What is beautifully illustrated and what we talked about in the children’s time is an important way of hearing and “seeing” this story of the healing of Bartimaeus. It is a healing story of sight restored by Jesus. It’s a named person, and that’s rare, making us wonder if Bartimaeus became significant among Jesus’ followers? But it is also everyone’s story of needing Jesus to give us sight, to see Jesus, ourselves, one another, all creation! To see what God is showing us and where God is leading us. And it is the story of all those who struggle with physical and other challenges, not necessarily the person whose blind or differently abled who may or may not want to be “healed.” But those who are disadvantaged and suffering and longing to be made whole and well. And the healing promise of Jesus that this is God’s desire for them, for you, for all.
And it is also a story of Bartimaeus shouting! And people trying to silence him. But he shouts all the louder! Crying out for mercy to Jesus, “Son of David” – a title that recognizes Jesus as Messiah, and Bartimaeus is the first in the Gospel to say so! And it is our story of needing to shout out, cry out for God’s mercy, and to trust in the compassion of Jesus who hears us and calls to us, come here, come near, and we jump up with Bartimaeus at the chance. And it’s the story for those who are crying out for mercy in our world, our nation, our communities, and a story for us to see and hear how we and others try to silence them, keep them at a distance, on the margins. But Jesus hears! And calls them near. And asks what they want him to do for them. Bartimaeus’ story is the story of those crying out for mercy and justice and equity and wholeness and hope and new life. And Jesus hears them, calls them near, sees them and asks what they need and offers them healing and new life now!
So Bartimaeus’ story of new sight, of shouting out for mercy for ourselves and others, of being heard and called and healed, is a story for all who suffer and are silenced, who are oppressed and isolated, who long for healing and hope, and it is our story, for healing and to see and hear our hurting neighbour.
The BC Synod Convention took place over this weekend and is finishing this morning with a last business session and closing worship. Much has happened over the three plus days. We have a new Bishop-elect, Rev. Kathy Martin. And we pray and pledge our support for her as she takes on this new call and responsibility for our Synod and brings her significant gifts of compassion and caring, wisdom and grace, openness and vision, gentleness and humility, strength and good humour, faith and faithfulness. And we acknowledged and gave thanks, and I expect will be in the convention worship this morning, for Bishop Greg Mohr and his 15 years of dedicated service to the Synod as first Assistant to the Bishop, and for the last 9 years, as Bishop, and his many gifts that have served our Synod well into new visions of God’s mission and our ministries in and with the communities and world we are called to serve. We give thanks for Bishop Greg, and for Bishop-elect Kathy.
And electing a Bishop was not all we did. Yesterday was a learning day for the Synod with guest presenter Rev. Dr. Susan Beaumont, author of the book, How to Lead When you Don’t Know Where Your Are Going? presenting on “How do we build the road when we are walking on it?” It was about leading and ministry in liminal or uncertain, in between, times. Times like now. A time of the pandemic. A time of uncertainty about the future, and even about today. A time of uncertainty about the church and what we will be together today, tomorrow and beyond. A time of uncertainty about what has been further exposed by the pandemic, in structural inequities in economic wellbeing, among racialized, queer, and other minorities, for Indigenous communities, and the colonialism, racism and genocide that is our history and present, and what we must do to be accountable and take action to right wrongs and seek right relationships together. The climate crisis and a changing planet. This and more, is the liminal space and time we find ourselves in, as people of God and Christ’s church.
And in all this uncertainty, the need to shift from traditional leadership of direction, protection and order based on knowing, advocating, and striving, to unknowing, attending, and surrender, toward a more contemplative leadership that seeks prayerful and attentive discernment born of an open mind, heart and will of our true selves, over task-oriented decision making and a false self of judgement, cynicism, and fear.
That’s a lot to take in that we considered over the better part of yesterday. And it was illustrative of how we struggled in the convention business itself, in a liminal, uncertain time in the church and the world, often seeking to do business by task-oriented decision making bound by rules of order, protection and direction, driven by knowing, advocating and striving harder, while at the same time longing to see, crying out for mercy, and for opened minds and heart and wills to discern out of unknowing, attending and yielding to the Spirit, what God is gifting us to see and do and be as a Synod, as communities, as people of God together for the healing and wholeness of God’s world. It is a struggle and a challenge for us as a Synod, congregations, and as individuals. It’s liminal, uncertain times.
We considered and moved between deciding and discerning on important questions around the climate crisis and our Synod’s and congregational responses; about the sale of Synod property and whether and how we need to consider sharing the proceeds of those land sales with the first nations whose land it first was, is, and continues to be; about systemic sexism in the church and particularly how it impacts women clergy and how we will discern making real and lasting changes. And we struggled with how we continue to be a Synod and church that is truly inclusive of queer siblings, including of our queer pastors and deacons and stop judging their relationships that are whole and lifegiving, confess our sins, and move forward in ministry together. It’s liminal, uncertain times and God’s Spirit is at work before us in the world we are called to see and serve with new eyes and minds and hearts and wills that are opened yielding to that Spirit together.
Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?” What a gracious and hope-filled question for Bartimaeus to be asked by Jesus. And the clarity of Bartimaeus’ answer: “My teacher, let me see again.”
Can you imagine Jesus asking you this now, this morning? What do you want me to do for you? What would your answer be? Would it be healing? Would it be wholeness, peace, strength, patience, courage, hope, even joy? Or freedom from anxiety, depression, grief, loneliness, fear? Would it be for yourself or someone else. For those who are suffering, disadvantaged, oppressed, displaced, isolated, dying, for food, shelter, support, acceptance, safety, comfort? Or for the world, the planet and its climate, all its creatures, God’s whole creation.
This story of Bartimaeus is our and everyone’s story. A story about shouting for Jesus the Messiah’s/God’s mercy, and Jesus asking each of us, “What do you want me to do for you?” We are each and all invited to respond out of the deepest yearnings for ourselves, for others, for this world. And to trust, to contemplate, to have our minds and hearts and wills opened, and out of unknowing, attending and yielding to the Spirit, to discern, to see the gift of Jesus’ gracious response of healing and sight for us and this world in these uncertain, these liminal times. Jesus is asking you, asking us, “What do you want me to do for you?” What is your, what is our response to Jesus?
One last thought about the Bartimaeus story. Jesus invites Bartimaeus to “Go, your faith has made you well.” And we hear, “Immediately he regained his sight and followed Jesus on the way.” Bartimaeus followed Jesus on the way of the cross and the continuing encountering of people in their longing for God, and their desire to see Jesus. I wonder if part of what Bartimaeus learned from Jesus was to ask Jesus’ question of others on the way, “What do you want me to do for you?” And is this model of the way and ministry of Jesus also our way? Not that we alone have something to offer others, but in a mutual exchange of need and offer to one another and all others, “What do you want me to do for you?” What a gracious question to ask another person. What a gracious relationship to ask and be asked, to serve and be served, in the Spirit of Jesus. Let us see, let it be so, with Bartimaeus, and in all our relations. Amen.