Sunday October 25th Worship at Wesley Chapel

On Sunday October 25th Rev Keith Page led worship at Wesley Chapel. Keith reminded us at the beginning of worship how we always bring some things with us to worship, our hopes, fears and problems, so he recommends that it is good to become still. We sang, ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’. Keith told us a story of a wealthy man who was given a year to live, and prepared to take all his property with him. He sold all his property which he had converted into gold bars and he had a long coat made with pockets in it for the gold bars. He tried to get into heaven with his gold bars, but that didn’t work; what did they need more paving stones for?!! Keith reminded us that spiritual things are not the same as earthly things. He explained how newly qualified Salvation Army officers had to give away their most precious thing before they embarked on their spiritual journey. God did not spare even his own son. Keith asked us to think what our most precious thing was, what would be the hardest thing ever for me to give up, if God asked me to do it. I have not yet properly thought about it, but my family, my dearest daughters and my beloved husband are most precious to me, but they are not my possessions, but I would find it so terrible to be without any of them or even worse all of them. There is nothing which could possibly be more important than my family, although they are not my possession. If I lost all my money, my home but still had my dearest loved ones I would find a way to keep going.
Keith led the prayers of praise, confession and the Lord’s Prayer before Isaiah 61 was read. We sang ‘Give to me, Lord, a thankful heart’. Then we heard Mark 10.46-52, the healing of Blind Bartimaeus. We sang, ‘Amazing grace’.
In his sermon Keith told us how the story of Bartimaeus always reminded him about his friend Colin. His mother had German measles, so Colin was born blind. He made up for it with other abilities; he was very knowledgeable about things in the world and faithful to God and he could name every railway line and station of Southern rail. Colin loved music and had a huge tape deck and HiFi. Keith’s tape deck stopped working and he was ready to throw it away, when Colin offered to have a look at it. He fixed it by soldering it here and there even though he was blind! Colin was a remarkable man; the way he listened compensated him for his lack of sight. Even ‘watching’ a film with his wife, Colin understood the plot better than his wife who was actually watching the film!!
Right at the end of Jesus’ ministry, there was a general buzz about the young teacher, Jesus. Bartimaeus listened and heard what people were saying about Jesus. In the times of Jesus it was thought that someone who suffered must have sinned to cause their illness; it was God smiting them. Blind people got no compassion or pity; the blindness was his due for doing something wrong. However, it was the people’s duty to give money or food to beggar.
Bartimaeus was totally unimportant at the bottom of the row. People who are afflicted often wonder what they have done to deserve it; for example the man born blind described in John’s gospel; had he sinned in the womb or had his parents sinned? Bartimaeus was supremely unimportant and the etiquette of the day lay down that if a rabbi was speaking, then everyone had to listen quietly. Blind Bartimaeus was always listening to the hubbub of voices as he sat begging. On this occasion he could hear one person speaking, as the crowd moved pass and Bartimaeus caused massive offence when he called out to Jesus, asking him to have pity on him. He should not have cut in to interrupt the Rabbi Jesus as he spoke. The crowd near to Bartimaeus tried to shut him up, but he shouter even louder to get Jesus’ attention.
Then Jesus SHOUTED; BRING HIM HERE; (apparently the language used in Greek showed the emphatic and almost angry way Jesus called to Bartimaeus). Bartimaeus threw his cloak off and ran to Jesus; his cloak was vital for him as he sat begging; to keep the heat off in the daytime and keep him warm at night. When he let it go, he could no longer see it, so it was essentially lost to him, but it had become an encumbrance in the way of him getting to Jesus. The fact that if those who were really poor had to give their cloaks as a pledge for money, those cloaks had to be returned at night even if they had not been redeemed, as they were so vital for warmth at night. When Bartimaeus reached Jesus, Jesus asked him what he wanted him to do for him. Bartimaeus replied, ‘Teacher let me see again.’
He needed to be as specific as possible, and so do we when we pray. We need to pray for ourselves as well as others. Keith tells us that we have no need to feel guilty if we pray for ourselves; for example if I am in a bad mood and need to pray for help to forgive. Why did Bartimaeus throw his cloak aside and just go to Jesus? It was an act of faith on Bartimaeus’ part. Bartimaeus recognised Jesus as the Messiah when he called him, Son of David. Bartimaeus was blind but he could see what no one else could, when he saw Jesus was the Messiah; his insight was wonderful. Bartimaeus followed Jesus in the way; he became a disciple of the way, the first name given to the sect which would become Christianity. Jesus healed Blind Bartimaeus as he came to the lowest of the low of society. Jesus only put down those people who put down others. We should pray for insight into what Jesus wants. God did not spare his Son but gave him up for our sake. The sighted and wealthy are often more blind than blind Bartimaeus. We need to learn to listen and keep our eyes open to the living Lord.
Following the sermon we sang, ‘All I once held dear!’ Keith felt that the hymn summed up all he had been saying. Keith led the prayers of intercessions. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘O God, what offering shall I give.’ Keith really brought the Blind Bartimaeus healing story to life. When my daughters were young I used to read that story to the girls; it was their favourite story; they always enjoyed especially the words, ‘He shouted even louder, JESUS, HELP ME!’ and they joined in with gusto! It always brings happy memories to me of Beth and Cathy as children.

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