Sight Restored

Reverend Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

Proper 25 – Year B

Mark 10:46-52

October 28, 2018

HE II and Baptism – Sight Restored

         The ancients used to call sight – or our ability to see -  “The Queen of the Senses.”  I suspect this elevation of the sense of sight above the others is understandable to most of us.  After all, what is prettier than seeing the streaks of pink and orange across a darkening sky as sunset approaches?   

What is more beautiful than viewing the burning leaves of autumn or the landscape around us coated in shimmering white with the first snow of the season? What touches our hearts more deeply than seeing a smile on the face of someone we love or looking into your child’s eyes as you hold them for the first time. We can all imagine our own feast for the eyes: sights that delight or enchant, sights that you want to linger over and savor.  Have you ever seen something so stunning that you could almost feel its beauty in your bones?  I’m sure we all have some memories stored within us that by simply reimaging them, our hearts warm and our souls smile. I guess I can understand why the ancients called sight “The Queen of the Senses.”

         Maybe this is why the language of sight and seeing has come to mean much more than simply visual perception.  In our everyday talk, we use the language of seeing as a metaphor for understanding. When someone tries to explain something to us, they say, “I want you to see what I am saying to you.”  And when we finally get it, we say, “Oh, now I see it!”   In our conversations about faith, we also use the language of sight as a metaphor for belief.  We talk about those things that are visible only to “the eyes of faith.”

         But sometimes learning to see can be hard work. In the book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, the author, Annie Dillard, described studies done on people who recovered their sight after years of blindness.  Dillard wrote that, “In general the newly sighted see the world as a dazzle of colored-patches… [they] learn quickly to name the colors, but the rest of seeing is tormentingly difficult.”  These folks, who can now see, have no idea of space or distance and so they walk around bumping into the sharp edges of the swatches of color and only then realize that the color patches are actual objects. Some people find their new sense of sight so difficult and frustrating that they refuse to use their new vision, and lapse into their old ways of perceiving things.  Dillard described a doctor who wrote about a one twenty-one year old woman who had regained her sight.  The doctor noted that,  “Her father, who had hoped for so much from this operation, wrote that his daughter carefully shuts her eyes whenever she wishes to go about the house, especially when she comes to a staircase, and she is never happier or more at ease than when, by closing her eyelids, she relapses into her former state of total blindness.”[1]  Sight, whether it is newly acquired or not, can be challenging sometimes.

         In our Gospel lesson for this morning, we have the story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus. When we look at Bartimaeus, we see that he was not only blind, but also that he was a beggar sitting beside the road.  He is the marginalized of the marginalized with three strikes against him…he’s blind, a beggar, and his name – Bar-Timaeus literally means son of the unclean/defiled.  

         Though Bartimaeus was discarded by society and physically blind, he saw something no one else did in that crowded street.  His eyes may have been blacked out, but within him, he knew who this man was.  Having never met him, Bartimaeus yells out saying,  “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  This was a dangerous declaration, because it announced Jesus as the Messiah and the heir to the throne of David.  Bartimaeus sees what others cannot; he knows in his heart that God has arrived and that God will act.

Grounded by his faith in God, Bartimaeus sees who Jesus really is and cries out for mercy and for help. 

         In a few minutes we will have a baptism.  Baptism may just be my favorite sacrament of our church.  We will stand with the parents and loved ones of our baptized, and promise to support him in his walk with Jesus.  We will stand and promise to support his parents in their raising of this beautiful soul.  And by our promise, we commit to reminding them that God loves

them dearly, no matter what (!) and that Jesus stands with them always.  How awesome is that ?!?!

         Kai is fortunate enough to know what love looks like.  All the children in this room know what love looks like and feels like.  This community is incredible at reminding our children and our young people what love looks like…that they are deeply loved…and that they matter.  Thanks be to God for that!

         Do you know what else I love about baptism?  It’s not a spectator’s sport.  Yes, you will stand (or sit) and watch us baptize Kai, but before we do that, we are all invited to join with him and his parents by renewing our own baptismal covenant.  This is a sacred and holy act.  Our Baptismal Covenant can serve as the eyes of our faith.  When we distracted or derailed by the details of this world, when the violence in our country and in our world crushes our hearts and instills within us fear, the words in our Baptismal Covenant can guide us back to God.  When we are hurting or overwhelmed or feeling disconnected from God, the words of our Baptismal Covenant, can offer guidance by connecting us back to our own baptism – to that moment of grace and love. 

         Come Holy Spirit.  Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love.  May we all stand together this day, knowing in our hearts just as Bartimaeus did, that God is present – God is here with us – loving us, holding us, healing us, and offering us grace.    Amen.

[1] The Rev. Joe Pagano, Appointed Missionary for the Episcopal Church, Episcopal Digital Network, 2018.


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