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Sermon For Ordinary 30 - Year B
Job 42:1-17; Psalm 34; Mark 10:46-52
"Lord, Have Mercy On Me"


READING:  Job 42:1-17; Psalm 34; Mark 10:46-52  
SERMON :  "Lord, Have Mercy On Me"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or30su.y-b 890
 
   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

   
     Let us Pray - O God, light of the minds that know you, life of
     the souls that love you, and strength of the hearts that seek you
     - bless the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. 
     We ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen

There is a prayer from the Eastern Orthodox tradition that is widely prayed
by people of faith all over the world.  It is short - and it is meant to be
said over and over again - almost like a mantra.  It is a prayer that  is
meant to cover all the bases as it were - and goes like this.
     
     Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.... 
     Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Let us try that out together.

     Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner..... 
	 
and again...

     Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

The root of that prayer is found today in our Gospel reading.  There we
hear the story of a man who is blind.  His name is Bartimaeus - son of
Timeaus.  He is sitting by the roadside on the way up to Jerusalem -
begging.   Indeed as a blind man that is likely all that he can do. 
Without his sight, he, like most blind people of his day - and indeed ours,
is cut off from the normal transactions of daily life.  He not only can't
see to work in the fields planting and harvesting, or to labour at home
making pots or tables or jewelry, he can't see the expressions on the faces
of  his parents or his brothers and sisters or anyone else.  He dwells in
darkness.   He is cut off, isolated - and for the most part he is regarded
as a burden by all - by his family and by society.  A burden - nothing more
- and nothing less.  Someone who is accursed - someone who has been struck
down - perhaps by God because of some sin in his life - perhaps by Satan  
perhaps simply by chance.  

Bartimaeus is a man in dire straights - but he does have a pair of ears -
and as he sits by the side of the road begging he is aware that a large
crowd is approaching - and he hears that Jesus - Jesus of Nazereth is
approaching - and because he has ears to hear - and because of what he
cries out - we can assume that he has heard that Jesus is special - that he
is a healer - that he has power - and he cries out - he cries out loudly so
that he may be heard 

     Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me

and again and again -- "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me"
and when he is rebuked and sushed by people in the crowd, people who see
him as a burden and as an annoyance to them and to the master, he shouts
out all the more

     Son of David, have mercy on me.

We know how the rest of the story goes.

Jesus stops and says to those near to him, "Call him." 
And they do - saying to him  "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." 
And Bartimaeus throws his cloak aside and jumps to his feet and comes to Jesus 
- and when Jesus asks him "What do you want me to do for you?" 
he replies  "Rabbi, I want to see." 

And Jesus - Jesus the Son of David, Jesus the Son of God, has mercy on him
and says "Go," your faith has healed you." 

And Immediately Bartimaeus  receives his sight - and rather than going to make 
for himself a new life in the town from which he has come he follows Jesus 
along the road - he becomes a disciple of our Lord.

"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me."   
A prayer of desperation - and a prayer of faith.

Bartimaeus recognizes in his cry, in his plea 
who he is  - and who Jesus is.

He recognizes in his cry that Jesus is the Messiah 
- the promised one of God
the one who has come to heal the blind and make the lame to walk
the one who has come to preach good news to the poor 
and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord 
- the year of liberation - the time of setting free.

And he knows that he needs these things within his own life that he needs 
the mercy and love of God to heal him - that God is his only hope.

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

This is a meditation - and a prayer - for millions upon millions of people 
a prayer uttered for over 20 centuries - 
a prayer that is part of my life and which may well be - or should be - a
part of your life.

Have mercy on me.  Lord, have mercy on me - 
I do not do the good that I would do
and the bad that I would not do - I do.

Lord, have mercy on me.
My life is out of control.
All that I love - has been taken from me.
I have lost my job, my family, my health, 
I have been reduced to sackcloth and ashes
I grieve and I see no light in front of me
I dwell in darkness.

Lord, have mercy on me.

We heard read today the conclusion to the story of Job.  Job was a
righteous man, a man of faith, a man who had everything and regarded it all
as a blessing of God.  And he lost it all.

The story goes that Satan wanted to test his faith - to see if it was
anchored on the blessings - or the blesser,
    to see if Job believed in God because of what it was God could do, 
    and had done for him,
or if he believed in God because of who God is 
- and nothing more.

Would Job, when he lost everything, curse God and die - as his wife
suggested to him he should do,
or - as he himself says to his wife - before she is taken from him,
would he be one who not only accepted good from God - but trouble as well?

