Seeing and Knowing

The text of the sermon, based on Mark 10.46-52, preached with the people of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Spartanburg, SC, on the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, October 24, 2021.

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I love this morning’s gospel story. For one reason among many, it testifies to the power of names.

We have names by which we are known and which are gateways to others and ourselves. To speak a name arrests the attention of the one called, thus, opening an opportunity for greater communication, deeper connection.

I digress… I, among many things, am a logophile. I love words. Over time, I have learned that the most important words I know are names, which grant access one to another. Whenever I hear my name, I always stop and turn to see who has called me.

Jesus, hearing Bartimaeus call his name, adding the honorific title, “Son of David,” “stood still”; thus, honoring Bartimaeus.

And grand is the honor Jesus renders! For Jesus, with “his disciples and a large crowd,” is passing through Jericho. This is no casual excursion, but a journey to his destiny. Jesus goes to Jerusalem for his final face-off with the religious authorities who oppose his proclamation that God’s kingdom of lovingkindness for all is at hand.[1] A showdown, which he knows, thrice having predicted his death,[2] will end in his end.

Yet for a reason greater than the power of names I love this story. Bartimaeus, though blind, paradoxically, helps us to see the profound difference between sight and insight. With our eyes, yes, we can see, yet we may not recognize what or who we see.

Years ago, Pontheolla and I visited the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. A treasure trove of impressionist art. Drawn to a particular painting, I stood still, but too close. I could see, but only splotches of brilliant color. Heeding Pontheolla’s advice to stand back, only then did I, could I recognize the scene of sky and water of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhône.

Bartimaeus, though blind, recognizing Jesus as the “Son of David” – a messianic title of the long-awaited, God-sent redeemer – also knows that for which he can ask, indeed, pray in accord with who Jesus is.

Many times, I confess, I, believing, knowing who Jesus is, have prayed for something I wanted, I needed. When it was not granted, I realized that I had mistaken my human expectation for divine intention, my will for God’s will.

Two Sundays ago, we heard of the rich man who came to Jesus, asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Somehow, he believed, hoped that he could earn this gift of God by human effort. Jesus loving him, seeing him, knowing him, that he placed great, too great value on his material possessions, advised him to sell all he had, give the money to the poor, and follow him. Shocked, the man couldn’t, wouldn’t do it.[3]

Last Sunday, we heard of James and John asking Jesus to stand at his left and right in his kingdom.[4] They wanted to share the glory of what they believed, hoped would be Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem to claim his rightful throne as the King of Israel. They didn’t understand that Jesus’ victory would be his crucifixion and his throne, a cross.

In stark contrast, Bartimaeus longs only for God’s lovingkindness: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus calls Bartimaeus, who, though blind, not lame, “sprang up and came to Jesus.” Jesus, always bidding that we declare our desire, asks, “What do you want?” Bartimaeus, again, knowing who Jesus is, can testify to what God’s mercy looks like: “My teacher, let me see again!” And his believing, his knowing is granted. “Your faith,” says Jesus, “has made you well.”

Above all the things that we want, need, I submit to us that for us to see, to know God, who is Love, is to know that God desires our love. For this love-relationship is where we continue to become who God creates, Jesus redeems, the Spirit sanctifies us to be.

A contemporary gospel song expresses beautifully, faithfully our longing to see and to know:

Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus;

to reach out and touch Him and say that we love Him.

Open our ears Lord and help us to listen.

Open our eyes Lord, we want to see Jesus.[5]

© 2021 PRA


[1] See Mark 1.15. “The kingdom of God has come near” was the inaugural preaching of Jesus and remained the heart of his entire mission and ministry.

[2] See Mark 8.31, 9.31, and 10.33-34

[3] Mark 10.17-22

[4] Mark 10.35-45

[5] Lyrics: Robert Marcus Cull (1949- )

#Iwasblindandcouldsee #seeingbelievingknowing

2 thoughts on “Seeing and Knowing

  1. Paul,

    I loved this sermon because one of the opening sentences mentioned the power of names, and I know how bad I am at remembering names. As you know, one of the first things I knew I admired about you was how you remembered everyone’s name which was incredible to me given the size of the church you were serving at the time. I continue to work hard at remembering as many names as I can but it only seems to get harder and my circle of people and places continue to grow. One name I thankfully always remember is the name of Jesus and the recognition of how much he gave up for us to live our lives. I too have prayed for things I didn’t receive and like you realized that it wasn’t God’s will.

    Thank you for this sermon and for ending it with those beautiful words that I wish I had a better voice to do them justice.

    Much love!

    Like

  2. You, my dearest sister, have a better voice to do justice to the song lyrics. For when you sing with truth and sincerity, “Open our eyes, Lord…”, which I know you do that is the…your BEST voice!

    Love

    Like

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