Restored – October 25, 2015


Job 42:1-6, 10-17 Mark 10:46-52


The ancient stories of Job and Bartimaeus bring us lessons that are still pertinent today…especially for us…at this time in the life of the Jackson Grove United Methodist Church family. Like the unfortunate widow who tormented the judge in chapter 18 of Luke (1-8) Job kept battering on heaven’s door until it was opened. God spoke to Job and gave him a few answers. God showed himself to Job for a few moments. The space between God and man was briefly crossed and the awful silence of heaven was briefly broken. That was enough for Job. Throughout the story of Job all of the theological problems regarding the presence of evil in God’s creation are thoroughly aired…but none is completely solved. But…to a desperate man…Job…there came a vision that goes beyond theology and enabled him to soldier on in a bleak and fearful word. God commended and rewarded Job for his persistence and faith. Could the ultimate message of this book be that persistence in faith brings God to the desperate…not to the self-assured…to the drowning person…to the person at the end of his rope…to a church challenged to meet its potential? The story of the encounter with Bartimaeus on the roadside gives much the same lesson. He was persistent. Nothing could stop his clamoring to come face to face with Jesus. He had a desperate desire…the kind of desire that gets things done. How deep is our desire? Bartimaeus did not hesitate when Jesus called. He threw off his only possession…his cloak…so he could more quickly run to Jesus. Many have heard the call of Jesus…but said…”Wait a minute, I want to get just one more thing finished.” Do we sometimes have a desire to abandon some habit…to purify some wrong in our life…to give ourselves more completely to Jesus…to aid our church family? Do we act on it? Or, do we create excuses that let the chance slip away? Bartimaeus knew exactly what he wanted. He wanted his sight…something Jesus was willing and able to give. Bartimaeus was on the mark…not only was he specific…he was asking for the right thing. Recall that Jesus asked the very same question…”What do you want me to do for you?” …three other times in this chapter of Mark. The Pharisees wanted to outsmart Jesus and trap him with their question (10:2). The rich man wanted eternal security at minimum cost. (10:17) James and John wanted to be the top officials in the kingdom’s bureaucracy. (10:35-36) Bartimaeus…a blind beggar…only wanted his sight returned. It was only to Bartimaeus that Jesus responded as requested. Bartimaeus may have had an incorrect idea of Jesus…when he called him the Son of David. That’s a title that suggests a messiah who would be a military conqueror. But…Bartimaeus had faith. That faith made up a hundred times over for his weak theology. The message from Bartimaeus was that Christianity begins with a personal reaction to Jesus. It’s a reaction of love…a feeling that truly in Jesus is the one person who could meet his need. Even if you and I are not able to give deep theological thought or meaning the response of our human heart in love and faith in Jesus is enough. Remember…I said these stories were especially pertinent to our Jackson Grove United Methodist church family today. Here’s why. Like Job we have suffered significant losses. There may be some like Job’s wife and his friends who want to curse God…who want to get into some theological hair-splitting and theorizing about why it has happened. Job wasn’t wasting any of his time and energy on that. Instead he went straight to God asking questions…seeking solution and resolution. Job talked with God and listened when God responded. Let us not be like Job’s wife…cursing God for our situation. Let us not be like Job’s friends…grasping at cockamamie theories about why. Let us be like Job…go to God…ask God for solutions…and be open to what He tells us. Let us be like Bartimaeus. It seems he had tried other cures before. They didn’t work. But…he never gave up. When Jesus came along Bartimaeus threw down his only hindrance…his coat so he could run to Jesus faster. Let us throw down the coats that hinder us from running to Jesus for the fix. Let us throw down doubt. Let us throw down differences. Let us throw down fear of failure. Let us throw down the shackles that come with “we’ve always done it this way,” and “we’ve never done that before.” Job and Bartimaeus were restored because they acted on their faith…just as Jackson Grove United Methodist Church can be restored by acting on our individual and collective faith. Mackenzie Allen Phillips…well…he was a different story. Could it be a familiar story? Seven years ago…my sister sent me a book as a Christmas present. The book was the highly popular novel written by William Young…entitled The Shack. Mackenzie…who his friends called Mack…was the main character. He was born somewhere in the Midwest. His dad was religious on the outside. He was a church elder. His dad was also a closet drinker who frequently beat his wife…Mack’s mother. When Mack was thirteen years old he confessed to the church pastor that he had done nothing to protect or defend his mother. Clearly…he confessed to the wrong person. The pastor told Mack’s dad. His father tied Mack to a tree and…between his bouts of drinking… beat Mack badly with his belt for two days. When he was freed Mack put rat poison in all of his dad’s liquor bottles…left a note for his mother…and ran away from home at the age of thirteen. Much later in his life the story focuses on Mack’s trip…by himself…to a remote cabin for a weekend retreat when Mack reached his mid-fifties. During that trip he encountered God…much like Job. The message Mack received from God was clear. God told Mack, “You try to make sense of the world in which you live based on a very small and incomplete picture of reality. It is like looking at a parade through the tiny knothole of hurt, pain, self-centeredness, and power and believing you are on your own and insignificant. All of these thoughts contain powerful lies. You see pain and death as ultimate evils and God as the ultimate betrayer, or perhaps, at best as fundamentally untrustworthy. You dictate the terms and judge my actions and find me guilty. The real underlying flaw in your life, MacKenzie, is that you don’t think I am good. If you knew I was good and that everything—the means, the ends, and all the processes of individual lives—is all covered by my goodness, then while you might not always understand what I am doing, you would trust me. But you don’t.” There is a powerful conclusion to this conversation…when God says, “MacKenzie you cannot produce trust, just as you cannot ‘do’ humility. It either is or is not. Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved. Because you do not know that I love you, you cannot trust me.” So…as Mark reported that Jesus asked four times…”What do you want me to do for you?”…today His Jackson Grove United Methodist Church family should respond this way. Where it’s needed…we confess and ask that our knowledge of God’s universal love be restored…and that consequently our total faith and trust in Jesus Christ be restored…and that with full faith and trust in that love we go forth on the path that restores our Jackson Grove United Methodist Church family to its full potential as a beacon of God’s love in our lives and in our community.