Friday, October 27, 2006

B, Pent 21 Proper 25 - Mark 10:46-52 "Blind Faith"

Text: Mark 10:46-52

46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.


I invite every one of you to close your eyes for a moment, and keep them closed until I ask you to reopen them.

Imagine you are blind. Now that you can’t see, what is more concerning and important for you: What has happened in the past, or what will happen in the future? Could you keep your eyes closed and leave this place blind, doing things you planned for the rest of the day? I suspect even the most determined would have to peak to see what is coming.

Imagine driving home, going for a walk, working, watching television, reading a book, or being involved in any entertaining activity… blind. All you could do is imagine doing these things from times when you could see. Doing these things would be more difficult, if not impossible, now. Therefore, the desire to look forward and somehow see would become far more important than what has happened in the past, even though the chance of seeing in the future probably wouldn’t exist and be just a memory from the past. Now you can open your eyes.

Picture blind Bartimaeus sitting just outside Jericho on the road to Jerusalem; his life is one of listening. Listening to the people walk by. Listening to the sounds of hoof and bustle, and the clatter of carts. Listening to the gossip and chatter of children. Listening to the latest ideas of religion and philosophy as the scribes and rabbis pass by. And listening to himself; hearing over and over again he’s a blind beggar, unable to free himself from his stricken life of the past and present. That’s just the way it is for blind Bartimaeus because that’s the way it’s been.

But then he hears about one who heals; the one who gives access to the kingdom of God; the one whose greatness is kin to that of King David, even more so, who claims he has been sent by God the Father, and who claims of himself that he will be crucified and raised in three days. Suddenly all the listening to what has transpired in the past is forgotten, all the down heartedness of his condition is gone. These new words have given him life; he waits in anticipation, hoping this man of God will walk past him, hoping this healing King will hear his cry for mercy. Faith and hope have become the destitute and hopeless one’s new joy as he anxiously waits to hear from the one walking to Jerusalem.

Jesus Son of David, have mercy on me! Bartimaeus shouts. Be quiet Bartimaeus, you have no right to speak or be heard”, was perhaps the crowd’s response as Jesus fixed his eyes on his royal entry into Jerusalem and coronation at Calvary. Son of David, have mercy on me!” he cries out even more, there’s no way his hope can be silenced.

Instead of walking by and ignoring Bartimaeus, the King of creation stops and calls this broken piece of creation to come to him. This is a feat in itself for someone blind, but Bartimaeus throws off his cloak and springs to his feet, looking to Jesus with the eyes of hope and faith. And it is this faith—not faith in himself born of the past, but faith found in the future, trusting in only what Christ can do—that raises, heals, and saves blind Bartimaeus.

We are the same as Bartimaeus. We are broken pieces of creation; broken because of sin. Every one of us needs daily reformation by creation’s King. Each of us, like Bartimaeus the blind beggar, is called to faith as we hear the good news of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit gives us faith and hope to sit up knowing Jesus Christ and the salvation he freely gives — first given at baptism when we heard the Good News. Baptism places Jesus in front of us every day, and calls us to come abide in him. “Lamb of God I come!”

Just a week later after Bartimaeus stood and had his eyes opened for the first time; the people of Jerusalem saw Jesus nailed to the cross. Perhaps Bartimaeus saw this too; we’re not told if he did or didn’t. However, it was because of Bartimaeus’ brokenness and the complete corruption of all creation that meant Christ was compelled to be crucified on the cross.

Do you think that after the events of Bartimaeus’ miraculous healing, the death of his Healer on the cross, and his extraordinary resurrection from the grave, that Bartimaeus ever let the cross be put in the past, out of his sight? Or for that matter anyone else who witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection? Then nor should we who have been baptised into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Nor should we who, at our baptism, have seen and received the same grace witnessed on the cross two-thousand years ago!

You are united to Christ in baptism. You and I can never move past the acts of God given there, or his biblical word he first called us to trust there. Because we live double lives, eternally freed from sin but not free from sinning, we live post-baptism with the cross as our end point, not as merely a start point. Our lives don’t make much sense unless the cross comes at the end too. Life struggles and pressures, drought, disease, and death make no sense unless the cross comes at the end of it all. So as you struggle with your sin in this sinful world, picture your life paralleled under Christ’s life; see his life placed as template over your life, as he lives in you and with you.

