WORSHIP SERVICE October 24, 2021 “Let Us See Again”

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“Let Us See Again”

Mark 10:46-52   

 

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARK 10:46-52

R:  46 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. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 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.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 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.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

 

R: This is the Gospel of our Lord.

C: Praise to You O Christ.

 

Two summers ago, my two oldest children went with our church youth group on a trip to San Francisco.  It was a learning and service trip, but they also had time to do some outings just for fun while they were in the city.  One of those outings was to see a baseball game in Oakland.  When they got home, our kids were excited to share about the things they had done.

 

As they were telling us about the baseball game, they couldn’t remember who had won or who had lost, but they did tell us they had gotten on the jumbotron screen three times!  They were so excited that the camera had found their section and they had made it up on the big screen several times so everyone in the stadium could see them.

 

Have you ever been to a sporting event at a large stadium and noticed how excited people get when they see themselves on the jumbotron? They could have been bored or half asleep one second before, but as soon as they see themselves up on the big screen they begin to jump up and down, waving their hands and acting crazy. There have been a couple of times when I found myself acting in the same manner when I saw the camera coming my way.

 

What is it about seeing ourselves on the big screen that can get people so excited?  Is it because they want to express themselves?  Is it because they want to be recognized?  Does it have something to do with a need that we all have at some deeper level to be acknowledged—to have someone else notice us and make us feel important?

 

Bartimaeus seems to have this need in today’s Gospel story.  When he hears that Jesus is coming his way, he begins to call out to him.  Those nearby try to get him to quiet down, but he cries out all the more.  This could have been a desperate cry for help.  It could have been an enthusiastic cry of excitement or a little bit of both.  Either way, it gets the attention of Jesus who tells those nearby to have Bartimaeus come to him.  At this news, the Scripture tells us that Bartimaeus sprang up and through off his cloak.  Perhaps he began waving his hands wildly like folks do when they see themselves on the jumbotron.  One thing is clear, he is excited to meet Jesus.  He is excited that someone has noticed him.

 

Jesus asks him what he wants and he says, “to see again.” This seems like an obvious request since Bartimaeus is blind.  But what might not be so obvious is that along with the desire to see physically, Bartimaeus may also have the need to be seen spiritually and emotionally.

 

I have to wonder how many days the blind man had sat, begging by the road, and dozens and dozens of people had just walked by him without even a sideways glance.  I can imagine that along with begging for money to get some food, inside his spirit may have been begging for some attention.  He may have been begging for some simple acknowledgement that he was taking up space by that road.  He may have been begging for some simple interaction, a greeting or someone saying his name, something that would have been a sign that people noticed he was there.  It must have been discouraging to just be ignored. It must have been demoralizing to have people acting as if he wasn’t even there.  He may have even begun to lose his motivation to go out to the road day after day.

 

The fact that he was blind made the situation of Bartimaeus more extreme, but we actually all can be deeply affected by whether or not our presence or our efforts are acknowledged.  Psychologist, Craig Dowden talks about this in an article entitled, “Why you need to be seen, the critical role of acknowledgment in maintaining our motivation.”

 

In the article, he relates how some research was done to see if certain actions hinder or help to keep people going on when they were given a job to do. The people in the study were divided into three groups and all given the same task.  The variable was following the completion of the task. When each participant handed in their completed task to the experimenter there were three different responses.  The researcher then noted the participants reactions and who appeared to be more motivated to keep doing the task.

 

When the first group had completed their job, the experimenter took the paper and quickly scanned over it before putting it in a filing cabinet. The work this group had done was acknowledged before it was filed away. When the second group completed their task, the experimenter took the paper and immediately filed it without even reviewing it at all. Their efforts were completely ignored. When the third group finished their task, the experimenter took the paper and without looking at it immediately put it through a shredder. Their work was destroyed.

 

It seems obvious that the third group got the harshest treatment.  You might think that because they were treated worse their results in terms of motivation, would be the worst.  But that is not what happened.  The results were striking.  Those in the acknowledged group persevered significantly longer on the task.  But there was no difference in the results of both the Ignored and the Shredder groups.

 

It is important to note that the researchers did not do any kind of in-depth analysis of the accuracy or quality of the work of the first group.  They did not give the group any extra praise.  It was simply a matter of recognizing their work, even if just briefly that made the difference.  The impact of just a small amount of acknowledgment had a profound effect on the motivation of the participants.  Likewise, the inattention given to the second two groups had an equally negative impact.  It turns out that ignoring the work of someone else has the same impact as promptly putting it in a shredder.   The second group’s lack of having their need to be seen seems to equal their work being destroyed.

 

Is this how poor Bartimaeus felt day after day—like his soul was going through a shredder as he was ignored time and again by those who were passing by?   I think before Jesus gave Bartimaeus the gift of his sight, he knew that Bartimaeus needed another gift.  He needed the gift of being seen, of being recognized as a human being who deserved to be acknowledged.  The crowd was milling around Jesus.  Others were trying to quiet Bartimaeus.  Jesus had to be paying attention to cut through the noise.  He had to be listening to more than just those clamoring around him.  He had to be looking to include those on the margins in order to have heard Bartimaeus crying out.  He had to first be aware of who Bartimaeus was before he could address his need.

 

Once he is seen and healed, Bartimaeus is ready to get back into life again.  If he had been on the verge of giving up, now he is motivated to engage again.  The Bible says he followed Jesus along the way.  Bartimaeus had been energized to become a part of what Jesus is up to.  He had been healed and now seems to want to be a part of the healing work that was shared with him.

 

Feeling like we have been seen provides us with many benefits. It can make us come alive. It can validate us.  It can infuse us with energy. It can encourage us to engage, to respond, and to contribute.

 

A few weeks ago I went to a local restaurant with my family.  As we were ordering, the young woman paused to look at me.  Then she asked, “Aren’t you Maya’s dad?”

 

“Yes…” I said sort of hesitantly, wondering how she knew my daughter.

 

“It’s me, Joy!” she said.  “You coached me in basketball.”  Her eyes lit up as she was telling me the connection.

 

“Oh, yeah, Joy!  I think that was Maya’s 8th grade year, right?  How are you?”

 

I had not recognized the young woman at first.  She had grown a little taller and was wearing a hat and a mask, but she had recognized me, even with my mask.  She replied that she was doing well and we finished our order.  Even though it was not a long exchange and Joy had not gone on about how much my coaching had impacted her, the conversation made my night. It lifted my spirits because I had been seen.  She had noticed who I was and hadn’t been afraid to speak up and acknowledge a role I had played in her life when she was younger.  Do you think I would be motivated to coach again after that exchange?  Do you think it encouraged me to think again about using my time and energy to work with young people?  You bet it did!

When Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want?”  he says he wants to see again.  Perhaps we are being called to respond in a similar way.  Most of us may not be physically blind like Bartimaeus was, but like him I think we can still say “let us see again” in a spiritual sense.  Let us see again the ones who are hurting.  Let us see again the ones who are lonely—the ones who could use a little extra attention. Let us see again the ones who we walk by everyday—the ones who we might live with in the same house, but often don’t fully acknowledge or listen to.  Let us learn to see again because as the author Danielle Bernock puts it, “When we take the time to see others, to acknowledge them, to listen to them and respond – we are loving them.  Seeing others is loving them.”

 

So let us share this gift of seeing each other because here’s the thing: The God of the universe sees us.  The God of the universe calls out to us today and says, “I notice you.  I acknowledge that you are important and valued.  In fact, I wanted to pay so much attention to you that I sent my son to be with you so that you might know that you are truly seen.”  Amen.

 

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