Humans love order. That sense of calm and purpose that gives us the ability to understand how it is we should live, in a world that seems to blow us around with all the needs. Indeed the early church understood that need in the way it ordered itself. People met in groups, there was a set of shared actions- scripture was read, prayers were said, bread was broken. Communities began to structure itself having Bishops, priests, and deacons, as the community grew and moved away from the region of its birth they needed more help to do this work. Then came the synods, councils, working group’s, agenda committees, guilds, administrators, wardens, trustee’s, advisory boards, budget committees and more. Slowly we went from house churches, to an institution- with all the challenges and joys that it brings. The question this shift asks of us, as we move from small to large, is how are we orientated in our purpose? Is ministry just something we meet about? Or is it something we live?
Take courage, get up.
Mark, as our earliest gospel writer, remains frank with the details. This is to remind us of the importance of the actions he is describing to a community which would have known the terrain and culture he was speaking about. Jesus, in the early parts of Mark is already making waves with assertions about where his authority to preach and heal comes from, and we see again and again just how crazy it all seems. He can’t really be telling us the truth that he’s the Son of God, can he? We’ve seen first hand what happens to these upstart preachers when they annoy Rome, and Jesus is definitely upsetting the cultural norm. Mark’s gospel is offering us the Good News, of God in Christ, and like the disciples we doubt that this can be real. Just last week, we heard the disciples challenge Jesus to prove again who he is by actions- like he is some kind of magician. Yet this week Jesus heals without question. So what is the difference? It’s the courage to ask in faith.
Think about it for a moment. Finding the courage within us to reach out and ask for what we need of Jesus in faith is hard. It’s hard because so much about faith teaches us that God knows what we need before we ask for it, and that we should be asking for others before ourselves. What if we dared to have the faith of bartimaeus? Here’s a guy who was blind, who could not see what was happening or where to go. He was perfectly normal otherwise, but just couldn't see. He had the tenacity to call out his recognition of Jesus in the midst of those who were trying to keep him quiet. He could feel Jesus come near and he knew that he had to ask for what he wanted- which was to regain his place in community via sight. This sight, this recognition of Jesus is something we as a parish community are continually asked to listen for as we chart our path forward. But it is so much easier at times to just rest in the comfortable nature of what life in community means for us. Having to move out into the world to do the work of discipleship is hard and daunting work. Maybe being blind isn't so bad after all? Its less work in some ways, and its alot harder to be rejected. But then, if that's what community means- why bother having a parish here at all?
Take Courage, get up, he’s calling you.
There is an intimacy here between the call to Jesus and the healing. The faith of bartimaeus recognizes by name the person of Christ and his ministry as the fulfillment of god's promises- even before he was able to see- he knew it. Even as society was telling him to keep quiet, fit in, and not rock the boat, he dared to stand up and ask for what he needed- he needed to be part of a community again. For us today, this is about knowing who we are, why we are, and who we belong to as a community, so that as we move out into the world it becomes easier for us to feel more comfortable with the work of the church in the world- work which is about making disciples of all nations, through living a gospel life. This indeed needs a lot of courage, but how do we even start? I kind of thought that’s why we have clergy to do it for us? Well, I think, we’ve been doing it all along.
For the last 10 years, this parish has been an integral part of an act of faith in the streets of our city. We have fed, clothed, housed, loved, and lost, our neighbours who call the streets home. We have gone against an idea that tells us homeless people are lazy, and small parishes should grow first before they try and tackle something so persistent and resource draining, to literally change the lives of hundreds. As founding members of the West Point Grey Neighbourhood Ministry, we have put into action the faith of bartimaeus by seeing and recognizing the healing presence of Jesus in our neighbours as we serve them. But how do we find the courage to do this? In our faith which is grounded in the Eucharist.
You see friends, our time here on Sunday morning is as an incubator for our life outside. We come together to practice the faith we want to live in the world we love, which finds its pinnacle in the Eucharistic feast we are all invited too. Our architecture spells out the trajectory of our life, from baptism, to altar, to death and resurrection. In this we are given moments to reach out for Jesus, even when we might not know why, with our everyday nature of our lives, and seek healing and transformation in what we receive back- which is Jesus made real in bread and wine- food for our journey into sight in the world we love and serve. In the Eucharist we meet the place in which we offer ourselves up, so that we are given the courage to go out into the world and meet Jesus in the places we live, work, and love.
So as we celebrate ten vibrant, tenacious and wonderful years of our Homeless ministry we hear anew- take courage, get up, he’s calling you. Jesus is calling you this week in healing, presence, and life: How will you respond?