24th October 2021, Proper 25
The reading from Jeremiah is so upbeat and full of joy. God is bringing together all God’s people, from the very ends of the earth, those who have been disadvantaged and sidelined, the marginalised, the young and the old. God will bring them back together, console and lead them, caring for them as a loving parent. The passage begins with a call to the leaders that they should praise God and pray for salvation. Will our nations’ leaders do the same for us at COP26? There are plenty of people around the world waiting for a time of celebration!
The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that we have in Jesus the ultimate companion, guide and priest. The one who will always be with us, who will always be the means of our salvation, and who will always intercede on our behalf. At times of seeming hopelessness, we need to be reminded of this certainty.
It is not often we learn the names of the people that Jesus encounters. We hear of the woman with haemorrhage but not her name, of the paralysed man – ditto, the Syro-Phonecian woman, Peter’s mother-in-law: all are anonymous. But here we know the man’s name and that of his father too, and we know where he lives: he is Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, resident of Jericho. He is a beggar so maybe life’s opportunities have passed him by. As a crowd gathers along the road side, people are less than generous towards Bartimaeus. They scold him for calling out to Jesus – are they embarrassed by him? Do they think people like him should be kept in the background? Do they think Jesus should only meet upright, ‘proper’ people?
If so, they have not been paying attention. Jesus is often sought out by the vulnerable, the excluded, the despised, and each time his response to them is always focused on their needs, full of love and compassion. Once Jesus has responded to Bartimaeus’s call, the crowd shifts its approach and now encourages Bartimaeus to get up and meet Jesus. How fickle a crowd can be!
Jesus’s question to Bartimaeus is interesting. He doesn’t assume that what Bartimaeus wants is sight – indeed may be Bartimaeus’s first desire was to be heard. People labelled as disabled, don’t always see their difference as something unwanted, as something they wish to be rid of. Rather what they may want acceptance and understanding, an place of equal standing in society. In this instance, Bartimaeus does want to regain his sight, he wants to see again. It transpires that what Bartimaeus doesn’t want to do is to stay where he is. He doesn’t want to remain by the roadside on the way into Jericho, the butt of people’s shifting opinions. He wants to go with Jesus, to follow him and become part of the transformative society that Jesus is creating.
In that there is a message for us. What do we want, both for ourselves and our society – our world? And can we be part of the change? Next Sunday sees the start of COP26 in Glasgow. Decisions made there have the potential to transform for the better, the lives of so many. Let us make sure our voices are heard, our wishes declared.