Throw off Your Cloak and Follow

Preached on 25 October 2015 at St. Luke’s Memorial Episcopal Church, Tacoma, WA
Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 25, Year B

Has there ever been a time in your life when you found yourself at a doorway, a threshold?  You know that once you go through it, you can never go back.  You may be able to choose whether or not you go through, but often, life just happens and there we are on the other side.  I think we have all experienced some of those times; often as milestones in our lives.  Times like moving away from your parents for the first time – or your kids moving out.  They may come home again, but it will never be the same. Or it might be saying “I do.” Or leaving a job or starting a new one.  Sometimes it’s a matter of character; in the face of a difficult decision, making your choice based on the type of person you want to be.

For the blind son of Timaeus, who lives by begging, this was a threshold moment.

Here we are in Jericho – a town with a reputation for being rough.  And Bartimaeus is sitting by the road that heads out of town, begging, like he does day in and day out.  You’ve probably seen him many times.

But today is different.  There’s a huge commotion as a crowd passes by.  He’s heard the talk about Jesus.  It must be him.  This could change everything.  He seizes the moment.  “Jesus, Son of David,” he calls out, “have mercy on me.”  He uses a title for Jesus not used anywhere else in Mark’s gospel.  That alone should capture our attention, as well as Jesus’.  He’s loud and brash and he won’t be shushed.  In fact it makes him call out even louder.

Is it his persistence or calling him Son of David that catches Jesus’ attention?  He stops and tells those who are doing the shushing to call him here.

And what does he do?  He throws off his cloak, springs up, and gushes to his side.  Why does he throw off the cloak?  Won’t he need it?  If he’s blind, how will he find it again in the crowd?  Maybe he has faith that the will be able to see to find it again.  Maybe he wants to put aside anything that would get in his way or slow him down as he rushes to Jesus.  Maybe he senses that he is stepping across a threshold and there’s no going back; the cloak is part of the old life.

Then what does he do after his sight is restored?  Go back and pick up the cloak?  No he’s all in.  He follows Jesus.  He can’t go back to begging.  He doesn’t know what  comes next, but he follows.  The next thing he knows, Jesus will be entering Jerusalem on a donkey.  The threshold is crossed; it’s a new life.

Over the past few months, we’ve heard a lot about discipleship.  It’s one of the core themes in Mark’s gospel.  And the center, of course, is following:  following Jesus; following the Way.  We have heard Jesus say a lot of difficult things about what it means to be a disciple.  Bartimaeus had a choice.  He stood at the threshold and chose to step through; he chose to call out to Jesus, to ask for his sight to be restored.  He chose to follow Jesus.

Today is a threshold moment in our lives of discipleship.  It’s a threshold we will cross; we cannot choose otherwise.  For the past eight months, I have been blessed as we walked together in our discipleship – as we followed Jesus.  It has been a joy and an honor to laugh with you and mourn your losses with you; to worship and pray with you; to see you proclaim the gospel through your lives.

Today, we step through the doorway and our paths diverge.  We can’t go back.  You will have a new priest to accompany you on the way as you follow Jesus together.

What will you take with you?

Will you be “all in” right away, throwing aside your cloak and springing through the doorway?

Or will you keep it on as something comfortable and familiar in this newness?

Or maybe you’ll hang it on your finger, over your shoulder – just in case.

Whatever you do and however you do it, God bless you in your new journey of discipleship.

May the God of glory fill you with joy,
keep you in unity,
give you expectant hearts
and bring you strength from on high.  Amen.