October 30, 2018
“A Break in the Clouds” ~ Sermon for October 28, 2018
Our New Testament reading this morning closes out Mark’s account of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem.
Jesus and his disciples are in Jericho, a city in the Jordan Valley about twenty miles northeast of Jerusalem.
This section of Mark’s gospel started with the healing of a blind man in Bethsaida and now concludes with another miraculous healing.
As we hear these stories of restored sight we are reminded that God has given us the power to reimagine, revision and reorient ourselves to see things differently.
Hear now a reading from the gospel of Mark 10:46-52.
Here ends the readingof God’s holy word. May God add to our hearing and understanding, God’s blessing. Amen.
Please pray with me.
O Jesus Christ, teacher and healer, you heard the cry of the blind beggar when others would have silenced him.
Teach us to be attentive to the voices others ignore, that we might respond through the power of the Spirit to heal the afflicted and to welcome the abandoned for your sake and the sake of the gospel.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
Earlier this week I was on my morning walk up Bunker Hill and the sky was covered with clouds.
As I crested the top of the hill and looked over across the newly mown field, a ray of sunshine broke through the clouds and a few patches of blue sky became visible.
As I watched the sun stream through the cloud, giving that ‘heavenly’ look I couldn’t help thinking about how God breaks into our lives, particularly when we are gloomy.
I wondered if Bartimaeus’ sight was restored gradually or if he was granted immediate full vision.
There is no question, when faced with this week’s readings, that God is in the business of restoration.
Every reading speaks about God’s restoring, saving work in some way.
The Psalmist celebrates God’s restoration from trouble or from exile.
We heard the story of Job’s transforming encounter with God who restores beyond the prosperity Job had enjoyed before his trial.
Bartimaeus receives his sight, which not only restores his vision, but also his life.
The key to these stories is that they are not just about restoration of circumstances, but are about restoration of relationships, especially with God.
Ultimately this is the truth in all restoration stories.
It can be comforting to have our outward circumstances restored, but it is when our hearts are restored, when we are delivered from the fear, self-protection, defensiveness, and isolation our brokenness or suffering has brought on us that we are truly saved.
Jesus and his disciples are approaching the end of their travels.
They’re at Jericho, on the edge of Jerusalem, on the edge of suffering and death for Jesus.
As they’ve traveled along it seems that much of what Jesus has said and done, much of who Jesus is, has gone right past them.
How often do we travel through our lives failing to notice God’s presence among us?
All of a sudden a blind beggar by the side of the road recognizes Jesus for who he is.
Despite the crowds that try to hush him, Bartimaeus cries out even more loudly.
What does it tell us when this man, who lives his life on the edge, on the margins of society is able to see Christ, to feel his spirit to sense his power?
A newly published book recently came to my attention.
Written by Parker Palmer, who you might recognize from Krista Tippet’s On Being, the book is called “On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, & Getting Old.”
Palmer writes, “Every day, I get closer to the brink of everything. We’re all headed that way, of course, even when we’re young, though most of us are too busy with Important Matters to ponder our mortality.”
He goes on to say how he likes being old (he is 80) because “the view from the brink is striking, a full panorama of my life–and a bracing breeze awakens me to new ways of understanding my own past, present, and future.
He references a Kurt Vonnegut’s character in Player Piano, who says ‘out on the edge you can see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.'”
Jesus, of course, spent his life with people on and from the margins.
He so closely identified with them that he said that how we treat them is how we treat him.
What would your life be like if you lived it closer to the edge and further from the center?
I am intrigued by Palmer’s question: What might you see from “the brink” if you had the courage to consciously walk there and look out?
I think the first thing we see when we venture out is that the world is vastly different than we know.
Our society’s current trend toward tribalism places us most often with people who think and act and often look just like we do.
Rarely do we come in contact with the Bartimaeuses of the world.
Is it fear that keeps us within our own boundaries?
Are we afraid of taking risks that move us beyond our own comfort zones?
If we are, what will we miss?
Bartimaeus had the courage to rise above his suffering to call out to Jesus for help.
He broke all the rules by calling attention to his plight; by identifying Jesus as the ‘son of David’ and by coming forward to allow Jesus to lay a healing hand upon him.
Richard Rohr writes about the profound grace that comes as we learn to trust in this paradoxical way God sustains us in our suffering.
He says “we are learning to sink the taproot of our heart in God, who protects us from nothing even as God so unexplainably sustains us in all things.
As this transformative process continues, we find within and beyond ourselves resources of courage, patience, and tenderness to touch the hurting places with love, so they might dissolve in love until only love is left.”
I have been thinking a lot this week about the thousands of migrants who are making their way to our borders.
I have been wondering what they are praying for as they journey.
Is it safety, prosperity or wholeness?
As they make their way from the margins, moving toward a vision of a better world, will they be restored to wholeness?
Will their suffering be redeemed by new life, new opportunities?
I wonder what we would do if thousands of people showed up at our door seeking refuge.
It is really more than is imaginable.
But then, so is war.
So is famine.
So is hunger.
My friends, our lives are blessed with resources that allow us live freely with very little suffering.
It is important that we understand that these blessings come with responsibility.
We are called as Christians to reach out to the people on the margins offering God’s love and justice.
We pray that God’s presence will alleviate our own suffering – whatever that might be; but we must also pray for our neighbors who live on the edge, waiting for God’s grace to find them.
Poet Mary Oliver captured our brokenness in this poem, which I came upon on Parker Palmer’s website:
by Mary Oliver
“I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels,
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut,
but tattered, split, dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks
and all the moisture gone.
It’s like a schoolhouse of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop full of moonlight.
Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.”
This is what we much search for.
This is what we must listen for.
We can’t assume that we know anyone’s story by simply observing a few obvious traits or habits.
Inside each one of us is a soul – known only to ourselves and God.
Each person we encounter, whether sitting on the side of the road or at the head table is a child of God with a story to tell.
Listen carefully and you may encounter God.
Let us pray.
Gracious, loving God, creator of all, be with us this day as we strive to emulate the love demonstrated by your beloved son, Jesus. Help us to offer our compassion to your sons and daughters on the margins of society. Grant us the grace to be hospitable to all, warmly welcoming the strangers who might find their way to our door.
Help us to build your loving kingdom on earth in our lifetime.
Hear our prayers this day for those whom we love.
For those who are sick we pray for healing.
For those who mourn, we pray for comfort.
For those who wander the earth seeking a home, we pray that your Holy Spirit might protect and guide them to safety.
We pray, O God, for peace in our hearts, in our homes and in your world.
Hear now the prayers of our hearts as we turn to you in silence of this Meetinghouse made sacred by our gathering.