Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
25 Oct. 2015 Proper 25 Year B: Job 42:1-6, 10-17; Psalm 34:1-8; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52
God is a mighty fortress & our help in the flood of mortal ills that we see in our stories of Job &
blind Bartimaeus & in headline news.
God helps us get through these mortal ills.
Our opening hymn, A Mighty fortress is our God, is the work of Martin Luther, whose work for reformation in the Church we remember today: Reformation Sunday.
Like Jesus fighting society's norms that marginalize & burden God's beloved children, Martin Luther addressed the burdens in his day that society imposed on God's beloved children, especially hard on the poor: the selling of indulgences for sins to buy a better place to go after death. Luther saw clearly that this Church practice had no basis in scripture, reason or tradition1 & was especially hard on the marginalized. This demand for funds was a harsh norm. We live in a world with harsh norms that burden God's beloved children.
Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the local message board on Oct. 31, 1517, long before our online messaging. His message board was the Church's doors.2 He nailed the message to the doors like other messages posted there. We can reach more people more easily than Luther: we can email & facebook important truths: God Loves You. No exceptions. All are welcome.
We see harsh norms that make marginalized Bartimaeus unwelcomed. Look what Bart does with the new life Jesus gives him today: he gives up his old life & follows Jesus.
1st, he shakes off his cloak, an important piece of equipment to keep him warm by night & to spread out around him by day to catch coins people might toss his way, as several sources cited note. Notice: Bartimaeus immediately throws away his “equipment”. [Remember last Sunday we read several verses earlier that the rich man turned away from Jesus instead of giving away his riches to follow Jesus.3]
Bartimaeus has been trapped by the belief that sees problems as a sign of God's disfavor because of a person's sin. How different is that from people in our day trapped in generational poverty? Our mindset sees no way out, no better life possible. Many see this as a choice to live hand-to-mouth. Like Bart, people begging, people on welfare are expected to accept what's tossed their way & keep their mouths shut.4
But Bart shouts out to Jesus, & the crowd of “acceptable” people tell him: “Hush. Stay in your place.”
Gutsy Bart keeps shouting.
As one commentator says in her blog5: Staying in his place hasn't worked. Gutsy Bart tries a courageous response: break society's norm. Remember: Jesus has challenged it, saying, to be great, be a servant, the Son of Man comes to serve. The disciples & crowd have just heard this message & yet quickly slip into their usual way of treating outcasts.
Notice how Jesus treats Bart the Outcast: Jesus' stops what he is doing, stands still, & gives him quality time. May we have the grace in our busy lives to stop doing what we are doing, stand still & give quality time to the Bartimaeus we encounter.
We see standing still & quality time in our
Bishop's latest “eCrozier”.6
Bishop Benhase, who is recovering from his mastectomy for breast cancer, tells of the inconvenience a flat tire made to his hectic schedule on a recent Sunday. Driving from Augusta to his home in Savannah, he pulls into an auto parts store where Pedro helps him get a $9 patch kit. Then Pedro repairs the tire, using a new car jack, since the Bishop said recent surgery prevents his lifting anything heavy.
Checking out, the Bishop asks how much. The sales clerk says, "Just $9 for the patch kit. The rest was just Pedro being Pedro. And you know," she leans across the counter & whispers, "He was just diagnosed with breast cancer & is having a tough time waiting for the surgery."
The Bishop says, “Suddenly getting back to Savannah on time seemed the least important thing to do in my life.”
He pays the clerk, walks over to Pedro as Pedro returns the jack to its shelf & says: "I have breast cancer, too. That was the surgery I told you about. It would be my privilege if you'd let me pray for you."
Pedro just nods. Right there in the aisle where the jacks are kept, the Bishop & Pedro start praying. The Bishop says, “We went on at some length. I prayed for him & then he prayed for me & then I prayed for him again...I don't know for sure, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Pedro's last name [is] Emmanuel, which, as you know, means 'God with us.'”
God is always with us. We just don't always know it. Somehow Bartimaeus knows it. There's something special about Bart. Our Gospel emphasizes his name. In the Bible names carry meaning.
