples,

for the third time,

that suffering and death

awaited him in Jerusalem.

 

And they had again

misunderstood him . . .

 

clinging to

their misguided expectations

that Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem

would begin a revolution,

bring him

to power

and his followers

to positions of glory.

 

 

On its surface,

this is the story

of a man who had lost his sight . . .

 

a blind beggar,

sitting by the roadside,

calling out to the busy world

passing him by.

 

One Bartimaeus,

who longed to see again

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.

 

It’s also the story

of a crowd of people

who, bent on more important things,

could not,

or would not,

see in the beggar

a human being in need.

 

Oh, they heard him alright,

and “sternly ordered him to be quiet.”

 

It’s also the story

of those misunderstanding disciples

who in all their three years

of following Jesus

had yet to see who he really was.

 

And it’s Jesus story, too,

Jesus,

alone in the crowd that followed him,

alone even among his disciples,

alone in knowing what awaited him

in Jerusalem,

 

Jesus,

who, as soon as he became aware

that Bartimaeus

was calling out to him,

said “Call him here.”

 

How quickly

the crowd, the disciples,

changed their tune . . .

 

“Take heart,” they said

to the man they had not bothered to see,

“Get up, he is calling you.”

 

Jesus asked Bartimaeus the question

he asks of anyone

who turns to him:

 

“What do you want me

to do for you?”

 

“My teacher, let me see again.”

 

“Go,” said Jesus,

“your faith has made you well.”

 

 

And now Bartimaeus sees . . .

more than he ever saw before.

 

He has seen Jesus,

he has seen a Love

he never knew,

 

and, instead of going back

to life as it had been,

he enters into the life of Jesus,

he follows Love 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?

 

the yearning, the need,

the ugliness, the brokenness, the anguish,

the meanness, the violence. . .

all those things they’d rather not see . . .

 

. . . the abundance, the goodness,

the possibility, the hope,

the kindness, the gentleness:

the world as God made it to be,

the world God is bringing into being through Jesus

in all its beautiful wholeness and integrity.

 

For Jesus 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 division and the unity,

the hunger and the feeding,

the thirst and the drinking.

 

Into the blindness

the sudden vision

of what is really true.

 

 

It is costly,

it is painful,

to see the world as

Jesus sees it . . .

so much to lament,

so much to grieve . . .

 

for us, as Americans,

the heart-break of what is happening

in our country:

 

In just this past week:

 

The Department of Health and Human Services

issues what is clearly an assault

on the dignity and civil rights

of transgendered persons;

 

The President vilifies and threatens

refugees seeking safety and security

in our country

stirring up

a potential armed showdown

at our border;

 

A White supremicist murders

Maurice Stallard and Vicki Lee Jones,

two African-Americans

doing their shopping

at a Kroger store

in Kentucky;

 

Another man with a gun

attacks the Congregation

of the Tree of Life Synagogue

in Pittsburgh

murdering 11 members,

injuring several others;

 

These things

cannot be . . .

and yet they are.

 

It is so important

that we see them,

and yet,

for us as Christians,

even as we lament and grieve,

and shake with outrage,

we also have another vision . . .

 

the vision of a kingdom

brought into this world

in the coming of Jesus.

 

And we have faith . . .

a word that is less about

belief in a creed

and all about trust in a relationship . . .

 

the relationship

God has established with us

in Christ.

 

A relationship

that calls us to be

in and for the world

as Christ . . .

 

a seeing and serving people,

a caring and generous people,

a daring-to-hope people on the move

for justice and peace,

 

with many resources and gifts

entrusted to us by God

to be used for the world’s sake.

Friday,

the Episcopal Church did something

full of hope –

an act of justice-making –

interring the ashes of Matthew Shepard,

a young gay man murdered

20 years ago

in a vicious hate crime,

interring Matthew’s ashes

at the Episcopal Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

 

2,000 people gathered with his parents

to do this.

 

Yesterday,

our Diocesan Convention

took actions

that were full of hope . . .

acts of justice-making,

 

voting overwhelmingly

that the Diocesan Investment Fund

divest from fossil fuel holdings . . .

 

voting overwhelmingly

to affirm the dignity

of transgender and Nonbinary persons

as beloved children of God . . .

 

voting overwhelmingly

to establish a Diocesan Task Force

on the Prevention of

Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

 

In every case,

debate,

in which there were

some differences of opinion

was civil, thoughtful,

centered on discerning

what our Christian values

and our sense of mission

had to say about each

of these concerns.

 

The theme of Convention

was “This is Us”

borrowed from the popular

television show of the same title –

 

gathering the history and present

of our diocese and

pointing toward our future.

 

When we debated and passed

those resolutions,

I thought,

“Yes! This is us!”

 

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus asks his Body the Church

as we seek him out

week after week in this place.

 

“Our teacher,”

we reply,

“let us see again . . .

 

for we have our own blindspots,

our own failures

and

refusals to see.

 

Keep on showing us

what we cannot / do not / would rather not see

and grant us courage

to love and serve you

with gladness and singleness of heart . . .”

 

 

“My teacher, let me see again.”

 

Perhaps a request, a prayer

we might all make

every day.

 

For are not our eyes,

our minds,

our hearts

in continual need

of opening to Jesus

opening to the world

opening to love?

 

Opening to what Jesus

meant

by the kingdom of God

he kept talking about.

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,

not brought about,

as our Presiding Bishop likes to say,

“by love of power,

but by the power of love.”

 

A kingdom brought into being

as we reach across

what separates us,

all barriers and boundaries,

in reconciling love.

 

At the end of Convention

we sang an anthem

composed especially for our closing worship –

“Love is the Way,”

the text based on quotes from

Presiding Bishop Curry.

 

The refrain was called the

“Rise up Shout!”

 

“Rise!” sang the cantor.

“Rise!” we repeated.

 

“Rise up!” sang the cantor.

“Rise up!” we repeated.

 

“Rise up Church!”

“Rise up Church!”

 

“Rise up Church and lead!”

“Rise up Church and lead!”

 

“Rise up Church and lead the way!”

“Rise up Church and lead the way!”

 

“Rise up Church and lead the way of Love!”

“Rise up Church and lead the way of Love!”

 

Amen!

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