See in your baptism, Jesus’ baptism — where the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and the Father says of you, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased!” (Mark 1:11) See in your confirmation and subsequent trips to receive the bread and wine of Christ’s body and blood, Christ standing transfigured — in celebration with the prophets, apostles, and the whole company of heaven. See in your sinfulness, Jesus approach you with his word — willing you to believe you can hand that sin over and have peace, time and time again. See Jesus say to you, “Go and sin no more” — just as he did to the Samaritan adulteress. And see all these things in the context of your death and entry into heaven — with Jesus’ death at Calvary and glorified resurrection and ascension into heaven. Be reformed daily by the cross; seek mercy from the Son of David, asking “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, a sinner”. Wait with faith and hope for the glorious day when you will see Jesus face to face — as did Bartimaeus.

This is the grace of God: That he walks with us today, and gives his life in exchange for ours. Through his death on the cross, at your death you will receive his glorious resurrected life.

Sing with Bartimaeus and all believers: I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see. This grace has brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home. Christ and the cross will lead you home, even as you still struggle with blindness. This is what makes grace so amazing!


I invite you to close your eyes and open the eyes of faith and your heart of hope as we pray: Dear Heavenly Father we believe; save us from our unbelief. Continually send your Holy Spirit to give us faith to live holy lives and trust in the amazing grace Christ won for all people on the cross. Amen.


The faith to which we are called is one in Christ; therefore, it is a living faith. This faith is both, corporate and personal, but never individualistic, different, or separate from others in the body of Christ. If Christ lives with us and in us, we can’t help but want to do the right thing, even as we struggle to do so. This faith moves us, to be compassionate to those who like us struggle with sin, and, to be repentant for the many things we get horribly wrong each day. Faith also calls us to actions of sacrifice; sacrifice of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, and also the sacrifice of our selves, our time, and our talents. As we focus on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as the end point we are able to bear our crosses under which we are called to suffer in this world.

Such personal faith also calls us to be accountable to the whole church gathered under Christ, past, present, and future. Faith enables us to abide in Christ and his way in the Word of God. We are accountable to the Word of God and in drawing near to God we freely welcome hearing and reading the Word of God, as well as other literature that points us to the cross. This accountability calls us from individualism and anti-intellectualism into a willing reception of Christ in his word that is neither stagnate, lifeless, nor impersonal. And this faith calls us to be accountable to each other, to bear each other in love. After all, Christ bears each of us in love, even as we continue to sin day after day.

We need Christ’s baptismal reforming every day. Although sin has no power in our lives anymore, the forces of evil never stop trying to place us back under the power of sin. Therefore, we need the cross in front of us, as the finishing point. We can never move past Christ, the cross, or his word, if we are to uphold the faith he personally places in each of us. As God’s children we can never stop praying the beggars’ plea, “Lord Jesus Christ, (Son of David, Son of God, and/or Lamb of God), have mercy on me/us!”

What is a sign of personal faith? When I strive to make the interests of God’s Word the determining factor in my life, and when I continually and repentantly seek forgiveness when this doesn’t happen.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

B, Pent 18 Proper 22 - Genesis 2:22-25 & Hebrews 2:10-11 "The Shame of Shame"

Key Texts

Genesis 2:22-25 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (NIV)

Hebrews 2:10-11 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. (NRSV)


What would cause you the most shame? If you were dropped into the centre of a crowd what happenings would cause you the greatest public humiliation and embarrassment? To be found cheating, lying, or stealing? Being seen doing something silly, perhaps? Having your inner secrets revealed in public; projected up on a big screen for all to see! What would cause you the most shame; what would make you ashamed?

Today we focus on shame. We do so because in the West shame and being ashamed are a state of being most people are losing, or have lost, or are being encouraged to lose. We are taught to have no shame over things that are clearly shameful; things that are publicly shameful, known to all of us as shameful, imbedded in our conscience and being from birth.

The shamelessness we are encouraged to embrace is a far cry from the shameless world in which Adam and Eve were placed at creation. With all the innocence of children, children of God, they lived without shame. We heard in the Old Testament reading from Genesis two that after Adam’s longing for a mate, God gave him Eve, woman from man. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:24-25)

Adam and Eve were naked and they felt no shame. But for us, nakedness would have to be one of the most, if not the most, shameful states of being in which to be found. Unlike Adam and Eve we do much to cover our nakedness from each other.

