Where’s My Map?

Today is Reformation Sunday. It is technically on October 31, if you want an alternative to Halloween. This year commemorates the 496th anniversary since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses for theological debate on the front door of Wittenberg Cathedral. Luther wanted to reform abuses in the church (RC). He never wanted to establish a new church in his name. All he ever wanted to do was to return the church to the faithfulness of a blind beggar named Bartimaeus.

Unfortunately many Reformation celebrations try to get in some cheap shots at the pope and gloat about how we’re not Roman Catholic. The Reformation’s commemoration is not the occasion to boast how we got it right, when every one else in history go wrong. It’s a time to reflect, repent pray and obey Our Lord.

Many of us miss the big picture when things don’t go the way we believe they ought to go. We believe that we have the proper vision without ever consulting our superior, our Father in heaven. The apostle Paul teaches, “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. John speaks of this too: “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know we have obtained an answer to the requests made of him.”

Consider Bartimaeus who sat begging at his customary place for years on the Jericho road. He heard commotion. No one would talk with him about what was going on, but as the disciples and crowd came closer, he surmised that this was Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. He knew this was a chance for him, a small chance. But would he risk it? Bartimaeus wanted to see; he wanted Jesus to fix his eyes. He believed the Jesus had the power to do that for him.

At that moment he decided to give it a try, some people might have helped him along, making way for him in the crowd. Pilgrims earned special merit on the way to Jerusalem doing good deeds for beggars. But there were also plenty of others who would try to hold Bartimaeus back so he wouldn’t disturb the fun of their parade. He was mightily dirty and looked wretched with crusty scabs on his eyes.

Our lives are like parades. We often ask ourselves whether we should remain on the sidelines or pursue that which will make us whole? Bartimaeus made that decision. He threw away his most valuable and only possession, his coat, so he would not be tripped up reaching his goal. He believed in Jesus; asked for healing and was healed.

As much as possible we are to replicate God’s actions with our lives. AND like  Bartimaeus we have been called to speak up, step up and look up we step out in faith and follow Christ.

Bartimaeus is spoke up. Of the strikes he had against him that day, first he was poor, so poor he had to beg. Second, he was blind. Poverty and physical disability were considered a sign of God’s disfavor. It was dangerous to associate with sinners, so he was an outcast, the “non-persons.” He had no business getting close to Jesus or asking him for anything.   Others tried to shout him down, since they couldn’t shut him up.

Bartimaeus heard commotion and likely knew that it was Jesus who approached, so he took a chance and shouted out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” [A little sidebar comment here, in Mark’s Gospel, it is Bartimaeus, though blind, who is first to understand and use the term—“Son of David.”  He doesn’t shout out  “hey you.” “Son of David” implies that Jesus, heading to Jerusalem and the cross, fulfills the prophecy that he was the Messiah.]

Above the noise of the noise of the crowd, Jesus heard him. And he asked Bartimaeus what it was he wanted. Bartimaeus, who had understood far more than anyone, else spoke up and said, “Let me see again.” And Jesus honored his request. “Go your way,; your faith has saved you. His spiritual vision had been clear; only his physical vision limited.

I anticipate the conversations this congregation at some time in the future about BBCC’s wants, needs and dreams in a visioning process. But already we know about money and physical needs. We know about members who don’t attend any more. We know want more kids and families. We know we want to do more in community outreach.

Bartimaeus spoke up, but he also stepped up. It took courage and faith for him to blindly stumble through crowd and make his need known. The crowd was trying to shout him down and shut him up. “Don’t bother Jesus, he’s too busy.” or “Be quiet, he can’t be bothered by the likes of you.” He ignored them.

It’s easy to say that it doesn’t take much thinking to shout “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy.”   We think that God is impressed with our fancy words, because they sound religious or are sung accompanied by expensive instruments. We say we pray “from the heart” whatever that means.  But the fact remains that no other prayer in Scripture draws the attention of Jesus like this little prayer does. In fact there is no prayer, no matter how pretty or plain that won’t stop Jesus in his tracks.  Jesus picked out Bartimaeus from the crowd.  “Bring him over to me, he said.

Jesus knew Bartimaeus’ need even before he reached him.  After all, didn’t Jesus say that the Father knows what we need even before we ask him? And yet he asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Bartimaeus spoke up, he stepped up and God blessed him because he looked up. That’s the thing that set Bartimaeus apart. He looked to God and had faith in Christ. When he stepped up and he stepped out in faith, Jesus healed him.

That’s the one thing that I hope will be a part of everything we do here during our ministry. Together we look up. We look to God. We look to Jesus Christ. We have faith. God will lead and inspire us because like Bartimaeus, when we do speak up. . .when we shout “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy,” God will answer.

And Bartimaeus reminds us to keep focused on and faithful to the big picture and not to get lost in the little things.

I have a friend in Millvale, PA. His name is Junior Murray. He owned a gas station.  One morning he sent his not-to-bright, brother-in-law, a guy who just pumped gas for him, to Butler to pick up some used auto parts for a repair job. This guy wasn’t all that familiar with the Greater Pittsburgh and since was before the era of GPS units and cell phones, Junior drew him a detailed map on how to get to this junkyard.  The guy left at about 8:30AM. Junior figured the trip would take around three or three and half-hours. When noon came and he hadn’t returned, Junior started to get a little worried. When two o’clock rolled around he really worried, hoping something hadn’t happened. Finally just before four his brother-in-law pulls in. Junior immediately asked, “Where (expletives deleted) were you? What took so long?”

He answered, “I got lost.” Junior asked in a tone of disbelief, “How could you get lost, I gave you a detailed map?” To which in all sincerity, the brother-in-law replied: “Yeah. But you didn’t give me a map on how to get back!”

  • We’re called to speak up for help when we lose our way.
  • We’re called to look up and step out in faith.
  • We’re called to respond with faith like we have done before, like Bartimaeus.
  • We’re called again to keep the big picture in mind, to have vision and focus on matters of salvation and not to be sidetracked by the inconsequential things as Martin Luther challenged the church did so many years ago.

For all these 496 years neither the call nor the map has changed. The journey is still to Jesus.  We are to answer and remain faithful.  This is the truth,