Monday Morning in the Preacher's Study
First thoughts about next Sunday's sermon
(22nd Sunday after Pentecost, Oct. 25, 2015)
Job 42:1-6, 10-17 OR Jeremiah 31:7-9
Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22) OR Psalm 126
In an extremely economical account of a brief encounter outside of Jericho, the Gospel of Mark gives the essence of the journey of discipleship. This otherwise unnamed Son of Timaeus not only regains his eyesight, but he also comes to follow Jesus as a disciple. For as I sit with this text and look ahead toward Sunday, the final words are the interpretive lens through which I see the passage. We are told in the more literal KJV translation that Bartimaeus "followed Jesus in the Way."
That the now sighted man follows Jesus in the way is no small detail as the early Christians referred to the Jesus Movement as "The Way." Mark, no doubt, expected that to resonate with his first hearers. I am wondering how to recapture the resonance that as the Torah once showed us "The way to walk" we now see most clearly that way by following Jesus.
As the reading starts, the blind beggar is the one who sees most clearly as he loudly proclaims Jesus' identity, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Then he shows even greater discernment as he throws off his cloak, the tail of which he would have been using to beg as a means of supporting himself. Bartimaeus has already named Jesus rightly and shown great faith before he asks to regain his sight. No wonder Jesus says, "Go; your faith has made you well."
Then Bartimaeus, who began the story "along the way" now joins "the way" in following Jesus—a conversion in five verses. I know as a priest that the practical steps I have seen most dependably lead to lasting life change are when one takes on disciplines as a means of discipleship. In taking on routinely reading through the Bible, daily private and at least weekly corporate prayer, and in service to others I find are how we move from being along "The Way" to actually following Jesus.
For Bartimaeus, the decisive moment came when hearing Jesus call, he threw aside his cloak and stood naming his deepest need to Jesus. As I work my way toward Sunday, I am wondering how I remain along the way, rather than following Jesus in the way. What would the equivalent to casting away a cloak? I will look at my own Rule of Life and contemplate how I might gently encourage others to do so as well. While the actual phrase "Rule of Life" may not (or may) be in my sermon, I know that I feel the challenge to point to discipline as a means of discipleship.
Frank Logue is an Associate member of the APLM Council and has served as its secretary. He worked as a church planter in the Diocese of Georgia, starting King of Peace in Kingsland, before joining the diocesan staff in 2010 as the Canon to the Ordinary.