Take Heart

Take Heart

Jesus was on his way from Galilee to Jerusalem. This was his last journey. In Jerusalem he would be arrested, tried in a kangaroo court, and executed. He had to pass through Jericho on his way. Jericho is an ancient City that claims to be the oldest walled City in the world. Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of walls that date back to 9,500 BCE. Jericho was a City before there was writing at the very dawn of the age of agriculture.

Today’s lesson is about a blind beggar in Jericho by the name of Bartimaeus the son of Timaeus. In many gospel stories the names of persons who were healed are omitted. The inclusion of the name Bartimaeus and even the name of his father suggests the possibility that this blind beggar indeed followed Jesus to Jerusalem, was a witness of the crucifixion and resurrection, and he became a member of the early church.

Jesus’ reputation had preceded him, for when Bartimaeus was told that the commotion passing by his begging place by the City Gate was Jesus and his entourage, Bartimaeus began crying out using the messianic title: “Jesus Son of David have mercy upon me! Jesus Son of David have mercy upon me!”

Our story tries to teach us something about faith, for when the bystanders told Bartimaeus to “shut-up,” he called out all the more. Persistence in prayer can remind us of Jesus’ Parable of the Friend at Midnight, who got what he wanted, not because he was a friend, but because of his continual knocking at the door – ask, seek, knock. Bartimaeus finally got Jesus’ attention, and Jesus said, “call him.” And now the people who previously told Bartimaeus to “shut-up,” said, “take heart; rise; he is calling you.”

How easily we move from despair to hope, or hope to despair. Persisting faith is the bridge that can see us across the chasms of hopelessness. Take heart indeed. Without the heart of hope we die. Take heart!

Please notice that Jesus asked Bartimaeus the same question in this week’s lesson, he asked James and John in last week’s lesson: “What do you want me to do for you?” Maybe that is the question each one of us needs to be able to hear Jesus asking of us? “What do you want me to do for you?” If we can articulate what we would like to happen, we begin to be able to claim greater happiness. When we articulate the desires of our heart, we have the opportunity to decide whether or not we really want those things. Sometimes, when we finally succeed in articulating our desires, we realize how foolish or impossible are our wishes.

Other times when we express the longings of our hearts we have to acknowledge the price we might have to pay to realize those dreams. It is like the woman who came up to the great pianist Paderewski after a concert and said, “Oh I would give my life to be able to play like that.”

And Paderewski replied, “I have, I have.”

Articulating the desires of our hearts also helps us to establish priorities. So often, we allow our true goals to get lost in the mad scramble of daily living, and the push and pull of everyone else’s wants and needs. If we are clear about our priorities, we will not come to the end of our lives regretting we never really did what we wanted to do.

Articulating the deepest longings of our hearts can lead us to pray. And when we pray about the desires of our hearts we become open to hearing God’s plans and priorities. And since we will never rest until we rest in God’s heart, we will ultimately come to terms with what God wants for our lives.

Bartimaeus wanted his eye sight, and he was willing to say he wanted to be healed. The most important question physicians need to ask is: “Do you want to be healed?” Healing is possible when we ask, and when we understand what the costs of healing will be. Healing isn’t magic. We transform our lives in order to bring our spirits more in line with God. Healing usually involves, changes to diet, exercise, habits and addictions, even sometimes our patterns of thought. Many changes we have to make are hard. We won’t be able to initiate those changes without God’s help.

Pastorally, I know that if someone seeks help, sometimes I can help them. But when people expect the pastor or the counselor or the physician to help them, without their asking for assistance, there is very little that can be done to help them find healing. Do we want to be healed? Are we willing to acknowledge we are sick and in need of a physician? Jesus can help us, when we ask in prayer.

When Bartimaeus was finally healed, Jesus told him, “your faith has made you well.” Healing is not some magical trick, it is the calling forth of the healing power that already resides within us.

There is an old Hassidic tale about Rabbi Izaak of Cracow. One night in a dream he was told to go to faraway Prague and there to dig for a hidden treasure under the bridge that led to the palace of the King. He did not take the dream seriously, but when it recurred four nights in a row, he made up his mind to go search for the treasure.

When Izaak arrived in Prague he discovered to his dismay that the bridge was heavily guarded by soldiers, and all he could do was walk past the bridge hoping for some opportunity to explore underneath it. After a couple of days, the Captain of the guard approached Rabbi Izaak to question him about why he was spending so much time around the bridge.

Rabbi Izaak was embarrassed and confided his dream to the Captian of the Guard. The Captain roared with laughter and said, “Good heavens! What a silly man to take dreams so seriously! Why, if I were stupid enough to act on my own dreams, I would be in Cracow right now. I have a dream that recurs that in the corner of the kitchen underneath the stove of a poor Jew named Izaak there is a buried treasure. Can you think of anything sillier than that?”

Rabbi Izaak was stunned. He thanked the Captain for his advice, hurried home, dug up the corner of his kitchen and found the treasure. The treasure was his all along right there under his stove, but he had leave Cracow and go to Prague to find it.

Just so, the gifts of God are already within us. The talents, the strength, and the capacity to surmount hardship and challenge, the faith is already within us. As Jesus says, “our faith has made us well.” The ability to transform our lives is within us, we just have to ask and we will receive, knock and it will be opened, seek and we will find. We may need to go on a journey before we find the treasures within ourselves, but the gifts are there, if we open ourselves to ask Jesus and if we listen to our dreams.

So what journey do we need to make to find the treasure within? Maybe we might undertake a pilgrimage to a holy place like the Holy Land, or a journey back to the places of our childhood, or we might climb a sacred mountain, or take a simple walk in the woods.

The labyrinth is a symbol of the spiritual journey. Walking the labyrinth can be a pilgrimage to our spiritual center. Like life the path twists and turns, and if we persevere the journey will bring us to our spiritual center, where the gifts of the spirit reside: faith, hope and love. We set out on the journey with the promise that the gifts are already ours, if we can open ourselves to the God’s presence within us. On Thursday evening November 1 around the sharing table we will discuss the use of the labyrinth for the spiritual journey.  We will have our mini-three circuit labyrinth unfolded for people to try.  We will try using an eleven circuit finger labyrinth like the design in the Chartres Cathedral which has been reproduced on the backside of your hymn insert this

Now some people will claim that labyrinths and spiritual journeys and disciplines of prayer don’t make any common sense to them. Spiritual exercises are like flights of fancy – nonsense. But you know what? Common sense isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. It can be useful sometimes, but common sense cannot save us. Common sense would tell us that life doesn’t mean anything because we’re just all gonna die anyway. Life sucks and then you die! Perhaps the most important gift we can discover within ourselves is hope, because without hope we die. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Maybe if we ask, Jesus can restore our eyesight, our spiritual eyesight, our ability to see past the material things around us to be able to perceive the spiritual realities we miss, because we are so focused on being practical. Jesus points us in the direction of the commonwealth of God, the community of sharing, and Jesus says, “Hey folks, real life is relationships and sharing – relationship and sharing with God and other people through the community of faith.”

So take heart! Nothing, not even death can separate us from the love of God. Life is good! Life has meaning! In Christ is our hope! Take heart!


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