Friday, October 23, 2015

Let those who have eyes see.

The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus Mark 10:46-52.

A sermon by theological student in our parish, Oliver Yengi

This passage is in the central part of Marks gospels, it begins with the section where Jesus healed the blind man and predicted his crucifixion that he mentioned three times to the disciples but they could not believe or understand his teaching. In this same section there was a big confusion among the disciples in regards to who is going to be the greatest also the people who gathered there to listen to Jesus teaching were confused too.  Most of them could not understand what he was talking about but Jesus reinforced his teachings by explaining and clarifying the issues.

This section alone involved healing, deep teaching which covered a range of issues such as “who the disciple think who he was?”, divorce, the blessing of the children, the rich man plus the request by John and James to sit one on the right and the other on the left in his kingdom. In the first event Jesus restored the sight of the blind man in two stages, (Mk 8:22-26) while in the second part he gives sight to the blind Bartimaeus, (Mk10:46-52), which to me is the conclusion of this section.

Jesus performed many things in this section, and Mark structured it well.  It is interesting that he started the section with Jesus healing a blind man and concluded the section also with the healing of the blind Bartimaeus. In my opinion, I could suggest that the healing of the first man possibly reflects the progress of the disciples from blindness to having half sight to full sight afterwards; this could also be reflected in our spiritual journey, thus  we grow gradually grow in faith and  begin to see things differently . Therefore, our faith make us to change on step by step basis but not just once.

Bartimaeus the blind beggar seems to be well known in that area and he said to be the son of a blind man named Timeus.  That is like father like son all blind and made the case worse. When he was sited begging, he heard the crown following Jesus and he cried out in a loud voice to Jesus Christ for mercy; “Have mercy on me O Lord Son of David.”  He believed in him and have trust that Jesus will heal him and give him sight that will relieve him from the miserable life.
In coming to Christ for help and healing, we should have an eye on him as promised Messiah, the trustee of mercy and Grace.

Jesus encourages him to hope that he should find mercy: for he stood still and commanded him to be called.

The poor man hereupon made the best of his way to Christ “He cast away his loose upper garment and came to Jesus” and cast away everything that might be in danger of throwing him down or in any way hinder him from coming to Christ or retard his motion.

We as Christians need to throw away things that hinder our way, things that might throw us down. Those who would come to Jesus should cast away garment of their sufficiency.

The particular favor he begged was that his eyes might be opened so that he might be able to work for his living and might no longer be a burdensome to brothers. It is a desirable thing to be in a capacity to earn your our bread. Begging is a shameful thing to do.

Jesus ask him what do you want me to do for you?  He answered:  My “Teacher Let me see again”

Bartimaeus received his sight because he believed and have faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus Said to him “Go your faith has made you well” when he received his sight he followed Jesus by the way: able to do thing without helper. It is not enough to come to Christ for spiritual healing and when we are done and walk away, we should continue to follow him so that we may do honour to him and receive instruction from him.

That is why we are all here every Sunday, weekdays for bible study, choir practice, and op shop and so on all working together serving God here in Holy Cross.

Those that have spiritual eye-sight see that beauty of Christ that effectually draw them to run after him. Praise be to God that we all included.

How do we together in Holy Cross show that beauty of Christ to others who are out there being, our neighbours, friends at school, work place and so on?

The healing of Bartimaeus could serve as a reminder that many who come in contact with Jesus could ‘see’ but were blind in their hearts; Bartimaeus on the other hand could see through his heart even though he was blinded through eyesight. Jesus ask him what do you want me to do for you. Today Jesus is asking us what we want here in Holy Cross. What will be our Answer?

May his word live in us and bear much fruits to his glory! Amen

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Live Simply - Live in Peace

Last year, when we celebrated this day I recalled for you a little of the story of St Francis – when he lived, where he lived and what values he placed at the heart of what was to become the Franciscan Orders of Friars, Nuns and Tertiaries.

There is something about St Francis that resonates wonderfully with people today – I am sure that is why Pope Francis, who seems to be trying to embody the same values, is such a hit with people compared with his predecessor.

I think the two big issues of our time that are causing great angst for people is the environment and war/conflict.  And on these two issues I think St Francis has a lot to say. 

It is interesting when you consider the huge disconnect in humans in their consideration of Creatures and Creation.

On the one hand we marvel with David Attenborough in his nature documentaries at the extraordinary creatures of our world, and at least those of us in the wealthy first world heap adoration on our pets of various kinds – sometimes to an obscene extent in the face of poverty in the rest of the world, or even just a few suburbs away.

We love our animals.  Many of us love growing food in our gardens.  On one level creation is tops.

But on the other hand we have plundered creation with scant regard for the consequences for future generations.  Global trade these days means, for example, that Chinese traditional medicines – which many of us think are marvellous compared with the chemically engineered trugs we get from a Pharmacist – could be responsible for the extinction of a large number of exotic creatures because they kill a whole rhino just to get its horns, they kill a whole tiger just to get their genitals, and more.

The combination of our capitalist economy which seeks to drive demand beyond the capacity of earth’s resources to meet in the quest for always and ever increasing returns to shareholders, and the Military Industrial complex which rapes one part of the environment for resources and then destroys another part of environment in the cause of exerting political power and influence has meant that in almost every corner of the world the habitats of beautiful animals has been depleted to such an extent that we have an ever-growing register of endangered species.

St Francis offers two key insights into how we might remedy this.  He loved creatures and creation because they were each the handiwork of God, just as we are, and to not care for them is to not care for ourselves.  He also demonstrated a humility in his relationship with creatures.  Rather than seeing himself as superior to them – the pinnacle of Creation, made just a little lower than the angels – and lauding his power over the creatures, he prefers to adopt a stance of equality with animals.  We stand together.  We live in solidarity with each other.  We serve the least – as Jesus said so clearly to James and John in our Gospel today. 

