The video above includes the full service, except for the time for sharing.
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Order of Worship | Repent. Repair. | Palm Sunday
We acknowledge we are gathering on land where Miami, Osage, Shawnee, and other Indigenous peoples have lived and labored, fought, and loved. We continue to work and pray for justice and conciliation.
Call to Worship
VT 79 | Sanna, sannanina | Laurelville Music and Worship Leaders Retreat
VT 313 | Hosanna, Loud Hosanna | Julie and Phil Hart, Fred and Marlene Suter, vocal ensemble
Reparations: An ongoing conversation
Offering/Dedication Prayer https://www.columbusmennonite.org/donateget-involved/donate
Offertory | God calls us to be followers | Music composed by Phil Hart. Piano arrangement by Tom Blosser. Performed by Tom Blosser, piano; Phil Hart, vocals and pennywhistle.
VT 651 | Lord, Have Mercy | Conrad Grebel University Choir
Scripture | Mark 10:46 - 11:11
Sermon | I can't see -- Manuscript below
Sharing of Joys and Concerns
Passing the Peace
Extinguishing the Peace Candle
Christian Education | 11:00 am
Thanks to everyone who helped lead today’s service
Sermon: Joel Miller
Worship Leader: Robin Walton
Music coordination: Phil Hart
Peace Candle: Ila Miller
Children’s Time: Elisa Leahy
Reparations Reflection: Wilbur Miller
Scripture Reading: Verdene Thompson, Patti Browning
Zoom Host: Sarah Werner
Sermon Manuscript | I can't see
Our arrival at the final Sunday of Lent coincides with Jesus’ arrival at the outskirts of Jerusalem. The symbolic 40 days of Lent, mirroring Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, now converge with the real time drama of Holy Week.
Our journey, this year, has asked us to consider how repentance and repair are related. We as a congregation are considering what it might look like to enact repair for the legacy of White supremacy.
It would be possible to imagine repair only as something we decide to do for others. One of the consistent threads of conversation in our reparations committee has been how much deeper this goes than that. I think we’ve been referring to it as soul work. As in, our own souls. Which brings it around to the question of what kind of repair might be happening within us?
This seems to be a very similar question on the mind of the gospel writers as they lead into Palm Sunday and the confrontational and contested final days of Jesus’ life.
As Mark tells it, and as Matthew and Luke adopt in their own way, just before he gets to Jerusalem and the events of Holy Week, Jesus passes through Jericho. This was a common route for pilgrims. Once you hit Jericho, it’s only 20 miles to go to the holy city. As Jesus and his little caravan are leaving Jericho – as Jesus is rounding this final turn and facing everything that awaits him in Jerusalem, there on the side of the road is a blind beggar. Bartimaeus.
Bartimaeus can’t see. And because he can’t see, and because there are no accommodations for those with this physical disability, he can’t provide for himself, and because he can’t provide for himself, he is dependent on others to give him what he needs to sustain himself. He’s a beggar.
Bartimaeus has heard of this Jesus of Nazareth, this fellow from the countryside up north, who supposedly heals the sick and casts out demons. Bartimaeus has nothing to lose. So he starts shouting: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Mark writes: “Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Jesus stops walking. “Jesus stood still,” that’s what Mark writes. That means Jesus has paused his march to Jerusalem. He calls for Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus throws off his cloak, springs up, and comes to Jesus. There he is, right in front of Jesus, with Jesus’ full attention focused right on him. “What do you want me do for you?” Jesus asks. Bartimaeus replies, “My teacher, let me see again.” To which Jesus replies: “Go, your faith has made you well.” Bartimaeus immediately regains his sight, and follows Jesus on the way. On the way to Jerusalem.
Song: O Lord have mercy
In the fall of 2015 I attended an event on the near east side of Columbus hosted by St. Philip Episcopal Church. The event was called “Faith after #Ferguson.” Just a little over a year before, Michael Brown had been shot and left for dead in the middle of the street in Ferguson, Missouri. That same year Eric Garner and Tamir Rice had died at the hands of police. 2015 had already included the deaths of Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland, and the racial terror murders of 9 churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. The phrases Black Lives Matter and I Can’t Breathe were emerging as rallying cries.
This event included a panel of Black Columbus faith leaders who spoke of their own experiences and those of their community.
