Bartimaeus has his spot on the side of the road.He sits in the same place, day after day, year after year.People know it’s him. He’s no surprise. He’s there every day, all the time. After awhile, few even notice him anymore.He’s just there. Not going anywhere.He’s sitting in his spot, covered by his blanket, when the large crowd comes.He’s even more invisible, but he calls out and his voice just gets added to the noise.
In the center of that crowd, in the midst of all that noise,somehow, Jesus notices him: the invisible, unremarkable Bartimaeus.Do you ever wonder how God hears a billion prayers at once?The longing, the reaching out, the voice, of every creature on the Earth all at the same time?If you’ve ever thought about that, do you ever wonder if your prayer is heard?“Take heart; get up, he is calling you” they said to Bartimaeus.I pray you hear these words of good newsfor yourself today.“Take heart” “God is calling you.” You are noticed. You are seen and heard.
Being noticed is a gift, isn’t it.It’s grace.It means we aren’t just lost in a crowd.The good news isour loving God in Christ Jesus notices, hears, sees – and responds to us.It’s a mystery. It’s a wonder.It should be impossible to imagine.But such is love.And God is love.
The miracle of being heard among a billion voicesmakes me think of that amazing documentary “The March of the Penguins.”Scenes of thousands of penguins crowded together in the Antarctic,the males shielding their babies from incredible storms,waiting for the females to return from the ocean where they’ve marched for miles to find food.And when the mothers return, each can somehow distinguish their own chick’s voice in that cacophony of sound and wind;calling out to them until they are reunited.It’s a wonder to me. A mystery. Impossible to imagine. But such is love.
In the cacophony of that moment, Jesus stands still, notices Bartimaeus and loves him. Noticing the un-noticed is also the Way of Jesus, in the gospel of Mark.Noticing the obscure, the every day, the taken for granted.Noticing is I think, also an important part of Jesus’ Way.
Part of my weekly routine is driving the kids to school, and lessons, and practices.They’re in two different schools this year.And every morning the kids notice things: how many dogs can you count, how many Teslas.Every morning we make the turn, and drive by Liberty Park.We notice how many tents there are.We notice when the police, and the health department respond.We notice when the tents are gone for awhile, and when they come back again.We notice, and we wonder why things are the way they are.And we wonder what we can do, what our community can do, to help when it’s needed.
We may wonder if our un-housed neighbors in our city are being noticed.In the last mayoral campaign a couple years back, I heard each of the candidates speak to a group of us gathered by the Coalition of Religious Communities at the Episcopal Diocese.Back then Erin Mendenhall had a lot of good ideas for responding to the needs of our un-housed citizens. She’d clearly thought about this for a long time. I was very impressed by her experience and knowledge. Then at a different meeting, Sen.JakeAnderegg of South Jordan told us that it would take $5 billion to provide affordable housing to everyone that needs it in Utah.I have thoughts of my own about what religious institution in Utah could possibly co-sponsor such an effort. But hell might need to freeze over first!
Last week, Mayor Mendenhall outlined a long-term plan for allocating federal funds from the American Rescue Act for a multi-faceted response by our City to the Bartimaeus on our streets, an approach I notice,that is social-service, not law enforcement led.Her plan involves the creation of Rapid Intervention Teams to do homeless outreach and create short-term emergency shelters, creating a City Park Ranger department as Denver has done with success, purchasing land for affordable housing development, and planting neighborhood-based vocational training centers (see https://horizonte.slcschools.org/
I think responding to the needs of our un-housed neighbors like Bartimaeus, takes this kind of centralized approach. As part of the Coalition of Religious Communities, Mount Tabor can advocate for the Mayor’s plan that I think represents the foundation of a long-term solution.I have reached out to the Mayor’s office with support, and I encourage you to think about doing that as well for the sake of the un-noticed on the side of the road.
Because being noticed is a gift.It’s grace.We ourselves aren’t just lost in a crowd.Our loving God sees, and responds to us.It’s a mystery. But such is love. And God is love. –Pr. David