HAVE MERCY - A SERMON ON JEREMIAH 31:7-9 & MARK 10: 46-52 - FR. JOSEPH C. ALSAY, SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
~Sermon Delivered by The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
October 24th 2021
Jeremiah 31:7-9 & Mark 10: 46-52
Eleison. Have mercy.
That’s what Bartimaeus asked. Actually, eleison, have mercy on me.
Jesus, his disciples, and a large crowd are leaving Jericho. It’s like a parade or a march. And Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, hears the crowd, finds out it’s Jesus, and cries out, have mercy on me.
And Mark says “many” tried to shut him up. They rebuked him, told him to be quiet.
Who are these who won’t hear the cries of someone in need asking for mercy, who even would prevent Jesus, someone who could offer mercy, from hearing?
And where are you in this story? Do you sometimes wish those in need would be quieter, quit bothering you and others? Do you stand next to such silencers in the crowd and let them shut out the cries for mercy? Do you reach out to Bartimaeus, help him up, saying, Take heart, Christ is calling for you?
Bartimaeus is real. He/She lives among us. And all he/she asks is eleison.
She may live in a tent on the corner of May and Memorial, and you’d like to have compassion for her. But then you see the needles and syringes lying around her tent, her children, and it’s not a feel-good story anymore. Maybe you just don’t think if Bartimaeus does drugs she deserves the mercy of her neighbors.
Maybe Bartimaeus has dark skin, and his cries of eleison include his claims that his life is radically different from yours. That he has to teach his children strategies to avoid police attention. That he has to worry about broken lights on his car lest they lead to his death. Maybe you’re just tired of hearing that Black Lives Matter. You wish they’d be quiet.
Sometimes you can’t even see Bartimaeus. She’s going to be waiting for you after church, though, holding a cardboard sign as you turn onto the Kilpatrick expressway trying the beat the Baptists home, or to make it in time to the restaurant. She’ll be there again tomorrow, and if you’re careful you don’t even have to make eye contact, let alone hear her.
Maybe you’re thinking, I actually see all these, and I’m trying to find ways to help. That’s good. But there are so many Bartimaeuses in the crowds, there’s definitely one you don’t see or hear. Keep looking until you find that person who annoys you, whom you can’t bring yourself to care about. Whom you wish would be quiet about their needs.
Then look at Jesus.
He listens. He hears eleison, have mercy on me. In the midst of the bustling crowd, the noise of the dogs and children, he hears the cry for mercy others would shut down. He commands: bring him here.
And then he asks, What do you want me to do for you?
And Bartimaeus astonishingly claims a relationship with Jesus in that moment. Rabbouni, my master, my teacher – the same trusting name Mary Magdalene calls the risen Jesus – my master, let me see again.
And mercy pours out from God-with-us. Here is the glory of the Christ, the Son of God: there is no limit to mercy. There is enough mercy for the whole universe in God-with-us, this Jesus. His very next stop is Jerusalem, another parade with a crowd, this time waving palm branches, and he will leave that crowd and go alone to a cross. He will bear the mercy of the Triune God for the universe in his flesh and blood and offer his life. And there is enough mercy for all.
Bartimaeus the inconvenient, Bartimaeus the annoying, Bartimaeus the shouter of his needs, receives his sight. And he follows Jesus.
You know, we are overwhelmed by God’s love that we know, that we’ve seen at the cross, that we receive in Christ’s meal of life. Eleison is our breath, in and out, because we know how much we need mercy, and we know Who it is who gives it.
But the One who answers your eleison commands with the same word: eleison.
You have mercy. Be mercy. Live mercy. Find Bartimaeus and ask what you can do. Listen to the cries for mercy you want to silence and ask what you can do and then, stand alongside Bartimaeus.
As you struggle with this command, hear one more miracle: Christ asks you the same question. What do you want me to do for you?
Now you know: you are Bartimaeus, too. “My teacher, my master, let me see again. Open my eyes, my ears, my heart, my hands, my mind, my life, that I may follow you. That I may have mercy as you have mercy.”
~ Fr. Joseph C. Alsay, Saint Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
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