Sunday, April 29, 2007

Changes week one: Bart

Mark 1:14-15
After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: "Time's up! God's kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message."

The Kingdom of God is at hand. In His own person the Kingdom of God has arrived. That word repent, metanoia, means to convert, to change, to make a 180-degree turn. It means to change and get a real life, the real life, the with-God life!

Metanoia means to change your mind, to go beyond the mind that you have. The kingdom is now at hand, it is here. We tend to live in the narrow space of our own ego, our self-centredness- the small soul. Jesus says give your life to me and you discover the real life where we are linked to God’s power and lifted beyond our own thoughts, dreams, hopes and fears.

Mark is the shortest gospel, and it has Jesus in a hurry to get to the cross. It dispenses of anything that slows Jesus getting to the cross.

The stories of people encountering Jesus are fascinating in Mark. They are meant to help us find our way into the life of Jesus. An ancient Christ follower named Origen said that we should reverence every word of scrpiture. They all mean something.

Mark 10:46-52
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. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."

"Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Jericho. Remember Jericho in the Old Testament? Jericho stood in the way fo the people of God making it to the promised land. It is the false way of ordering things. It was an ancient ‘city of sin’, kind of like Las Vegas.

Standing outside of Jericho was a man names Bartimaeus. He stands for all of us who have taken in the values of the city of sin, the city opposed to God’s kingdom.

Bartimaeus is blind. Blindness- we don’t see. To be holy, to be a saint, to be a friend of God is to see with the eyes of God.

Bart is also a beggar. Remember in 12-Step parlance that the first step is to admit you’re powerless. The next step is to realize that there is a greater power that can help us and then we make a conscious decision to surrender to Him.

I thought I could change the world. It took me a hundred years to figure out I can’t change the world. I can only change Bessie. And honey, that ain’t easy either. Bessie Delany (she lived to be over 100 years-old!)

Acknowledge you can’t save yourself! We therefore surrender all- our pride, envy, anger, lust, addictions, self-centeredness. We surrender it because we can’t will ourselves out of it. We beg for something, better yet someone to come and help us out.

Bart calls out to Jesus, “Have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet.

When we start begging for help from God, from the Lord Jesus Christ, we learn not to expect a lot of help from the wider culture, from our family, from our relational networks that are far from God.

When I had chosen to become a Christ follower I recall explaining it to some friends. None of my friends were remotely religious, and while they wanted the best for me I could see it in their eyes: “You’re nuts.”

We usually have two voices inside of us. The first says things like, “Be sure you make it on your own. You can do it yourself. Become an independent person and don’t rely on anyone. Go ahead, make yourself proud.”

The other voice says, “Whatever you do, even when you don’t do anything great, be sure to stay close to God.”

The voice in Bart that cries out to Jesus is the second voice. He’d likely had enough of trying things his way. When you cry out to God, just remember to expect opposition from the wider culture.

“I used to be so rock-solid sure; I used to misunderstand so much. And I used to preach that misunderstanding, preach it hard like my rock of faith. I used to pound that misunderstanding hard until other people believed it. I used to be so sure. Now I preach questions and a little faith. And reaching out to take the steady hand of Jesus, and reaching out to steady someone else. And forgiveness. I preach forgiveness. I do this not for any credit in heaven or for an eternal reward, but because this is how I try to live my life. I try to have a little faith and two outstretched hands. A little faith and two outstretched hands.” Russell Rathbun

At this point many translations say Jesus stopped, but it’s more that he stood still. Jesus becomes the still point in a wildly changing world. He sets Himself as the anchor, as the center point. We can have peace in our center because of who Jesus is; we no longer have to live on the surface of life, riding the ups and downs. They kept coming to Jesus from all sides. He was like a magnet.

When we live our life with Jesus as the centre, we learn to allow His love to become the magnet that others are attracted to. We don’t have to think of witty things to say, we allow Him to be the magnet and we are faithful to the opportunities.

Jesus calls Bart. We are called, the word kaleo. It’s the root of the word ecclesia, the church. When we meet Jesus we are called into communion with Him and everyone else he’s called, the local group of people we journey with and the broader community that follows the Jesus way.

To be converted means to change your way of life leaving behind the old ways of life. Sin is like having the monkey of your own ego on your back. Imagine a day where you go through it without even thinking of your own ego- your pride, what others are thinking of you, who you’re scared of, whatever worries you.

Instead you are immersed in giving yourself to others because of love, not because you get anything in return. Psychologists call the state where time seems to stand still, where you are fully immersed as flow.

We can flow with God’s Spirit. Amazing! Instead of, ‘What are others thinking of me?’ Or ‘Who likes me?’ We flow with the love of God.

Bart jumps up; he now has a lightness of being. Coming to Jesus he is asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

If you ever want to do a spiritual retreat alone or with others just spend some time with the questions that Jesus asks.

What if the Lord Jesus Christ asked you this morning, this very morning, right here, right now, here in our midst, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I’d like a Maserati, maybe a Hummer, too. Wrong answer.

I want to see! Amazing Grace, I once was blind but now I see!

I want to see the Kingdom breaking in. I want to see with your eyes, to see with eyes of compassion, with eyes of love.

Jesus says to Bart, “Your faith has healed you.” Is that a belief in propositions? Mental assent to a framework of ideas?

Perhaps there is an element of that here, but it’s much more the opportunity to follow Jesus, to trust Him with life, to leave fear behind. To accept love, to hope, to trust God and surrender everything that we have and are.

Sign this statement of beliefs please.

“The way to Christian growth is often to allow oneself to be puzzled and startled by new apparent complexity. There is great simplicity at the heart of this picture, and to us strange and perhaps even repellent, first century ways of thinking that characterized Jesus. Is it after all Jesus we want to discover and follow, or would we prefer an idol of our own making?” N. T. Wright

Bart follows Jesus up the road. Where is Jesus going? To Jerusalem. He’s going to the cross, and right behind is a formerly blind person.

There’s another famous Bart. We all know him. He is the epitome of the selfish life and of absorbing the values of the culture around us. What does it look like when it’s not surrendered to God?

Matt Groening was exposed to religiosity while growing up in Saskatchewan and we see the effects on the characters he created. We show people more about God when we’re open about the blindness that has been taken away, and living a life of love following the living God than pronouncing judgment upon them.

How many of us aspire to be a Bart or a Homer? We are invited to enter a relationship with Christ that changes everything.

Make your life a gift like Jesus did.

Communion: “What do you want me to do for you?”

Have mercy on me…
Where I judge others
where I dismiss others
where I abuse others
where I ignore others
where I ridicule others
where I use others

Have mercy on me…
Where I elevate myself
where I think only of myself
where I want only for myself
where I gather to myself
where I hold to myself
where I value only myself

Have mercy on me…
Where I seek for power
where I seek for control
where I seek for praise
where I seek for status
where I seek for fame
where I seek for wealth

Jesus have mercy on me.


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