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Seeing with New Eyes

Psalm 34:1-8
Mark 10: 46-52

 

Today is Stewardship Sunday, when we begin our invitation to the congregation to support this congregation’s ministry of keeping alive Jesus’ message of abundant life for all– Abundant life….Life in all its fullness….Life fully alive…in wholeness of body, mind and spirit, in wholeness in relationships, in justice and right relationships in the world around us, in harmony with creation. We keep this message alive in many ways, through our worship and music ministries, through our healing and caring ministry, through our justice making ministries that were highlighted last night at the pot luck, through our Christian development, teaching and spiritual growth ministries, through our creating a welcoming homecoming community, through our reaching beyond ourselves in so many ways, including into cyberspace. This is a congregation living this ministry of Jesus.

 

Come and share in it as you offer yourself, your financial gifts, your time, your talents, your insights and ideas, to the ministry of this community. This year we celebrate and give thanks for your abundant generosity in support of the roof that all of these things happen under. We are grateful for your support and ask that if you have not already considered a donation to the roof you do that as well during this stewardship campaign. Your support puts power to enact the vision we share in our times of worship.

 

As I was meditating the scripture of the healing of blind Bartimaeus, I was doing it against the theme of stewardship. One person has said that stewardship is everything you do after you say YES. This story is certainly about that. Life changed by saying yes. Jesus yes to Bartimaeus….but also Bartimaeus’ yes to his own self-worth, and his yes to Jesus.

 

But it is also about daring to ask

daring to ask for what you need and trusting you will receive it.

And its about daring to heal,

     daring to let go in order to heal,

          daring to risk new life,

          daring to open our eyes to see what God is doing in our midst.

     And it is about Jesus daring to be the instrument of God’s healing power.

But its about even more than that.

     It’s about daring to claim our power,

     daring to find our voice and cry out;

     daring to use our voice to make sure that voiceless are heard,

     daring to see those whom the world tries to silence and put away        as fellow human beings with needs and with gifts to offer.

 

And then too it is about daring to followBartimaeus dared to ask, dared to heal, dared to see, dared to claim his power, dared to claim his voice, but then he dared to follow. He followed the one who had healed him and who preached God’s way. And those are all stewardship themes.

 

We miss all of that when we dismiss healing stories of Jesus as embarrassing superstitious nonsense to be ignored. They are very powerful texts. They are about power and how it is used.

 

Increasingly as we explore non-traditional healing, and understand the link between the body and the mind/spirit, we realize that there is still much mystery in healing power, something we know well in our healing pathway ministry. It is interesting for us to note that the word sozo translated salvation throughout the new testament, actually means healing, or making whole.

 

When we enter Jesus’ healing stories in a symbolic, mythical way, we often find surprising power for healing for ourselves. Sometimes that healing might have physical manifestations, but healing works on many levels. There is healing of attitudes, healing of patterns of living, healing of relationship, healing of self-image, healing of fear, healing of alienation, healing of memories.

 

In the story of the blind beggar Bartimaeus, we discover, as we often do around Jesus’ healing stories, there is conflict. There are those who do not want the healing to happen. There are those who would try to keep the person in need from growing into a healed, whole-self. Now those who would block the healing do not always act this way because they are malevolent and wish ill for the person. Rather they support the status quo because they can not imagine that things could be different. Being able to imagine that things could be different, is, I think an important quality for followers of the Jesus way. Sometimes the one who blocks healing or imagining possibility for ourselves is a part of ourselves that is afraid of losing the way things are, for an uncertain way things could be..

Why do you think the people tried to keep Bartimaeus from Jesus? Have you ever had any supposedly well-meaning friends or relatives try to keep you from asking for what you needed? Have you ever experienced your own resistance to healing transformation in your life?

 

There are those who saw not the person Bartimaeus, but only his disability. They could not see a man who had aspirations and desires. All they could see was a beggar who was blind — both signs in the cultural norm that the person was unfavoured by God. Illness was seen as the result of sin. Lest we think that we have moved far beyond this, in our so-called sophisticated culture, in giving pastoral care I still hear “What have I done to deserve this?” or “Why is God punishing me?”

