Sunday, October 28, 2018

Honoring Those On The Margins

October 28, 2018 – The 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 25B

© 2018 Evan D. Garner

Audio of this sermon can be heard here. Video of the entire service can be seen here.

Sometimes change comes slowly, taking years to unfold, but other times everything changes in an instant. The love of your life walks through the door, and your heart melts the first time you see her. You hold your new baby in your arms for the first time, and you know right away that there is nothing you wouldn't do for him. A terrorist walks into a synagogue and unleashes the power of evil and hatred unto an unsuspecting congregation. The surgeon walks out and relieves you of all your fear, telling you that everything is going to be ok. The Bible is God’s story of salvation, unfolding over thousands of years yet revealed in moments of miraculous power.

Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Jerusalem, and, as they passed through Jericho, a large crowd joined them. As they were leaving the city, a blind man named Bartimaeus, who was sitting on the side of the road, began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” At this point, there was only one destination left for Jesus and those who travelled with him. Jerusalem and the confrontation with the religious and political leaders that awaited him there were the only things left on Jesus’ earthly agenda. The time for miraculous healings was over. Jesus didn’t need to prove himself to anyone anymore. Yet Bartimaeus kept crying out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” It was if he was the only one on the road that day who did not know where Jesus was headed. Many in the crowd ordered him to be silent, to stop getting in the way, to stop distracting Jesus from his mission, but he cried out all the more insistently and defiantly: “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And then Jesus stopped and stood still.

In an instant, everything changed. “Call him here,” Jesus said to those who were with him. And, with those words, the crowd was transformed. Those who had been trying to silence the blind beggar now exclaimed enthusiastically, “Take heart; get up; he is calling you.” Jesus asked Bartimaeus what he could do for him, and Bartimaeus asked that he might regain his sight. Jesus granted the man’s request, but Bartimaeus wasn’t the only one who regained his sight that day. The crowd, which had once thought of blind Bartimaeus as an impediment, a distraction from Jesus’ mission and ministry, now saw that the beggar, the nuisance, was a disciple just like them. And all it took was the attention Jesus showed him.

This is an exciting time in the life of this church. Everything seems to be going well. Programs for children, youth, and adults are growing. Our music and worship are beautiful. New ministries are springing up, and old ministries are receiving renewed attention. Enthusiasm is contagious. We have much for which to be thankful. We are riding a crest of momentum as the mission of this church is being fulfilled. But will we become so focused on our own progress that we walk right past the one for whom Jesus stops and stands still? When we see who it is that Jesus cares for, everything changes. In a moment of compassion, he shows us that the fulfillment our mission does not lead us past those in need but is embodied by them. I want to be a part of a church that uses its resources to honor those who have been pushed to the side of the road, to the margins of life, because that is where we will find Jesus. What about you? Is that the kind of church you want to give your life to as well?

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