Sunday, November 29, 2015

If Mary Had Said "No"

Luke 1:26-38

This morning"s gospel lesson is a story we all know well, and I hope, that as you listened, you heard this familiar story in a new way, and, perhaps, even heard something you hadn't heard before. A month after Zechariah lost his ability to speak, the angel Gabriel pays a call on Mary, a virgin engaged to Joseph, a descendent of King David. The angel tells her that she is truly blessed and will have a son.

“Hold on a minute!” says Mary. “I can't be doing that. I'm still a virgin.”
“Nothing is impossible with God” the angel tells her. (Luk 1:35) "The Holy Spirit will come down to you, and God's power will come over you. So your child will be called the holy Son of God.”

And, of course, Mary says: "I am the Lord's servant! Let it happen as you have said." It's the answer we've heard all our lives. It's the answer we expect to hear. It's the only answer Mary could have given. Or is it? What if it had been different? What if Mary had said: “No way! I'm not risking my marriage, my future, my life! Not for you! Not for anyone!”

We don't think of Mary as having a chance to decline, but she did. God always gives us the option to say “yes” or “no.” Eve could have said “yes” to God and “no” to the serpent. Adam could have said “no” to Eve, and yes to God. Abram could easily have stayed in Haran. Moses (Exo 3:11) actually said, "Who am I to go to the king and lead your people out of Egypt?" “What if no one believes me?” 'I'm not a good speaker.” All in an attempt to say “no.” The Scribes and Pharisees said 'No” to Jesus, as did The rich young ruler. When God told Ananias to cure Saul's blindness, (Act 9:13) Ananias replied, "Lord, a lot of people have told me about the terrible things this man has done to your followers in Jerusalem. (Act 9:14) Now the chief priests have given him the power to come here and arrest anyone who worships in your name."
(Act 9:15) The Lord said to Ananias, "Go! I have chosen him to tell foreigners, kings, and the people of Israel about me.” God gives us the opportunity to say “no,” or to say “yes.” It is, ultimately, our decision to follow or stand back.

So what if Mary had said “no?” Paul tells us that (Gal 4:4)when the time was right, God sent his Son, and a woman gave birth to him.” So it's possible that if Mary had said “No” we might be singing:
“What child is this, who laid to rest,
on Cynthia's lap is sleeping.”

We can say “No.” But, like Abram, Moses, and Ananias, (Luk 1:38) Mary said, "I am the Lord's servant! Let it happen as you have said.

The Bible is full of stories of impossibilities. It was impossible for Joseph to escape the Egyptian prison; It was imposible for the Hebrews to escape slavery in Egypt; it was impossible for David to defeat Goliath; it was impossible for Naaman to be healed; and this, too, is a story of biblical impossibilities. But, what about the impossibilities in our world? Peace in our world. “Impossible! No way! Won’t happen!” True justice for all? “Impossible! Never happen.” A cure for Malaria? “Keep dreaming.” Our church reaching our surrounding community and making our world different? “Impossible!” What in your life, is “impossible? Restoring broken relationships and healing past hurts? “ A relative or friend entering a relationship with Christ; Breaking an addiction; forgiving and ex? Relief from pain? Healing from a chronic illness? All of these can be seemingly impossible, and yet they happen every day.

The truth is God expected, and God received a “yes” from Mary. When God calls us, Like Mary, we may say to the angel: “How can this be?” Like Mary we find ourselves pondering and wondering over the impossible. But as with Mary, God expects us to answer “yes.” So maybe the question isn't so much “What if Mary had said “no” as it is “What happens now that Mary said “Yes?” The real question for today is “How can the impossible become possible?” C. .S Lewis wrote that “God seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye.” So, like Mary saying yes to the angel, the first step in overcoming impossibilities is for us to say “Yes” to God. For with God all things are possible, but nothing is possible without God.

When I was about 10 years old, someone told me that I would probably be a pastor when I grew up. I just laughed it off, because if there was one thing I knew it was that I was nowhere near good enough to be a pastor. The years went by, and every now and then I would feel a nudge, but I was able to ignore them. Then the time came when I simply couldn't ignore the nudges. God was calling me to the ordained ministry, but there was no way. I had a wife and child, a mortgage, I was 37 years old, and still had at least 3 years of seminary between me and ordination. There was no way. But the more I objected, the more God kept nudging. Remember the parable Jesus told about the widow and the judge?
Luk 18:2-5 In a town there was once a judge who didn't fear God or care about people. (3) In that same town there was a widow who kept going to the judge and saying, "Make sure that I get fair treatment in court." (4) For a while the judge refused to do anything. Finally, he said to himself, "Even though I don't fear God or care about people, (5) I will help this widow because she keeps on bothering me. If I don't help her, she will wear me out."