Our Gospel emphasizes beggar Bart's name. Bar, a word for “son”, joined to a name means “Son of that Name”. BarTimaeus, means “Son of Timaeus”, as several sources note. So “Bartimaeus Son of Timaeus” is like saying “Bartimaeus Bartimaeus” or “Son of Timaeus Son of Timaeus”.
Why does our Gospel double name him?
Sources note the name may have 2 meanings: Son of Honor or Son of Uncleanness/Dishonor..., The Rev. Gareth Hughes notes7 this may point us to the contrast between the title “Son of David” that Bart calls out to Jesus & “Son of Timaeus”, a son of Israel who cries to the Son of David. If Bart's name refers to uncleanness, he may represent his people as unclean people, blind, lacking spiritual understanding, people bigoted against the disabled because of the belief that disability is caused by a parent's sin.
Whatever the reason for the double name, we see the double portion of self-worth Bart has: he sees himself as worthy of God's love despite his disability.
As The Rev. Deon Johnson says in his sermon, “Healing our Blindness,” although people try not to see him, Bart knows God sees him.8 What really matters in life, blind Bart sees clearly: he is a beloved child of God, & he insists on being treated as a beloved child of God. The crowd can't hold him back.9
Johnson challenges us: What if we, the crowd of Jesus' followers, are the blind in this story & not Bart? Notice: When Jesus stops & calls for Bart, the crowd suddenly sees Bart & instead of praying for Bart or calling a meeting to discuss Bart's merits, the crowd sees Bart & shows him to Jesus...Jesus does the rest.
We can quickly become like the crowd & look away from the needs right outside our red doors. When we are the crowd, we are the ones who need healing, need our vision focused to see clearly in a world that sees our Bartimaeuses as being of no account, these beloved children of God labeled by norms that measure worth by what we own, & use labels such as illegal & immigrant & refugee. We are to show our Bartimaeuses Jesus so that they, too, can follow Jesus.
As Johnson says:
Following Jesus, we share the Good News of God's amazing grace! In our Gospel we see God's grace that sounds amazing. How sweet that sounds.
God's amazing grace saves a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind but now, but now...but now what?
I see amazing grace: I see YOU!
Benhase, The Rt. Rev. Scott A. eCrozier #277. Oct. 23, 2015. http://ecrozier.georgiaepiscopal.org/ Accessed: 23 Oct. 2015.
Eerdmans' Handbook to the History of Christianity. Ed: Tim Dowley. Carmel, NY: Guideposts. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Berkhamsted, England: Lion Publishing. 1977.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Hughes, The Rev. Gareth.“The name, fame and shame of Bartimaeus'. Accessed: 23 Oct. 2015. https://christhum.wordpress.com/2009/10/26/the-name-fame-and-shame-of-bartimaeus/ Note: The author is is a priest of the Church of England, who is Chaplain of Hertford College, Oxford, and doing Syriac research at Oxford University.
http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Bartimaeus.html#.ViqWIm5FnIU Accessed: 23 Oct. 2015.
http://www.behindthename.com/name/timaeus. Accessed: 23 Oct. 2015.
Johnson, The Rev. Deon. “Healing our Blindness, Sermon for Proper 25(B) – 2015”. Sermons That Work. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2015/10/09/healing-our-blindness-sermon-for-proper-25b-2015/ Accessed: 23 Oct. 2015.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 22 July 2015.
Woelk, Cheryl. “Throwing Off the Cloak”. Posted Feb 11, 2013. Accessed: 23 Oct. 2015. http://www.canadianmennonite.org/blogs/cheryl-woelk/throwing-cloak ©2015 Canadian Mennonite Magazine
1 Eerdmans' Handbook to the History of Christianity. Ed: Tim Dowley. Pp. 360-361.
3 Woelk, Cheryl. “Throwing Off the Cloak”. http://www.canadianmennonite.org/blogs/cheryl-woelk/throwing-cloak.
7 Hughes, The Rev. Gareth.“The name, fame and shame of Bartimaeus'. Accessed: 23 Oct. 2015. https://christhum.wordpress.com/2009/10/26/the-name-fame-and-shame-of-bartimaeus/.
8 Johnson, The Rev. Deon. Accessed: 23 Oct. 2015.