Sermon (Confirmation): “What Do You Want Me to To Do For You?” [Mark 10:46-52] (Oct. 24, 2021)

Bartimaeus begged.  He was blind; he couldn’t work; his society assigned him the role of beggar.  And so, Bartimaeus begged.  

Bartimaeus followed the rules of begging–doing so quietly, in the designated area, and in the proscribed way–Bartimaeus followed the rules of begging…until he heard that Jesus was walking by.  He’d no doubt heard of all the healing Jesus had done in Jericho.  When he heard the crowd approaching, maybe Bartimaeus got the idea that he, too, could receive healing.  Desperate for that healing, Bartimaeus broke a begging rule:  He shouted out.

That shout was a brave thing, a prophetic thing.  In drawing attention to himself, Bartimaeus also drew attention to the rules of their society that forced the disabled to beg.  Maybe that’s why “many sternly ordered him to be quiet.”  Maybe they wanted to protect the great teacher from seeing how their society treated the least of these.

But healing–new life–was more important to Bartimaeus than staying in the place society had assigned him, and so he cried out a second time, this time even louder:  “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  

Gavin, Ethan, and Byron, I pray for you the courage of Bartimaeus.  As you take up the mantle of faith today, may it guide you in living just and compassionate lives.  And may you never be afraid–with love and mercy–to name injustices where you see them.

After Bartimaeus shouts out the second time, Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”  What do you want me to do for you?  He’s blind.  He’s begging.  Seems pretty obvious what Bartimaeus wants Jesus to do, right?

But maybe the question isn’t for Jesus.  Maybe it’s for Bartimaeus.  Maybe Jesus asks the question to invite Bartimaeus to hear himself name his want, his need, his desire.  ‘My teacher, let me see again.’  

What’s radical here is not the answer Bartimaeus gives.  He was blind.  He wanted to see.  “Let me see again,” is the most sensible thing he could have said.  The radical thing that happens here is that a person who’d been living the life that had been assigned to him–the life of a beggar–now was being asked to choose the life he wanted to live.  

Which is exactly what today is about Ethan, Byron, and Gavin.  At your baptisms–or from the moment we met you–we and your parents covenanted together, with you, and with God to raise you into this faith of following Jesus until you could consciously choose whether or not to continue following the faith.  Today, you also are being asked–by Jesus, by the church, by this community of people who love you more than we can say–What do you want this faith to do for you?  Do you want to thank it for the nurture it has given you and then amicably part ways?  Or do you want to invite it to continue offering you guidance, comfort, community?  

When you make your commitments in a minute, the responses will be short:  “I do,” and “I promise with the help of God.”  When we hear your responses, though, we’ll know that a lot of work and reflection went into getting you to that point.  Lots of confirmation sessions with Andrew.  Lots of worship services attended.  Lots of conversations about what it means to be part of a community of Jesus’ followers.

When you speak those words, it will mark the end of one process–for us, the process of helping to nurture you into the faith of Jesus; for you, the process of allowing us to nurture you into the faith of Jesus.  When you speak those words, it will mark the end of one process.  It also  will mark a beginning….the beginning of a faith journey you have chosen for yourselves.

When Bartimaeus told Jesus he wanted to see, Jesus told him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately Bartimaeus regained his sight.  And then what happened?  Once Bartimaeus named what he wanted from Jesus, he followed Jesus on the way.

Byron, Gavin, Ethan, we are so freaking proud of you!  It has been pure joy to do what we could to love you and nurture you into this faith we’re all still trying to figure out.  We applaud the hard work you’ve done the last couple of years in Confirmation class mucking around in the nitty gritty innards of the faith.  

And though our relationship is shifting now from your mentors in the faith to fellow journeyers in the faith, here’s what we want you to know–we are still here for and with you.  We still love you more than we can say.  And we are and always will be SO FREAKING PROUD OF YOU!

In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness.  Amen.

Kimberleigh Buchanan  © 2021

Welcome.  Welcome to worship with First Congregational UCC, Asheville, North Carolina, on this Confirmation Sunday.  Confirmation is one of the highlights of any church year.  To this point, we have been doing our best to fulfill the covenant we made at their baptisms or since we met them:  we’ve been nurturing them into the Christian faith until the day when they could choose this path for their own.  After a long process of study and reflection, Ethan Park, Byron Park, and Gavin Wilder, are making their choice today.  What joy to be here for this event today.

Next Sunday we’ll celebrate another big day in the life of our church:  All Saints Sunday.  It’s the day we remember those who have died, celebrate their lives, and recall that they and we together form a great cloud of ancestors in faith and in life.  We’ll be creating a video montage with pictures of loved ones you send us.  If you’d like a photo of a loved one you’re remembering included in the video, please send it to Casey.

A key part of living the faith of Jesus is being part of a community.  Christian faith is not something we do alone.  Confirmation and All Saints Sunday remind us what a gift community is to us.  It is with joy and gratitude that we gather for worship today.

As we gather, let’s take a moment to breathe together and give ourselves a chance to arrive fully.  We breathe in God’s love…we breathe out God’s love…we breathe in…we breathe out…

Prayers.  God of confirmation, how grateful we are that you were there to hear our borning cries and that you are with us now that we are old.  Er.  We’re also grateful for the ways you have been with Byron, Ethan, and Gavin from their borning cries to this time when they are claiming the life of faith they are choosing for themselves.  We are so proud of them.  We know you are, too.  Our prayer today is that all three of these amazing young people will feel that pride and know we love them.  GM/HP

God of community, at baptisms, it is a joy to covenant with children and their families to help nurture those children into the faith.  Even as we celebrate Gavin, Ethan, and Byron’s confirmation, renew our commitment to continue nurturing the other children in our midst.  Help us in new and creative ways to demonstrate to the children in our midst what it means to follow Jesus.  GM/HP

About reallifepastor

I'm a pastor who's working out her faith...just like everyone else.
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