Text: Mark 10:46-52
The Rev. Dr. D. William Faupel
Oct. 25, 2015
Why are you here this morning? I ask this question in all seriousness and at several levels. I ask it first in the sense of why are you here on earth? Why were you born? What purpose does your life have? Does God, your creator have a purpose in mind for you?
Why are you here this morning? I also ask the question in the sense of why you are here in church? Wouldn’t you rather be out on the golf course or at home in bed? I understand that Bob Anson, who attends the 8 a.m. service, told Fr. Bill a story at coffee hour two weeks ago that addressed this question to him. One Sunday morning a mother went into her son’s bedroom and said, “It is time to get up son and get ready to go to church.” “ I don’t want to go to church this morning,” the boy replied. “You have to go to church,” his mother retorted. “Why,” he asked? “Because you’re the pastor!” she responded.
Finally, I ask: “Why are you here this morning? Why Saint Paul’s? Why are you drawn here week after week to be formed and informed as part of the people of God?”
You might well ask in return, “Why are you here at St. Paul’s this morning?” The answer to this is easy. Fr. Bill ask me to come and share my story with you. I come from a land far distant from your shores and from a time of long ago. I am the son of a man called Timaeus. In your language, his name means “Honorable.” I am called “Bartimaeus,” which means son of the honorable one. In your culture it would be like someone known as “Dave’s boy.”
Whenever someone called me by my name it was always with a sense of irony, because I was born blind. If you were blind or deaf or lame in my country, people through it was a curse from God. They thought it to be a punishment for your sins or the sins of your father. Because my infirmity was from birth, people always smirked when they called my father by his name “Honorable.”
We did not have your kind of welfare system in my country. After my parents died, the only way I could stay alive was by becoming a beggar. Every morning I would walk down the pathway from cottage to the main road that led from Jericho to Jerusalem. All day, I would sit by the roadside. Whenever I heard someone coming I would call out “alms for the poor” which meant, “buddy can you spare a dime.”
I had spread my cloak out before me where those who took pity on me could throw their coins. At the end of each day, I would pick up my cloak by its four corners and carry home my take. It was never very much, just barely enough to keep me alive.
But on this day, I thought it might be different. Passover was coming in a week’s time. Already the pilgrims were making their journey to Jerusalem to celebrate the event when God delivered our ancestors from Egyptian slavery.
But even I was not prepared for what was about to transpire. When I got to the end of the pathway and spread my cloak alongside the road next to me, I could hear the murmur of a growing crowd. Instead of passing on by, they seemed to be gathering along the side of the road.
They were preoccupied, ignoring me when I called out for assistance. A wave of excitement swept through the gathering as some called out, “He is coming, I see Him!” I stood up to ask someone what was going on. He only shoved me aside. I was used to being pushed around. All of my life I had lived on the margins. The anger, disappointment, and bitterness which one had welled up inside of me at such moments had long be replaced by a hardened determination. I would put up with anything and do whatever I had to do in order to survive.
So I was not put off that day by their rudeness. Rather, I listened intently, trying to catch snatches of their conversations in order to figure out what all the excitement was about. I finally realized that the man in question was a young rabbi named Joshua, after our great leader who had help our people conquer the land of Palestine which became our homeland.
The young rabbi—you know him by his Greek name, Jesus—was also traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. I had heard stories about Him before. He was a great teacher, so rumor had it. When He spoke it was as if He was talking directly to you, one on one. His words penetrated to your very heart. Again and again He had called forth faith, enabling people to believe in themselves.
There were also dozens of reports where people had been healed by his simple touch. As I listened now to those around me, I heard them begin to speculate. Just who was this Jesus anyway. Was he a prophet? It was rumored that his line went back to King David. Was it possible that he was the expected Messiah?
As I listened to them talk, I forgot the reason why I was there. No longer was I intent on collecting enough coins so that I could eat the next morning. I was beginning to have a strange feeling within me. What was it that was stirring inside my heart? Suddenly I know. It was hope, a feeling I had not experienced for a long time, one that I thought I would never have again.
The crowd had grown silent now. I could hear the voice of the young rabbi as He was talking with those in His entourage. I called out to Him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” I knew it was rude but I did not care. The folks around were horrified and pushed me away. I would not be deterred. This was my moment!
I pressed forward in the direction where I had heard Him speaking. I cried out again, louder this time, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” The second time, he heard me above the din of the crowd. He must have stopped and I could sense Him looking in my direction. I heard Him say to one who was with Him, “Tell that man to come to me.”
I felt the irony as the mood of the crowd changed suddenly. Instead of continuing to try to silence me, they now spoke with encouragement. “Take heart, the master is calling to you.” The feelings that I had for so long kept under control could no longer be denied. I sprang forward leaving my mantle behind. I knew in my heart that I would never use it again to collect my livelihood. I sensed that I was about to embark on a whole new way of life.
He spoke again. “Be healed and go your way.” Then I saw Him! Yes, I actually saw Him standing there before me. Tears filled my eyes. No longer was I blind, I could see! And so I followed him on the way.
I watched as He entered Jerusalem triumphant. People cut down palm branches and threw them before Him. I knew He had to be our Messiah. Soon, I thought, he would be crowned our King. I watched in awe as He drove the money changers from the temple. But then I saw the mood of the population change when he failed to call for a popular uprising. He was arrested. They held a mock trial. Then they nailed him to a cross.
Yes, I was there on that road that led from Jericho to Jerusalem. But I was also there a few days later when He joined us on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. How our hearts burned within us as He spoke of all that must come to pass. And then when He broke bread with us, we knew Him for who He was! That image of Him with us as He shared our table will remain with me always. I joined His band of disciples and have continued to follow Him on the Way, doing the work that He had begun.
When Father Bill asked me to come to speak to you today, he mentioned that you are in the midst of your annual stewardship campaign and suggested that I might speak to you on that topic. But what more can I say about this subject than to tell my story. Everything I am, I owe that Rabbi who touched me on the road that day. Everything I have is the result of the fact that His touch changed my life. All that I have belongs to Him.
I know that if you have been encountered by Him and been touched in any way similar to the way He touched me, the resources which this parish needs to carry out His mission here in Naples, Florida will be there. Each of you will see to that!
In the name of the Rabbi who transformed my life, Jesus my Lord, I bid you God’s best. Amen