Saturday, October 27, 2012

B, Post-Pentecost 22 Proper 25 – Mark 10:46-52 “Blind Sight”

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A farmer goes out to seed his crop. "What's the weather going to do?" he wonders. "If I plant too much I set myself up for a failure; if there is good rain and I put in little I set myself up to get back little as well!" So the farmer is cautious and puts in what he can afford to lose but enough to sustain him till next harvest.
It must have seemed a big risk for those who first farmed this country to see what return they might get for their toil. All the work clearing the land sourcing seed and putting it into the virgin soil, most likely still dirty with sticks and stumps. And after all that, then the wait to see what the weather might do.
At least here in Australia at this time, we only have to worry about the weather, and other natural occurrences. In some parts of the world one might get shot just venturing out into open country. Or after putting time into your farm, military might move across your country and flatten your crops, seize your farm, your machinery, and imprison you and your family.
I imagine it takes much more faith to farm in a situation like this as opposed to our farming situation. Blinded by seeming impossibility many don't bother putting in a crop in these war torn countries.
The blight of blindness stops many from faithfully doing what they have been called to do. Are you one of those who decide it's just too tough to toil on, not having the power of foresight into the future?
Blind Bartimaeus sat by the road, impaired in what he could do. He was going nowhere; he had no power, therefore no opportunity, nor ability, to change his situation. He could do nothing. In fact he was a beggar; this is all he could do.
Like a farmer he had no foresight at what lay ahead. His blindness was his weakness and it could very well have been his trap. I imagine for most of his life it was, as he sat there on the side of the road grovelling for morsels of food to survive.
So too for us! The things we cannot control; the things we have no power over expose our weaknesses and ensnare us. How do they trap us? We see we have no power, so we become like a farmer that plants too little through fear of failure. But why this fear of failure? Behind all the financial problems of failure, the real reason lies. We fear being seen as failures, as being weak.
And so the opposite can happen too. Through fear of being seen to be not up with the rest, some over extend themselves with debt and pressure far beyond what is reasonable. They seek to empower themselves and work themselves into a position of power and success. Until the bank forecloses and the rest realise it was just a house of mirrors reflecting greatness off itself, and like a house of cards comes tumbling down.
These are the traps we all face, and struggle with, every day of our lives. We want to be seen to be successful, priests of perfection, for others to follow. Yet we are numbered with those like blind Bartimaeus. If we have our weakness pointed out we strike like a snake to put the offender off guard while we quickly slither away to hide from hurt.
But this time Bartimaeus didn't do what one who wanted their weakness hidden would do. You see he was a beggar, we can imagine that he was not the only one begging there along the road. Others who had more power than Bartimaeus, with sight, would have been begging too. They unlike Bartimaeus would have been able to discern who to pick on as they walked by. The better dressed; the one who looks like a soft touch; one who has given something to someone else! Just like the people selling stuff in the corridors of the shopping centre, looking for someone to lure into giving up their wealth!
No! Bartimaeus had no powers to discern! He was the weakest of the weak, the most despicable of the despised, and the most powerless of the poor! When Jesus came by, blind Bartimaeus had no way of knowing if this man might have something to give to him that would be of advantage, to give him the edge; a bit more over the next beggar or the one before.
Yet something had happened in this weak blind man. He cries out to Jesus! He calls him "the Son of David". He has no eyes to see royalty coming. And this title in Mark's Gospel is special. Here only is Jesus addressed as the "Son of David" by someone else in Mark. The only other occurrence where we here the "Son of David" is when Jesus alludes to himself while teaching in the temple in Jerusalem saying…
"How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.' David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?" (Mark 12:35–37 ESV)
So the weakest of the weak, confesses Jesus as the Son of David. And this Son of David proved not only to be Jesus of Nazareth, but the Christ. Bartimaeus encountered and received something that no other could give. He received mercy, pure compassion from his Messiah, the one anointed to walk by the weak and heal those who are willing to be real about who they really are.
Are you blind? Do you have sight? What is it you see? What is it you hear? What are you desperate for in this life? What do you beg for? Are you ploughing on in your own strength wondering why you are bothering to do so? Are you toiling in fear of failure?
Perhaps you are like Saul before he became Paul, zealous in your efforts, tenaciously toiling, straining to see into the future to get the edge over everybody else. Maybe so focused on your journey, Jesus needs to blind you, so you stop looking at everything else but him! After all he is royalty right in front of you. Perhaps like Saul you have been blind the whole time and not willing to admit it and it's only through explicit blindness that your ears will be opened and the scales fall off your eyes.
I imagine if Bartimaeus was a beggar with sight, he would have given Jesus the once over and thought, "Na! I'm not even going to bother with this guy, he looks too poor, too weak to be of any advantage to me!" But Bartimaeus' blindness, his weakness, was the avenue through which Christ opened his eyes, first to his own weakness, and then to the power of his salvation at the cross.
Take heart, Jesus is calling you! Shut your eyes to the images of this world, the deceptive desires of your heart, and here him coming. He is coming again! It's amazing how quickly your ears open when your eyes are closed! Or when you come to understand you are blind!
Call out to him to have mercy on you, and he will. You will then see you have been under the veil of his power since the Holy Spirit came on you in baptism. That your toils and troubles are trials to test you and show you your blindness and need for a Saviour!
After all powerful people don't need saving! Well at least they don't think they do!
Let God your Heavenly Father make you walk by brooks of water, let him lead you so you do not stumble, and drown in the seas of greed you try to traverse.
You who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! You who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing Jesus' sheaves with you.
Jesus Christ, son of David, Son of God, have mercy on us, Amen.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