I began to feel like that judge, so I did what scripture says we should never do: I put the test to the Lord. I said to God: “OK, here's the deal. I will apply to one seminary, and one only. If they accept me, and If they offer a financial package I can live with, I'll go. Do I need to tell you what happened?

It doesn't matter how impossible we think a task may be, there is nothing God cannot do. In the face of terrorist threats, there are still those working for peace. A cure for Malaria is closer than ever as vaccines are tested, sleeping nets distributed, and new ways are being found to prevent mosquitoes from spreading the disease. The only thing preventing our church from reaching out to our neighborhood and changing the world around us is us. Hurt lives are being healed and relationships are being restored. Churches sponsor groups like AA and Celebrate Recovery that are conquering alcoholism and addictions. The hungry are being fed and the lonely are finding friends. And through it all, The kingdom is growing as people reach out and embrace Christ.

There is nothing in your life that is impossible with God. No matter how many times you've said “no,” you can still say “yes.” Mary said “yes” and changed the world. Won't you join her and let your “yes” change the world? Come. Let your “yes” ring clear as we stand and sing together #206 I Want to Walk as a child of the light. The One who is the light, the One who makes all things possible is waiting for you. AMEN.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thankful? For What?

Joel 2:21-27
Upper Rogue United Methodist Church
November 22, 2015

It was early on in my journey as a pastor, but it's a comment that could just as easily be made today: “Pastor, looking around at the way the world is I don't really feel like there's anything to be thankful for; people are out of work, hungry, cold, and lonely. Bombs and missiles are raining destruction, the rain forest is being depleted; what's to be thankful for?”

It's also a comment that could have been made by the Israel of Joel's day when, as he puts it:
Joel 1:6-10 An army of locusts has attacked our land; they are powerful and too many to count; their teeth are as sharp as those of a lion.
(7)They have destroyed our grapevines and chewed up our fig trees. They have stripped off the bark, till the branches are white.
(8) Cry, you people, like a young woman who mourns the death of the man she was going to marry.
(9) There is no grain or wine to offer in the Temple; the priests mourn because they have no offerings for the LORD.
(10) The fields are bare; the ground mourns because the grain is destroyed, the grapes are dried up, and the olive trees are withered.

It should be easy to be thankful when things are going well, but, like a dissapointed child who didn't get everything on her Christmas list, we too often focus on what we don't have, rather than what we do have. And that kind of negative focus leads us to a life of ingratitude and selfishness.

In Budapest, a man goes to the rabbi and complains, "Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?"
The rabbi answers, "Take your goat into the room with you." The man in incredulous, but the rabbi insists. "Do as I say and come back in a week."
A week later the man comes back looking more distraught than before. "We cannot stand it," he tells the rabbi. "The goat is filthy."
The rabbi then tells him, "Go home and let the goat out. And come back in a week."
A radiant man returns to the rabbi a week later, exclaiming, "Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it now that there's no goat -- only the nine of us."

Joel could have focused on drought and deprivation by locusts that had consumed the land. The grapevines and grain had been chewed to the ground and the trees, stripped of leaves, bark, and fruit stood naked to the sky like a burned over forest. There was no seed to plant and no water to nurture the earth. All that lay ahead was famine. There was not even grain, wine, or animals for the sacrifices. There was no foreseeable future for Joel's people.

But instead of focusing on the calamity around him, Joel called the people to repentance and looked to the day when God would restore the land. That God would restore the land was a given, not a wish.

For Joel, the plague of locusts and the accompanying drought are both a judgment on Israel for years of sinfulness and a foretaste of the Day of the Lord: the time of judgment, and of of salvation when “the arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted...”

