Sunday, November 11: 10:00 a.m.

Pentecost 23, Proper 25B 10-28-18                                               St. John’s Church

Rev’d Jennifer Phillips                                  Jer.31:7-9;Heb.7:23-28;Mk.10:46-52

For some people John 3:16 is the one piece of Scripture they can’t live without, but let me confess to you that this phrase from the letter to the Hebrews is just about my favorite in the Bible: “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office…”. A lot were needed since they kept on dying. How inconvenient! Think about it. I take comfort that some day I, too, shall be prevented by death (or some other cause) from continuing in office, and you might take some comfort in it, as well. In this mortal life we all come to the end. Others take over. The screw-ups and the aces, the ones who are just good enough - all of us die off. The author of the phrase apparently wanted to draw a sharp comparison between all these fleeting mortal priests and their work, and the eternal once-for-all work of Jesus Christ as ‘the Great High Priest’. Point taken. But I’d like to move this in another direction today.

We clergy are given certain authority by virtue of our ordination to serve in the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. Among other things, we are responsible for making sure worship happens in our churches and that it follows the traditions and rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, the canons and constitution of our denomination, and the authorizing legislation passed by our General Conventions and overseen by our Bishops to whom we are answerable. As Anglicanism developed and diverged from Roman Catholicism in some of its understandings of God and the Church, there was an intentional decision that Anglican priests not be allowed to celebrate private Masses - that is with no congregation attending. Unlike those Churches where a priest must say Mass every day even if no one else is around, for us Episcopalians there must always be at least one congregant listening and offering responses if a Communion Service is to be performed. Liturgy is not about what the clergy do, it is about the prayer of the people of God as they encounter Christ together, and it would be entirely too easy and comfortable for some clergy to conduct church all by themselves. But no - that defeats the whole purpose, and would be good for no one, not even those priests.

So you, sisters and brothers, are indispensable; you are the heart of worship and of making Eucharist, offering thanksgiving to God as the Church. You are its celebrants. Anything I do here, any words I say as your officiant priest, I do on behalf of you and in order to facilitate the prayers of you all and of our whole Church. So the authority for our common prayer resides mainly upon you. That’s why your Amen at the close of the Great Thanksgiving is so important - signifying “so say all of us!”. After all, any one of us, and each one of us eventually, will be prevented by death from continuing our work down here, but the community of Christ goes on, with its ever new members in its many places. The authority for the Church’s life of prayer is shared. Hebrews points out delicately, the establishment appoints as priests those who are subject to weakness. So we need one another's collaboration in work and prayer.

At worship when no reader has appeared as scheduled for the day, I love it that lots of you are prepared to leap up to the lectern and read the lection. Indeed anyone here - seeing no one else standing up to read, or to lead intercessions, or to administer the chalice, to light or put out the candles, or help set the table or bring up the gifts at the offertory - is empowered to do those things. And should I be abducted by Martians on my way to church on Sunday morning, any member of this church should stand ready to rise up and lead a service of Morning Prayer following the Prayerbook, or if you encounter an absolute emergency out in the world, to baptize someone desiring to be a Christian before they die with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Any of you may lay on hands and pray for healing for one who is sick and desires prayers. Any of you may read the prayers for a dying person at a bedside or hear the confession of sin from another and offer the words of absolution in the form they are given for the faithful to use with one another - you'll find it in the service of Compline in the Book of Common Prayer. Any of you can, and indeed should, pray those daily offices from the Prayer Book yourself - they belong to you, not to a group of monks or clergy somewhere to pray in your stead. If the clergy are priests for the people of God, the people of God are priests on behalf of the world. Priestly work, this is, “daily lifting life heavenward” in prayer separately and together on behalf of all.

In light of all this- hear the Gospel story from Mark today as a parable of this shared authority. Jesus, the disciples, and a street-filling crowd are leaving Jericho. Evidently Jesus didn’t stay long in that town which was the Foxwoods or Las Vegas of its day. We hear: “Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho; and as they were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus …was sitting by the roadside.” Not even a breath between the arrival and the departure, and this was no one-intersection village! Now you see him now you don’t. And it was a blind man by the road who figures out Jesus is close by and hollers out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” --in other words, “Wait a second!

 “Many sternly ordered Bartimaeus to shut up.” Who, exactly, were these many? Disciples anxious to be on their way and gone from the den of iniquity? Townspeople who would just as soon the preacher of repentance moved away speedily from the doors of their casino? But the guy yells louder - and clearly he knows who he is calling to. Jesus stops in his tracks and tells others to “Call him here.” Interesting, isn’t it. Jesus doesn’t walk over to the blind man just across the road through the crowd. Why not? He gives the bystanders a task. The message is relayed as a word of hope to them and to the blind man: “Take heart. Get up.” says Jesus. We, Mark’s Christian audience, recognize the extra layer of meaning. “Take heart,” Jesus says it often when people are discouraged - that little phrase often inscribed on Greek tombstones as a message to passers-by saying: “Buck up, after all, I may be dead, but you’re still alive. Where there’s life there’s hope.”  As well as, "Don't mope; I am resurrected as you also shall be." Get up, the people around Bartimaeus  say to him. And - different word - he “sprang up”, he resurrected. he threw off his cloak (maybe his only clothing as a poor man. He is like Lazarus throwing off his shroud when his friends unbind him outside the tomb. Bartimaeus comes to Jesus naked, like one seeking baptism at the font in the early Church.