B, Post-Pentecost 20 Proper 23 – Hebrews 4:12-16 “The Test Not To Rest”

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For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12–13 ESV)
Picture a warrior swinging his weapon to and fro. He is a sight to be reckoned with. A Goliath of a swordsman; unavoidable, with a huge reach, touting his razor sharp sword!
And this sword cuts easily, no matter how he handles it. Not just one blade, but two. If by some stroke of luck he misses the enemy on the forehand blow, he gets them with the backhand sinking the blade into the flesh violently like a butcher but with the skill of a finely tuned surgeon cutting out cancer.
Surprisingly the more this sword cuts the sharper it gets. There's no need for the warrior to retreat to brush his blunt blade on steel to bring back its edge. This weapon is living and active, it hacks off all that is flotsam and jetsam, the idols of dead wood, the very things threatening to scuttle life into the abyss, casting adrift all that tests one's floating on that which it should be peacefully at rest.
This double edged sword, that never misses its mark, is the word of God. When one seeks to test God and sever themselves from his rest, God the Father sends out his swordsman of the word, the Holy Spirit, to cut right to the heart of the matter.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.' As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest.' " Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:7–14 ESV)
God swore in his wrath, and many Israelites fell by the sword of his wrath, his word of wrath for those who refused to listen, his wrath on those who refused to hear the word of God, and rest in his faithfulness.
On the first day of creation God created light. We now have the light of God, time from God to rest in him, with him, in his peace, the tranquil paradise of his word, his eternal unchanging word. God created this light so we have time to call on his name, to sit in his presence, to enjoy the fellowship of the promise we all have in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Is it hardness of hard, that many of us today have no time for God? Is the measly time we give to him just a display to keep up appearances? How much time do you give to God in secret? …the word of God IS living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV) Perhaps we seem to work so hard and get nothing done, today and everyday becomes a waste of time, because we have no quality time for God? No quality time with God!
We live in restless times! Amassed around are all the pleasures of life, yet still the heart churns. There is no rest within ourselves, nor is there much with those God places us amongst. Our lot in life seems laborious, monotonous, lacking in something.
We who are baptised, churn more than the next bloke! Why is this? We have been given access into the eternal rest of God by our baptism into the death of his Son.  Yet still we seem not to be able to get out of the depths of our depression with all of our earthly delusions. Is it because we still listen to the powers of this world in favour of the powerful workings of God? Have you given adequate time to not only hear but to listen to the word of God in your heart, so the Holy Spirit can daily raise you in faith from the death of your old Adam?
And so the swordsman comes to those whom have been given the sword of the word in baptism. When we fail to use the word on ourselves, you can guarantee the Holy Spirit will come swinging the double edged sword of the word in you. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13 ESV)
So now that he gets amongst the thoughts and intentions of your heart, piercing your very soul, your human spirit and existence, what are you going to do? Or more importantly, what is God doing with you?
Do you know that God is seeking to bring you into his rest? Perhaps it's time for us to get back in the boat, and step out of the storms we have stirred up in our lives. Testing God with our strength is either ignorant or just plain stupid, yet all of us seem to make the same mistake over and over again. Exercising the power of our old Adam is nothing more than a return to testing God in all his almighty power. We are telling God the Father we have no time for his Son, our high priest, the sacrifice for our sin and the light of our life.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)
Hear that folks! Sin, tempted, weakness! God knows you struggle, he knows you fail, and he knows your old Adam better than you know it yourself! The Holy Spirit is sent to help. He helps us enter into the presence of the Lord, to call on the name of the Lord. And most of all the Holy Spirit leads us into the word of God, so we might allow this sin, temptation and weakness be covered with crucifixion of the Word made flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus became weak as we are weak, he was tempted as we are tempted, yet knowing no sin, he made payment for your sin on the cross made his, which should bear our weak bodies, which cannot stand against evil, that succumb to temptations, and sin against God and those whom God has placed us amongst.
So despite your weakness, temptation, sin, and believing you are that which God sees, "let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)
We need, we are helpless, let the Holy Spirit guide you in the word of God, so that you might be continually guided back into God's holy rest, at peace and confident in the power of Jesus' death and resurrection over your sin, temptation, and weakness.
See the warrior with the double edged sword; let him cut from you all that separates you from peace, joy, eternal wealth and confidence. Let him remover from you, sin, death, and the devil!
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:11 ESV)