In calling the people to repentance, Joel says: Joe 2:15-17 Blow the trumpet on Mount Zion; give orders for a fast and call an assembly! (16) Gather the people together; prepare them for a sacred meeting; bring the old people; gather the children and the babies too. Even newly married couples must leave their homes and come. (17) The priests, serving the LORD between the altar and the entrance of the Temple, must weep and pray: "Have pity on your people, LORD. Do not let other nations despise us and mock us by saying, 'Where is your God?' "

If they do so, Joel assures them, the Lord will restore their fortunes. So there is no need for the land, the animals, or the people to fear; only reasons to rejoice.

Rejoicing and giving thanks when things are bleak does not come easily I am reminded of the Scottish minister Alexander Whyte, who was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit. He always found something for which to be grateful. One Sunday morning the weather was so gloomy that one church member thought to himself, "Certainly the preacher won't think of anything for which to thank the Lord on a wretched day like this." Much to his surprise, however, Whyte began by praying, "We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this."

As we prepare to feast with friends and family in the wake of UCC, Paris, the Syrian refugees, and other tragedies weighing on our hearts, it may seem, like it did to that person in my first congregation, or to many in Joel's time,that there is nothing to be thankful for. But if you are still breathing, if you have a roof over your head, if you have food on the table, if you have friends and family around you, you have more to be thankful for than many. When I was in Africa, 20 years ago, working with refugees from the Rwandan massacres, one of the students at the school told us her family was out of food. While we sat around trying to decide what we could do about it, her teacher, who was also there, quietly left and returned with a bag of beans—probably about 5 pounds. “Here,” he said, “I wish I could give you more, but this is half of what we have at our house.”

Amazed at this act of generosity, one of our number asked: “I you just gave her half of the food your family has, what will you do when you run out?” Without hesitation the benefactor replied: “God will provide.” That God would provide was, to him, a given, not a wish. True gratitude and true thankfulness come from faith and trust in God. The same God who called the land, the animals, and the people to rejoice and give thanks. May we answer that call with lives of gratitude and thankfulness. AMEN.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The End of the World


Anybody here remember the millinium bug? The millennium bug was a computer problem that threatened the operations of corporations, utility companies, finance industries, government agencies and even science. On the stroke of midnight between 31 December 1999 and 1 January 2000, the fear was that all computers had the potential of shutting down. This led many people to stash years supplies of dehydrated and preserved emergency rations; purchase and keep in their homes large quantities of gold; and, of course, weapons and ammo. Many even moved to remote areas and set up fenced and armed compounds. The world ended,and I missed it!
In the last century Pat Robertson prophesied that 1980 would "be a year of sorrow and bloodshed that will have no end soon, for the world is being torn apart, and my {God's ] kingdom shall rise from the ruins of it."
The Great Tribulation would begin in October or November 1982, following an invasion of Israel by Russia There would be a worldwide economic collapse in 1985
Jay Rockefeller would be elected President of the United States in 1996.
After his prophecy of 1982 failed to pass, he changed it to 2007, because 2007 is 40 years since the Six-Day War[wp] and 400 years since the founding of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. The world ended, and I missed it!

In the early 80's, billboards appeard in Portland announcing the end of the world on a specified date that came and went. The world ended, and I missed it!

And, of course, as we all remember, on December 21, 2012 the Mayan calander ended, and along with it, the world. For at least the third time in my life the world ended, and again I missed it!

The end of the world has always been near. At the turn of the year 1000 (which was celebrated on at least 4 different dates depending upon what part of Europe you lived in, some folks sold all they had and gave the proceeds to the church; others prostrated themselves on church floors in fervent, fear-inspired prayer, while flagelllants beat their backs to a bloody pulp in anticipation of the end. In the 1840's the Millerites built their churches without roofs because they knew the end was coming and wanted nothing to impede their rapture.

Jesus' own time was also filled with apocalyptic expectations. This was the time, said many, when the Messiah would come riding in on a white horse, throw off the yoke of Roman oppression and restore Israel as the power she had been under David. Surely these prophesies were known to, and on the minds of the disciples.

