“What do you want me to do for you?”
Fighting through the bush, aware, by their feet, of scorpions and snakes – aware at the sightline – the particular rustle of grass made by a saber tooth tiger, early humans made their way from fire to fire.

Building small towns with big walls, humans made their way from village to village, inn to inn, hut to hut – trying to find a fire – people, food, connection.

In time, huge cathedrals and temples were built and fire took its place in liturgies like the great fire of our Easter Vigil.

It was by the fire that stories were told.  It was by the fire that midwives positioned screaming mothers.  It was by the fire that people gathered to find safety from the dark and comfort from the cold and the lonely.  And by the middle ages, the census was taken not by counting people, but by counting hearths.

The first word from which we get the modern word “heart” was “ker.” It was Gaelic and could be translated as either “heart” or “fire.”  We get the word curmudgeon from the same Gaelic root – curmudgeon means “evil-heart.”

The kind-hearted and the curmudgeons take their place on the stage today in our gospel just as they play out their lives as we pledge.

Fire and fear.  They seem to tell the human story.

When we find the fire in the darkness and cold of our fears, we can see again.  And as we gather, we tell our stories of the various roads – where they lead, what is in the woods by them, what meaning we are making from our travelled roads.

For centuries we humans have made our way to fires. At the fire we sit shoulder-to-shoulder, backs to the darkness, faces to flames, faithful dogs circling in a contract of scraps for warnings.  And at the fire, for 100,000 years we gather and say “What’s out there?” Ghosts, goblins, curmudgeons – evil-hearts.

And soon we began to ask “What does it all mean?” and religion was born.  We are meaning-makers. We seek light to keep fear at bay. And even in these modern times we celebrate curmudgeons, evil-hearts on Halloween – trick or treat- the turning of All Saints – the celebration of what our Celtic forbearers called “Aingeal ghra” or “Angels of brightfire”.

The whole arc of the gospel of Mark these last two little chapters has been the fire of Jesus trying to light the way – and the ice of the followers blindnesses:

¬    He feeds thousands and all they see is food-maker
¬    He predicts his death
¬    He transfigures white as fire-light
¬    He predicts his death
¬    He asks questions about mission
¬    He himself is blind to the rich young ruler until looking, in         stillness – he finally sees him
¬    He predicts his death
¬    James and John make a run for status – this miracle magician can get them the resume they have always wanted – lust for marketable jobs, career trajectories, money, power, safety, a house with a hearth. Priest, Canon, Dean, Bishop, Archbishop – black, then crimson, then purple.

And now Blind Bartemeus…
Jesus has already healed a blind man. This story is not about sight.  It is about call.

And it is about who is at Jesus’ left and right – but at the cross, not at the royal court throne.

Do you notice that Jesus asks Blind Bartemeus the exact same question spoken only eight verses previous, when James and John want social and professional prestige:

“What do you want me to do for you?”

“Teacher, let me see again.”

Unlike the healings of Jesus and the Rich man, Jesus tells Bartemeus to “go” rather than to follow.  But Bartemeus follows.  He begins on the side of the road and ends following on the road.  Not the road to glory.  The road to the cross and mission.

The pledge campaign is almost over.  So far 250 of our 1,200 members have pledged. And we fight onward – 24 days to go – 950 members to go.  Nothing is left undone to try to incline pledging here.

We began talking about pledging in May, did an advance campaign un June, launched with seeded cards and bee-made honey, sent a warm up letter, preached truth-telling sermons, sent brochures, reminder letters, visits, phone calls.

All we can do now is wait and see.  See.
¬    See if our congregation is by the road or on the road.
¬    See if we are bystanders or all-in.
¬    See if being part of this cathedral is about glamor or beauty.
¬    See if our membership sees what God has given them and makes powerful pledges;  or if blindness inclines them to attempt to tip God – pay for an hour an fifteen minutes of pomp a week, — buy a subscription– or invest in a new day of powerful mission in Denver.

Like Jesus in today’s Gospel, we stand still.  We wait.

On Wednesday, November 18th we will gather in this nave by candle-light – fire.  We will eat heart-warming risotto – gathering to tell our stories and dance a bit.

Jesus is the light of the world. This campaign is not about money. All of us clergy  can find other jobs.  This campaign is about blindness and sight, curmudgeon and ker, ice and fire, forests and campfires, prisons and cathedrals, investments and tips, fundraising or stewardship, watching or following, roadside-sitting or way-making.

Gather round the fire of this altar.  Hear the story of the man-God and His call to mission and be the angels of light you are called to be.  The scrooge-curmudgeons will tight-fist their coins.  But not you.  After two years we clergy know you.  We love you.  We do not want your money.  We want your sight.  The pledges are just along for the ride.

Letters and brochures will not raise money here.  Only sight will do that job.

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