"Having the Passion to See"
Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - October 25, 2009
Job 42:1-6, 10-17; Mark 10:46-52
In Mark’s account, Bartimaeus, who knew nothing but darkness, lived in Jericho. When he heard that Jesus was passing by on the very road where he was sitting, he began to shout at him. He would not have become that excited unless he knew of Jesus and had heard of his powers to heal people. The crowd that had gathered was angered by his rudeness and scolded him. His persistence, however, got the attention of Jesus.Jesus called for him to come. When the man heard that Jesus wanted to see him, Bartimaeus jumped to his feet and came into the Master’s presence. Even though it was very clear to Jesus that the man was blind, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The man responded, “Teacher, I want to see again!” Jesus healed him.
Jesus’ question is interesting. Jesus knew that if he healed the man, Bartimaeus would have to find work that would be much different from begging. In fact, his entire life would change and Jesus wanted to be sure that the man understood all the implications of receiving his sight. No doubt, for years the man had sat by the road and had his physical needs sustained by the kindness of others. What is unmistakably clear from examining this episode is the passion of Bartimaeus to see again.
This morning, I would like each of us to think about our personal response if Jesus came to us and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” Like all the surveys our congregation has taken recently, our responses to Jesus probably would be all over the landscape. Some of the surveys were very confusing and the fact that we took them several times probably confused us even more.
Our lives can be very confusing. Our responses to daily events often depend on how we are feeling at the moment, how old we are, how experienced we are in using our life-skills and more importantly how adept we are in using our skills of spirit, particularly during moments when our lives appear to be turned upside down by circumstances. Bartimaeus was about to experience such a dramatic change. How to use our inner world to make a difference in our outer world is different for each of us.
When I was a little boy, I did chores around the house and earned a dollar a week. My parents helped me to decide the worth of tithing my allowance. I got my offering envelope and dutifully put my dime into it every week. Now that I know what the money counters go through each Sunday following our services, I wonder what they thought about Dickie’s tithing. Coins can be a challenge.
Also, my mother put the books of the Bible on a large chart that hung in the downstairs bathroom. She asked us to memorize them while we were in there. She would switch them out with the Ten Commandments and then The Beatitudes. After supper, my brother, twin sisters and I would endure my father’s evening devotional. We would roll our eyes and look at our cuckoo clock on the dining room wall. We would laugh when the bird came out and cuckooed six times in the middle of what our Dad was reading. I suspect our attitudes about this practice were not the best.
During that stage of my life I honestly did not give too much thought to any type of religious thinking. My environment was living in a minister’s family and I learned various practices because I was not aware of any other way to think.
Then entering junior and senior high school, life was different. These were the days when hormones were raging, male voices were changes and girls were developing. Thoughts about God did not often enter our young teen minds except during our youth fellowship meetings on Sunday night. The rest of the week, our thoughts were about dancing, having fun, having lots of friends and exuding strong energy patterns in every conceivable direction. Most of us could hardly sit still and we were always talking -- something I never stopped doing during my later adult years. During those teen years most of us probably would not have known how to answer Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Something we were not used to experiencing happened toward the end of our twelfth grade experience. We walked across the platform to receive our diploma from the principal. We somehow knew that life would be different. Our peer groups were shattering. Kids learned who was going on to their respective colleges and universities and who would be assuming positions in various industries that offered on-the-job training. Most of us had our identities linked to being accepted by our peers and the constant flow of high school activities. Within a flash those linkages were no longer able to produce the sense of confidence we had developed.
The unseen current of life’s flow was taking us into the world we had never visited, a world where we had to make decisions that would impact the rest of our lives. For a good number of us, we did not know who we would be once the social veneer that had been fashioned by our high school culture was no longer there to serve our emotional needs.
My point in mentioning these life stages is that there were so many experiences that appeared to be of the highest priority that there was not the interest in the spiritual dimension. In one sense we were blind and lacked any interest in seeing anything else that was not intimately linked to our self-interest.
A huge reality was about to impact our lives. Mom and Dad would not be there when it came time for choices that only we could make. In many of our lives, these moments of early adulthood became a time when we really began to ask far more important questions about life: Who am I? How trained am I to face what is coming? What do I want to do with my life? How do I meet someone who could easily become my life-partner? What values and character strengths should I look for in this person?
Now when Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” We might have been ready to say, “Please give me vision. Please help me to see. Please help me to develop understanding that will help me discern what really matters and what does not.” Sometimes people have to know only darkness before they develop the passion to want to see.
One of the important aspects of God’s spirit is that God’s patience is inexhaustible. God waits for us to come with a request, “Teacher, I want to see again.” It does not matter about the background from which we came; healing fills our spirits when we tune into what was available throughout our lives – God’s presence and God’s remarkable ability to guide us.
