“Come to the Light.”

A Sermon for the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost

Preached at

Trinity Episcopal Church

In Easton, Pennsylvania

Sunday, October 24, 2021

“The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch our ears

to receive his word, and our mouths to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of

God the Father.”

“My teacher, let me see again.”

The Light of the World is Jesus

1. The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin,

The Light of the world is Jesus!

Like sunshine at noonday, His glory shone in;

The Light of the world is Jesus!

Refrain:

Come to the light, ’tis shining for thee;

Sweetly the light has dawned upon me;

Once I was blind, but now I can see:

The Light of the world is Jesus!

2. No darkness have we who in Jesus abide;

The Light of the world is Jesus!

We walk in the light when we follow our Guide!

The Light of the world is Jesus!

3. Ye dwellers in darkness with sin-blinded eyes,

The Light of the world is Jesus!

Go, wash at His bidding, and light will arise;

The Light of the world is Jesus!

4. No need of the sunlight in Heaven we’re told;

The Light of the world is Jesus!

The Lamb is the Light in the city of gold,

The Light of the world is Jesus!

Title:  The Light of the World is Jesus

Author:        P. P. Bliss (1875)

One of the most fascinating things which happens when we hear the Gospel, the “good news” proclaimed, is that we are confronted by the reality that God’s vision is very different than our own. It forces us to acknowledge and to admit that we are blind. That there are things all around us that we just do not see. Even worse, left to our own devices, we would not even know where to begin to see things as God does. Even though we mean well, and want to do good, we often find that we are just clueless. It doesn’t mean that we are bad, selfish, solipsistic, or cruel. It just means that we need help, assistance, and guidance in order to truly see—and thus to know what God asks of us to truly be transformed into loving, affirming and Beloved Community.

The account of the encounter between Jesus and Bartimaeus, from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark, challenges our presuppositions about what it means to have sight, to have a voice, and to be a disciple.

Bartimaeus-literally “the son of Timaeus,” is someone who has been marginalized, excluded, pushed to the border, to the edge of the road. People are tired of him. They are tired of him asking for money, and for assistance. They are tired of hearing his voice, and his cries for help. They just want him to go away. They don’t want to hurt him, or be mean to him. They just want to pretend that he is not there. They want him to go away. And so, they pretend that he is invisible, and just ignore him.

They haven’t yet erected a wall to keep him hidden and out of sight. But, for all intents and purposes, he is on the other side of the border—and they are committed to keeping him in his place!

What they do not realize, though, is that Bartimaeus has a kind of vision, a kind of insight, and kind of clarity, which they do not have. How often it is true that those who are challenged, in one way or another, are often perceived as “less than.” Consequently, I think of Bartimaeus as one who knows this particular community better than anyone else. Over the years he has heard them speak. He knows which voices are kind, and which are mean. He probably knows all the secrets of the city. Because others think so little of him, they just ignore him, and let down their guard. They say what they truly think and feel—in his presence they are authentic and honest in a way that they would not be if they thought he was someone who really mattered. That is what happens when one lives on the border, on the margins. Even if blind, one sees and learns what is really going on.

Jesus comes to town. The community wants to impress Jesus. They want him to think good things about them. They want to be affirmed, acknowledged, and praised! Then, at the worst possible moment, they think, Bartimaeus acts up. He creates a scene. He has a conniption fit. He draws attention to the fact that they have ignored him, they have pushed him to the side. What will Jesus think? As they have often done, they try to silence the blind beggar. He has gone too far. Shut up! Be quiet! Go away! Get lost!

They do not know who they are dealing with, though. Bartimaeus has a voice, and is not afraid to use it. He has nothing to lose. I can imagine him as having a “The day my Momma socked it to the Harper Valley PTA” moment. “Oh, you want me to be quiet, oh you want me to go away?” He knows every person who is yelling at him—and he knows all their secrets. It would be easy for him to put them in their place and to tell Jesus what each of them has been up to!

When Jesus reaches out, their hypocrisy is fully revealed. Suddenly, with Jesus watching them, they become concerned, solicitous, and caring. Bartimaeus is not fooled, and neither is Jesus. Then, they fade into the background. Now there are only two people active in the scene: Bartimaeus and Jesus.

For possibly the first time in his life, someone asks Bartimaeus what he wants. For the first time, someone listens to him. For the first time someone gives him a chance to speak, to be heard, to say what truly matters to him. And it is clear that Jesus is listening. Jesus is focused on Bartimaeus. Jesus sees Bartimaeus—and renders him visible, vocal, and present. Bartimaeus is not ignored, not pushed to the side, not marginalized. This action from Jesus is transformative. It is as healing, as restorative, and as empowering as anything else which happens. In fact, we could go so far as to say that it is this first healing which makes the rest of the encounter possible!

The term which Bartimaeus uses to address Jesus is astonishing. Bartimaeus calls Jesus, “My teacher.” The English translation here is really inadequate. The Greek text says, “My Rabbi.” But those listening would have probably heard echoes of the term of endearment which Jews of that time and ever since would have used to speak of the Prophet Moses. “Moishe Rabbeinu,” “Moses, our Teacher, Moses, our Prophet.” For them, this term acknowledged the greatness of this friend of God. Other than Abraham., Moses was the one human who had the closest connection with God. I can imagine that they must have been shocked to hear someone speak of Jesus in this intimate, respectful, and powerful way. We could spend all day reflecting on the power of these words!

What the words reveal, though, is that Bartimaeus sees who Jesus is in a way that almost none of those around him does. This blind person acknowledges Jesus and enters into an act of commitment to him that is absolute and unhesitating. After all, he threw off his cloak to get to Jesus.

Anyone who is homeless, helpless, and destitute realizes how important that cloak is. If one has to sleep on the street, or at the at the side of the road, there are countless untold dangers! The worst of these, perhaps, is to be completely exposed to the elements. There is no tent, there is no raincoat, there is no extra blanket to keep one warm when it gets cold. Several years ago, for instance, two guests of the Soup Kitchen at Trinity in Bethlehem froze to death in a field when the temperature unexpectedly dropped, and they had no place to go.

Bartimaeus trusts Jesus so fully, that what he really does is to throw away his safety net to get to Jesus. I am reminded of Saint Francis who stripped off every item of clothing and came to the Bishop of Assisi, who represented Jesus to him — totally naked, not ashamed, not embarrassed. Because Francis saw who Jesus is, he did not hesitate to abandon wealth and privilege—he chose to become marginalized to love and serve people like Bartimaeus, and to do so by begging.

When Bartimaeus has his sight restored, he now sees and understands what it is that God is inviting him to do. Like so many of the other disciples, he leaves everything behind and makes a new beginning. He follows Jesus on the way. And to remember that that phrase, “the way,” is the very term used to describe the primitive church.

We are invited to follow the example of Bartimaeus. If we are to take on the mantle of disciples, though, we will need to ask our Teacher Jesus to open our ears and eyes, our minds, and our hearts, to enable us to recognize Jesus’ presence — previously unseen and unacknowledged — all around us. Like Jesus, we then find our purpose in welcoming anyone at the margins, at the edge, at the border and inviting them to the center of road as we walk together with them on the way.

Jesus, Light of the World, illumine our darkness and allow us to see, to love, and to serve every person we meet on the way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s