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Calling You

Mark 10:46-52 and Seeing for a Moment by Denise Levertov

October 24th, 2021

by Rev. Nicole Lamarche

Thank you for being here for worship however you are experiencing it. As I shared last week, the pandemic has been a time of refining and clarifying for many of us. And one of the realizations I have had is that I was only with you for a bit over a year as Pastor before the pandemic happened and then I appeared to most of you on a square and then later streaming and it is only recently that we have been able to be together like this. So I realize I feel the need to introduce myself all over again in pieces to you and to some of you for the very first time. I feel privileged that it is part of my vocation to share something that is hopefully worth showing up for every week. Sometimes it is a burden that feels too heavy, so I begin each time with prayer, because I am someone who gets really nervous, even after almost 16 years in. This is all to say that this is part of why I start each one with a prayer to help me and to remind me of the privilege of being in this role. Some call it the preacher’s prayer from Psalm 19:14

Gracious God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O God our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

There was a visitor wandering on our terrace one Sunday afternoon last month. Phillip emailed a group of us with a picture. And Andy and Jackie chimed in wondering if it was the cheetah from my sermon. Earlier that day I had shared a reference from Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed about a Cheetah named Tabitha. We talked about trusting and living our own stories even when some might tell you that you belong in a cage or that you are to live on their terms, know that maybe you are meant to be a cheetah roaming free, living as fully as you can be… And a few hours later there was our South Boulder mini cheetah, seeking the suns’ rays outstretched on our terrace.

Much of the spiritual journey to me, is about looking for what I understand to be fragments of the Sacred, tidbits of the Divine, signs of the gift of being alive right here and now. I don’t discount philosophy or theology or thinking or doing, those have served many of us well, but they have also been the focus of Western Christianity for a long time and I wonder if something different is needed at this moment. In this service over the next few weeks, we are exploring the theme Help! And how God can help us in this hard time. Today we are asking how we can have help in hearing new voices and new perspectives and I believe that this is part of our answer: It’s not adding more to our do lists, it’s not about doing more, instead I think what it really is, not about doing more, but not doing so much that we miss all the signs within us and around us, not having our time so filled that we can’t tune in to the Universe, not being so focused on producing or accomplishing that we literally miss the voices we need to hear or that we don’t see the answers to our own prayers.

I love what Barbara Brown Taylor writes in her book The Preaching Life, “I have faith. I lose faith. I find faith again, or faith finds me but throughout it all I am grasped by the possibility that it is all true: I am in good hands; love girds the Universe; God will have the last word. Believing that, I interpret life and the life of the world in a different way. What appear to be death throes may be the strenuous pangs of birth. Human grief may be the ax that breaks down the door of human isolation. That brown bird with a sweet song and yellow eyes may be an angel of God sent to rouse me from my self-absorption.”

She goes on, “Every moment of life offers me a choice about how I will perceive it- as happenstance or revelation? As one more blind accident of time and space or as the veiled disclosure of a present and compassionate God? When all is said and done, faith may be nothing more than the assignment of holy meaning to events that others call random.”

Maybe that is the choice before us daily: do we choose to see this as random or as revelation?

In the story you heard from the Gospel of Mark today a man with a blindness named Bartimaeus shouts from the side of the road in Jericho. He lived as an outsider, marginalized by his condition in a cultural system that created categories of cleanness that determined for many whether you were worthy or had enough.

Knowing Jesus was about healing, about inclusion, about drawing the circle wider, he shouted for the mercy that he had heard so much about and he wanted that to be offered to him too. But the insiders, those who had been with Jesus already, those who had already been nourished and loved by the community, those who already had the power of knowing the privilege of being included, sternly ordered the man with the blindness to be quiet and to stay in his place. And yet the scripture says the man kept on with higher volume, it says, “but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Jesus stopped and invited Bartimaeus to come closer. And the man throws off his cloak, springs up and comes to Jesus and then Jesus asks that same question we heard last week, "What do you want me to do for you?" And Bartimaeus says, "My teacher, let me see again." And we read that Jesus proclaims the man to be well, which means this game changing, live saving thing: he gets to join the group.

So I wonder what his disciples thought after that? I mean the ones who tried to tell Bartimaeus to be quiet, that he wasn’t invited, that his voice didn’t matter. Did Jesus take them all aside and offer it as a teaching moment or was what happened enough? I also wonder if this story is about how most of us human beings are likely to respond at first with no! No that new voice is too hard to hear! No that new perspective doesn’t match what I already know!

But maybe they all started to see it, not as a random encounter, but rather as a revelation from God, a clarifying interaction that pointed them to their mission of extravagant hospitality, of sharing what they all had been saved by, of living more fully into their call. What seemed like the beginning of the end, maybe was just the beginning of their true movement of who they were called to be.

As the poet Denise Levertov spoke, “the study of last things… sometimes… that's not it: it is the First Things.” And as you heard Barbara Brown Taylor wrote, “What appear to be death throes may be the strenuous pangs of birth…”

So what if the Universe calls to each of us, is calling to each of you right now through the people and possibilities, the creatures and communities that come into your path? What if there is something for us to learn even from those whom we don’t understand? What if there is joy and hope and resilience to be found in choosing to interpret the world through the eyes of faith that our Greater Love is trying to get to us? What if everyone who lands in our path or sometimes on the sides of our roads, has something to offer us, to teach us, to show us?

In this time where so much has been lost and many feel depleted and down, what if we don’t need to try harder, what if instead our call is to listen more closely for the voices on the side? What if we look more closely for fragments of the Divine, tidbits of the Sacred, signs of the gift of being alive right here and now? What if it’s not about adding more to our do lists, not about doing more, but instead not doing so much that we miss God all around us?

Not long ago, I was at home in our driveway and I heard a meow. There was movement and it darted under our car and then sat under my front study window and paused. I shouted for the whole neighborhood! Our cheetah! I am sure there was confusion from our neighbors. Maybe you know already that a cheetah symbolizes opportunity, patience and pivoting fast. And that is what our church has done this year and maybe the Divine is saying carrying on, keep going. Follow the signs! Even a cat that is a cheetah! Dare to hear new voices, listen for wisdom from surprising places!

Beloved of God, don’t do so much that you miss It, make sure you hear the voices calling from the side, be here now, so you can see more clearly, God will manifest wherever and however, God is pushing through. There are signs all around and our task is to see, to hear, to be willing to welcome the revelation. God is calling you! Amen.

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