Sermon 4th Sunday of Lent: Blind Bartimaeus

            I think about this text, and there are two stories with the same tagline: Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” He asks the disciples this, and he asks this blind man, Bartimaeus the same. “What do you want me to do for you?”

            Now the similarity is that the disciples, James and John, and Bartimaeus; they both make requests to Jesus. They make their desires known, BELIEVING that Jesus has the power, the ability to make them happen. But there’s a difference – James and John don’t really understand how Jesus’ power works. Jesus responds that their request “isn’t mine to grant,” and it causes conflict among the rest of the disciples. Bartimaeus though…not only is his sight restored, he immediately follows Jesus “along the way.”

            I find it interesting that James and John and the rest of the disciples, who have been with Jesus the whole time, who have followed him, seen his miracles, heard his teachings, and who CAN SEE……end up not “getting it.”

And the one who “gets it” is the one sitting alongside the road, a blind beggar.

I wonder….perhaps being able to “see” is such a good thing after all.

            At one of my wrestling tournaments when I was in high school, one of my buddies had to wrestle a blind kid. We kind of joked around, talking about how bad my buddy was going to beat this kid and that it really wasn’t fair and a “real win” because the other kid couldn’t see. Because he was at a so-called disadvantage, the sport had a rule: if you wrestle a blind person, you have to maintain contact the whole time, touching fingers. The match began, they lined up and the ref started them properly, and about 15 seconds into the match, my buddy…..got taken down. And what was even crazier is that the other kid let him up – and took him down again. And again. And again. This went on pretty much the whole match, and my buddy lost pretty badly. They shook hands….the blind kid being helped off the mat with by his coach, and my buddy walking back to the bench to be made fun of by his teammates, and wondering how in the world a blind kid could beat him so badly.

            And I wonder if seeing is a disadvantage in this way – we look at things in front of us, and we immediately write them off. Or, possibility only exists within the limits of what we see, what we know to think to be true or real, or what we think we can or can’t do.

            SIGHT in this way is a disadvantage, because like the disciples, we don’t truly understand how Jesus’ works in our lives. And even more than that, we actually LIMIT the very power of God to do miraculous things in our lives.

            Blind Bartimaeus calls out, and calls out of his need – a need that he can’t fill on his own, a need that leaves him helpless and vulnerable. And it’s from this place he cries out to Jesus, “Have mercy on me Son of David!”

            Bartimaeus cries out….in faith. He cries out to Jesus because be hopes and believes that this Jesus might just be who he says he is, and he might just be the one who can do something he can’t do for himself, something so far outside the realm of possibility, something that exists in his wildest dreams…….make him see again.

            His blindness is an advantage, just like that blind wrestler’s…..because it leads them to consider something completely outside the normal realm of possibility. It leads them to think and act “outside the box.” It leads them to exhibit faith.

            Faith….as the apostle Paul writes in the Book of Hebrews….is the “conviction of things unseen.” Faith is trusting that those deep needs that we cannot do for ourselves, those things we long to see happen that seem so far outside the realm of possibility – God hears them, and God is actually powerful enough to act, and that trusting in such a God actually transforms our lives.

            A few weeks ago during their retreat, I asked the [St. Andrew] council to “dream:” if resources weren’t an issue – money, space, people, etc. What would your ideal church be like? What would it look, feel, sound, smell, and even taste, like? I asked them to dream….and I asked them to be specific about those dreams. And I think about that, perhaps it’d be a good thing to do that today. I am handing you a notecard – yes, me and my notecards again – I want you to just dream. What’s ONE THING that your ideal church would be like? If Jesus asked you “what do you want for this church?” What would you respond with?

            I want you to write that one thing down on the notecard. A couple things as you do that:

            – Don’t worry about how it’ll get done, if there’s enough resources, if anyone will show up, etc. Think instead: there’s no limit.
            – Be specific. Just don’t say “I want this church to be welcoming” or “I want our church to have more people.” But rather: Is there something specific your ideal church would have? A particular ministry or regular event or gathering? A connection with the larger community? Or maybe some dream you’ve always had for a church?

            So go ahead and take some time to write that one thing down. And then pass them to the front, and for our prayers today, I’m going to read each card aloud……because perhaps the other part that makes seeing a disadvantage is that we only see what we want to see. We don’t ask others, and we don’t listen to others….people who might be able to see things we can’t, making us aware of our blindspots.

            And so, we’ll pray today, listening to the dreams and visions of each other…..and we’ll pray faithfully together, asking for God to guide our seeing, for Christ to be our vision. Amen.

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