Take heart, get up, He is calling you...

Rev'd Sarah
Sunday, October 25, 2015 - 8:30pm

Proper 25 – Mark 10: 46-52 - Bartimaeus   25/10/15 Take heart, get up, He is call you

And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’

Now I was going to start with a reminder to stay dozing in bed a little longer this morning
– but all seems well with us knowing 8 is the new 9, and it was good to not see any 7am arrivals frozen at the doors as we arrived.
– but all seems well with us knowing 9.30 is the new 10.30, and I’m hoping nobody’s been sitting in a pew for a long long time now since rushing in at 8.30!

As the clocks change, summer season clubs and attractions join the hedgehogs in packing up for winter hibernation. The nights draw in, and it can feel that community life and people around us shift to a period of winter huddling and isolated behind closed doors.  Yet, on chilly nights we seek out comforts - there’s every excuse for those great winter comfort foods - extra helpings of apple crumble and custard, that ready-brek porridge that makes you glow all over all day.

As we share comforts together - in the darkness we can see and feel the warm glow of communion, even the passionate fire of faith. Christ illuminates the darkness, and illuminates us. We illuminate the darkness as we give and receive from each other in community, as we help each other to take heart, get up, and follow in communion with others.

Some people stand out in our lives as important inspirers and encouragers. Bartimaeus is one of those for me. It’s not just because I like his name, though I do. I was even tempted to call my dog Bartimaeus – and would have done if it hadn’t been for his long 4 syllables, and my concerns of my black lab feeling pretentious, and me using poor Bartimaeus’ name in vain as I repeatedly shouted for him crossly across the woods of Hampshire.

For me this simple yet miraculous story of Bartimaeus is one of healing and calling – and how the two intertwine to illuminate our way in relationship and in communion.  I wonder if you imagined yourself as Bartimaeus as you listened this morning, or saw yourself as part of the crowd, or perhaps in Jesus’ position encountering and encouraging others. What does this gospel passage say to you about your calling in your ministry, along the particular path of discipleship God is calling you? And what does it say to us as the body of Christ, the church, on the way?

Bartimaeus seems to have nothing much going for him, even his great name is a bit of a mish-mash – he’s the son of Timaeus, which is a Greek name, but the ‘bar’ in Bartimaeus meaning ‘son of’, is an Aramaic naming. As a beggar in the dirt of the roadside, he struggles through life, daily alone, relying on the gifts of others to survive. His impairments, isolation, and the darkness which surrounds him, hampers and holds him back from living as a man fully alive, his is a cry of desperation in his darkness for a life fully lived in the light of Christ. Bartimaeus knows he needs healing and he cries out to Jesus the healer …. Jesus Son of David, have mercy on me.  It’s is a humble cry, in faith; a cry to be able to follow his calling into relationship with Jesus, into communion with God.

Bartimaeus’ cry is echoed in the Jesus Prayer prayed by many, particularly in the Eastern Orthodox church.  The prayer ‘Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner’ is repeated over and over - aloud, then silently and then almost unconsciously.  The pray-er, in humility and honesty of their need for healing, seeks to draw closer into communion with God. To see ‘the way’, illuminated in relationship; not to live in the darkness of separation.

Blind Bartimaeus lives a life of separation - separated from others and Christ, separated in his darkness from following his calling.  Yet he stands firm in his faith. Faith, as Timothy Radcliffe points out, is not primarily a matter of choosing what to believe, choosing our dogmas, but faith is our response to the astonishing discovery that we have been chosen, we have been called, we are loved. It’s Bartimaeus’ faith that enables him to recognize and respond to Jesus as he approaches. And it’s in his honest and courageous vulnerability that Bartimaeus cries out for closer relationship.  He’s vulnerable at the side of the road as a beggar, but he makes himself even more vulnerable by crying out loud for healing, courageously stepping into the crowd, throwing off his protection and whole livelihood (his cloak used for begging).

I was chatting to a man the other day who talked of having been given the ‘gift of desperation’.  He was and is an alcoholic.  In his darkest days he felt totally isolated, thinking nobody else could be feeling or thinking like him. He didn’t want to accept help as he would then feel he’d failed even in managing himself. He hid himself away. But then he reached his point of desperation, his ‘gift of desperation’, which somehow enabled him to get to an AA meeting and share with others. The thing which literally saved his life was realising other people thought as he did. He still attends AA meetings – he finds healing in mutual vulnerability and connection with others.

Bartimaeus finds healing and communion, and so too does the crowd, when they recognize their own inability to change things, and they open themselves to trust in Jesus, and reach out to others. Bartimaeus’ honest vulnerability and faith enables Jesus to work through him, enabling those who’ve been unable to see what’s around them in their social blindness, to see more clearly. Suddenly the crowd recognizes Bartimaeus as a person, and the crowd’s eyes are also opened to their calling to encourage others on the way. ‘Take Heart, get up’ the crowd urges Bartimaeus. And notice how Jesus encourages the nourishing of relationship. On hearing Bartimaeus’ cry, Jesus stands still and leaves space for others to connect with Bartimaeus. Just as in the feeding of the 5000, Jesus asks others, asks us, to call, to feed, to illuminate the way, to build relationships in community.

There’s no doubt that our villages of Basing and Lychpit, letalone our global family, are full of people isolated or suffering, hidden and ignored by the crowd. We are challenged to respond to our calling to open doors in relationship with others, and to notice doors yearning to be opened in peoples’ isolated dark winter nights.

But we should also acknowledge the gift of warmth we share and can offer as we glow in communion together in Christ. As the nights draw in, it’s a timely reminder that we are a community of faith, the church, which illuminates the way for each other and for others in communion, even in what can seem the simplest of ways. For example, our feasting together at great and even lesser festivals, simple ploughmans lunches, coffee catch-ups, or just men having breakfast!

There’s the wonderful chance to start or end each day together, gathering in the peace of the Bolton chapel for simple morning or evening prayer, said here nearly every day of the year sometimes with just 2 or 3 people and sometimes more, but always open to everybody. It’s a wonderful time to join together in prayer, care and support for and with others – a quick reminder that it’s 8.45am or 6.30pm if you’re around.

Soon the nativity scenes in our Crib Festival will illuminate once again the Christmas story, and illuminate lives - as new and existing relationships are formed and strengthened in our community.

And in a moment we come together in our greatest communion, in Holy Communion, where we come with open hands, in need of healing and nourishment as we share together in the broken body of Christ. Broken for each of us so that we might re-form in communion with Christ and each other as the body of Christ in the world. Each time we come to receive Christ, we leave our cloaks behind. Each time we seek healing in our open handed, vulnerable brokenness, we are called to receive God’s unconditional love again and again into our empty hands, our broken lives, and our open hearts. To be sent out to notice the outsider through the crowd, to build relationship and radiate Christ’s love

Just imagine being Bartimaeus – you suddenly see for the first time, and the first thing you see is Jesus!  Wow.  But isn’t this what life’s like for us if we turn again and again to Christ in humility, in prayer, in Holy Communion, and in relationship with others.

So let’s  ‘take heart’ together, this morning and every morning as we ‘get up and follow’ our calling. Let’s call out in honesty of our mutual needs for healing and let others in, let Christ in. Let’s hear the encouragement others give us. Let’s encourage others to ‘take heart, get up, it’s you that is in the light’. Let’s follow our calling, warmed through giving and receiving in relationship, in communion. In the dark nights, let’s be warmed in the glow of Christ illuminating our world.