August 26, 2007
"A Chance To See"
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
An older women came home one day to find that her house had been broken into. She immediately called the police and told them. The nearest officer to her house happened to be a K-9 unit, so that officer was the one who responded to the call. The officer drove up to the house and proceeded to let the dog out of the car.
The woman came running out of the house when she saw the police car, but stopped when she saw the dog getting out. She threw up her hands and said, "Great. This is just great. Not only have I been robbed, but now they send me a blind police officer!" (1)
Being blind really isn't a laughing matter. I had a second cousin who was born blind. Life for her was pretty hard but her parents tried to make it as normal as possible. Jenny was always cute but when Jenny became a teenager she was gorgeous. However, a lot of the teenagers wouldn't have anything to do with her. But it wasn't because she was blind, it was because she played the accordion and loved polka music. She's married now and last I heard, doing fine and still playing the accordion.
The character in the passage this morning was also blind. His life was a whole lot harder than Jenny's but through Christ he was given A Chance To See. Let's look at the passage from Mark 10:46-52 (NRSV) and see how that happened.
 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.
 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
 Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you."
 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.
 Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again."
 Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Bartimaeus, was sitting in HIS spot. No telling how long it had been HIS spot. He'd shuffle out everyday and sit in the same spot along the busy street leaving Jericho. Those few people who had a conscience and a touch of empathy would toss a coin or two into his begging bowl. And he'd make just enough to feed himself or rent a room.
Most people, though, walked on the other side of the street. Afraid that what ever sin God was punishing this blind man for wasn't contagious. That's what they thought back then, that blindness was God's punishment for sin, either yours or your parents. I personally think the only sinful thing Bartimaeus may have done was play the accordion like my cousin.
Whatever the case, because he was blind, he was ostracized and cut off from normal society. When he heard that Jesus was coming, he could hardly wait. Al he wanted was a Chance To See. And when Jesus got close, to the embarrassment of all those around, Bartimaeus started hollering at the top of his lungs, hoping to get Jesus' attention.
It worked. Jesus asked him what he wanted. Bartimaeus said, "Let me see again." And Jesus did. Jesus gave Bartimaeus a Chance To See. Like Bartimaeus, Jesus offers us all A Chance To See. There are a couple of things we have to do in order to receive it.
A. The First thing we have to do is OPEN YOUR EYES. To me, that seems pretty obvious but it's not for some people. Some people find it hard to Open Their Eyes. I think some people don't Open Their Eyes because they are afraid. They're afraid they'll never be able to see. So they just keep their eyes closed.
Two psychiatrists were talking and one asked the other, "What was your most difficult case?"
His colleague answered, "Once I had a patient who lived in a pure fantasy world. He believed that a wildly rich uncle in South America was going to leave him a fortune. All day long he waited for a make-believe letter to arrive from a fictitious attorney. He never went out or did anything. He just sat around and waited."
"What was the result?" asked the first psychiatrist.
"Well, it was an eight-year struggle but I finally cured him. And then that stupid letter arrived . ." (2)
Some people are afraid to Open Their Eyes. And some just keep their eyes closed no matter what.
B. Sometimes we don't Open Our Eyes because we're afraid we'll be disappointed in what we see. That it won't live up to our memories or expectations. Sort of like trying to recapture a childhood memory. Most of the time the reality is never as good as the memory.
For example. One of my favorite meals as a teenager was to cook a cup of macaroni noodles. While they were cooking I'd sauté lots of onions. I'd throw in a can of corned beef hash and when it was good and crispy like potato cakes, I'd add in a can of mushrooms. When all of that was done, the macaroni would be finished. I'd drain it and then mix the whole concoction together.
I tried it a couple of years ago. It was edible but just barely. My memory of it was 150% better than the actual thing. That's the way some people are with Opening Their Eyes. If Bartimaeus had been afraid to Open His Eyes, he would have blown his Chance To See.
We all have A Chance To See through Jesus and what he did for us on the cross and in the empty tomb. But first we have to Open Our Eyes.
A. The second thing we have to have is THE PROPER FOCUS. And to get the Proper Focus sometimes Means We Have To Clean The Lenses.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, told a story on himself. He was waiting for a taxi outside the railway station in Paris. When the taxi pulled up, he put his suitcase in it and then got in the taxi. As he was about to tell the taxi-driver where he wanted to go, the driver asked him: "Where can I take you, Mr. Doyle?''
Doyle was astounded. He asked the driver if he knew him by sight. The driver said: "No Sir, I have never seen you before.'' Doyle was puzzled and asked him how he knew he was Arthur Conan Doyle.
The driver replied: "This morning's paper had a story that you were on vacation in Marseilles. This is the taxi-stand where people who return from Marseilles always wait. Your skin color tells me you have been on vacation. The ink-spot on your right index finger suggests to me that you are a writer. Your clothing is very English, and not French. Adding up all those pieces of information, I deduce that you are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.''
Doyle exclaimed, "This is truly amazing. You are a real-life counter-part to my fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes."
"There is one other thing,'' the driver said.