Saturday, October 06, 2012

B, Pentecost 19 Proper 22 – Mark 10:1-16 “Family of God”

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And Jesus left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away." And Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery." (Mark 10:1–12 ESV)
Jesus gave up his home to take up the hand of his bride the church. Jesus makes his church holy, perfect, blameless and one flesh with him. Yet many in the body of the bride are divorcing themselves from Christ the head, unto whom all things are given. It seems man is separating what God has joined together.
As many who make the body that is the church, we all have a duty to see to it that we do not divorce ourselves from the source of our salvation. The honeymoon is definitely over and now we are down to the work of loving ourselves and each other as Christ has and continues to love us. Now being one with the Holy Son of God illuminates the not so pretty within us, yet Jesus considers us still worthy despite the weakness we bring to the matrimony.
This is why Jesus was born into your world. God the Son from eternity, creator with the Father and the Holy Spirit, gave up all his authority, and became weak. Not the weakness of a man without a wife, not the weakness of a woman without a husband, but the weakness of a child dependant on a mother and a father who both in themselves were vulnerable and weak.
If the church corporate can be seen as the bride of Christ, then individually we can be seen as children of God. Since Jesus became a child, weak and helpless, we too must view ourselves as weak and helpless, since he became like us. If we refuse to see ourselves in this way and be seen by others this way, Jesus Christ became nothing for nothing.
Yet he became nothing for you. He tasted death for everyone, so that by his sheer generosity and love we might come to trust we are being lifted up from our weakness by he who has been crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death and alienation from the Father so you might be lovingly received by God the Father.
In Psalm 8 we hear, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger." (Psalm 8:1–2 ESV)
Here we are told that the Lord is our Lord. He is your Lord, he is your Father in Heaven. But he is just as much Lord over all the earth. Despite his majestic name evident everywhere, there are many occupants of the earth who do not realise he is Lord, and everything has been placed under him.
And so God the Father whose glory fills the heavens and the earth, put his glory amongst us as a weak baby. And from this baby born in a manger, from this son of a carpenter from the nowhere town of Nazareth, from the dusty crossroads of the ancient world, this child established strength.
This was not the strength as we might perceive, he had no real estate, he had nowhere to lay his head and sleep, he had no armed guards, those whom he called to keep watch fell asleep in the hours before his coronation as the King of bitter suffering and death. No! This is not the picture of strength we might imagine would still the enemy and the avenger!
And what of us his great church on earth, Christ's brothers and sisters, who as a whole are the body of Christ, the holy bride.
It seems we are quick to write out our certificate of divorce, voiding ourselves of the word of God. Turning our backs on Jesus Christ becoming whores to the desires of our hearts. Committing adultery within through coveting, and without though acts of greed, and in idolatry with absence of fear, even hatred of God and his will.
Daily deceived we turn so quickly to the princes of this world. But they are not the proprietors of peace they proclaim to be. How quickly these princes become pimps, their strength that lured you to love them becomes your slavery; deceived we become children of the enemy, of evil; sons of the devil, full of revenge, hatred, and death.
And yet Lord you still provide for us all our needs. You wait on us like a loving husband who faithfully waits for his wayward wife to turn off the red light of her heart's desire. To stop, return, repent, and seek forgiveness, which you so willingly intend to give.
Show us the weakness of our ways, may our kingdoms come crashing down, so we might receive your kingdom, your power, your glory like a little child and in our weakness live the life of trust, Jesus lived in the weakness of a human being, so we might be made one with you in the kingdom of your power, and your glory.
Jesus says, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Mark 10:14–16 ESV)
Father let us come to you through Jesus Christ our Lord. Lay your hands on us, forgive us and bless us with the weakness of a child to trust in your almighty power. Amen