There is Hope for Us Too!

Mark 10: 46-52, October 25th, 2015
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

 

Our discussion today causes us to look deeply at the whole concept and our personal understanding of hope. Many of us have experienced hope in our lives in varying degrees. Yet, many others find hope elusive and are hard pressed to keep it alive, for even a moment, as the shadows of life’s realities have overburdened them. Listen to these short accountings, or stories if you will, that give us the opportunity to awaken our minds to how hope can alter and shape lives.

A man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded, “Eighteen to nothing – we’re behind.” “Boy,” said the spectator, “I’ll bet you’re discouraged.” “Why should I be discouraged?” replied the little boy. “We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!” /Source Unknown/ I sure would like to see the spirit of that boy in some of our discussions from time to time!

A man sentenced to death obtained a reprieve by assuring the king he would teach his majesty’s horse to fly within the year – on the condition that if he didn’t succeed, he would be put to death at the end of the year. “Within a year,” the man explained later, “the king may die, or I may die, or the horse may die. Furthermore, in a year, who knows? Maybe the horse will learn to fly.” /Bernard M. Baruch/

Now that level of optimism and creative thinking is what I call – really pushing this hope concept. If only you and I could conger up that kind of hope when situations are really getting us down.

This last accounting helps us see, with clarity, just how vital hope is as we blindly go into the future.

One night at dinner a man, who had spent many summers in Maine, fascinated his companions by telling of his experiences in a little town named Flagstaff. The town was to be flooded, as part of a large lake for which a dam was being built. In the months before it was to be flooded, all improvements and repairs in the whole town were stopped. What was the use of painting a house if it were to be covered with water in six months? Why repair anything when the whole village was to be wiped out? So, week by week, the whole town became more and more bedraggled, more gone to seed, more woebegone. Then he added by way of explanation: “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.” /Halford E. Luccock/

One could also say, where there is no hope, things can deteriorate quickly. When we allow ourselves to lose all hope, with no expectations of change or reprieve, the human spirit starts to shut down. When we lose our spirit for life, or any element of it, we will surely begin to fail as we shut down believing less and less in tomorrow.

As we turn to our scripture lesson we find that Bartimaeus, the blind man, asked Jesus to restore his sight so that he might see again; which tells us that he had once had his sight then lost it. The possible causes of his sight lose are limitless as we have no further details. However, we do know that, back in that time period, there were no safety nets for such folks, no insurance, no government funded programs and no organized charities. It is reasonable to assume that he was immediately forced into being a beggar at the front gates of Jericho.

Now, we might want to stop here for a moment and consider the fact that Bartimaeus was outside the walls of the city and near the gates of Jericho. What do we know about the city, the walls of Jericho? Let us just take a moment to remember what happened there. “According to the Book of Joshua, the Battle of Jericho was the first battle of the Israelites in their conquest of Canaan. According to Joshua 6:1-27, the walls of Jericho fell after Joshua’s Israelite army marched around the city blowing their trumpets.” /Wikipedia/ (Note: there is no solid evidence that this really happened, yet, everyone at that time period would remember the story.)

We all know that walls kept people out. It is this symbolism that is essential to our understanding. The symbolism of this accounting of the blind man, in front of the gates of Jericho, is huge! This man, who had lost his sight, was being forced to be a bagger outside the walls of the city. He was an outcast, an outsider; marginalized from society. This is a profound statement! Think about how walls keep us apart, set us apart one from another. We put walls between us and those we want to keep out. There are all kinds of walls in our own society today!

Lose your job and you are labelled unemployed – which can lead to poverty; lose your home – you are homeless. Your skin color or your sexual orientation or your weight, or even the color of your eyes can put you on the other side of that wall. Which side of the wall? The other side, outside of the circle that ‘they’ are in! That’s what walls do! Why, world leaders throughout history have convinced people, over and over again, that a physical wall around their city or town… along a border between two countries can keep the foreigners out! How many more times, how many more walls will it take – before people will finally realize how utterly foolish this concept is! Walls have never accomplished these goals! Walls only separate and alienate people!