The Gospel Way always seems to be radically different from the way of the world.   What amazes me about St Francis is that in his own way in the small part of the world he lived in he could see the Gospel challenge to the powers that be and the wisdom of the world.

The other great gift he made in this area was taking seriously the call to simplicity.  Today we would say “Live simply, so that all may simply live.”  And there are powerful counter-cultural movements working towards simplicity in our western world today – many working without a religious framework.  The Edible Garden Movement.  Recycling Movement.  The Tiny House Movement.  All the movements towards renewable energy.

But Francis was onto that long ago.  He required his monks to live simply.  They took a vow of poverty.  They could not be caught up in anything like the consumerism we worship in our day.  They took seriously Jesus’ aphorism about not worrying today about what you will do tomorrow – because God will give you all you need.  We should live with this much more in our mind than we do – and thus make our life on this planet capsule more sustainable.

When he was making his farewell speech as President of the United State, General Eisenhower said:

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment.  Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction...

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience.  The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government.  

We recognize the imperative need for this development.  Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications.  

Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.  In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex.  

The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.  We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.  We should take nothing for granted.  Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

It’s a bit longer than one of Jesus aphorisms, but I thought in its entirety it gives an insight into why we live in such a troubled world.

The military/industrial complex has hijacked public policy in the fields of foreign and national affairs.  Arms manufacturers and their financiers make a lot of money out of war – just consider how much it is worth to them to keep alive the conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinians.

“We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence” the President said, yet almost every year since his departure from office the American military has been deployed in places as an expression of the desire of subsequent presidents to secure unwarranted influence in affairs they should leave to others to settle.

And look at the place now.  Huge areas of South East Asia a desolation from degrading defoliants and land mines.  The Middle East awash with misguided religionists wanting to impose their power and influence in places they have no right to.

In St Francis’ day there was conflict between Muslims and Christians.  Paul Moses, in his 2009 book “The Saint and the Sultan,” says:

In 1219, in the midst of disastrous Fifth Crusade, Francis crossed enemy lines to gain an audience with al-Kamil, the sultan of Egypt and a nephew of the great Muslim warrior Saladin, in his camp on the banks of the Nile.  Francis, who opposed the warfare, hoped to bring about peace by converting the sultan to Christianity.  He didn’t succeed, but came away from the peaceful encounter with revolutionary ideas that called for Christians to live harmoniously with Muslims. 

There are Muslims today who share that vision – indeed live it out where they live.  I know that many Christians struggle with the idea of living harmoniously together rather than seeking conversion.  It is also especially hard for Christians who have suffered at the hands of Muslim oppressors because of their Christianity – like our Nuba friends.  But the truth is, there are many grounds by which Jesus is honoured within Islam, and friendship with Christians is commended in the Quran, despite the things claimed by those who have distorted Islam for their own purposes.

So, I am not proposing any answers to life’s problems or solutions for global calamities.  I am simply saying how interesting it is that one of the Saints of God who lived 700 years ago in a far less complex world than we do had some insights about life, inspired by the teachings of Jesus that could show us all how to live better in this place.

The Lord Be With You!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

In the Past God Spoke to our Ancestors

After listening to the Gospel reading this morning you are expecting a sermon about divorce and remarriage, but I am going to preach mainly  on the epistle reading.

The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many various ways through angels , prophets, but in these last days he spoke to by his Son, whom he appointed to be heir of all things through him he also created the world.  

So today we celebrate
  • Jesus the Reflection of God’s glory
  • What the power of the Holy Spirit still does today
  • The Jesus who considered family unity to be important to us
  • Jesus that welcomes little children to his arms
  • Jesus that took time to bless everyone, no matter who they were and how other people looked at them

It is important to note that,
  • Jesus is our Saviour and lord
  • Jesus is the promised one of God
  • Jesus is the son of God and yet a man like us
  • Jesus is a man who struggles to be faithful to God a man who was called to love his neighbours as himself
  • A man who suffered as we suffer

The letter to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus in exalted terms.  Calling him “The radiance of God’s Glory” and “the exact representation of God’s being”.  Thus I belief is true, as our whole faith speaks of it.  It is also interesting to me because a week ago our bible study with the youth groups was based on faith.  

The letter to the Hebrews reminded us of something else that our whole faith speaks of.  It reminds us that;
  • On earth Jesus was made like us, a little lower than the angels
  • That Jesus was one of us born of a woman
  • Born as out brother to walk as we walk through his life

The signs before us today, the bread and wine. They remind us of how he came to be our Saviour, they remind us of what his love and his faithfulness cost him

There have been two main, heretical threats to the Christian faith throughout history, the first being that, Jesus was not divine in some essential sense, the second being that, he was not completely human. The author of Hebrews, whoever, it might have been, wants us to know that Jesus was one of us, that he shared our humanity in every sense, especially in the way that he suffered. Indeed, it is precisely because of his willingness to suffer with and for us that God honoured him above all.

  1. On balance, how has the church encouraged you to think about Jesus - as being more like God in human form?
  2. Which way of thinking about Jesus makes you feel closer to him?


On the night of his betrayal, Jesus took bread and broke it, he also took wine and blessed it and gave it to his disciples

The next day out of his love for the world he died.  

The scripture tells us that Jesus died because of our sin that he looked upon himself.  The penalty for sin doing so that we might live and be one with him and one another, before God our creator, the one with the highest power.

Through his death he united us those who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one father, for this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.

Therefore the two sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist makes us closer to Jesus and feels his presence.

May his Word live in us and bear much fruits to his glory! Amen.