Welcome to the gathering of St. Mark’s Church Sunday 24th October 2021, 9.30am led by Dugald Wilson
Coming Together As People Of Jesus
Singing ‘Aaronic Blessing’
Words To Focus Our Worship
God, creator, source, of life and love;
You love all the earth and all the creatures that dwell here.
Journey sharing guide who walks with us,
open our eyes to truth, seeing the sanctity and wonder of each other and all life.
Power at work leading us to your new creation,
give us courage, insight, and hope to continue the journey along the road.
We come to hear God speak and renew our faith in the God revealed in Jesus Christ. I runga I te Ingoa o te Atua. Te matua, te Tama, me te Wairua Tapu. (We gather in the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)
Singing ‘My Heart is Filled’
Prayers of Gathering with spoken Lord’s Prayer
Source of all that is and that shall be.
Father and Mother of us all,
in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo
through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed
by all peoples of the world!
Your life giving will be done
by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom
sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
now and forever. Amen.
Celebrating Good News
I will thank God at all times I will never cease to sing God’s praises;
2 I live and breathe God;
if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy:
3 Join me in spreading the news;
together let’s get the word out.
4 God met me more than halfway, and freed me from my anxious fears.
5 Feel the presence; greet God with your warmest smile.
Never be afraid to hide your feelings.
6 When I was desperate, I called out, and God guided me out of a tight spot.
7 God’s angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray.
8 Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see — how good God is.
Blessed are you who put your trust in God.
Bible Reading Mark 10: 46-52 Blind Bartimeaus
46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher,[a] let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
This is the Word of the Lord Thanks be to God
Address Be People of Faith
Blind Bartimaeus… it’s a story that appears in Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s gospel, although Mark is the only one that names him. Matthew has two blind men healed. All three however make this bold statement, “you are made well because of your faith.”
As I’ve been chewing over this story in the past week it is this statement that has caught my eye and caused me to ask so what is this faith all about because I think that’s why the gospel writers have recorded this story for us. In Mark’s gospel it’s the last piece of action before Jesus heads to Jerusalem and the dramatic conclusion of his ministry. It’s as if Mark is wanting to take a megaphone and underline a key message for his readers: Faith… be people of faith!
First up I want to draw your attention to the fact that while Jesus praises Bartimaeus for his faith he never asks him about what he believes. Do you believe the Bible is 100% true, do you believe in resurrection, am I the Son of God? There were no questions like that. Too often we define faith in terms of what we believe in our heads. I stood in church last Sunday and recited the Apostles Creed – an ancient creed written to exclude some who others with power saw to be misguided. Bench mark…. In/out. Frankly I find reciting creeds unhelpful. I don’t find academic arguments about what we believe in our heads get us very far. Statements of faith… I think they are misnamed. I can’t speak for you but invariably when we focus on creeds and what we believe there are bits I find awkward and instead of nurturing my faith, or our collective faith, I find them dodgy. I want to say yeah but…If we do need to use them see them as poetry and metaphor, remembering they are written in a particular time and place which may not be our time and place. Our beloved Westminster Confession and church standard states the Pope is the antichrist. That may have been how it seemed in the 16th century but do we really believe that today? And what do such statements say about faith and how do they nurture faith? Let’s put defining faith with creeds and what we believe in our heads in the back drawer. Let’s stop trying to define in/out and let’s get back to Jesus when we think of faith.
So let’s get back to Bartimaeus.
What do we know about this guy?
He’s a beggar and he’s blind. He spends his days on the street with a collection plate. You see people like Bartimaeus around Christchurch these days. Bedroll on the pavement they often have a dog beside them and a bowl. People hurry past because they are unpredictable and often uncouth. Some things don’t change. If you can picture the people I’m thinking of you are starting to see Bartimaeus. Smoker, drinker, maybe druggie, not the sort of person you’d like to have in Avonhead Mall. Hasn’t worked for an honest crust in years, and even if you did give them some money wouldn’t they abuse it and buy another bottle of plonk. But Mark at least gives him a name and a heritage Bartimaeus son of Timaeus. Oh did you know Bartimaeus could also literally be translated “son of filth”
Oh and he’s blind… blindness was often seen as a sign of God’s punishment. A sinner no less. A hopeless case, a gutter case..
He lives in Jericho, down the hill from Jerusalem. Jericho is obviously buzzing with news about the preacher who is heading their way. There is a large crowd to welcome the teacher into the town. In the Middle East village people show honour to an important guest by walking some distance out of the town to greet and escort the guest into the village. Think an important celebrity or star arriving at Christchurch Airport. Crowds gathered to greet them.