As this exchange with his disciples opens, Jesus has spent most of the day arguing with the Pharisees and Sadducees. The debates have left him tired and ready to eat and rest. Then one of his disciples looks around and seeing the massive stones forming Herod's still under construction temple comments on the size and strength of the structure. Sort of like we might comment on the size and strength of the Grand Coulee Dam, or the big church next door. Jesus, however, does not seem to be impressed. Mar 13:2 Jesus answered, "You see these great buildings? Not a single stone here will be left in its place; every one of them will be thrown down." That was quite a prophecy. The temple had been under construction for over 40 years. Some of the stones were as big as half a semi trailer; covering the top of Mt. Moriah, it stood some two hundred feet above the ground and cast an image of dazzling whiteness and blinding fire from its marble stones and golden dome. Jesus statement silenced the disciples with unbelief. Yet just a few years later, in 70 A.D. The Romans would mercilessly crush another Jewish revolt and tear down the temple leaving only the foundation, and what is, today, known as the wailing wall.

Resting on the Mount of Olives, Peter, James, John, and Andrew, like so many today, want to know when this will happen. Jesus doesn't really answer them, but, instead, promises that Mar 13:6-8 “Many men, claiming to speak for me, will come and say, 'I am he!' and they will fool many people. (7) And don't be troubled when you hear the noise of battles close by and news of battles far away. Such things must happen, but they do not mean that the end has come. (8) Countries will fight each other; kingdoms will attack one another. There will be earthquakes everywhere, and there will be famines. These things are like the first pains of childbirth.”

“Don't be troubled” he says, and yet we are. Eschatology (the study of the end times) is big business. Countless would be scholars and prophets pour over scriptures and other ancient texts, apply the rules of numerology and astrology and develop complex algorythms to determine when the end will come. But all to no avail. I am no eschatological scholar, but it seems to me that if Jesus, himself, said: Mar 13:32 “No one knows the day or the time. The angels in heaven don't know, and the Son himself doesn't know. Only the Father knows. “ Then the chances that I, or anyone, can correctly predict it are somewhere close to nil.

And that is exactly the point. The angels don't know, Jesus doesn't know, and we don't know when: we only know that. When Jesus told his followers (33) “So watch out and be ready! You don't know when the time will come.” they took him seriously. The disciples and the early church lived in expectation of the imminent return of Christ. But as the years turned into centuries, and the centuries into eons, The church, and Christians, became, for the most part, complacent.

But the truth remains: we don't know how much longer we have; individually, or as a planet. Seedtime and harvest could continue for eons; or climate change and polution could slowly cause the planet to cook in its own juices and boil away; We could blow ourselves up in a nuclear holacost, or be crashed into by a life destroying asteroid or comet. It is not our task to determine the when or the how. Our call is to
Mar 13:33-37 Be on watch, be alert, for you do not know when the time will come. (34) It will be like a man who goes away from home on a trip and leaves his servants in charge, after giving to each one his own work to do and after telling the doorkeeper to keep watch. (35) Watch, then, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming---it might be in the evening or at midnight or before dawn or at sunrise. (36) If he comes suddenly, he must not find you asleep. (37) What I say to you, then, I say to all: Watch!"


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray my Cuisinart to keep

I pray my stocks are on the rise

And that my analyst is wise

That all the wine I sip is white

And that my hot tub's watertight

That racquetball won't get too tough

That all my sushi's fresh enough

I pray my cordless phone still works

That my career won't lose its perks

My microwave won't radiate

My condo won't depreciate

I pray my health club doesn't close

And that my money market grows

If I go broke before I wake

I pray my Volvo they won't take.

Steve Farrar, Family Survival in the American Jungle, 1991, Multnomah Press, p. 63.

When we think of wealthy, most of us think of people like Bill Gates, the Koch brothers, or Warren Buffett. We certainly don't think of ourselves! By the time the tax man, Social Security, the mortgage, the power bills, the car payments, and the doctor are paid, we may even wonder if we can get to next payday without a visit to the food bank. We're a long ways from wealthy. But then consider the Syrian Refugees in Europe, or the person who greets you at Wal Mart, or the family who picked the coffee you had this morning and things look a little different. If you slept under a permanent roof in a real bed; If you had breakfast this morning; if you drove or rode to church; if you watched TV or listened to the radio; if you spoke with family or friends on the telephone, then you are far wealthier than most of the people on this planet. A typical supermarket in the United States in 1976 stocked 9,000 articles; today it carries over 30,000. How many of them are absolutely essential? How many are just “stuff”? I'm reminded of GK Chesterton's assertion that “There are two ways to get enough: One is to accumulate more and more, the other is to desire less.”

