27 October 2009

Claiming Vision (Mark 10:46-52)

Rev. Richard S. Hong
First Presbyterian Church of Englewood

The story of Bartimaeus, though brief, is a story that you could spend hours talking about, exchanging little “Did you notice…?” tidbits of information. Did you notice that they enter and Jericho and immediately leave – what happened there? Did you notice that he is the only person in Mark who is healed and is named? Did you notice that Mark explains that Bar-timaeus means “son of Timaeus”, even though anyone who has the least familiarity with Hebrew would understand this?

It is often easier to discuss trivia than face the obvious. And the obvious fact of this story is that a blind person, reduced to begging for sustenance, was not only ignored, people tried to silence him. And who did it? The very people who were supposedly following Jesus.

It’s easier to show off our learned study of the Scriptures than it is to face the possibility that we, as followers of Jesus today, are sometimes no different from the followers of Jesus in his day. How many Bartimaeuses are there in the world whom we are ignoring? How often do we wish that the persecuted and the oppressed would either go away or be quiet rather than assert their claim to healing?

Bartimaeus claimed his right to be heard. Today, for all who are being persecuted, for all made to feel like lesser people, his cry is your cry. Whether you are being told to be silent in the face of oppression based on your sexual orientation, gender, race, socioeconomic class – be like Bartimaeus and claim your right to the vision that God has for you.

The Bartimaeuses of the world need to speak out because it is too easy for us to overlook them. We read this story and it’s ho-hum … another healing story. They always get healed. It gets routine. We forget about the ones who are being ignored.

The way to be transformed into people who will hear the cries of the hurting every time is to stop reading this story from the outside and instead let the story get inside of us. Because inside each of us there is a Bartimaeus. Every single one of us has a place of rejection, of pain, of loss. Too many of us tell the Bartimaeus within us to be silent. We only allow the successful, popular, “socially acceptable” parts of us to be seen and heard while burying the hurting parts of our souls. When we do that even to ourselves, we become more like the followers who tried to silence Bartimaeus. We become oppressors rather than healers. But when the Bartimaeus in us experiences the healing love of Christ we learn to connect with every Bartimaeus around us.

So… Did you notice that Bartimaeus, unlike most of the people Jesus heals, follows him along the way? Jesus needs Bartimaeus to follow him. Because with Bartimaeus following him, do you think the next blind beggar will be silenced? It is easy to think that Jesus only needs or wants the successful, gifted part of ourselves. But Jesus – and by extension the Church – perhaps more than anything else we have to offer, needs the Bartimaeus in us. Because the Bartimaeus in each of us is where Christ meets the needs of the world. And when the Bartimaeus in us follows Christ, the Church becomes the community of those who will always listen for the cries of those whose healing is yet to come.

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