Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be heard in many churches this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's ministry with the poor and those who suffer, focusses on the work of Episcopal Relief and Development. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.
"My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. -- Mark 10:51-52
Number one, Bartimaeus was blind, but he wasn't isolated. He kept up on things: knew who Jesus was, knew that he was in town. He had a father -- living or dead, we don't know, but probably he was alive, since his name is used to further identify his disabled son.
Number two, he had learned to manage his disability without fear. He leapt up from where he sat by the side of the road and made his way to where Jesus was -- not easy, when you can't see, but he was confident that he could do it. He threw his cloak to one side so that it wouldn't get in his way or trip him, and off he went.
Number three, he wasn't quiet. Bartimaeus seems not to have thought that the disabled should be seen and not heard. Maybe he made others uncomfortable, and maybe they preferred him out of sight and out of mind, but he didn't care about that and took no responsibility for it. It was their problem.
Number four, he had a plan. It wasn't just to be healed and then to reintegrate himself into the life of the town. He became a disciple, were told, right then and there. Did he want that from the beginning? Or did his life and hopes change, in that moment of healing? Was it a spiritual healing, as well as a physical one?
It must have been. Not everyone Jesus healed became a follower. Some just went on with their lives. Everything about blind Bartimaeus pointed to a person who would make good use of whatever powers he had. Just what the kingdom needs, Jesus must have thought, and he didn't even have to ask the man to follow. He was already on his feet.
And here is the ERD meditation:
Who Knows What You Need?
Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" And the man said,"My teacher, let me see again." --- Mark 10:48-51
Maybe it was obvious to everyone else what the blind man needed: he needed his sight back. What else could he possibly want? It was not obvious to Jesus, though. In asking, he acknowledged the man's dignity as an adult human being, resisting the almost-universal desire of the able-bodied to speak and even to think for the disabled, instead of letting them speak for themselves. Jesus seems to have figured that the man probably knew what he needed most. He'd been living with disability for a long time. He was a person with a disability, rather than a disability with a person attached. Maybe there were other things he needed more. There was only one way to find out, and that was to ask.
In the fourteen months since Hurricane Katrina changed everything in Mississippi and Louisiana, thousands of people have come from all over the country to help clean up and rebuild. They have come in cars and on planes, in RVs and in ready-for-anything pickup trucks. You can get a hot shower and a meal and a cot to sleep on when you come; if you want bedding, you need to bring your own.
You work under the direction of the people who receive your help. The man whose house you're mucking out is there to tell you what to look for and what to ignore, to tell you where things are -- or, at least, where they used to be. Very quickly you understand that you are not the one who knows what to do; they are the ones who know. The very ones who have been hit hard; they are the only ones who know what they need.
You must be sixteen in order to volunteer. You need to have a tetanus shot before you go, if yours is out of date. Maybe you can use up some of your vacation days, but you'd better not look on it as a vacation. The love and hospitality of the people from local churches overflows and wraps you like a soft blanket. But these are still not soft places, and won't be for a while. So if you need a soft place, don't volunteer to rebuild in Mississippi or Louisiana. Go to a spa instead.
When the man was healed from his blindness, he didn't retreat into a soft place. He became a follower of Jesus, which meant no home and no sure source of income. Nights spent outdoors, days of walking in the heat, meals dependent on the kindness of strangers.
He knew where he needed to go. It would take him years, though, to get there. And it would not be an easy place.
Halloween is coming, and the Trick-or-Treat armies will be on the prowl. Help your little goblin make a Pennies From Heaven bank from an empty Pringles' can, using the downloadable labels from the Farm to wrap the can. Then send it out with the kids to collect pennies (and larger coins!) for Episcopal Relief and Development. Find out all about it on the Farm at http://www.geraniumfarm.org/penniesfromheaven.cfm.
To learn more about ERD's work,or to make a donation, visit http://www.er-d.org/ or telephone 1-800-334-7626.
+ In Winston-Salem this Sunday? Visit Centenary United Methodist Church. Barbara Crafton will preach. http://www.centenary-ws.org/centenary-feature3.asp