"What do you want me to do for you?" asks Jesus (as we ask an adult presenting themself for baptism) - for Bartimaeus must claim his agency and his desire if his life is to change. “My teacher, let me see again,” begs Bartimaeus when asked what his desire is, or-one may even better translate - “Let me see things above, heavenly things.”  At once he ‘saw again”, or - says the Greek- he “looked up” and followed Jesus on the way --and of course, things looked up for him with his eyes on the Master!

In this drama, notice how the man who senses Jesus near and knows who he is though he cannot see him, will not be hushed up, put off or passed by. He cries out for Christ’s attention, repeatedly. He gets up from his seat and following the sound of Jesus’ voice makes his way toward him. He speaks from his heart about what he most desires. He presents himself disclosed, undefended, looking up to the divine one and follows his Master in the way.

The Institute of Contemplative Living website offers this piece of history:

Ancient “contemplatives took the same word to mean "to see above" "to gaze at what is above one's self," that is to contemplate.  So contemplatives entered this text as a challenge, not simply to see with the physical eyes, but to see with the spiritual eyes looking above the material world to the spiritual world.  What Bartimaeus was really asking for was the contemplative's capacity to see God with eyes trained to look beneath the surface or above the appearances. Bartimaeus was the insipient contemplative.  He intuited a way of seeing that healed his inability to see, and he demanded it despite the warnings and threats of the people around him.  He was insistent that he wanted to "see above" "to gaze upward" to the presence of God in a new way, a way that healed his blindness about God and enabled him to "see again" the divine presence in his midst.  The ancient contemplatives loved this story.”

And so for us Christians, Mark wants us to realize. We should want and call to, listen for, leap up for and follow Jesus Christ in this way - urgently, hopefully, eagerly, unsquelchably, enthusiastically. This is what we should wish to communicate in the way we pray together, in our worship: how great is our need of God and God’s healing attention; how much we will give up or throw off in order to follow; how naked and unhidden we will let ourselves be to God; how trust makes us whole and helps us look up to see our salvation; how we are resurrected already by standing up to go after Jesus on the path taking up our authority. This, as we say, it is a right, good, and joyful thing for all of us  to do! “Then is our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy. Then -if we worship, if we live this way- others will say, ‘Look, the Lord has done great things for them!’

The Lord has done great things for us and we are glad indeed!”



WEEKLY SCHEDULE                          

Sunday Worship: 10:00  a.m. 
Wednesday Eucharist: 10:15 a.m 

This is St. John's Episcopal Church... please click on photo below to see more photos of church life!

This is St. John's Episcopal Church, Westwood MA

Want to check on the readings for a particular Sunday or other day?  Click below to go to the Lectionary page...  all readings available for 2018:

Rev. Dr. Jennifer M. Phillips
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Jennifer joins us at the Norwood Sports Center for bowling with members of Ecclesia Ministries.

Sunday, November 11, 10:00 a.m.:

Holy Eucharist
K- 5 and High School classes meet

Monday, November 12, 3:45 - 7:00 p.m.: St. John's serves dinner at Oasis, Old West Church, Boston. Thank you to all our chicken cooks and servers!

Tuesday, November 13, 7:00 - 8:15 p.m.Bible Study at the Rectory, followed by Celtic style Compline service at 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, November 14, 10:15 a.m.: Holy Eucharist

Wednesday, November 14, 10:15 a.m.: Holy Eucharist​ 

Looking Ahead:

Sunday, November 18, 10:00 a.m.:
Holy Eucharist 
K-5 and Middle School classes meet
5:00 - 6:00 p.m.:Confirmation Class in the Youth Room

Tuesday morning, November 20:
St. John's will deliver 45 turkeys and plenty of clementines to the elders  at the Center for Life in Mattapan. Below is last year's crew of volunteers. (As you can see, babies are welcome!)

Small frozen turkeys (10-12 lbs) are now on sale at all the major super markets, so please purchase one if you can and put it your freezer! To get to 45 takes some doing... the more families that can purchase one, the easier it is! Please contact Emily if you can buy a turkey and/or help deliver on 11/20: emilysugg30@gmail.com.  This is a wonderful St. John's tradition of giving that is greatly appreciated!

Christian Discipleship in Action via St. John’s

Come join in:

Oasis Ministrieswe cook and serve a monthly hot chicken dinner to about 100 homeless neighbors in downtown Boston on 2nd Mondays.

Ecclesia outreachwe invite homeless and poor neighbors from Boston to Hale Reservation for a summer picnic and for a Spring bowling afternoon in Norwood.

Tutoring after-school reading and homework help for city children at Church of the Holy Spirit, Mattapan on Tuesday afternoons.

Pantry support for the Westwood Food Pantry and the Center for Life elderly housing complex in Mattapan – bring non-perishable groceries to church year round.

Habitat for Humanity home buildcoming soon, a St. John’s team to help build an affordable home in Westwood.

Prayer Shawlsknitting group prayerfully makes shawls for people facing illness or crisis.

Urban Promise Honduras missioners from St. John’s & CHS travel to learn and work with children at a school in Copan every few years.

Boston B-SAFE summer program our team works during a July week each year to provide meals and a field trip & picnic for this large city children’s program.

Eucharistic Visiting members are trained and take the Sacrament, offer healing prayer, and make friendly visits to people who are homebound, in hospital, or other institutional settings.

Speak to Rev. Jennifer if you’d like to put your discipleship to work in one or more of these parish ministries!