Dates: October 21st and 24th, 2021
Preacher: Pastor Ashley Rosa-Ruggieri, read in service by Scott Anderson
First Reading: Jeremiah 31:7-9
Psalm: Psalm 126
Second Reading: Hebrews 7:23-28
Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
There was a summer that I worked at a Lutheran Bible Camp, named Camp Ewalu. At the camp we had many songs that we sang with the kids that were fun or had lessons about our faith, or both. One of these songs had the lyrics, “J-O-Y down in my heart, deep, deep down in my heart. Jesus put it there, and nothing can destroy, Destroy, DESTROY it.” Kids loved this one because they got to scream during the destroy part, and counselors loved it because it was teaching them about what joy is when it comes to our faith. “Joy” in society is often thought of as a synonym to happiness, but I see it as something entirely different. Happiness is variable, it can come and go based on the day, or the situation, but joy is like a river current, running through our very veins, and always there in the background. As the song suggests, it cannot be destroyed.
The reading from Jeremiah and the Psalm for this week week both talk about how people react when feeling God's work moving within and through them. They shout with praise and joy and thanksgiving. They are comforted and healed, they are full of springs of joy, bursting for what the Lord has done and what the Lord will do. THIS type of joy, is the one that fills Bartimaeus in the reading this week, the type of joy that cannot be contained, the type of joy that will not be silenced. You see, Bartimaeus had heard of Jesus. He had heard of the miracles he had done, and of the parables he told, and of the actions he had taken for the betterment of all people in their society. And so even though people told his to be quiet, and tried to silence him as a random man who had no business talking to such a special teacher, he did not listen to them. He listened to the voice inside himself that told him that God had plans for his life and that voice filled him with joy and courage, so that he could call out to Jesus until he was heard.
When Jesus finally notices his calls, he immediately tells others to call him over. In many ways, this story is the start of Bartimaeus's call to follow Jesus. Sure, he had heard about Jesus and the things he had done and said, but this is where he is called directly by Jesus not once, but twice. First, Jesus hears his shouting and CALLS him over. The others around him say, “Take heart, get up, he is calling you.” And Bartimaeus is so filled with joy that he leaps up, leaving his cloak behind him, and answers Jesus's first call to him. And when he gets to Jesus, Bartimaeus asks to see again, and Jesus tells him that his faith has made him well. And so, Bartimaeus regains his sight, and answers a second call, a call to follow Jesus after this moment. It can be easy to have faith and feel joy in this happy moments, but the journey that Bartimaeus is about to encounter as he follows Jesus along the way will not be full of happy moments.
The next passage after this is when Jesus rides into Jerusalem for what we now call, Palm Sunday, which means he is only a week away from his own death and resurrection. And this is when Bartimaeus chooses to start following along with Jesus and the disciples, this is when he answered God's call with joy. This week our worship services have short Chapel Chats about Stewardship. And I think that joy is one thing that is often missing when we consider stewardship. We are called to offer what we can with joy, a joy that comes from knowing that God is at work within the time, talent, and financial contributions we have given. Joyful stewardship is not about who is giving the most or the best, it is about contributing to the ministries of the church in ways that you feel called to deep within. It is about finding that river of joy running inside you, and allowing it to bubble and overflow with whatever you are being called to share with the church and the world. For some people, that means sharing their time, for others it means sharing their spiritual gifts and talents, and for even others it means sharing their financial wealth. For many, it will even mean sharing multiple of these things. The important this is that when we consider what our call to stewardship is in this time, for this year, is recognizing how God can work through us here and now to share the Good News with others.
In the letter that was sent out about the contribution cards, it quoted a passage from Galatians that talks about the fruit of the Spirit. These verses are some of my favorites, but sometimes there is confusion. You see, many people this that it is the fruits of the Spirit, as in more than one, but that is not the case! It is singular, one fruit of the Spirit, that is filled with these various parts. One of them is joy, which we are focusing on today, but the other parts are love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I like to think of the fruit of the Spirit as an orange. It breaks into these different sections, and some are larger or smaller, but they are all there. And this is how the fruit of the Spirit works. We all have each part of the fruit inside of us, but some of us might have really big sections of gentleness, and others may have big sections of patience. The point is that the whole fruit, all parts, are always within us, and that together we get to fill in the smaller parts, and leave space for the bigger ones, so that we are all working together, through the fruit of the Spirit, to answer God's call.
As we go into this time of discernment about stewardship, especially as it comes to our next year of ministry together, I encourage you to take some time to go deep inside like Bartimaeus. Remember all the stories you have heard about Jesus, all the things he has taught you, and all the things he has done, and us that as your basis for joyfully making your contribution. Bartimaeus shouted, and jumped up, and forgot his robe because he was so excited about what Jesus had been doing and what he knew Jesus could do in the future with him. I pray that we can all learn from the story of Bartimaeus this week, so that we might know what that joy and eagerness to follow Jesus's call looks and feels like, and that in doing so we grow together into the ministry that God is leading us to this next year and beyond. Thanks be to God.