Bartimaeus on Worldview
This sermon discusses the issues around seeing past our culture and worldview to find the direction and way of living that God wants us to have.
Text: Mark 10:46 - 52
- Helicopter lost in a big city - pilot and co-pilot
- Nowhere to land and getting desperate.
- Flys up to an office window and the co-pilot holds up a sign saying "where are we?"
- The man in the office thinks for a bit then writes and holds up his own sign: "In a helicopter?"
- While the pilot, stressed and worried begins shouting and waving his free fist at the man in the office, the co-pilot takes another look at the map and following his directions has them landed in the right place in a couple of minutes.
- "So how did you know?" asked the pilot.
- "Well with an answer like that - totally accurate but totally useless there was only one building that could be - Microsoft"
- We have a culture and way of reacting to situations. In this story, the crowd is operating series of assumptions about what is appropriate.
- The Microsoft man answered the question and operated within his culture to provide an answer that was appropriate to his culture.
- The Microsoft assumption was that accurate is good enough
- The crowd is reacting to the activities of Bartimaeus
- Here was this important leader, almost in procession being interrupted by a nobody, a nothing.
- That wasn't appropriate, it was wrong, it shouldn't have happened.
- We look at this situation and say that the crowd was wrong - unloving, uncaring with a very dodgy valuation of human life and miss an important point.
- "How do we respond to situations that cut across our understanding of appropriate behaviour?"
- With our 20/20 hindsight we can see the problems with the response of the crowd, but in their eyes they were reacting as they should. The reason we can see the problems is that we have a different set of assumptions.
- I guarantee though that some of my assumptions and some of your assumptions are as wrong as the assumptions the crowd was working with.
- How do we deal with addressing the reality that exists beyond our assumptions as God would when our assumptions blind us to that reality.
- There were two hunters out in the woods. One has a heart attack
- The other rings emergency and talks to the paramedic. "I think my friend is dead, he's just collapsed".
- The paramedic - in a calm collected voice as they have to have to calm people down, says "are you sure he is dead, the first thing is to make sure"
- There's a gunshot, and the hunter says "Ok so what next?"
- Jesus has this ability to look into a situation and always do the right thing. He has this uncanny knack of walking through a room full of people and touching the one person who needs him in exactly the point of their pain, the point of their need.
- There was Zacchaeus, Matthew, Peter, a couple of Samaritan women. If we search the gospels we find case after case.
Even the most complete list would only have a small proportion of those in his life and ministry.
- One of the challenging things to both his enemies and friends is that he was very unpredictable. They couldn't guess what he would do next.
- Despite spending 30 years as a Jew immersed in the culture of the time, he didn't operate on their assumptions.
- The expected direction wasn't followed rather an individual direction.
- He continually addressed the reality beyond the assumptions of the culture of the time.
- In this case the culture would have Jesus pass on by. The reality that Jesus saw was a child of God in need and the opportunity to change the world and that person's life with a couple of minutes effort.
- The reason we can look back on the crowd and criticise their reactions and responses is that the world was changed by this event and others to the point that our assumptions are close to the reality that Jesus was addressing.
- The crowd looked at the situation and didn't see the reality. How many times and situations do we look and not see the reality?
- As Christians we are called to walk like Christ did. To have his eyes and discernment. We are called to walk through a room full of people and touch the one person who needs him in exactly the point of their pain, the point of their need.
- Jacky Pullinger describes how she dealt with a young man who doubted his need to exercise his gift of tongues. She took him with her one day as she travelled around Hong Kong. Hong Kong is noisy and it was a little while before the young man noticed that Jacky was continually praying in tongues to herself.
- Throughout the day, they met person after person in need and were able to address those needs - praying for and helping in practical ways. By the end of the day the young man was also continually praying in tongues.
- Seeing the reality that Jesus saw, acting on that reality and touching the world at its point of pain is possible as we begin to get the mind and heart of Christ. As we begin to wait on him not only to see and know, but to have the resources to touch those in need.