Above the buzz there is a voice; “Son of David, have pity on me.” Son of David is an interesting title. There was an expectation that a descendant of David would come and lead the people into a new era of peace and prosperity. A son of David would help establish a new society where there would be justice, respect, and equality of all. As David has been a great king of and for the people, a true man of God, who ensured there was housing for everyone, jobs for everyone, value for everyone, so God would raise up a new king to do the same again. A new society this preacher would tell them he was here to bring into being…. The kingdom of heaven on earth. From the gutter the cry gets louder. “Son of David have mercy on me.”
From the gutter….there is a voice of faith….. a voice that recognises God is moving in this man.
Bartimaeus is convinced Jesus represents an intrusion of God, light in the darkness, the way of hope into a better future….. a new society.
But it’s not easy. The crowd tell him to shut up, and the actual word means something like “shut your trap.” It’s strong language. Voice from the gutter be silent. But this voice form the gutter will not be silenced or hidden away. Unlike our often feeble voices of faith this voice is now cowered by what others think. It will not be silenced. And you know what happened.
In contrast to the crowd’s attempt to shut up voice from the gutter, Jesus commands him to be brought over. The very people insulting ‘son of filth’ are now escorting him for an audience with Jesus. Voice from the gutter is brought forth as an honoured guest.
Voice from the gutter has faith! Because faith is convinced God is active in the world – whispering, calling, nudging a new way of living into being… and voice from the gutter wants to be part of it.
From here the story seems simple, but I invite you to reflect and enter into the drama. Jesus asks the now honoured gutter voice a simple question. “What do you want me to do for you?”. Instinctively we all know the answer. I invite you to pause. The question is not a simple one. It is a deep searching question. Imagine for a moment you are standing before ‘however you see God’ and God is asking you what do you want me to do for you? Is it a new car, a lump sum of cash, or is there something your soul is crying out for. A meaningful life, a reconciliation, a healing. I want to pause for just a moment to let you consider how you might respond. “What do you want me to do for you?”
Now honoured voice form the gutter says “I want to see”.
Again I invite you to ponder. Imagine you have been a blind beggar all your life. You have managed to eke out an existence as a blind beggar. You can’t read or write. You have no trade or marketable skill, no employment… your existence has been to sit and beg, reliant on the Middle Eastern sense of compassion and duty to God to give to the poor – people such as yourself. When you received money your role was to stand and proclaim the goodness of the giver and invoke God’s blessing upon them for fulfilling their religious duty to give. It’s not a great role, but you get by…. You survive. As we look at our own lives we all know, I suspect, that we have slipped into ways of living that are not ideal, but we get by… we survive. The cost of change is simply too much. It is easier to remain in the less than ideal because the alternative is uncertain, threatening, and scary. Better the devil we know we say. Better to remain blind than face a radical new life of seeing. That was the temptation, and choice.
But this gutter child now standing in the presence of Jesus has faith and feels the wind of courage.
Faith is being prepared to take a punt, a risk, to find what Jesus called “life in all its fullness.” Boldly gutter child says, “I want to see”. In a very early version of the gospel in Syriac it is written “Let me receive my sight that I might see you”. Yes there is something more than a physical sight restoration going on here. “I want to live a fulfilling life. I want to use my gifts for the good of all. I want to be part of God’s plan to renew this creation. I want to live out the dream of God for my life and be the person I was created to be.”
So Jesus makes the observation, “You are set free, receive your sight, your faith has brought healing into your life.” And that word healing could just as easily be translated as salvation.
And I love the last little bit because we are told straight away the man could see and he went down the road with Jesus. Went down the road with Jesus to face the ongoing journey that we as fellow disciples know something of. Not all rose garden, but a journey of hope that all of creation will be healed and the commonwealth of peace will come on earth… They kingdom come, thy will be done, and all of creation brought into the fullness God intends. He was now part of the team committed to seeing heaven on earth, a new society, a new way of being that was true to the will and dream of God.
Covid will be faced, climate change will be faced, inhumanity will be faced, our personal battles will be faced in the knowledge we do not journey alone, but that God is with us, and together will see the kingdom of heaven in our midst.
So says Mark, join the journey. Join Bartimaeus on the road and be people of faith….
People who know God is up to something in our lives, in our midst. (and when looking for that something don’t forget to look in the gutters)
People who know what is not as good as it gets – we thirst for something better for ourselves and for all the earth.
People of faith are prepared to take a punt and a risk to discover life in all its fullness
People of faith put their trust in Jesus and the way of Jesus for our time
I join with Matthew Mark and Luke to say to us all…. Look to Bartimaeus. Be people of faith.
(followed by music for contemplation)
Singing ‘We’re Going To Shine’
Prayers of the Community
Singing ‘These Hills Where the Hawk Flies Lonely’
Singing ‘Joy Be In My Heart’