Based on: Mark 10:46-52
By Rev. Kris Russell
The tale of blind Bartimaeus is one of my favorite gospel stories because it was the scripture chosen for my sermon final in online seminary. I have a very soft spot in my heart for this beautiful story of regaining sight and following Jesus. Let’s look at some of the themes in this short passage and tie them into today’s other celebration, Reformation Sunday.
Today we sang A Mighty Fortress is Our God, kind of the Reformation theme song. Written by Martin Luther himself, the song has been the protestant hymn of note almost since it started there in Wittenberg.
Before we get into today’s scripture let’s remind ourselves of some of the facts of the reformation. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses (a long argument against indulgences, a money making practice of the catholic church)to the door of a cathedral in Wittenberg. Last year was the 500th anniversary of this act and therefore the protestant reformation. Protestants are the original protesters, their name taken from their stance of protesting questionable practices in the reigning church of the day, namely the Roman Catholic church.
Here follows some interesting facts about our 501st birthday! I got most of these facts from the seedbed website.
Bartimeus was the only person healed that we know followed Jesus after his miracle. The text tells us what happened after the encounter with Jesus, “Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way”. Followed him down the road. What a grand way to respond to Jesus’ love. Would that we would all respond to love in this way. Perhaps if we tried some protest power and looked at things through the lens of Christ we would be up for more and more love in our lives. Too often we play small with Christ’s love whether for ourselves or interacting with others. There is plenty of love in the world and plenty of those who need the love. As the internet meme states it so well, it’s not pie, there’s enough to go around. All it takes is a shift in vision.
Before we talk about this shift in closing let’s look at Bartimeus’s story just a bit more. As I stated above, Bartimeus is the only chronicled person following Jesus after a healing. Bartimeus followed Jesus on “the way”. Here is what Gordon Lathrop in his work Holy Ground has to say about the way; “Participation in this way seems to invite us to a different sort of cosmology, a different view of the constitution of the universe and a correspondingly different estimate of the good life.”
What is this but a new way of seeing?
Bartimeus demands Jesus attention. He shouts at Jesus, to get his attention and is told to quiet down. He shouts all the louder until Jesus notices him and tells them to bring Bartimeus to him. Bartimeus calls Jesus the “son of David”. This is the only place in the gospels where Jesus is referred to this way. This royal designation gives some hint of Jesus status but all that is unknown in 1st century Palestine. All Bartimeus knows is this rabbi, who smells of hard work and long travel is known for miracles. Bartimeus wants his miracle and demands it.
Jesus asks Bartimeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimeus answers that he wants his sight restored. Jesus does just that and immediately Bartimeus follows him on the way. Jesus tells Bartimeus to “go, your faith has made you whole.” He doesn’t call him to follow, he just sets him free of his condition. He is free to go anywhere he wants without someone to lead him along. He is free to do whatever he wants and he follows Jesus. It is of no minor significance that the very next item in the gospel of Mark is the entry into Jerusalem and the commencement of that final, terrible, brutal, wonderful week. Did Bartimeus know what he was getting into? Did he know his new sight would witness violence and miracles? Probably not. He knew that he didn’t need to feel his way through life anymore and that he wouldn’t have to be a beggar to get by.
Jesus asks each one of us, “what do you want me to do for you?” Jesus expects us to demand our miracle and to follow him in gratitude, even to the depths of the Jerusalem journey and finally to the empty tomb. When Jesus asks us what we want him to do for us, let’s reply that we want to see differently. We want to have our spiritual vision restored so we can throw off our cloak of blindness and have beauty and kingdom love revealed to us.
What would happen if we committed to seeing differently today? Am I brave enough to ask to have my eyes opened? The eyes of my heart? What will I see? Will I see the world differently? Will I see the marginalized differently? Will I see my graces and gifts differently? I certainly hope so because I get caught up in my worldly way of seeing and miss the magic and miracles happening all around me. Sometimes it’s caused by organic issues with depression and anxiety but mostly it’s caused by my attitude, my way of working and seeing in the world.
When I get to a place where I am begging for crumbs, I shout at Jesus and he always calls me to him and restores my vision. Sometimes it’s not what I want to see but it always, always results in blessing and healing. Sometimes I have to look outward, at the world and those who need my help and sometimes, and even more difficult at times, I have to look inward and determine, with the help of the Holy Spirit what I’m avoiding or deliberately not seeing. Jesus the healer, passes by and that radical rabbi always bids me to look again.
There’s an old saying that you can’t see the forest for the trees and that is what I often do. I let myself get blinded by busyness and minutiae and I forget what I’m here for. I can’t see the world for my selfish blindness and live as a beggar for a time. Throw off your cloak, shout to Jesus, run to him even if you stumble. Our miracle is at hand, our kingdom love is there for the asking. Jesus will always reach out and restore your seeing. Look up, see Jesus, see the world in a different way and follow him down the road.