In fact if one wanted to truly know we fallen beings live in a fallen world, and dispel the myth that as Christians we are without sin and have moved past God’s word of law condemning us and calling us to true repentance found only in the cross, let us then all be naked once again. I guarantee that within milliseconds of us doing so, our true sinful natures would be revealed. In fact it would be revealed suddenly in two ways, physiologically and sexually. Physiologically, we would see without our clothing many bodily bulges and blemishes. And sexually, our eyes would not be hidden from covetous and lustful leering either, and following this, grievous sexual acts would lead to chaos.

Nakedness reveals our shame. The bible speaks of it over and over again (see below for more texts) and our human actions confirm the truth of the shame found in our fallen nakedness. One only has to see what happens with sexuality in our society to see the shamefulness of human nakedness.

While sexuality and the natural urge are promoted more and more today, humanity still seeks to hide all sorts of sanctified and unsanctified sexual actions. Pornography still remains out of sight in people’s rooms, under the bed or on the computer. Homosexuality for many still is hidden in the closet. In a bid to hid shame, abusers of children always tell their victims to keep the secret or else they’ll get in trouble. And even the perfectly normal sexual relationship of husbands and wives given as a gift from God, is not practised in public, because it is shameful to do so. Unlike Adam and Eve who felt no shame there is cause for great shame if these things were to be unveiled and made public.

Although the ignorant sinful world calls us not to be ashamed of ourselves, most still have a healthy sense of shame. Just as Adam and Eve after the fall discovered shame in the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we too echo Adam’s words to God and each other, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:10) We are afraid and ashamed of what we see in our naked selves and of what others might see. So much of our human nakedness is hidden throughout our lives.

This shame of nakedness is far greater than just being caught with our pants down, but extends to every limit of our humanity. We do our best to clothe our spiritual shame, our moral shame, and our intellectual shame with lies, deceit, and half truths, hoping that we don’t get caught out. However, God still comes seeking us in this fallen garden asking, “Where are you?”

But even in the midst of our shame and humiliation we hear that the Son of God is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters (Heb 2:11). How can this be, when before God in our fallen sinful state he sees beyond our futile attempts to clothe ourselves and sees our shame?

Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters because he is the author of our salvation. He took our shame and wants us to continually allow him to expose our shame and take it to the cross — the epitome of shame. God encourages us in Hebrews chapter 12 to… fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)

The author of your salvation knows your shame, and bore it on the shameful cross. So allow him to continue exposing that shame, and let him take it to the cross where it belongs. Just as God stitched skins together and clothed Adam and Eve from nakedness, allow Jesus to clothe you in his robes of righteousness which he won for all on the cross.

This is the faith into which we have been baptised, the same faith the heroes of the Old Testament lived by, the same faith the fathers of the Christian Church lived by, and the same faith we have been given in God’s word in baptism to live by. This is the faith given by the Holy Spirit which demands we hang onto Jesus no matter what shame we might bear, and it is the faith by which God himself is not ashamed to be called our God, for he has prepared a city for us. (Hebrews 11:16)

All sorts of shameful things happen amongst Christians and non Christians alike. In the gospel Jesus addresses the shameful nakedness of humanity in divorce and adultery, just one area of our fallen sinful nature. Jesus ultimately addresses the shame of adultery by taking it and all shame on himself on the cross.

But even as shameful things still happen, as Christians the most shameful thing for us now is this: Failing to trust Jesus, and forsaking the faith given by the Holy Spirit, and still seeking to hide our sinful shame from the forgiveness found at the cross. Jesus says, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)

God comes to humanity in the fallen garden of this world and asks the same question he asked of Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” And despite our shame we can come to him as children — children of God clothed in Christ — trusting in his mercy and forgiveness of sins. And his promise to us is this: The kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Mark 10:14) Amen.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father let us come to Jesus like little children; dress us in the clothes of humility. Let us not be hindered by our shame. Let us fall into the arms of Jesus, so that his hands cover our shame and we receive the clothes of his blessed glory. Amen.

Other texts on shame and nakedness

Romans 1:16, 1:26, 6:20-23, 8:35; 1 Corinthians 1:27, 6:5, 15:34; 2 Corinthians 4:2, 5:1-5; Ephesians 5:11; Philippians 3:18-21; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Hebrews 2:11, 11:16, 12:2; Revelations 3:14-22, 16:15, 21:27.