Second Chances

Sermon for Sunday, October 24, 2021 || Proper 25B || Mark 10:46-52

The Gospel passage I just read is one of my favorites. I know I say that a lot, but it’s always true. I guess I have a lot of favorite passages. I have a special connection to the story of Bartimaeus, as this passage was the subject of my first big paper in my New Testament class in seminary, circa December 2005. I wrote all about the actions that Bartimaeus does, and the paper became the basis for the first sermon I preached on this story back in 2012. Then in 2015, I took the ideas in that sermon and preached from Bartimaeus’s perspective. Then in 2018, I took the conclusion of my thoughts as Bartimaeus a step further and preached about his request to Jesus: “Let me see again” (with “again” being the operative word).

So it seems that every three years, I have added something new to my sermon about Bartimaeus. It’s like when the original Star Wars trilogy came out in 1977, 1980, and 1983. Every three years, we encounter Bartimaeus again; each time, he says to Jesus, “My teacher, let me see again.” And again, we get the opportunity to talk about mercy. Mercy is all about second chances. Mercy is all about “again.”

And that brings us to today, the 2021 version of the sermon about Bartimaeus. And like always, we need to be reminded that our God is a God of second chances. The biblical witness confirms this facet of God’s identity. 

  • When Joseph the Dreamer annoys his brothers so much that they sell him into slavery, Joseph finds himself elevated to a position of power in Egypt and he saves the people from famine. Joseph gets a second chance, and so do his brothers when they come begging for food.
  • When Ruth’s husband dies in Moab, Ruth binds herself to her mother-in-law Naomi and comes as an immigrant to Israel. There she meets Boaz and marries him and a few generations later, King David is born. Through her faithfulness, Ruth gets a second chance.
  • When the people of Israel are taken into exile, God calls them back and reaffirms God’s promise to be with them always as their God. Israel gets a second chance.
  • When Simon Peter denies Jesus three times, Jesus gives Peter a second chance to identify as one of Jesus’ followers when he asks Peter three times if Peter loves him.

None of us follows Jesus perfectly. None of us does everything right. None of us get it right the first time. And so we cry out to our merciful God, and our merciful God gives us another chance. Mercy is our second chance. And when God gives us so many second chances that we lose count, that’s called grace.

Since I’ve preached a version of this sermon twice before, I thought today I’d come at it from a different learning style and different genre. This week, I wrote a song about Bartimaeus. I’d like to share it with you now as a way to help the reality of God’s mercy sink in. Remember, our God is the God of second chances. So, in whatever ways you think you have fallen short, please take to heart that God is not finished with you yet.

This is “Bartimaeus (Second Chances).” (Download the live version here.)

When I look past suffering, let me see again.
When I have no offering, let me serve again.
When despair blinds my eyes, let me hope again.
When my ears hear no cries, let me love again.

Son of David, have mercy on me.
Son of David, have mercy on me now (‘cause I know)

Mercy’s all about second chances.
See how the sunlight dances,
And every glance entrances
No matter the circumstances.
I can see today;

Help me see again tomorrow.
Whatever the pain and sorrow,
Don’t let me turn away,
Don’t let me turn away.
Everyday, I will pray:
Lord… let me see again.

When the path is unclear, let me see again.
When my heart is full of fear, let me pray again.
When my faith disappears, let me breathe again.
When I die, hold me near, let me live again.

Son of David, have mercy on me.
Son of David, have mercy on me now (‘cause I know)
Mercy’s all about second chances.

Photo by Jacek Ulinski on Unsplash.

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Season 4, Episode 5
“A Million Alien Gospels”

The Podcast for Nerdy Christians, where faith meets fandom. This episode, we’re imagining all the beings that could exist on other planets and how knowledge of them would shape our faith. We’ll also tackle some chapters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

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