Credit: The Skit Guys - Dan Stevers
Based on : Psalm 130; Mark 5:21-43
By Gordon Barbosa, Lay Leader
Psalm 130 begins, "I cry out to you from the depths, LORD— my Lord, listen to my voice! Let your ears pay close attention to my request for mercy! If you kept track of sins, LORD— my Lord, who would stand a chance? But forgiveness is with you— that’s why you are honored. I hope, LORD. My whole being hopes, and I wait for God’s promise. My whole being waits for my Lord— more than the night watch waits for morning; yes, more than the night watch waits for morning!
Have you ever felt like the author of this Psalm? Like the pressures and stress of the world; all of your regrets and mistakes in life; are just pushing you down to a point where you have absolutely nothing left for you to do except hope that God will reach down and pull you out of the depths of your despair? I imagine at some point in our lives, we’ve all felt this way. It is believed that David, the most admired King of Israel, wrote many of the Psalms. I can see him writing this one….
Our scriptures remind us about some of the trials and tribulations that David went through – the battle with Goliath; being hunted by King Saul – the first king of Israel; his adultery with Bathsheba and plotting the murder of her husband. His son, Absalom, turning against him and nearly taking over the kingdom until he is killed by Joab – one of David’s generals.
So you can see why David would cry out to God for mercy – for he had crossed the boundaries of decency and he and his family paid for it. He was a broken man. Yet, he was a faithful man who never stopped trusting God.
Later, in the time of Jesus, the Gospel of Mark is filled with stories of the broken. But Mark teaches us that the truest test of faith is whether it will let anything stand in its way. [Repeat]
Jesus was a popular guy. In Mark, he has crowds of people around him almost everywhere he goes. He was not afraid to cross the boundaries of the purity code, gender, and class system. This was unheard of in His time – so yes, he had crowds of people following Him - people who were cast aside by society. Being so popular, it was hard to get some one-on-one time with Jesus – a great Rabbi and Healer.
If you were someone hoping and praying for a miracle – you had to take some unorthodox measures to meet with Jesus. Like the people who dug through a neighbor’s rooftop to lower their paralyzed friend to Jesus, like the gentile woman who kept begging Jesus to heal her daughter – ignoring His curt dismissal. Blind Bartimaeus shouting at the top of his lungs, “Jesus, Son of David, show me mercy!” as everyone is hushing him. The woman with her expensive jar of perfume, who crashes a party - where she is definitely not welcome - and pouring it on Jesus’ head. These people were desperate. They had nothing else to lose.
It was the same for Jairus. He was a wealthy man, a pillar of the community – a leader in the synagogue. But his little girl was dying. He had the best doctors in the area look at her, but it was no use. There was nothing they could do. So, when he heard that Jesus was nearby, he went! He went with hope that all the things he had heard about Jesus were true.
There were so many people with so many needs. But he saw Jesus coming toward him, so he began pressing against the crowd, pushing people aside – “Jesus! Rabbi, forgive me, but my daughter – my little girl is dying. Please… Please come and touch her, just touch her so that she can be saved. Please.”… And Jesus went with him. Right then – without hesitation. He didn’t pass him off to a disciple or say “Let me finish here first.” No, Jesus went with him, taking four of his closes disciples with them.
But Jairus wasn’t the only one with needs that day. As they were on their way to his home; a swarm of people were crowding in on Jesus. In the crowd there was a poor woman. She’d been ill for twelve years. Her body wouldn’t stop menstruating. She had spent everything she had suffering under the care of doctors – but she’d only gotten worse.
This woman should not have been there in the crowd because she was considered unclean under Jewish law. She knew this, but she’d heard about Jesus and thought, “If I can just touch his clothes, I’ll be healed.” And so as He came near she stretched as far as she could and lightly brushed her hand against his cloak because she didn’t want to be noticed. And she sensed right then… that her body was healed – that her years of torment were over. But Jesus stopped.
He stopped and turned toward her and the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” In a crowd of people – he knew what had happened. The woman could have kept silent, but she also knew what had happened. A miracle had happened, so she fell down before Jesus and she told him the truth. Jesus should have been appalled that this unclean woman touched Him. But He was smiling at her as He reached down to help her up. For the first time in 12 years someone intentionally touched her and that person was Jesus as he said, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace, healed from your disease.” Now notice that he didn’t say, “I have saved you” or “I have healed you”, but “Your faith has saved you.”
About this time messengers came from Jairus’ house saying to him, “Jairus, your daughter has died. Don’t bother the rabbi any longer.” Jesus saw the energy drain out of Jairus as his final hope for his daughter was gone. So He leaned in to Jairus and said, “Don’t be afraid, just keep trusting.” He and Jairus and his four disciples continue to the house where people are crying and wailing loudly. He threw them all out. Then, taking the child’s parents and his disciples with Him, He went to the child’s room where she lay. Taking her hand, he said to her, “Young woman, get up.” And she did.
These two people - a nameless bleeding woman and a father pleading for his child - had brief encounters with Jesus. We don't know if they ever saw Him again or if they became His disciples. What we do know is that their lives were changed. That they trusted in Jesus' healing touch.
These two were not the only ones who had encounters with Jesus. In this video we learn of three others who had their lives changed...
At some point in our lives we have all cried out to God - either for ourselves or for a loved one. At some point, we have been broken and needed healing. This is when God reaches down to us and picks up the shattered pieces and creates a beautiful mosaic out of people who trust in Him.