 

Imagine the scene of the story of Bartimaeus – the blind beggar sitting beside the main dusty road of Jericho; a busy town. The sun is beating down, and there is a lot of noise. Imagine what it would have been like to connect with life only through touch and sound. How acutely the sense of hearing would become to recognize familiar sounds … to strain to grasp unfamiliar ones. Imagine what it would be like to be poor …without power and security … without sight … Imagine not being able to see where you were walking … who was coming towards you … whether you were in danger

Imagine what in your life might have led you to being a beggar … Imagine how you are treated by family … by people in the street … Imagine what it would be like to live every day of your life knowing that others thought your blindness was a curse from God …

 

The beggar Bartimaeus hears a new sound-with ears highly sensitive. There seems to be a crowd coming down the road… Hopefully it is not a group of Roman soldiers… He asks someone who is coming and they tell him that it is that rabbi from Nazareth… Jesus they think his name is … Bartimaeus knows who Jesus is… He’s heard about him from the street people who always seem to have the latest news… He’s heard Jesus has healing powers…

 

I wonder what happened inside Bartimaeus as he awaited the Jesus group’s arrival?…. I wonder what it would take for this man to cry out loud, when all around tell him to shut up, that he has no business bothering this important man?

 

Bartimaeus refuses to accept the categories into which he has been placed. He breaks through the barriers of the more “important” people from the town who want to shut him up. Where do you think he get this kind of power to assert his needs?

  Where have you found courage to act assertively in the face of opposition? to dare to ask for what you need-to claim your right to healing.

 

Perhaps his desire for healing grew to the point of overwhelming him. His hope for wholeness just screamed out from the centre of his soul and so he cries out … begs as he had never begged before … for his life depended on it … “Jesus … Healer … see me … heal me … have mercy” … The others try to push him into silence … but his desire for healing is stronger than the fear of rejection … stronger than his concern for what others think …

 

And then a very simple thing happens. Jesus stops right in front of him…. And Bartimaeus throws off his cloak … the only possession he had and leaped through the crowd to Jesus who is calling him…

 

In order for him to reach out for what he needed; for healing, he was willing to let go of the cloak which was his life-line, his protection against the cold on the streets at night. He dared to let go in order to be healed. What might you need to release, to let go of if you were to reach out for healing in your life?

 

Jesus asks … what might seem like a very strange question “What do you want me to do for you?” …We know what Bartimaeus answered. If Jesus were to stop right in front of you and ask that question “What do you want me to do for you?” what would you answer? … What would it be like for you to put your needs, your desires before Christ? I wonder what that would be like for Christ? If Jesus were to stop in front of this congregation of Christ’s people and ask “ what do you want me to do for you?” what might we answer. If we as the Body of Christ dared to ask one another, what can we do? what do we need? what will make us whole? would we dare to trust one another to give it?

 

Bartimaeus was given physical sight in the story … But his eyes had been wide open already. While blind, he saw who Jesus was, even though some of his disciples who had been journeying with him in an inner circle did not seem to get it. Bartimaeus’ eyes had been open enough to know that the way things were in his life, was not God’s will for his life. He could ask for what he needed. I wonder what this did to those who tried to block him, who were so sure that God had chosen to punish Bartimaeus with this blindness? Would it change how they saw other illness, or other beggars? Would it change how they saw God?

 

I wonder what happened to Bartimaeus’ life when everything had changed? He had been a beggar for 20 years. I wonder what he missed about that life? I wonder what he gained? What would he do now with his life? Would people treat him differently? Would they make space for him to be the new person Jesus had allowed him to be? What would it mean for him to live with eyes wide open, to see differently?

 

Bartimaeus dared to ask for what he needed. He dared to reach out. He dared to claim his power and his voice. He dared to believe that life could be different. He dared to accept transforming healing. He dared to follow. And it was the ministry of Jesus that made this possible Jesus.. The one who dared to listen when everyone told him to ignore the useless beggar, Jesus.. The One who dared to see the pain and the desire for healing in this marginalized person. Jesus.. The one who dared to call this beggar into his community of followers.

 

Let us dare to be partners in this ministry of keeping alive Jesus’ message of abundant life for all. Dare to support our stewardship campaign.

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