The story goes that Job has three friends visit with and mourn with him and
that after a while they try to explain to Job why he is suffering - that it
is perhaps because he has been sinful - a charge that he refutes in the
strongest terms possible, and which God himself refutes when, at long last,
God replies to the cries of Job, to his cries of innocence and of
accusation - the accusation that he, that God, does not care.

Job in all this does not curse God, nor does he give up his faith that God
is able to do all things.

God's response to Job is a reminder to him - and to Job's three friends,
that God is a mystery greater than all the things we know,
that He is the source of all things - the creator of all things - and to
whom all things must in the end answer.
And then we hear - in today's concluding story from the Book of Job,
that Job repents of his attitude - the attitude that questions the goodness
of God towards him,
saying to God,

     You said, "listen now and I will speak; I will question you, and
     you shall answer me."  My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes
     have seen you.  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and
     ashes.

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

An ancient prayer indeed.  It is the prayer of the righteous - as Job was
righteous - even though he questioned God; and it is the prayer of those
who, unlike Job, may in fact have done more to offend God than simply
question  him.

Job - knowing at last - when he sees at last with the eyes of faith - that
God is indeed even greater and more powerful and more mysterious than he
had ever thought before, 
     and willing to accept that as he told his wife when she advised him to
     curse God and die - that he should indeed be willing to accept not
     only good from God's hands - but trouble as well, 
repents and receives from God a new life,
a new life with a new blessings - children, land, a wife, wealth, and
length of days in which to enjoy them.

Take note of this - it was not the old life he had, which he had enjoyed so
much, that was restored to him;
     just as it was not the old life that Bartimaeus had - that he did not
     enjoy so much,  that was restored to him.

It was a new life.  
A life based in a vision of who God is - and who we are before God.

It is hard for us to accept - this vision of God as all powerful, all
knowing, and totally in charge.

As hard as it is for us to accept that perhaps we do not know how the world
should be run, and what it is God should and should not do day by day in 
this world - and in our lives.

But accept it we should - for in accepting it - we let God into the deepest
places of our hearts.

The Jesus Prayer     
    - Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner;
has many parts - each of which is worthy of meditation 
but the two main parts focus on 
who God is - 
who Jesus is -  
and who we are.

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

Bartimaeus knew, with his eyes of faith - that Jesus was the promised one,
the one with power - the one whom his ancestors called the "son of God",
and believed that Jesus was fully able to help him.  And he knew that he
was one who needed help.  One who needed mercy.  Mercy, not necessarily
because  he was a wicked man    but more simply thought - one who needed
mercy because he was but a man.  A man - like us - a man not able, in the
end, to control the world around him.  Just as Job finally accepted that it
was not his place to question God - but simply to trust in him.

Today as I stand before you - I urge upon you the humility of Bartimaeus
and the repentance of Job,

I urge upon you the wisdom and the power of the Jesus Prayer -
the prayer that says so much in so few words.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I cannot promise to you that this prayer will work like magic and that you
will receive back into your life health that you have lost, or the wealth
that you may need to enjoy life in the way that Job enjoyed life before his
many afflictions.

I cannot promise you, that as happened with Mary and Martha, that your
loved ones will come forth like Lazerus from his tomb and sit and dine with
you and continue on till age or a new disease takes them once again from
you.

But I can promise to you a new life - a different life than that which you
have had - or even now have.   A life that will allow you to enter into the 
most mysterious and most glorious place of all; a life that will allow you 
to dwell in the Kingdom of God,
- to dwell in that Kingdom both here: where we even now can taste and
smell and touch that Kingdom and know it's truth and its goodness; 
-  and to dwell in that Kingdom beyond here, in the place beyond the grave, 
where all that is good and true and glorious and full of love abides forever 
in peace and in joy.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Bartimaeus sees and so receives his sight.  
Job sees, and so receives his new life.
And both follow in the path of God
 - Bartimaeus by following Jesus. 
 - Job by praying for his friends.

What will we do?  
We who are hurting? 
We who like Job, may be angry at God?
We who like Bartimaeus may be suffering an affliction?
We who like Mary and Martha may be grieving?

All I can say - all I want to say - and all I need say - is pray.
Pray with Bartimaeus -- Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.
Pray with those of the church around the world who know God and themselves,
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Pray it over and over again 
- even when the crowd tells you, like it told Bartimaeus,  not to pray it,
Pray it over and over again 
- even if your wife or your friends or your own heart tells you "curse God
and die".

Pray it  - pray, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,
and God will answer you. 

Blessed be His name, now and forever.  Amen.



copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2003
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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