Although Psalm 130 begins with a cry for help – it ends in verses 7 & 8 with this.
Israel, wait for the LORD!
Because faithful love is with the LORD;
because great redemption is with our God!
8 He is the one who will redeem Israel
from all its sin.
When we cry out to our Creator, when we realize that we need Him - whether broken and on our knees or standing with our arms outstretched in joy - it is then that God smiles and says, "My daughter, my son - your faith has saved you. Go in peace."
By Don Sheffel, Lay Servant
Good Morning. This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Hear these words from Isaiah 46:4…
I will continue to carry you even when you are old. I will take good care of you even when your hair is gray. I have made you and I will carry you. I will care for you and I will save you. I am the Lord.
Please sit back in your seats and think back over the years. Are there places that you have felt very close to His Holy Spirit, places that truly unforeseen events occurred and stand out in your memory.
For me Panguich, Utah is a significant local and I will share two occasions that stand out in my memory. The first memorable event took place when I joined a group of physicians in a three-day deer hunt in the beautiful state park adjacent to Panguich. Our hunting guide dropped us off on cone shaped volcanic mountains well separated from each other so that we would not be in danger of a stray bullet. We carried water and food and a compass. On my hill there was a lot of dead fall and I spent 6 hours hiking and crawling through the thick underbrush. By 2:00 pm I was sitting on top of my volcanic cone enjoying the view and taking stock of my day. I had not seen any deer; no bullets had been fired. I was conscious of a feeling of joy and peace and tried to analyze how this could be occurring as so far the hunt seemed to have been a failure. How could I find so much joy in such a failed enterprise? Gradually I realized that the answer was my attitude. I was at peace surrounded by beauty and God was present.
Several years later my wife Veronica and I were returning from a motor home trip to Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado and decided to stop overnight in Panguich, Utah and drive through the state park. We called and arranged overnight accommodations for the motor home. The next morning was a gorgeous Sunday in the mountains and I regretted leaving, but we were running short on vacation time, so I started the vehicle and drove slowly out of town. The air was crisp and pleasant.
We drove past a bakery and the smell of fresh baked bread filled the air. I stopped and walked in and purchased fresh baked hot bread and sweet rolls and returned to the motor home. It would not start. This perfect morning was marred by a flooded carburetor. I got out and began walking to find assistance. Sunday morning in the mountains of Utah and nothing seemed open except the bakery. I past a general motors garage and it was open. I saw a mechanic working under a school bus, but he could not help as he was trying to get the bus repaired so that the children could return to their homes and be ready for school on Monday. He suggested that I try the Ford garage across the street. I entered the service area and the mechanic was working under a large truck lying on a creeper. He asked if he could help me and I replied that I would be delighted if he would get my motor homes motor started. He cleaned the grease off of his hands and invited me to ride with him in his service truck to my flooded motor home. He solved my problem promptly by taking off the air cleaner, exposing the carburetor and jamming the choke open. We were rewarded by the music of a Chrysler 440 singing its song of power. I asked what I could pay him. He asked me what I did for a living and after I told him that I was an orthopedic surgeon he said that within the next two weeks someone would need my services in the emergency room of my hospital and that I would pay by passing on a good deed and asking the recipient to in turn pass it on It was just as he said. I was called to the E R to reduce a patient’s dislocated jaw. This is a procedure that I disliked doing because when the reduction is accomplished the jaws snap closed on my thumb. No matter how you pad your hand your thumb is always severely contused.
I reduced the dislocation, it did snap closed on my thumb, but the padding prevented a significant injury to me. After the procedure, he asked what his bill was and I told him this story of the mechanic in Utah. His payment to me was by passing forward a good deed to someone he did not know but needed his service so that our world is a better place for all of us to live in and that we can fulfill Jesus request that we love each other as He loves us. No reservation for race, color, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, citizenship or religious preference.
Several months later, I saw a motion picture entitled Pay It Forward and purchased the book. This is the true story of a veteran with a battle-damaged face that was hard to look at; who came to Atascadero, California to teach social studies in the junior high school. The author tells us that his old car stalled at an intersection and he could not restart it. A total stranger came to his rescue, helped him push his car out of the intersection and gave him the keys to nice silver Acura barely 2 years old; saying that he had been the recipient of a great deal of generosity in his life recently and he would use the old car to trade in for a new one. He asked for the authors address so that he could send him the title and the title arrived a few days later. The story proceeds with the teacher with the badly damage face assigning to his class the project to conceive of a way to change our world for the better.
One of his students came up with the idea of passing on totally unanticipated good deeds to totally unknown recipients with the request that the good deed be past forward. The lesson to be learned is that we can all change our world for the better.
In these words of St. Francis of Assisi written in the 12th century, "Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon: where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. 0 Divine Master, grant that I not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born to Eternal life.
Live fully--Love wastefully--Be all that you can be!
God loves you--There is nothing that can separate us from His love--- w e are His treasured children--There is nothing that we need to do to merit His gift of Grace.
Enjoy this good news.
Diana Hunter is our Senior Pastor;