People who have developed a passion to see or understand what Jesus gave humanity can be shocked with what they discover particularly if they are first-time believers. The treasure, the gold, the valued gifts and talents that bring peace, emotional stability and the motivation to develop our one-of-a-kind personality and spirit do not come from the external world. Such fruits grow only from within.
Tomorrow we will celebrate the life of our assistant organist, Chuck Mock. Since most of you will not be able to attend his memorial service, I decided to illustrate the point of my message this morning by pointing to one who was in our midst for years. Chuck modeled what being inner directed and having the ability to see looked like.
Inner directed people pay little attention to the blindness of the world’s countless illusions - illusions that suggest that they are the goals that provide our purpose for being alive. Nothing the world offers can provide us purpose and meaning. Jesus taught his listeners that they were the ones who would eventually enter the world to bring light, to be the leaven for the loaf, to sow seeds of every form and variety and to become guides for others.
Chuck attended the Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. During his first year, he became an Ensign for the Navy. During the summer of his first year he qualified as a Naval Diving Medical Officer. With diving as one of his newly acquired skills, he branched out into the School of Aviation Medicine in Pensacola Florida. He became a pilot and a Naval Flight Surgeon. He went to the Naval War College. He became the Chief Medical Officer on the USS Essex aircraft carrier, the same carrier that retrieved the crew from the Apollo 7 space module. He attended to the needs of the three astronauts who had been on board. After 26 years in the Navy he retired.
His energy levels, however, would not permit him to stay retired. He came out of retirement to become a practicing physician and than an administrator at Johns Hopkins. He trained other physicians and built satellite clinics throughout Maryland. After 10 years he retired again, leaving the position of the Vice President of Medical Affairs for Johns Hopkins. After retirement he established Nighttime Pediatrics of Annapolis and became its first Medical Director.
Stepping beyond the practice and teaching of medicine, he was the Scout Master of our church’s troop 1249 for years. He loved to take the boys on cold winter camping experiences. Over an open fire, he would prepare his specialty – Dutch oven peach cobbler.
He became a self taught accomplished pianist and organist. He was an avid bicyclist, a runner who entered marathons. He loved to surf fish on the Outer Banks. Through the stages of his life he and Bette owned three boats.
No one could possibly estimate the impact Chuck had on the lives of thousands of people. He accomplished everything without talking about himself. If people knew anything about Chuck, they had to be there to see it or they would never know. He flew under the radar of even the most perceptive people while quietly sowing his seeds.
This is what it looks like to be touched by the Master’s hand and be healed of our blindness. Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus responded, “Teacher, I want to see again.” There can be no question that Chuck Mock had learned how to see. He was always thinking, “How can I make what is in front of me better, whether it was a medical practice he helped organize or a young Boy Scout who was seeking to master his life skills on his way to being an adult.
Each one of us can see when we enter our inner world and with passion develop what we find there. Chuck did. Go forth now and be a blessing to the world.
THE CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
Thank you, God, for bringing opportunities into our lives to express understanding, kindness and generosity. When Jesus came among us, he confessed that he had no place to lay his head. His message was simple – extend your hope among the troubled, your kindness among the lonely and your friendship among those who feel alone. Help us to remember that Jesus did not mind washing the feet of his followers. He found value in the one leper among ten who returned to say, “Thank you!” He felt compassion toward the widow who gave away everything that she had. Then he did the same with his own life. As we open ourselves to you this morning, touch our minds and hearts with your spirit and word. Call us with a voice that is unmistakably clear. Inspire us to listen to the words of your son, “Follow me.” Amen.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER
Ever faithful and always loving God, finding our seats in the sanctuary gives us countless near perfect moments to quite ourselves in the stillness of meditation. A number of us are challenged when it comes to experiencing silence. Talking and texting are among the many activities we do that symbolize our need to stay connected to the external world. We confess that few of us find the time to listen in our silences. We appear to have a rich appetite for the countless distractions that we allow to rule our lives. When we understand how our distractions contribute to the formation of our attitudes, we welcome opportunities to cleanse our minds by focusing our thoughts on what builds bridges between people, on what opens closed doors and on what creates meaningful friendships.
Thank you for the message that Jesus refined for humankind. Thank you for the gathered community that feeds and nurtures us, providing us guidance even during the moments when we honestly believe we do not need a thing. Truly among the numerous pearls of great price that we have is having an energized inner world that never forgets how to be grateful for all our remarkable experiences that enable us to radiate our happiness.
By observation, it is you, O God, who has taught us the art of loving. We frequently struggle in some of our relationships, yet you surround everyone with countless opportunities to grow. We acquire many creature comforts and you send the sunshine and the rain on the suicide bombers as well as the skilled members of the medical community, the wealthy tycoon and the one who searches for food in restaurant dumpsters. We do not understand how love works. What we do know is that where we find ourselves is a perfect garden in which to grow, bloom and disburse our seeds, all from a spirit born of the same love. With thankful hearts we now pray the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to say when they prayed . . .