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10.28.12 Redemption in Refuge, Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22, Sermon Summary

by on October 29, 2012

Taking refuge in Christ leads us to a life of redemption. Just as the blind man.

Summary Points

  • Ways in which we all are blind
  • What the exaggerations in Job teach us
  • The message and means of redemption

Can you imagine how Bartimaeus felt? Mark tells us only that he was a “blind beggar.” Being blind, he would have been a marginalized person physically. He couldn’t do anything for himself. He always needed someone’s help, or just have others do things for him. As a beggar, he was a marginalized person economically. He couldn’t contribute to his society. All he could do was hold out his hand and receive charity. And, as is so often the case even today, those who are differently abled and poor are also marginalized socially. People turn the other way.

Bartimaeus doesn’t even have his own name! When Matthew and Luke tell his story, they simply identify a blind person. Matthew even adds a person, so Bartimaeus is marginalized even further, having to share the stage with another. His “name” means “son of Timaeus.” Maybe he’s known this way because people blamed his father for his blindness. In any case, Bartimaeus was a person on the roadside of life.

Until Jesus walked by. Mark tells us that Bartimaeus “heard” it was Jesus. Early on in life we learn “coping mechanisms” to offset our weaknesses. These often become our strengths, and Bartimaeus’ hearing was probably pretty good. He could distinguish between someone too in a hurry to help and someone carrying a little extra change. And when he “heard” Jesus was passing by, he cried out in desperation for mercy.

After Jesus calls him from the roadside of life, Bartimaeus throws off his cloak, springs up, and comes to Jesus. He experiences deliverance. Psalm 34:1-8 could very easily be Bartimaeus’ testimony: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved from every trouble. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.”

Job also could have sung a song like this. He received sight of another kind: insight. Job’s suffering is legendary, and so is his redemption. I love the conclusion of Job which includes this sentence, “In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters” (Job 42:15). This kind exaggeration of his deliverance causes me to wonder whether the accounts of his suffering were also exaggerated—for the story’s sake. And if so, I think there are two things we learn from this.

One is that God is with us no matter how awful things are. If our suffering approaches the extreme of Job’s, God is with us. The second thing is that God is with us in between the extremes. No matter how trivial we might consider our suffering to be, God is there also. The point is summarized in Psalm 34:22, “The Lord redeems the life of his servants, those who take refuge in him.”

You might say, “Well, that was then . . .” Job’s fairytale ending is pie in the sky. Bartimaeus got to really see the actual Jesus. Such deliverance isn’t available for us today. But Hebrews assures us differently. The author reminds us that death did not end Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ “once for all” sacrifice really points to his “once with all” solidarity. We are not alone in our suffering, in our darkness, or in our marginalization. Once for all, God has promised to be with us, and we will find redemption when we take refuge in Christ.

I have a new friend in ministry whose story exemplifies the kind of redemption we find when we take refuge in Christ. She was sexually assaulted as a girl, and found in church an institutional distance but personal intimacy with Jesus who assured her that while no one else knew, he did, and she was not alone. She plunged herself into service to others as a salve for her soul. Eventually she found an authentic church community in which she could heal. Taking refuge in Jesus, she found redemption.

Her favorite verse from scripture is the favorite of many people, Romans 8:28, “All things happen for the good of those who love God.” In a recent New York Times article she said, “What happened to me wasn’t ‘for the good,’ but God took the garbage, the stench, and gently, tenderly, indignantly wove it into this moment of redemption. What a gift.”

What about us? Will you find redemption in the refuge offered through Christ? Will you, like Bartimaeus, take off your cloak of marginalization and victimization, and put on Christ? Will you spring up from your misery, depression, or suffering, and come to Jesus, who is calling you, and who this very moment is praying for you? Will you say to him what you want and need? And like Bartimaeus, will you follow Jesus along the road?

If so, then you, like Bartimaeus and like my friend, and like countless of others who have gone before and continue today, will discover at the end, that in taking refuge in Christ, your life has been redeemed.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  • In what ways can you identify with Bartimaeus? How is his story your story? How does the way his story end give you hope and direction for what to do in your story?
  • Are there things you’ve been hesitant to share with God, out of shame or hopelessness? Given the first lesson of Job, that God is with us in our extreme suffering, how can you begin to turn these things over to God?
  • Are there smaller things you’re trying to manage on your own, because God shouldn’t be bothered with such trivial matters? Remembering that God is with us throughout all of life, how can you invite God into these situations?
  • The main point of the resurrection according to the book of Hebrews is to guarantee to us that Christ’s priestly ministry of intercession continues to this day. Envision Christ praying on your behalf. How does this help you deal with the challenges you face?
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One Comment
  1. Carolyn Patterson permalink

    Another thought provoking reflection on the Word. Thank you. Still wish you would put up the text of the sermon you gave at SSPC on Oct 7 after the Stony point confab.

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