Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Jesus stood still. In the midst of the chaos around him... he stood still.
And it was a chaotic early morning in Jericho. The streets are packed with pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for the Passover. The disciples are still a bit ruffled from last nights chastisement, that they were not to seek to be powerful leaders but humble servants. Internally I can only imagine that Christ's mind and heart were heavy with the his next steps, that afternoon he would ask his disciples to find him a colt and ride into Jerusalem as the people shouted Hosannah in the highest and laying palm branches down for him to ride upon... Starting a chain of events that would culminate in his trial and crucifixion. The various shouts for mercy and coins from the outer edge of the crowd were an added source of confusion... Summarily being hushed.
In the midst of his thoughts, in the midst of the disciples who surely want to get as far away from last night as they can, in the midst of the crowd of pilgrims pressing them from all sides towards Jerusalem... Jesus stood still, Jesus required the outsider to come in, and Jesus listened.
Being able to stand still, place aside the flurry of thoughts and emotions, and listen, truly listen, to another human being is an essential skill for Christian living.
It is a skill used by those who volunteer at st. Elizabeth's food pantry; a skill used by those who in a little while will be listening to those seeking prayers of healing in the side chapel, a skill used by those who will share our communion with those who are sick and shut in.
It is an essential skill that you are practicing right now.
It happens in that crucial moment when you stop saying "I know about that" and start saying "I am curious about that".
It happens when surety of knowledge is recognized for the dangerous thing it is.
One night this summer when I was on call in the ER a trauma came in. A highschooler had broken his leg during soccer practice. When his parents arrived I was surprised to find that they had brought their own pastor with them. The youth was quickly found to be in good stable condition and I quickly found myself on another call. I continued to check on the soccer player throughout the night and every time I came by there seemed to be another pastor, or sometimes even a pair of them, visiting his room. I eventually found out that one of his grandfathers had been a leading pastor in the area and all of his protégés were coming by to lay hands on the boy and call down the healing power of Jesus Christ. It was a veritable parade of pastors.
Near the end of the night I found myself walking the soccer player's grandmother out to the lobby. "None of them get it" she said. "Get it?" I queried... "He is not worried about his leg, he knows the type of injury he has, he knows it will heal, he is upset because the soccer team is his social life, it is where all his friends are, and now he is going to be cut off from that. But none of the pastor's prayed with him about that, none of them asked what he was concerned about, they just came in to call down God's healing. He talked to me about it, we prayed about it, but he is so frustrated with all these pastors."
The frustration of not having a voice, the frustration of having someone else assume what your needs are, the frustration of not being heard.
Over the past two days at diocesan convention the Bishop charged the parishes to name the spaces, the lines, where the church was engaging the world. He asked us to consider not how can we engage those lines but instead consider what do we need to engage those lines.
My suggestion, my charge, is that in order to truly engage those lines we need to be able to stand still, allow the outsider in, and listen.
Before we can do anything else we must be ready to stand still, allow the outsider in, and listen.
Bartimeaus sought mercy. It could have been the mercy to share a knowledge he knew because he understood the world beyond the sense of sight. It could have been the mercy to point out an injustice of the society around him. It could have been the mercy to have his sight restored. These are all mercies that Jesus provides throughout his ministry.
Jesus, stood still, allowed Bartimeaus to come close, and listened... Bartimeaus was given a chance to state what he believed, what mercy was longed for... And Jesus responded with God's grace.
This Grace of God, this stuff that Miracles are made of, is alive and well in the world.
God is working in the life of every person we meet no matter who they are or where we meet them.
The question is do we have the strength to place aside our presumptions, our assumptions, our supposed knowledge and definitions of what grace is and instead be curious,
can we move away from the thoughts and emotions whirring away inside of us and all of the pressures and conflict around us for just a moment and stand still?
can we forget about what we want to say for just long enough so that we can listen?
If we can do that on that line where the church is meeting God's world, truly do it, then we will have regained our sight and be ready to follow Jesus on the way.