OCTOBER 25, 2015
A sermon preached by The Very Rev. Bill Maxwell at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Port Townsend, WA
Blind Bartimeus calls on Jesus to help. The crowd tells him to shut up. He calls again. Jesus says, Call him. He stands up and comes to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” “I want to see again,” he says, and he is healed. And he follows Jesus on the Way.
Imagine Jesus walking down Van Buren street, or your street, and we say, Good morning Jesus, it’s good to see you.” And Jesus says, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
I’m at a loss. I’m not blind. I’m getting old and I shown signs of occasional dottiness. But we have a comfortable house, good medical care, a wonderful pension, functioning cars, lots of love, good friends. Television tells me that there are many things I ought to want — a new phone, though I don’t understand most of the things that my present phone is apparently capable of doing. A new car, with bells and whistles that defy my imagination. A constant parade of pills that will cure diseases I’ve never heard of. I could take refuge in the only thing that springs into my mind: O Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.
So I need to go deeper. What do I lack? Well, perhaps a more generous spirit in regard to people and institutions, or a willingness to forgive some old hurts. Perhaps a better relationship with my money. Perhaps……. Whatever my answer, I remember that Bartimeaus’s request had consequences that called him to follow Jesus to the cross and the resurrection and a Spirit filled community that was sent across the world to share the Good News.
There are some choices we can make and some consequences that follow. In the larger sense I am aware of the pain and cost of a divided Christian community, stuck in our traditions which we describe as God’s will: the St. Simeon’s vestry, the split between our Episcopal Church and the Anglican churches of Africa, the historic divisions among Christian churches. Many good folks in Port Townsend are put off by the presence of competing claims to represent
God and Christ. We suffer from institutional blindness, and we offer a faltering witness. I don’t have the answer, but at least I can hold up the reality to our Lord and ask for healing.
I look at the migrant thousands who risk everything in the hope of finding a place where they can live in peace. Mexico will suddenly have to deal with a catastrophe that is larger than we can imagine. The entire Middle East is in turmoil. We can’t fix everything, but we can seek to be the heart and hands of Christ in a broken world. What can I ask on their behalf, and what will Christ’s answer call on me to do? Whatever resources I can share with Episcopal Relief and Development or the Red Cross are so small, but it is something.
Jesus says to St. Paul’s Church, What do you want? I have some notions about what I want for St. Paul’s, and I’m sure you have your own hopes. I want in this season of stewardship a generous response that will enable us to move beyond survival to do a more effective job of outreach in the name of Christ. I want to find a way to open our doors and to engage young families and children in our life together. I want lots of goods things for us, and I want us to find some common answers when Jesus asks us what we would want him to do.
There is help. It’s called Grace, and we encounter it in this place, at this altar, in our town, in our homes, in our world. So we pray that our eyes and our hearts and our hands may be opened, and that we may be agents of our blessed Lord today, here, now.