The rich farmer in today's lesson had worked hard all his life. The crops his land produced didn't just pop up and grow on their own; he had plowed and prepared the land, sowed the seed, pulled out the weeds, and driven away the creatures that would have destroyed them. And now, all his work had paid off, giving him a new problem. What to do with his crops. After some thought, he came to the same conclusion many of us would: Can you put your car in your garage? Do you rent a storage unit?
Luk 12:18 (The farmer) said, 'I know what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones so that I can store all my grain and goods in them. Luk 12:19 Then I'll say to myself, "You've stored up a lot of good things for years to come. Take life easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself."'

The problem wasn't that the farmer had a good crop. The problem wasn't even that he planned to build bigger barns to store it in. The problem was that, like so many people today, he took all the credit for himself, and totally forgot that God was behind his success.
Many years earlier, Deu 1:1 in the desert east of the Jordan River, on the plains, near Suph, between Paran and Tophel, and near Laban, Hazeroth, and Di Zahab. Moses warned the Israelites: “Deu 8:11-14 Be careful that you don't forget the LORD your God. Don't fail to obey his commands, rules, and laws that I'm giving you today. (12) You will eat all you want. You will build nice houses and live in them. (13) Your herds and flocks, silver and gold, and everything else you have will increase. (14) When this happens, be careful that you don't become arrogant and forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of slavery in Egypt.

Forgetting God has been a habit through the ages. Many years ago, as the story is told, a devout king was disturbed by the ingratitude of his royal court. He prepared a large banquet for them. When the king and his royal guests were seated, by prearrangement, a beggar shuffled into the hall, sat down at the king's table, and gorged himself with food. Without saying a word, he then left the room. The guests were furious and asked permission to seize the tramp and tear him limb from limb for his ingratitude.

The king replied, "That beggar has done only once to an earthly king what each of you does three times each day to God. You sit there at the table and eat until you are satisfied. Then you walk away without recognizing God, or expressing one word of thanks to Him."

It's easy for us to call on God when things go wrong; when we are confronted with a crisis, a deadly illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job; but once things turn around, we seem quick to forget God and brag about how good WE are doing. The rich farmer, and the lords and nobles in the story of the king's banquet all suffer from Spiritual immaturity. Infants do not always appreciate what parents do for them. They have short memories. Their concern is not what you did for me yesterday, but what are you doing for me today. The past is meaningless and so is the future. They live for the present. Those who are mature are deeply appreciative of those who labored in the past. They recognize those who labor during the present and provide for those who will be laboring in the future. Contact, Homemade, December 1984.

The story of the rich farmer reflects a truth Moses set forth when he warned the Israelites: Deu 8:17-19 You may say to yourselves, "I became wealthy because of my own ability and strength." (18) But remember the LORD your God is the one who makes you wealthy. He's confirming the promise which he swore to your ancestors. It's still in effect today. “

Isn''t it time we grew up? Isn't it time we give credit where credit is due? The farmer learned the hard way what happens to those who claim for themselves what belongs to God. The land is God's. And it follows that all that the land produces is God's. In caring for the earth we not only insure the harvests, we honor God. Failing to be thankful to God, failing to care for the earth, invites disaster. We are seeing that as we watch the ice caps melting. Melting glaciers and land-based ice sheets also contribute to rising sea levels, threatening low-lying areas around the globe with beach erosion, coastal flooding, and contamination of freshwater supplies. Rising seas will severely impact the United States as well. Scientists project as much as a 3-foot sea-level rise by 2100. According to a 2001 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, this increase would inundate some 22,400 square miles of land along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, primarily in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and North Carolina.

The rich farmer learned the hard way what happens when we don't honor God. We have a choice; we can , like small children claim everything we can get for ourselves and watch the destruction of the world, or we can grow up, give God the glory and start being the stewards we are called to be. God has given us a wonderful world. The question is: what will we do with it? AMEN.

What a Day!