So this is more than just a story about a man who lost his sight. This is an accounting, a story about a man who lost his eye sight and was pushed aside by a society. What is most fascinating about this account, this miracle story, is the accounting of his interaction with Jesus. There he is sitting in front of the gate begging for whatever people were willing to give him. He is a beaten man; beaten by the failing of his eye sight; beaten by the social realm that has pushed him aside. Yet! We witness some spark inside him; a ray of hope! From hopelessness, this man is stirred. He is compelled to speak out. He became aware of the presence of Jesus. [When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”] /verse 47/

Yes, we know that indeed Jesus heals the man. But why did he dare to call out, against the urgings of even the disciples that heard him. They even tried to silence him. Something drove him forward. A ray of hope had entered his heart. Hope compelled him to believe he had a chance to regain his sight! Where did that hope come from? Then [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.”] /verse 49/ The tenacity of this blind man to dare to have even a spark of hope, it is remarkable! To think, after all that had happened to him; to think he yet might see again is astonishing! And yes Jesus calls him forward. But, Jesus does not heal him without asking him what he wants. Jesus did not respond to some whining old beggar. No, Jesus made him speak up and plainly ask for what he felt he needed. This is something we need to take note of. Jesus, our God, expects us to clarify what it is we need. In other words, no whining or moaning and groaning allowed! Our God expects us to take responsibility for our necessities and then ask for the help needed.

Imagine that: even God wants us to take responsibility for our own needs!

This is a teaching about a miracle, yes! But even more it is a teaching about hope! “When we fall down, when we fail, we need a ray of hope to lift up our spirits so that we can then push ourselves, thus reawakening our desire to live and go forward with our life.” /Tim Woodard/ Just try to imagine “…what (you could do, or what) would you do if failure didn’t matter? What would you endeavor, dare, or try? What mission would you attempt, what venture would you risk; and what great deed would you undertake?” /David Lose/ This author clearly puts this point across. In so doing he challenges us to take that extra step – pushing ourselves to never give up – thus urging us to push forward – no matter how hopeless a scenario appears.

One author rephrases it this way: “The day Jesus came to Jericho – Bartimaeus was waiting. All the longing in his heart cried out, and though the disciples couldn’t see past his blind eyes and his beggar’s cup, Jesus chose him over all the rest.” /Nancy Rockwell/ Jesus offered him hope, extravagant hope! We must take head and remember this for it is vitally important. Hope is not enough! What we all need is extravagant hope! The United Church of Christ advocates that we offer everyone who walks through the front doors of this church an extravagant welcome! And, we, the Riviera United Church of Christ have broken down numerous walls to do just that! Thereby, by this action, we as a faith community, have given those outside the walls of churches – a way in. We have knocked down the walls – letting in a new stream of hope – to a people that had been left out!

Yes, Jesus heals him, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, and yes there is hope for the marginalized! There is hope that the people who have fallen out of disfavor with their economic realities! There is hope for the G.I. who comes home after fighting for his country in a foreign land; and there is hope for all who have been walled or fenced out!

Are we, as a society, blindsided to the walls we have been building all around and within our great nation! Pastor Mary W. Anderson challenges us: “What corners of the church, of society need serious (restructuring) in this 21st century? Where are our blind spots?” Let me add: where can we offer hope to those who have been pushed aside?

You and me, we are responsible to take an accounting. Once we do this then we shall need to clarify what it is that we need, before we can ask God, before we can ask Jesus to save us and heal us!

As members and friends of this church, we have done a lot to knock down some walls. We can be proud of what has been done.

Yet, there is more to do.

We need to continue to be that ray of hope for those that still ‘stand’ ‘outside’ the walls of our society. Asking God to help us recognize and acknowledge those folks, thus lifting the blinders from our eyes, is a good place to start.

Amen.
“Let us now open our ears, as-well-as our hearts, as we listen now to these words from the New Testament, the Gospel according to Mark, chapter: 10, verses: 47-52”

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, 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.

“Allow God to move us to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of these ancient writings.”

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