Clergy Letter - 

by The Rev'd Graham Smith


Dear Friends,

Every experience in life offers us a gem of insight. Sometimes it is the merest glimmer of a simple trinket; other times it offers the sparkle of a scintillating diamond.

Whilst in the Royal Navy I learned to fly for fun.  Flying is not for everyone but when one leaves a grey and overcast airfield to climb and break through the grey clouds to see, from above, they are white cotton-wool clouds on which the sun always shines in brilliant brightness, set against boundless blue.

It's magic reminding us that even if we cannot see it – the sun is always there.

C. S. Lewis expressed similarly illuminating sentiments when he said: "I believe in Christianity as I believe in the sun – not only because I see it but because by it I see everyone else."

In St Mark's story of blind Bartimaeus, Jesus, along with the multitudes, is on his way to Jerusalem. Most are making their way to attend the Passover but Jesus is heading for Jerusalem and for his Passion. Jericho is abuzz with Passover pilgrims. Jesus' disciples and those others drawn by his teaching and healing gifts, those anxious to be close to him, add to the hubbub that is pre-Passover Jericho.  As they cross the city heading for Jerusalem, by the city gate is blind Bartimaeus. That well-developed sense of sound and presence heightened in most blind people tells him that something is afoot. What's happening? Who is this surrounded by an eager crowd? "Jesus," he is told. Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus – and calls out even louder when bystanders remonstrate with him; he is determined not to miss this moment. Jesus hears him. He stops. Suddenly the hubbub becomes an oasis of calm. Is that really his name Jesus is calling? It is a wonderful moment.

Bartimaeus leapt up and answered Jesus' call. When Jesus asked him what he wanted Bartimaeus instantly answered: “My teacher, let me see again.” He wanted to see again – and his faith in Jesus was such that he knew this was possible. But why did he say "let me see again"? Had he once had his sight, but lost it? Had he earlier followed Jesus but then drifted away? Was Bartimaeus asking for recovery from spiritual blindness as well as physical blindness? Whatever the specific reason for his plea Mark makes clear Bartimaeus followed Jesus immediately "on the way". With Bartimaeus' very real faith, that clearly meant the way of true discipleship, and following Jesus to Jerusalem, to Gethsemane and to Calvary. Bartimaeus' faith and Jesus' call had allowed him truly to escape from his world of darkness, the darkness arising from eyes that do not see and a heart that is not yet wholly committed to Jesus.

I have been wondering are we, both as a church congregation and individually, like Bartimaeus – having once seen and known what is essential in our life but finding it now clouded and out of sight (perhaps even out of mind)? Are we ready to be persistent in calling out to Jesus? Are we, like Bartimaeus, ready to throw off the things that hinder us in responding to Jesus' call? Are we listening for his call? Are we as a church ready to move onwards or wait by the wayside as the diocese and church moves on without us? Have we Bartimaeus' faith, the faith to follow Jesus at all times, even to the cross and beyond, and not simply for those brief moments when it seems comfortable, important or beneficial to us?

Questions, questions – but as you and I tease out the answers to them the revealing example of Bartimaeus provides encouragement. To rephrase C. S. Lewis: ‘I believe in Christ as I believe in the sun – not only because I see him, but because by him I see everything else’ is to get affirmation that Bartimaeus' request to Jesus must be ours too: "Teacher, help us to see again". Just as Bartimaeus seized God's moment for growth and wholeness let us do likewise… and let us decide to let Jesus open our hearts and lives to a living personal and serving relationship with our living Lord, with each other and with our community. 

Your friend and neighbour,