I don’t remember many details of what was said…we never do, do we? But I do remember the blip of a thought in my head I had never thought before. As these pastors were talking about the insidious power racism has played in their communities, there under the A-frame beams of that sanctuary, I had the first inklings of a thought that perhaps, perhaps, the most formative aspect and defining characteristic of my life had not been that I was a Mennonite Christian committed to peacefulness and the dignity of all people, but that I was a White person in America who had been protected from violence and afforded an assumed innocence that helped me feel dignified simply because that’s how Whiteness works.
And as I sat there with this new idea, as those pastors kept delivering their unfiltered commentary, the feeling that came over me was not one of guilt. I didn’t feel guilty for the protections afforded me but not those pastors, not Michael Brown, not Sandra Bland, not brown immigrants and not Asian Americans who have been in the country for generations but are still seen as the perpetual foreigner.
I didn’t feel guilty. I felt angry. I felt cheated. I felt upset that I, then a person in my late 30’s, had been duped my whole life up to this point by the veil of Whiteness - This 17th century American invention, a social technology, designed at that time to put poor people of European descent in solidarity with wealthy planters rather than other poor folks - Indigenous or African. That then took on this life of its own writing the rules to a game none of us asked to play. A rigged game that has been going ever since.
And I had not seen it. I was blind - utterly incapable of seeing how White supremacy is designed to work. This had been Whiteness’s primary detrimental effect on me that I had not seen up to this point.
And I can be kind of a competitive person, so imagine realizing for the first time that you had been losing to a force you didn’t even know was there - this spiritual/ethical life you had worked to shape, was happening within this hierarchical edifice that undermined everything you were pretty sure you believed in. I was upset at Whiteness for inflicting me with a spiritual disability that had left me on the side of the road.
In his commentary on Mark, Ched Myers claims that the Bartimaeus story is the premier discipleship story. The way Mark positions it in the gospel, the way seeing and not seeing are spoke of throughout the gospel in connection with the disciples. The way Jesus’ encounter with Bartimaeus sets up the events of Holy Week.
For those under the chokehold of racialized America, the shout for liberation is “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” For those granted the birthright of Whiteness, with the dawning realization of how their lives have been molded by a hierarchy of power and assumed innocence, the shout for liberation is “I can’t see. I can’t see.”
In other words, White folks in America are Bartimaeus, and the work of repair is not just us blindly sharing our resources and power with those who have been robbed of it. The work of repair is also realizing that we have been blind and spiritually impoverished. The work of repair is calling out to Jesus “Have mercy of me. Teacher, let me see again,” so we can finally get up from the side of the road, and follow Jesus on the way.
Song: Oh Lord have mercy
With the granting of sight to Bartimaeus, and other disciples’ continued inability to see, the events of Holy Week take on a new meaning, and sense of urgency. Everything Jesus does, from the peaceful parading of the colt into Jerusalem as an inversion of Roman hierarchy, to his exorcism of the temple precincts when he casts out those profiteering off the religious obligations of the poor, to his increasingly tense verbal confrontations with the religious authorities content with the status quo, to his lament of the widow who gives away her last pennies to the temple treasury, to his apocalyptic proclamation that no stone shall be left upon another, the whole edifice will come crashing down, to his refusal to publicly shame the woman who anoints his head with costly oil, to his final meal with his beloved companions when he says this wine and this bread, this is me. Eat and drink, if you dare, and become me. My blood, your blood. My body, your body. To his arrest and pho-trial where he is deemed too dangerous to live. To his crucifixion where he makes visible, for anyone who had any doubts, the terrorizing violence on which this peace of the empire is based….
After all this, the question for the disciples, past and present is: Now can you see?
As with Bartimaeus, seeing springs from the gift of faith - faith that there is something to be seen that we have not yet seen. “Your faith has made you well” That in seeing we might come out from under the spell of a hierarchy that celebrates the war horse but not the peaceful colt. To see that we have been duped by the demonic. To see that although we have been possessed by it, we need not be defined by it. To see that we need not serve these gods who promise peace and security, all the while selectively arresting those deemed a threat and crucifying the innocent.
Repent. Repair. Deliverance from evil. Salvation.
The offer is for everyone who can’t breathe. Everyone who can’t see.
Guilt and blame were often associated with blindness in biblical times, but Jesus never puts that on anyone. Instead, he enables those who willingly enter into the territory known as faith, to see what they could previously not see.
For Bartimeaus we’re told it happens immediately. Well, good for him. For us…it’s a life’s work and constant openness to grace. It’s soul work.
And once we can see enough to at least get our bearings, we don’t have to have a complete plan for what we’ll do next. Jesus is on the road, on the way, and we can join his caravan, join the Jesus parade, wherever it might take us.