September 23, 2018 LORD HAVE MERCY

September 23, 2018

United Methodists Womens    SUNDAY 2018

FAITH, HOPE  AND LOVE IN ACTION or LORD HAVE MERCY

Carol Sims

As always, it is a privilege to worship with you, to celebrate the life of the church and this morning, the life of United Methodist Women.  I’m calling on us first to consider the story of Bartimaeus, found in the Gospel of Mark.

Bartimaeus was a blind begger sitting outside the city gates of Jericho, along the road that leads to Jerusalem.  Blind apparently from birth, begging as the acceptable welfare system of his time, and still is in parts of the world.  He wasn’t unusual or alone in his location.  He hears that it is Jesus passing by and immediately calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Jesus stopped and said, call him.  They did and Bartimaeus throw his cloak aside and came to Jesus.  

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

“Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.”

Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

This story is only 6 verses long and is stunning.  First, why do we know his name?  There are so many stories of healing in the Gospels, but usually it’s a man with leprocy, a woman touched the hem of His garment, a man who had been crippled, so seldom is the person identified by name.  So often, that’s good.  It’s reassuring that it could be anyone; not a particular person uniquely deserving.  But here, Bartimaeus is identified.  Second, how did he know?  What had he heard about Jesus?  Who had already been a witness? Or did Bartimaeus just know?  He calls out identifying Jesus as the Son of David.  That’s Jewish Messiah language.  

This is the long-expected one; Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise; he may have been blind but he has perfect 20/20 vision of who’s He’s calling to.  The crowd rebukes him.  Perhaps because they don’t all recognize Jesus as the Messiah; they have followed a great man without recognizing he is Lord.

 He asks for mercy.  He isn’t yelling, heal me!  Heal me!  His cry is for mercy.

Webster defines mercy as kindness & compassion; relief from suffering; a blessing, a possible surprise; showing kindness, understanding, and tolerance in judging; refraining from harm or punishment when it would be expected.

Lord, have mercy.

Jesus says, “call him.”  Usually Jesus just walks over to someone, touches him, heals him, but for some reason he looks at his disciples presumably and says call him.  You call him.

Bartimaeus hears the call, leaves his cloak behind and goes to Jesus.  A man in that culture, certainly a beggar, would have only had a tunic and a cloak.  The cloak would have served as a coat, shelter, bed, protection, and he leaves it behind.  He’s risking everything. 

Standing in front of Jesus, Jesus asks him what he wants him to do.  And Bartimaeus goes for it; I want to see.  And Jesus could have said, clearly you already do—your faith has made you well and instantly his physical sight was restored.  He can see now.  He can make a living.  He doesn’t have to beg.  And Bartimaeus chooses to follow.

I contend today that faith, hope, and love in action = mercy.  

We stand in a time of political turmoil and anger and violence.  There have certainly been other times in our nation’s history when we have said the same.  Political turmoil, anger, and violence.  Yet it does seem even more pronounced in this age of mass social media, certainly it’s more immediate and knee-jerk.  We cry out, Lord, have mercy.

We stand concerned with the future of the United Methodist Church as we know it and we cry out Lord, have mercy.

We get upset with family upheaval and drama, and we cry out Lord, have mercy.

We look at our personal failures and challenges and cry out, Lord, have mercy.

We all want to be looked upon by God, not as we deserve, but to be looked at favorably.  With love and forgiveness.  That’s mercy.  I hope you can fill in your own kid story.  One of the first that came to mind for me was a winter evening when I was about five years old.  Dad was at a church meeting, mom needed to deliver something to a lady in town, there was no choice but to put my younger sister and I in the car and go.  The woman lived on a hill, and because it was cold, mom left the car running, had Cathy and I safely in the backseat, said she’d be right back, she wasn’t going in, just up on the porch and back.  Well, of course, I launched myself over the seat and in the process hit the gear shift and the car started rolling.  Mom jumped off the porch, in heels, and reached the car door just as we hit a parked car.  I can honestly say, without pride, that I wrecked the car at the age of five.  Dad’s only question when mom called him was, are you alright?  That’s mercy.  

We are a vital church in a remarkable denomination.  As United Methodists we are the largest Protestant denomination in the world, over 80 countries, between 12 and 13 million strong, 7 million of that in the United States.  There are 43,000 congregations all worshipping sometime today.  That’s a little mind boggling. About 830 congregations just in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.  Our relief organization, UMCOR, is known throughout the world, second only to the Red Cross and Catholic Charities.   When I traveled in Liberia, our van of mostly white Americans was stared at until they read the label markings on the side with our cross and flame symbol and the words United Methodist, then lots of smiles, waving, and thumbs up.  We are known.  

Faith, hope, and love in action.  The motto of United Methodist Women, those words are filled with meaning.  This organization, 800,000 strong is the largest faith-based organization of women in the world!  “A community of women whose purpose is to know God and to experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ; to develop a creative, supportive fellowship; and to expand concepts of mission through participation in the global ministries of the church.”  

To experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ.  Freedom as whole persons—-I wish that was the norm around the world, but it is not.  We provide opportunities and resources to grow spiritually and put faith into action.  We equip women and girls around the world to be leaders in communities, agencies, workplaces, governments and churches.  We work for justice through compassionate service and advocacy to change unfair practices.  We provide health and educational services that lead to personal change and transformation.  Not because we want to take over.  Just because we are created to have equal rights and opportunities.  We are all children of a just God.

To develop a creative, supportive fellowship—we’re good at this part—usually.  We need to support one another in friendship, prayer, Bible and mission study, hands-on missions in our church and community, work with other women, children, and youth.  We are organized to grow.  We have a flexible structure that can lead to effective witness and action.

To expand concepts of mission—-go ye into all the world—go ye into your own backyard—your own community.  Be aware of the needs.  Our collection area at the entrance off the parking lot is often impressive as you collect food supplies, personal care items, pack shoeboxes at Christmas, box-tops for Cunningham, school supplies, etc.  You are a generous church when you perceive a need.  We are quick to help families in the community and our shut-ins.  You gave in the neighborhood of $8,000 to United Methodist mission projects last year; 10% of all our dinners and events, the loose change offerings, ice cream Sundays, plus some of that you weren’t directly aware of as it was partially in your benevolence dollars that you send to the conference.  Indeed, we are called to advocate for social issues including issues of poverty, environment, violence, immigration, human trafficking, discrimination in all its forms.  Your Christian values and principles should include, but not stop at, the ballot box.  One person really can make a difference.  But we are not called to do it alone.  We are called to walk with Christ; as individuals and as a church.  We are called to show mercy.

We live in a time of great spiritual blindness.  Figuratively, there’s a Bartemaeus just outside our doors.  Perhaps there’s one in the pews this morning.  It is your job personally, and the job of the church, this one and all our UM churches and United Methodist Women, to show them Christ.  To show mercy.  To show faith, hope, and love in action.  We all want to see!

I know that it says in James 5: 11…The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.  I know that Hebrews is correct…Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  I know we are called to show mercy and compassion to one another.  I know that that is faith, hope, and love in action!

About Carol Sims