Pentecost 23, Year B – What do you want me to do for you?”

Title:Pentecost 23, Year B – What do you want me to do for you?”

 Pentecost 23, Year B, Oct. 28, 2018 (full size gallery)

This is the last Sunday of the month with two services and an additional one at 4:30pm for children (and adults) which blends in both Halloween and All Saints. In a sense we are moving from one time of year to another.

Halloween is All Hallowed Eve which is the eve or day before All Saints. Halloween has been on Oct 31 because of the Celtic traditions. Halloween also focused on death but on the concept of death blending in the supernatural. It was the day when the demarcation between the dead and living was close

All Saints was more specific – originally a Catholic day which focuses on the saints, those baptized members both dead and living. The term “saint” was used by Paul to designate all baptized Christians (Romans 1:7; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1), even the unruly ones (1 Corinthians 1:2)! Not necessarily the great but being who we are! So while Halloween focuses on the dead, All Saints shows one line between deceased baptized and the current baptized members and thus only within the church.

This Sunday we introduce the Season of Giving. in the newsletter and bulletin. It was started to organize the many ways groups are asking for donations at the end of the year and Advent. It allows us to see the impact of our giving across the Board.

The promise of restoration and healing flows through today’s readings. The prophet Jeremiah looks forward to the rescue and renewal of God’s people. The author of Hebrews affirms the promise of full salvation through Jesus Christ and continued growth for believers. In today’s gospel, Jesus grants physical and spiritual wholeness to blind Bartimaeus.

The Jeremiah reading is from Jeremiah 31:7-9. Jeremiah began his prophetic ministry to Judah in 627 BCE and ended it about 580 BCE. He spans the period leading up to Judah’s final defeat by the Babylonians (587 BCE), the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple, and the exile of a good part of the population.

Today’s reading from Jeremiah comes from a section (chaps. 30–33) consisting of promises of restoration (30:1-4). In it are gathered Jeremiah’s oracles of hope for an eventual renewal for Israel. Jeremiah envisions the restoration of Judah by imagining God’s fashioning a new exodus.

In Psalm 126 the people sing for joy over their deliverance from captivity. The Lord’s restoration of Zion, the joy of the people, and the astonishment of the nations are recalled (vv. 1-3). A plea for continued restoration in the present (v. 4), for a change in fortune as dramatic as the effect of water in an arid land, leads to a promise of renewed joy to come out of sorrow (vv. 5-6). Just as God brought Israel out of Egypt, to the astonishment of the nations (Exodus 15:13-16; Deuteronomy 2:25), so God miraculously restored the fortunes of Zion again.

In the first part of Hebrews 7:23-28, the author describes the superiority of Melchizedek to Abraham, thus also demonstrating the superiority of his priesthood to the Levitical priesthood. Jesus’ priestly claim is based not upon physical descent nor upon ineffective law. It is based upon his indestructible life and is attested by the divine oath.

The Hebrews reading points out that Jesus’ priesthood is also superior because of its permanence—he will forever function as our high priest—and because of his character—he is holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners. Thus Jesus’ sacrifice of himself, “once and for all” (v. 27), as he fulfills the role of high priest and sacrifice, was all that was needed, now and forever, to redeem humanity.

The story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus is the subject of the Gospel and is very vivid. Bartimaeus calls Jesus “Son of David,” a messianic title, recognizing Jesus’ true identity. Although blind, Bartimaeus can “see” Jesus more clearly than others because of his faith.

No healing word or action of Jesus is recorded, just a response to Bartimaeus’s faith. On one level, his faith, in the sense of confidence and persistence, is answered with healing. On another level, his recognition of Jesus is answered with salvation. The phrase “made you well” means both heal and save. Bartimaeus responds by becoming a disciple.

This story is similar to the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida (8:22-26). These two stories of new sight frame the whole section dealing with Jesus’ predictions of the passion and the disciples’ misunderstanding. Eyes must be opened to see the true meaning of Jesus’ messianic suffering and so correctly follow him on this new way to life with God.

The sermon concentrated on Bartimaeus.

“Sometimes it takes owning up to the discouraging fact that God’s kingdom seems far away, only a mirage, and that we are blind to it, to give us the hope and the faith and courage to wait patiently, to go out and sit by the road day after day, hoping that Jesus our teacher will come by and restore our sight once more, and reveal to us the wonders of his love, love given for all time and for all creation, for all eternity.

“We are the blessed in this world. But sometimes our blessings can blind us.

“I pray that instead of simply being content with all our blessings, that we, like Bartimaeus, will go out and watch and wait with hope for the Kingdom of God to come in our midst, that we too, will cry out for mercy,

“And that when God restores our sight, We too will follow.”

Bartimaeus accepts his blindness as past. It does not curtail his freedom to hope for change. Thus he surrenders to the mystery of the future. Just as he casts away his cloak, he flings aside his reservations and his insecure clinging to the status quo.

The road on which Bartimaeus follows Jesus is leading to Jerusalem and ultimately to Calvary. Again in contrast to the apostles, Bartimaeus wants to follow, even into pain, if it means he can remain close to Christ. His step has a sureness due not only to restored vision but because he knows deeply the truth of the crowd’s assurance: “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” Thus, the story ends on the note of grace accepted.