10/25/2015 sermon “Take courage”

Preacher: Jo J. Belser
Location: Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, Alexandria, Virginia 
Text: Mark 10:46-52
22 Pentecost (Proper 252), Year B

“Do you know my name?”

I’m blind, a blind beggar. And no one knows my name; I seem to have become invisible. I sit here, outside the wall of Jericho, begging for food, begging for money. Right now, life’s very, very good—for a blind beggar. I have a spot right by the roadside on the Jerusalem side of Jericho. And there are a LOT of pilgrims passing by, heading for the great Temple to observe Passover.

Pilgrims are generous. Usually. Can you hear their coins clanking as they hit other coins here on my cloak? I’m glad for the money, but I long for someone to know my name.

I use my cloak to collect what people give me. My cloak is the most valuable thing I own. I can sell my cloak, if the pilgrims get stingy. According to the law, whoever buys my cloak has to give it back to me at night. I haven’t had to use the “insurance policy” that is my cloak, yet. Right now, my cloak is full of coins, even if I myself am invisible.

Like the Pharisees, the pilgrims all presume that I’m a big sinner; otherwise, why would God allow me to be blind? And they seem to think that, as a sinner, I might be contagious. So I have become the original “invisible man.” Pilgrims don’t see me, even when they throw coins onto my cloak. And they certainly don’t know my name!

What’s that? YOU think you know my name? But you don’t! Men named Mark, Matthew, and Luke have told my story, told what happened to me this day on the outskirts of Jericho. In Mark’s version, HE calls me “Bartimaeus.” HA! “Bar” means “son of,” so Bar-Timaeus means “Son of Timaeus.” To make sure you get his point, Mark adds, “Son of Timaeus.” Redundant!

Everyone in MY time knew about Timaeus. Plato’s book, Timaeus, was very popular then. The thing about Timaeus was that he was an astronomer who shared his cosmology, his explanation of how all things came to be. Plato envisioned a creator, but not the kind of creator that we know and understand. In Timaeus, Plato’s creator made our world, the Earth, a living being, and invested the Earth with a consciousness. When the creator finished his work—with the help of a lot of other gods—and then all these gods left us alone, the world itself became divine. All in all, the book Timaeus was scientific hocus-pocus of 360 BCE. Mark made his point, but MY name is NOT Timaeus.

You must understand, though, the point Mark made when he wrote about me. According to Mark, my blindness was caused by my reliance on pseudo-science to the point of denying the true creator, Yahweh.

Oh, at one time I might not have been as observant as I should have been. I went to Temple, but I didn’t invest myself there. Being blind, though, I now have a great excuse to not go to Temple: they won’t let me in. They think that my blindness, remember, is both sinful and contagious. Oh, did I say that before? All of this gives me a great excuse to not give money to the Temple: I don’t have any, unless you count all these coins that the pilgrims give me.

Ah, well. Today is different, though. I heard in the crowd of people on the road that Jesus of Nazareth and his people were passing by. I’ve HEARD about this Jesus. I’ve heard that he’s healed a lot of people, even blind people like me.

So, when I understood that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by ME, I began to yell out in a very loud voice, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” That’s when the people all around Jesus told me to “be quiet,” to “shut up,” and “don’t bother The Man.”

But this was my chance to be whole! So I doubled the volume of my greeting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on ME!”

Amazingly, Jesus stopped walking. I knew this because EVERYONE stopped walking. Maybe because by calling Jesus “Son of David” I was calling him the Messiah. In that quiet moment, though, Jesus didn’t heal me, not yet. Instead he told his people to call me to him. Like I wasn’t even there! Invisible again, or so I thought. Little did I know that Jesus was testing his disciples.

Well, Jesus’ disciples saw me then. They said, “Take courage, get up, HE is calling YOU.” Well, that was all I needed: courage, which comes from faith. God gives courage, so I took some of God’s abundant courage and took that first step.

Well, I took more than one step. Mark tells my story true: I threw off my cloak—abandoned my insurance policy and all of that pilgrim-money—and “sprang up” and came to Jesus, walking by blind faith. Truth be told, I ran in blind faith (literally), reaching out everywhere until Jesus spoke my name. HA! Mark didn’t tell you THAT, did he!? Telling you my name would have spoiled his Bar-Timaeus point. But Jesus knew my name!

When I had groped my way to Jesus, he still didn’t heal me, at least not right away. He asked me, “What do you want me to do for you?” I learned later from the Twelve that Jesus had just asked James and John this question when they were angling for places of honor in the Kingdom of God. As if there were such a thing as places of honor in God’s Kingdom! Maybe that’s why Jesus asked me, a blind man, what I wanted, when obviously what I needed was to see again.

But I realized then that I wanted more than to see with my eyes. I wanted to “look to” to heaven. I wanted salvation. I wanted to be cured of my attachment to money. I wanted to KNOW this man Jesus and follow him, like some of the rich people—I’ve heard—find hard to do. And so that’s what I got: healing (both physical and spiritual), and a place following Jesus on The Way.

I wanted to tell you my story today. Do you know why? My name—I’ll tell you my name now—my name is Resurrection. And I want to tell YOU, “Take courage, get up, HE is calling YOU.”


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