Bartimaeus isn't a name many of us would be familiar with is it? Yet he is an example of amazing faith. Jesus makes it clear it is his faith that has saved him.
Bartimaeus’s faith is not about reciting the correct confession or subscribing to certain set of beliefs. It is his unrelenting conviction that Jesus can and will rescue him from his need. That Jesus will enable him to see again… to be released from the chains of poverty and suffering...begging for every scrap of food… Jesus opens his eyes and he is healed….
In Mark, Bartimaeus is not the first person seeking a miracle who approaches Jesus in faith, but he is the only one recorded who joins him in his journey, presumably straight into Jerusalem and into all that is to follow.
On the Climate Sunday I wonder, if like Bartimaeus, we all need our sight given back to us...we need to open our eyes, look around us and critically we also need to follow Jesus in faith to do what needs to be done….the sacrifices that need to made if change ...if resurrection and new life is to be manifested. If lives are to be saved.
If you are anything like me, despite all that I am told and all that I know, I more often than not keep my eyes closed to all the consequences of all the decisions I make every day.
Despite the evident truths of our situation I’m sometimes resentful of being told over and over again that I’m at fault, being told what I have to do…..sometimes just getting frustrated at paying 1 pound for a plastic bag in Waitrose.
I seem to choose blindness I think sometimes because I feel at times overwhelmed by what is going on and what is probably going to happen…...sometimes I just want everything to be ok...I just want to live my life as if it doesn't have consequences…..sometimes I keep my eyes shut because I’m tired of trying to make a difference against a tidal wave of energy, attitudes and actions at a global level that are saying the opposite.
How do you feel when you think about climate change, care of creation - perhaps those protestors that are supergluing themselves to things?
My love for creation has been running through my entire life and I was one of the first people in the UK to take an A level in Environmental Science and I had the privilege of attending one of the early Environmental Science degrees. I had this vocational drive to help save God’s creation...I worked in environmental charities, I got paid peanuts for years … but then I moved to social policy….then corporate policy…the environment is always there but not central anymore…
Speaking plainly …..at times I became weary and have lacked energy...I have been worn down by the lack of urgency in the world to respond to what is needed. I carried on doing my bit but I really had not been speaking out...calling out…..in short I’ve not been fully doing my bit. Fulfilling that part of my vocation.
As soon as I started my training for public ministry I experienced a massive resurgence of vocational calling and I am pleased it has stayed with me. My calling to become a Third Order Franciscan is part of this.
Some of you might know that this is also Bible Sunday where we give thanks for Holy Scripture and one of the joys of my ministerial training was the revelation of the most profound and transformative theology of creation held in the bible. Little talked about for centuries but once you come to know it it sings out with power from start to finish. It's a radical call for healing and justice and I believe it is a fundamental part of the Good News. Let’s just touch on a few parts….and I'm grateful to the Rev Margaret Bullitt - Jonas for her writing on this.
Remember at the start of Genesis we are told God loved the world into being, pronounced it “very good” (Gen. 1:31), and entrusted it to our care. We are given dominion not to exploit it for our greed and wealth but that we might care for it as God would. How God wants us to.
What might that look like? Jesus came to us to show what God is like. Remember last week how Jesus described the action of God? Through service, care and sacrifice.
The Earth does not belong to us, but to God (Ps. 24:1). The concept of “stewardship” set out in the covenants described in the first 5 books of the Old Testament describe this. The link between faith, care of those in need and care of the land in an intricate and intertwined moral and theological tapestry established by God in the Torah. We are reminded time and time again by Moses and through the law that we are here to serve the Lord of life, his land and those in need …not ourselves.
Jesus lived in close relationship with the natural world. In the Gospels we find him by the seashore and up in the mountains, on the lake, and spending weeks desert in prayer. His parables and teaching are full of natural images: sheep and seeds, sparrows and lilies, water and fire, weeds, vines, and rocks. In these examples isn’t Jesus showing us, surely he is inviting us to reclaim this kind of intimate and loving relationship with the natural world?
In Luke’s Gospel Chapter 4 he states he is fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy…. He is to bring good news to the poor…breaking chains of bondage, giving sight to the blind…. And to ‘proclaim the year of the lord's favour’….which is….the time of rest and renewal for the land. Back to the great teaching and commands of Torah.
If you are attached to a Personal Salvation Plan…which is basically it's all about me and Jesus…..I invite you to reflect again because that is an oversimplification of the teaching held in Holy Scripture. It has more to do with the individualism of the enlightenment period than the teaching of Jesus Christ.
Scripture teaches us...the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ affected and redeemed not only human beings but also the whole of Creation. Paul describes this action in Romans 8. In John’s Gospel we are told that Christ is the Word through whom all things were made. And in Colossians we are told that ‘he is before all things, and in him all things hold together …..For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross’.
These text and many others invite us...no they cry out to us…...to really get to grips with the Gospel...its not all about me...or even us…...the texts are crying out that all of creation participates in the saving grace of Jesus. Our search therefore to create a more just and habitable world - and to live more gently on Earth - is how we share in what Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls the “supreme work” of Jesus Christ, who reconciles us to God, to one another, and to God’s whole Creation.
Jesus asked us to love our neighbours. But are we doing this? Really? Just because we can't see the result of our action on our neighbours doesn't mean we aren't doing them.
The rising seas, droughts, and extreme storms created and made worse by climate change are already harming our neighbours, especially those that already have the least.
Our “neighbours” I believe include our future generations - our children and grandchildren, the future of humanity who are depending on us to leave them a habitable world.
It doesn't stop there….God forged an “everlasting covenant” not only with human beings but also with “every living creature” (Gen. 9:8-17) and they, too as St Francis reminded us, are our “neighbours” he called them our brothers and sisters... and we are called to care for, love and protect them as well.
If we call ourselves Chritians I believe the bible teaches us that we need to care for creation...to do our part. Yes it involves changing and giving some things up….but it also means getting new things that God wants us to have.
It involves turning further to love, to justice and to God….to care for the gift of creation and for our neighbour …..to maintain life on this planet and help it to flourish….but really why wouldn't we want to do this?
I’m going to end with another quote from Desmond Tutu
The future of our fragile, beautiful planet home is in our hands. As God's family, we are stewards of God's creation. We can be wantonly irresponsible, or we can be caring and compassionate. God says, "I have set before you life and death... Choose life." Amen