Focus Scripture: Mark 10:46-52
LET US PRAY: Holy and still-speaking God ~ open our ears that we may hear Your Holy Word; open our hearts and minds to understand and then live out Your message. Amen.
Today is Reformation Sunday. Today is the time when we remember one of the roots of our denomination and one of its saints … Martin Luther. Martin Luther was a priest of the Catholic church. He was a tortured soul who never felt he was good enough to be a priest … who felt he daily failed God and could never get into heaven. However, in time, He also recognized the injustices that were occurring in the name of the church … injustices that did not follow what God had taught.
And so, Martin Luther began to speak out ABOUT God’s plan and hope for his followers and AGAINST the subversion and greed among the church leaders. In time, he wrote out his thoughts … and nailed his 95 theses to the red church door of the church inWittenburg,Germany… statements that made it very clear as to what he saw as wrongs in the church … and WHY.
For his effort, Martin Luther was excommunicated. The church declared him a heretic ~ for spreading falsehoods and lies and basically stretching the truth. In short, his statements highly insulted the reigning leadership ~ and they kicked him out of the church. For all of the anguish and torment and questioning that he suffered at this time, I am grateful to Martin Luther and believe that he did the right thing in identifying what was wrong with the system … and following in the difficult footsteps of Jesus Christ.
In time, Martin Luther was vindicated ~ as other church leaders ~ such as: John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli and Menno Simons joined him in his brave actions … all of which led to the FORMation of the Lutheran, Reformed and Mennonite churches … and the reformation of the church’s peoples.
This morning, we are going to look at what it means to be FORMed and reFORMed members of the church.
Psalm 139: 14 tells us: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful!” These words acknowledge that God, our awesome Creator, has FORMed each of us in an inspiring, awesome and wonderful manner. We are FORMed as unique individuals in God’s own mage …ANDthere is nothing in the whole world than can top God’s amazing human creation.
Look around you this morning ~ take a look at everyone near you … study the similarities and differences among us. What do you see? (OK to call out) [gender, age, coloring, body style and type, clothing]
We are ALL“beautifully and fearfully and wonderfully made. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean that any one person is a PERFECT or IDEAL specimen!!! And, I think that that fact is a big part of the beauty of our world and contributes something special to our living in community with each other. Think about it: who can watch our young children singing … or listen to the stories of one of our oldest members … or catch up on the latest news of family, work and special moments with a friend … and NOT become immediately enmeshed into that special moment in life!
This happens because being a part of moments like these draw us in …
- We are a part of the scene
- We resonate with the people involved and understand their feelings ~ because each of us have shared in similar moments.
In these special moments, we can easily revel in their joy and feel their pain.
At the same time, we also know that we are not always privileged to be drawn into their inner-most soul ~ those deepest feeling about family, friends, on-going issues or concerns … simply because sometimes they are too painful to put into words.
As I struggled with my deteriorating health and growing list of disabilities ~ I often answered the question of “How are you?” with a glib: “Just fine, thank you!” … knowing that I was daily struggling to make sense out of my life. On the inside, I was angry and drying out against God for all that wasn’t right in my life!
AND, I know I am not alone in these feelings. Everyone of us has sometimes lamented opportunities missed … OR fight against changes in family living situations, jobs lost or gained, failing health, financial security, ______________ (fill in the blank!)
These are the moments when we cry out against the apparent unfairness of God: WHY, O God? WhyNOW? Why ME? After all: IF I am so “fearfully and wonderfully made” … then why have You let this happen???
Our Gospel reading today definitely addresses these issues. Our story is about Bartimaeus … a man who lived with a disability all his life and, understandably, would have good reason to complain to God.
Jesus and His disciples have been ministering inJerichoand are now leaving, heading toJerusalem. This will be the last time Jesus will enter this city before His death. Bartimaeus is a blind beggar who sits by the side of the road. This is a pitiful place to be:
- On the fringe of society where dust and dirt can be kicked into his face
- He has to shout to attract anyone’s attention … which opens him to being ignored / abused / ridiculed by people
- HOWEVER: it IS also the best place to get handouts … even if it gives others an opportunity to steal his money.
Bartimaeus hears Jesus is there and shouts: JESUS! Son of David! Have mercy on me! His words both acknowledge Jesus’ family heritage (just as HIS was noted)AND beg for kindness, a blessing, and healing.
For his boldness, the crowds tell him to SHUT UP! Do NOT disturb Jesus!! Which doesn’t stop Bartimaeus!!! Instead, he shouts even louder: JESUS! Son of David! Have mercy on me!
You gotta love his tenacity. Not matter what the people say … he doesn’t give up. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder: because of his lack of physical sight ~ did he call out because he SENSED the holy presence of God’s Son near him?
I’d like to pause for just a moment and take another look at this scene:
- According to Mark’s gospel, Jesus and His disciples have been “on the road” for a long time ~ traveling from town to village.
- Jesus has been on a continual road trip … in essence: Jesus is God in motion!
In our Gospel stories, Jesus is always on the move …
- Going from place to place … healing, teaching, making new disciples.
- AND: those who wanted to be followers of Jesus sometimes struggled to keep up with the movements of our living God.
Yet, I think we would all agree: it is a trip well worth the end results!
Well: it is on that road fromJerichotoJerusalemthat we witness an amazing
re-FORM-ation of a disabled man and his life. When Jesus calls to Bartimaeus … Bartimaeus immediately leaps up ~ throws off his cloak and rushes to Jesus’ side. In his actions: Bartimaeus discards the mantle of his former self and literally RUNS to join Jesus on the road to new life!
- What do you want? Jesus asks.
- Let me see again! Bartimaeus tells Jesus.
- Go! Your faith has made you well! Jesus tells Bartimaeus.
And Bartimaeus WAS healed of his blindness. HOWEVER, instead of leaving, Bartimaeus turns and becomes an enthusiastic part of the followers of Jesus.
The beauty of today’s Gospel story lies in the fact that Jesus knew exactly what was going on in Bartimaeus’ life … and knows exactly what is going on in our OWN lives. The opening lines of Ps. 139 (vv. 1-4) puts it so beautifully:
O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
You are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord.
Jesus knows EVERYTHING about us. Which means that ~ even when we mask our true feelings from family and friends … Jesus understands ~ which is why:
- Jesus dances with us in our joys and celebrations …AND
- Jesus cries with us in our times of anguish and pain.
However, even more importantly: Jesus searches us out … no matter where we are on our own individual road in life. We cannot hide from Jesus. And, that is reassuring. You see, I wholeheartedly believe and completely trust that ~ out of His immense love for us ~ Jesus comes to join us on our journey:
- To bring solace to us in the difficult times
- To revel with us in our accomplishments
- To encourage us to trust completely in Him … so that we can share with Him what is deepest in our hearts, what we want or need most … and
- To guide us into a better path ~ a path that will keep Jesus and His teachings clearly in our focus.
And, having been met by Jesus on our own personal journey … our lives will be t~ not just transformed ~ that is, enhanced with a few additions … BUT totally reFORMed and made into a beautiful, new creation. AND, we will never be the same again!
Having been touched and reFORMed by Jesus … Jesus then invites us to become a part of the adventure of a life time … that is, being loved by Jesus and invited to become one of His own traveling companions along the road ~ just like Bartimaeus.
My friends … I am not a huge fan of roller-coasters with all of its speed and twists and turns. However, with Jesus beside me, I believe I can truly share His exhilarating adventure with Him. Amen.