I was chatting with another pastor recently,
and I asked her: What is the purpose of a sermon?
“The purpose of a sermon is to create an experience of God.”
Isn’t this the purpose of all church life?
To bring us into an experience of God.
The holy. That sense of something more.
Bartimaeus hungers for this.
Jesus, show me mercy!
When people try to silence him,
he repeats his plea with even more fervor.
Jesus, show me mercy.
The disciples reply,
Don’t make waves. This is dangerous.
We are making this journey to Jerusalem the center of power.
We are certain to be met with violence.
Be quiet. The occupying forces are watching us.
I wonder how those disciples felt at that point.
They had been walking with Jesus for three years so far.
I wonder if they ever asked themselves:
What kind of life is this?
Why are we always moving?
Perhaps this movement and moment serves as a gut check
for those following Jesus thus far.
They travel here and there and everywhere.
Crossing rivers. Over hills. Through towns. In and out.
It never ends. They arrive in Jericho. They leave Jericho.
They are always on the go.
What kind of life was that?
They are tired.
Yet here, among them, is a stranger who persists.
In hunger. In longing.
Come close, Jesus,
Show me mercy!
I love that.
Mercy is soft warmth when the world feels cold.
Mercy is a listening ear when you feel like no one cares.
Mercy is someone folding you into an embrace
when your heart is breaking.
Show me mercy!
Bartimaeus cries out.
Call him in, Jesus tells his dear ones.
Jesus’ words remind us that this is a call story
in which the disciples play a vital role.
Jesus never leaves the road.
Rather, Jesus invites the others to be
the intermediaries, the ministers.
Call him, Jesus says.
They call him, Take heart! Get up! Jesus is calling you!
I love how empowering that is.
You call them, Jesus says.
Then they call Bartimaeus.
These disciples have had their own holy experience with Jesus.
Now Jesus tells them to invite others into that experience.
In response to that invitation,
Bartimaeus dismantles his life.
Throwing off his one prized possession, a cloak,
he runs toward Jesus.
Bartimaeus enfleshes audacity. Courage.
Throwing off his cloak,
Bartimaeus becomes unencumbered by anything.
He knows what he wants and needs.
He is not afraid;
he has done something with the fear.
Jesus asks Bartimaeus,
What do you want me to do for you?
“I want to see.”
What does he want? He wants to see.
What does he want to see? That is left open-ended.
There’s something vague about his response.
Inchoate. Beyond words.
I don’t know why, Bartimaeus is saying,
but I want to see. To perceive. To know more.
He doesn’t respond, cure me or heal me.
Bartimaeus wants to perceive differently.
Wants to perceive another.
Wants to perceive the world as God perceives it.
Bartimaeus is already perceiving this way.
He understands reality as it is.
He knows what he needs and what matters
precisely because he has been deprived of it for so long.
He has been deprived of mercy, inclusion,
membership, and participation in his community.
Your faith has saved you,
Bartimaeus knows what he wants.
Jesus praises Bartimaeus for his faith.
Bartimaeus already perceives truth.
Bartimaeus already knows what is most real,
which is love, which is soft warmth.
Bartimaeus then leaves the sidelines
and follows Jesus along the way.
This is a call story.
Not just for Bartimaeus, but for the disciples.
They change from tired people who stifle others
to people who invite others into life.
They remember how their hearts were first touched.
In this story, Jesus touches all of their hearts.
Jesus doesn’t do much.
There’s no laying on of hands or spit.
He says, “Call him.”
He asks, “What do you want?”
He replies, “Go, your faith has saved you.”
Jesus shows us that we have a responsibility to call in others
as we have been called in.
We have been called into something beyond words and thoughts.
Sometimes it is reached in art. Music. And dreams.
It is found in walks among trees and in the hatching of butterflies.
This is the numinous. The numinous is
that mysterious experience that you can’t quite capture.
We find the numinous in unexpected a-has and mystical communion. Something reaches deep inside to us
to the part of us that is connected to the ancient earth,
to our everlasting God, to the communion of others.
We cannot articulate it. We cannot explain it.
We cannot think our way through it.
Yet, we have been touched.
This is part of what Bartimaeus aches for as
he jumps up from the sidelines. Show me!
My colleague once said that the purpose of a sermon is to
create a space where people can experience God.
This is the purpose of our time together as church.
Look at what Jesus is doing.
He’s creating an experience for the disciples, yes,
but then he bids them to go out and help other people
to have an experience of God.
This is our purpose!
How do I experience God?
How do I create space for that?
How can I help other people experience God in their life?
Show me mercy!
I want to perceive!
What do you want?
There are lots of way to be drawn into the experience of Jesus.
How do we invite people into that experience throughout our week?
In reflective spaces. On walks. In a prayerful space.
A conversational space. A worship space.
This sacred experience matters.
This experience of God, the ground of our being.
In a world that disorients us,
it creates a landing pad for us.
Call him forward. Call people in.
It’s a responsibility. A vocation. For each of us.
We are to call forth from others what has been called forth from us.
Do you remember your disorienting numinous experience?
Have you had a disorienting holy experience?
I’ve had a friend tell me,
I am only living my life in this way
because of a deep numinous experience I once had.
Life falls apart, and then you reform it.
Into what shape do you re-form your life?
Repeat the prayer. Repeat your desire.
Remain unwilling to be quiet.
Show me mercy!
I want to perceive!
Say it over and over until you become mercy yourself
or have union with God.
I want to see.
I want to say it, even if I don’t know why I want to see.
Like a person I once heard of who prayed,
I don’t know why, but I want God to change my life.
I don’t know why. I want to see.
I want to see the face of God.
I want to see what I don’t yet see.
I want to know what I don’t yet know.
Sometimes it doesn’t have to do with anyone else,
but it’s about wanting to know God,
God in the infinite mystery.
I want to see. I want to see the face of God!
This wanting and longing is elemental.
It is there before we even know what these things are.
I just want to see. I don’t know what I want to see.
Show me, God, what it is.
Lots of people might not know
they need love, justice, or even mercy.
They might just have an inexpressible longing that lives in them.
I don’t what it is. Show me.
I think of it as the soft warmth of mercy
that I ache for sometimes.
Oof, in this place,
give us soft warmth.
There’s a lot that we don’t perceive about our soul, about our needs. There’s a lot we don’t know. Coming to know that there is a lot we don’t know, coming to know that there are things we don’t yet perceive, is the beginning of faith.
Start with this small acknowledge, because that is how
we open ourselves to the changed and changing life.
Show me. I want.
That’s the beginning.
I don’t know, but I want to know.
I want to change and I don’t know why, but
God, you can make me know why;
God, you can make me know what.
I don’t why, but here I am.
Some days we don’t even have that.
We just have an ache that grows inside us.
That ache is the beginning of faith.
I don’t know why,
but I want.
The featured image is “Welcome to Warmth / Bienvenida a la Calidez” by victor_nuno. It is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/