St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Sunday, October 28, 2018
The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 25B)
First Lesson: Jeremiah 31:7-9
Second Lesson: Hebrews 7:23-28
Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
As a young child, I loved asking questions. Then again, I suppose all young children, to some degree, share that same kind of natural, inquisitive curiosity, the kind of curiosity that inspires them to seek answers to questions they might have about why things are the way they are or why their parents tell them to do certain things.
I’m absolutely certain that my parents loved answering all of my questions, especially when I felt the need to ask, “But why?” every time they told me to do something that I didn’t want to do.
“But, why, Mom and Dad?” “What legitimate reason could you have for telling me to stop running near the edge of the swimming pool? It’s so much fun!” Or, “Why do I always have to look both ways before crossing the road? That takes too much time!” Or, “Why do I have to go to bed early on a school night? I want to stay up late!”
Well, if you’re like me, then you might’ve been given a similar response to these types of questions, a response that can be summed up in four simple words: “Because I said so!”
Apparently, nothing more was needed in those moments when reasonable answers seemed to escape my parents. “Because I said so” was reason enough, and that was all there was to it.
It’s funny how the tables have turned since becoming a parent myself.
Somehow, having children of my own has given me the authority to use the same line when either Sophie or Jude ask me, “Why?” and I don’t have a better answer than, “Because I said so.”
Thankfully, as Sophie and Jude have grown older, I’ve gained some insight as to why parents say some of the crazy things that they say to their children.
As parents, I think we say things like, “because I said so,”not because we want to exert supreme authority over our children but because we want them to have faith in us to care for them and to trust that the things we ask them to do are actually in their best interest. We want them to be safe and to make wise decisions. We want them to know that our greatest desire is for them to have the fullest lives possible. We want them to become the best versions of themselves that they can be and to know that we’ll always be there to love and support them as they grow older.
I wonder if this might be the same kind of relationship that God desires to have with each of us, a relationship not built on fear and control but one built on love and trust.
God calls us, not to rule over us or control our lives, but to be in a close, intimate relationship with us. God calls us, not because God expects us to be perfect, but because God loves us more than we can possibly imagine and wants us to know that the only way to truly live is to love and serve others.
God knows our struggles and our faults and that we’re continually faced with obstacles in our lives that cause us to stumble and fall, obstacles that sometimes prevent us from seeing the truth of God’s Kingdom, the dream that God has for us and for all of Creation.
Frederick Buechner once wrote, “If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for.”
My friends, the Kingdom of God is right in front of us. If we only had the eyes to see it and the courage and strength to pursue it, the world would be a much better place.
In today’s Gospel lesson from Mark, Jesus and his disciples are passing through Jericho on their way to Jerusalem. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus hears that it’s Jesus who is passing through, and he calls to him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus’ reputation precedes him. Bartimaeus knows that Jesus can heal him, but many try to prevent him from disturbing Jesus by telling him to be quiet. After all, why would Jesus care about a blind beggar? Certainly, it isn’t worth his time to stop and care for the man.
Despite the peoples’ best efforts to silence him, Bartimaeus calls out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus hears Bartimaeus and immediately stops to care for him.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asks.
“My teacher, let me see again,” Bartimaeus pleads.
Jesus responds, “Go; your faith has made you well,” and immediately, his sight is restored.
“Go; your faith has made you well.” I’ve always been perplexed by this statement. What does Jesus really mean when he says to Bartimaeus, “Go; your faith has made you well”? Does he mean that God only heals those who are strong in their faith? That can’t be right. As we all know, miracles happen every day, often to those who don’t even believe in God.
Does Jesus mean that Bartimaeus has the power to heal himself because of his faith? That can’t be right, either. We know that God is our only source of healing.
So, what does Jesus mean, then, when he says, “Go; your faith has made you well”?
We hear a similar story earlier in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus encounters a woman in a crowd of people who believes with all her heart that if she simply touches the cloak that Jesus is wearing, she’ll be healed of her disease. So, she walks up to Jesus as he’s passing by, touches his cloak, and is healed instantly. Sensing that someone had touched him, Jesus looks around to see who it is, and the woman comes forward to explain what happened. Jesus says to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Two stories of healing with the same conclusion. “Your faith has made you well,” Jesus says.
In both of these stories, I think Jesus is really trying to emphasize the importance of faith and the impact that it has on our relationship with God. Yes, the physical healing of blind Bartimaeus and the woman in the crowd is miraculous, but the true healing only comes after both of them demonstrate remarkable acts of faith. Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus and asks for his sight to be restored. The woman in the crowd risks coming up to Jesus and touching his cloak in order to be healed. Yes, they believe that Jesus can heal them, but even more importantly, they depend on Jesus to heal them. They put their lives in his hands, trusting in his grace and mercy.
True healing, the kind of healing that makes us whole, only comes when we’re willing to lay down our lives for the sake of the Gospel and trust that God’s way is the only path that leads to the abundant life that God desires for us.
It’s kind of like young children trusting their parents when they’re told to do something even though they might not understand why. It’s an act of faith.
Do we put our faith in Jesus and in the lessons that he has to teach us?
Do we trust that God’s greatest desire is for us to live full and joyful lives and that the Way of Jesus, the way of sacrificial love and service to others, is our only source of true healing and wholeness?
As we ponder these questions, I pray that the Holy Spirit might grant us the wisdom and strength to respond to God’s call in faith, and I pray that we may always “know and feel that the only Name under heaven given for health and salvation is the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.
Click here to listen to an audio recording of this sermon.