"What is that?' Doyle asked. "Your name is on the front of your suitcase.'' (3)
It wasn't the powers of deduction. It was the power of observation. That taxi driver's lenses were clean enough to observe what was going on around him. He had the Proper Focus.
B. But Sometimes in order to get Proper Focus, we need New Lenses. Or a new way of looking at things. Carlton Fletcher tells about his Uncle Walter who lived in Waldorf, Germany, during the Second World War and how he looked through new lenses in order to solve a problem. Uncle Walter was the descendant of Huguenots that had run away from France during the persecution of the Protestants in the 1600's.
During the war he wanted to build himself a house, but all the necessary materials were reserved for the army. You couldn't build a house for yourself. To a member of Germany's middleclass, building a house and getting out of an apartment is a priority. And nothing not even a world war would deter Uncle Walter, from building his house.
Here is how he did it. He bought a lot and loaned it out for people to throw junk on it. And then he would go there at night and build, layer by layer of brick, and cover it up with junk. When the war was over, there was this big pile of junk, but underneath there was a house which was nearly completed. All it needed was a roof. In 1946, when the war was over, Uncle Walter put the roof on as fast as he could. And he was jubilant. He said, "I beat the Nazis, I beat them. I got my house." (4)
Uncle Walter got a Chance To See and got Proper Focus by looking at the problem through new lenses.
A. Third with those New Lenses we get Spiritual Insight. We may not even know that the Spiritual Insight within us has been awakened. Or the Spiritual eye been opened. But it's there.
In the 1700's there was a rather remarkable change in the life of an Austrian Count named Nikolaus Zinzendorf. Born into nobility, Zinzendorf had recently completed his training in law, and was sent off to complete his education by touring the European cities. In an art gallery in Dusseldorf he came upon a masterly painting of Jesus. The eyes of Jesus seemed to penetrate the Count's heart. Beneath the painting were these words: "This I did for you; what are you doing for me?"
Count Zinzendorf was never able to forget those haunting words. Within a just a couple of years he retreated from public life to devote himself to a Christian community he started for religious fugitives from Moravia. It was Zinzendorf's writings and the Moravians themsleves that influenced John Wesley the most and contributed to his being the Christian leader he was. All because this Spiritual Insight had been awakened in him. That kind of Spiritual Insight is called, faith. (5)
B. I read about a woman who received that same kind of Spiritual Insight. A few years ago, with the help of Presbyterian mission money, she helped to establish a halfway house for women who are recovering drug addicts. She schedules twelve-step groups, arranges for child care, and generally tries to get the women back on their feet. In a lot of ways, you would never expect her to be involved with such work. She is quiet, even-tempered, gentle, and articulate. But something happened a few years ago that caused her to see with new Spiritual Insight.
She was in graduate school in Pittsburgh and looking for a part-time job. A newspaper listed an administrative position with a soup kitchen. She thought looked interesting, so she clipped it out and prepared for the interview. On the day of her interview, she put on a dark blue business suit, put together a manila folder full of resumes and references, and clipped back her hair.
Arriving a few minutes before noon, she saw the sign: "East End Cooperative Ministry." She knocked on the door. Someone inside said, "It's unlocked." She went in, only to find a long line of people in front of her. At first, disappointment filled her. And then she realized it was lunch time. The people in the line weren't there for the same interview, they were waiting for soup.
She grew nervous as she looked at the people in line. Some of them, in turn, looked at her. She felt very self-conscious about the way she was dressed. Apparently others began to sense her anxiety. A woman in a moth-eaten sweater smiled and tried to make conversation. "Is this your first time here?"
"Yes, it is."
"Don't worry," said the lady in the sweater, "it gets easier."
This young woman reflected later, "The scales fell from my eyes that day. I went there looking for a job, and that woman thought I was there for soup. As far as she knew, the world had been as cruel to me as it was to her. But in the kindest way she could, she welcomed me as a fellow human being. She saw me as someone equally in need, which I was and still am. I didn't realize it at the time, but that was the day when God began to convert me."
According to the people who interviewed her, if you ask her about her halfway house and how it got started, she'll smile and say, "You see all of these wonderful things God is doing here? They began when God gave us eyes to see where Jesus was leading us." (6)
Faith like that only comes through Spiritual Insight. Insight that God wants all of us to have through the presence of the Holy Spirit. God always gives us A Chance To See.
That day on the Road to Jericho, Bartimaeus was given A Chance To See. And he took it. He Opened His Eyes, Developed the Proper Focus, gained the Spiritual Insight he needed and "immediately followed Jesus." Jesus healed Bartimaeus of his blindness.
But the thing is you don't have to be blind in order to see. Or in order to gain new sight. God always gives us new eyes to see through. New eyes, new eyesight, new focus, new clarity of vision and a New Vision for our lives. All we have to do is ask.
Jesus asks us the same question he asked Bartimeaus, "What do you want me to do for you?" All we have to do is answer "A Chance To See." His love and grace have already provided it for you, all you have to do is ask.
1. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), March 2001
3. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), March 1999
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