What a day! Nothing like it ever happened before. If I hadn't been there, I don't think I would believe it...and I probably wouldn't blame you if you have trouble believing. But it's true. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes. Oh, I guess I should introduce myself. I am Samuel, Son of Benjamin. I live in Jericho, and I have a small booth selling wine and bread just outside the city walls on the southeast side, along the road to Jerusalem. Most of my customers are travelers to and from that city. Like all travel based businesses, for much of the year I barely keep body and soul together, but just before and after the Passover, when the crowds are flocking to Jerusalem, I make most of my profit for the year. It was the week before Passover the year Jesus was executed. There were large crowds passing through, and business was brisk. Then we heard the rumor: Jesus was coming. This was good news if it was true, for wherever Jesus went, crowds went, and crowds meant business. The murmuring of the crowds got louder as more and more people spread the story. Even the beggars, who sit in the field across the road seemed anxious. Those beggars are the bane of my business. I work hard to provide good bread and wine at a fair price; but they sit over there on their blankets with pathetic looks on their faces, siphoning off the coins that should be used in my stall. Besides, they're dirty, and they stink. And they're so ugly...some are missing an arm or leg; Some have noses and ears missing, some are twisted and gnarled, and some, who are disfigured by leprosy, have to sit way away from the rest because they are unclean. And then there was blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus. Somewhere he'd gotten a hold of a bright multicolored cloak that he sat on to call attention to himself and his plight. Every day he sat there, third row back, in the center, and waited for travelers to toss him a coin. I don't know for sure, but I think he was born blind...though he comes from a good and righteous family. Then, suddenly, there he was. Jesus himself! Surrounded by his disciples. He seemed to be telling them something..I couldn't catch much of it, but it sounded like he was talking about the Son of Man coming to serve and die. It didn't mean anything to me, and I was too busy with my customers to pay it much mind. Then Bartimaeus did it! He started shouting. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And when I say shouted, I mean he was screaming. He knew better than that. The beggars weren't supposed to say anything, except a polite blessing to those who tossed a coin their way. To shout out at a passer by was rude, crude, and boorish. That kind of behavior was giving our city a bad name. Several of us merchants, and even some of the other beggars tried to shut him up, but he just cried out all the louder; “JESUS! SON OF DAVID! HAVE MERCY ON ME!” The more we tried to quiet him, the louder and more insistent his cries became. Then Jesus did the totally unexpected. He stopped dead in his tracks and said: “Tell that man to come here.” It took a while, because Bartimaeus was still shouting. Finally they got him to quiet down enough that they could tell him: "Don't be afraid! Come on! He is calling for you." Immediately Bartimaeus leaped to his feet and ran, stumbling and tripping over the other beggars, until he fell at Jesus' feet. Jesus just stood there looking at him for a minute. Then when he spoke to blind Bartimaeus, I couldn't believe what I heard. "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. What kind of question is that? I mean, what do you think he wants? Duh? Of course he answered: “I want to see.” But you know, later, as I thought about it and talked to Bartimaeus, I realized maybe that wasn't such an obvious question after all. Think about it. Bartimaeus was blind for as long as anyone could remember. He had no wife, no children, no family, and the only way he knew to make a living was to beg. If he gained his sight, how would he live? He didn't even know how to pitch hay or pick grapes. But like he told me; he did know he wanted to see. And I guess Jesus understood it too, because he said: Mar 10:52 "You may go. Your eyes are healed because of your faith." Immediately Bartimaeus could see, and he went dancing down the road with Jesus. I didn't see Bartimaeus again for a couple of months. We heard stories from Jerusalem about how the temple leaders accused Jesus and riled up the crowd to have him crucified. And every now and then a traveler would come through with a story about Jesus coming back from the dead and appearing to his followers. But I didn't give those stories a second thought...not until Bartimaeus returned and told me what he'd seen with his new vision. He's seen Jesus' arrested. He'd been in the crown in front of Pilate's castle when Pilate condemned Jesus to death, and then washed his hands. Then, 50 days later, he was outside the house where the twelve were when folks from all over the world heard them speaking in their own languages. Bartimaeus was a changed man. It wasn't just that he could see, it was that he could see with more than just his eyes. And when he shared with me what he'd seen, what he'd learned from and about Jesus, and what Jesus' followers were doing, I wanted to be a part of it. So one day me and my family went down to the river and Bartimaeus baptized us. I have never known such a sense of peace; nothing seems to worry me; I am absolutely convinced that God does, and will continue to provide for our needs. Bartimaeus works with me, now. And both of us share with our customers the story of Jesus and what he's done for us. And while Bartimaeus probably gives away more of our merchandise than he should, it's OK, because there's always more than we need. That's the way it is, with Jesus. AMEN.