About a century or two ago, the Pope decided that all the Jews had to leave Rome. Naturally there was a big uproar from the Jewish community. So the Pope made a deal. He would have a religious debate with a member of the Jewish community. If the Jew won, the Jews could stay. If the Pope won, the Jews would leave. The Jews realized that they had no choice. They looked around for a champion who could defend their faith, but no one wanted to volunteer. It was too risky. So they finally picked an old man named Moishe who spent his life sweeping up after people to represent them. Being old and poor, he had less to lose, so he agreed. He asked only for one addition to the debate. Not being used to saying very much as he cleaned up around the settlement, he asked that neither side be allowed to talk. The pope agreed.
The day of the great debate came. Moishe and the Pope sat opposite each other for a full minute before the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. Moishe looked back at him and raised one finger. The Pope waved his fingers in a circle around his head. Moishe pointed to the ground where he sat. The Pope pulled out a wafer and a glass of wine. Moishe pulled out an apple.
The Pope stood up and said, 'I give up. This man is too good. The Jews can stay.' An hour later, the cardinals were all around the Pope asking him what happened. The Pope said: 'First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there was still one God common to both our religions. Then I waved my finger around me to show him, that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground, showing that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and the wafer to show that God absolves us from our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of original sin. He had an answer for everything. What could I do?'
Meanwhile, the Jewish community had crowded around Moishe, amazed that this old, almost feeble-minded man had done what all their scholars had insisted was impossible! 'What happened?' they asked. 'Well,' said Moishe, 'First he said to me that the Jews had three days to get out of here. I told him that not one of us was leaving. Then he told me that this whole city would be cleared of Jews. I let him know that we were staying right here.' 'And then?' asked a woman. 'I don't know,' said Moishe. 'He took out his lunch and I took out mine.'
- Bartimaeus also broke through past his assumptions into the reality.
- He was a Jew of the lowest cast. He believed that he was worthless. Why would a notable like Jesus want to have anything to do with him?
- No doubt he had heard things about Jesus. I have heard many things about Jesus but I am amazed at how few of them I actually act on. Bartimaeus had even less reason to act.
- How could he bridge the gap between the assumptions of worthlessness and the possibility of a reality of the love of God mediated by Jesus.
- Despite the opposition by the crowd, despite the assumptions that held him Bartimaeus was determined to follow that possibility.
- He pushed through and pushed into the love of Jesus and was healed.
- John Wimber felt called by God to begin operating in a healing ministry. He began preaching and teaching every week on healing. He had altar calls to pray for the sick. And week in and week out every person that was prayed for remained sick.
- After a couple of months of this, people were leaving his church in droves. It was just idiotic to preach and practise something that just didn't work.
- How could he put his ministry on the line when week by week he proved that he couldn't do it? The assumptions would say: "healing is not for today", "you don't have the gift of healing" or "you are not good enough"
- After about six months he got a call from the father in one of the families in the church. The man had just got a job and today was his first day. The wife was very sick in bed and she couldn't take care of the kids. So would John come round and pray and heal the wife?
- You know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? Once John saw the woman and how sick she was it got worse. "At best", he thought, "I will have to look after the kids all day, at worst the man will lose this new job"
- John prayed for the woman and then turned to the man ready with the well practised excuses as to why sometimes God doesn't heal when he heard a voice behind him: "Will you have breakfast with us Pastor before you go?"
- While he had been turning, the woman now healed, had hopped out of bed to get breakfast.
- I feel like we are on the very beginning of a new journey in God. The things I am hearing about the evening service, the things that are coming out of the consultation for this service.
- The vision and the things that many people are putting in place to be true to that vision. The calling of a new Ministry Team Leader and all the new possibilities that person can bring. Just beginning.
- As we begin to be a different church with different expressions of God's love in this building and beyond, what assumptions will we have to see past?
- We can be sure that they will be things that seem reasonable, true and often things that we have dearly held for a long time.
- I think we have the smallest glimpse of the reality the God wants to bring us into.
- Lets leave aside the old assumptions, and like Bartimaeus lay hold of that small hope and truly see the reality that God has for us.