Message Delivered on October 25, 2015
You have probably seen the commercial more times than you would like to admit: “Help, I’ve fallen and cannot get up!” I saw it just last night when I was watching television. Chances are, if you watch soaps, you have seen the ad for the push button device worn around your neck on a cord or lanyard. It’s supposed to summon help if you need it. My mom had one to wear outside the house–when it was not hanging on the back of the bathroom door or on the garage door handle when she went outside to garden. It works–if you wear it! When I went to North Carolina for my mom’s funeral, my brother said that they could not find her “help” necklace. I went right to the bathroom to retrieve it from the back of the door. “How did you know that? he asked.
Asking for help is a universally dreaded endeavor. Whether we are struggling to get a heavy bag in the overhead bin on a plane, or fixing a flat tire by the side of the road, it is hard to ask for help. I know a lot of people who would swiftly stop to help someone in distress, but ask for help themselves? No way! Not on your life. They cannot ask for help and inconvenience someone else. Nope. It is okay to stop to help a stranger, friend, or family member, but ask for personal help and expect someone to go out of their way–no. Not. Uh-uh.
Lots of folks are likely to say, “I am good” instead of “Can you help me?” Unless it is a dire emergency that involves calling in professional helpers like police and firefighters. If we fall and cannot get up, we would rather crawl out to the street and climb into the car parked at the curb, rather than ask anyone else to go out of their way.
M. Nora Klaver has written a book, “Mayday: Asking for Help in Times of Need,” in which she lists reasons we do not ask for help, and try to do it on our own:
*We were never taught to ask for help and have few role models. The ethic of self sufficiency has been passed down to us from our parents and grandparents. Nancy used to tell me, “Do it the self!” (She was two at the time)
*We love our independence. Americans are becoming more and more isolated from each other. How many of you know any of your neighbors’ names, besides the ones directly next to or across the street from you? Attendance in service clubs and community organizations, including the church, has declined. The advent of the internet has made it possible to chat with friends–no need to meet. You can shop online and not have to find a parking place–or your car once it is parked, and to even get an education–all online!
*We don’t think to ask. We are so focused on caring for ourselves that we do not realize when we need help.
*It is easier to do it ourselves. Remember, “If you want something done right, do it yourself!” My parents recited that litany to me often. And Americans do not want to be indebted to anyone.
*We are afraid to ask. We do not want people to think we are helpless.
Bartimaeus had no qualms about asking for help. He was calmly sitting by the roadside in one of his many designated spots, realizing that his self-sufficiency might be crippling him–actually blinding him to help that quite possibly was available. He was sitting by the roadside as Jesus, his disciples, and the crowd that followed Jesus, were passing by on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. He heard that Jesus was coming and without any sense of embarrassment, the blind man began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd thought he was acting scandalously and ordered him to be quiet. Bartimaeus continued to cry out for help loudly. As a blind beggar, Bartimaeus’ only hope for a productive life was to receive sight. He knows his need, but he does not cry out about his need for sight, just his need to be seen by Jesus. He knows that Jesus can do something about the things that bind him, rather than the things that blind him. He did not say, “Have mercy on me, a blind man, but have mercy on me, a sinner!” Bartimaeus seemed to understand that his vision was not only blurred, but that he also needed spiritual healing. He was open to the possibility that he needed both physical and spiritual healing. Asking for help begins when we acknowledge that we have a problem. The more we try to hide it, the more it seems to grow.
How well can we see? Look at these playing cards. They are face cards and you have seen some like them multiple times if you have played card games like Slap Jack, Fish or learned to do card tricks. Did you ever put cards on the spokes of your bike wheels with clip on clothespins to pretend your engine was running? The face cards flashed like imaginary flames as you rode along. How closely did you view the cards? King, Queen, Jack? They are a part of your visual experience. How fully have you seen them? One of four kings is in profile. One queen holds a scepter. Does every queen hold a flower? Does every jack have a moustache? Which jack has a leaf on his hand–or hat? Which king holds an axe instead of a sword? Seeing and not seeing is an over-arching theme in this section of Mark’s gospel. Verse 22 involves the healing of a blind man and ends with the incident involving Blind Bartimaeus. Jesus asks, “Do you have eyes and fail to see?” “Do you have ears and fail to hear (Mark 8:18)?”
As the disciples walk to Jerusalem, Jesus getting closer to the cross, Jesus’ words about suffering are falling on deaf ears. Visions of courtly splendor fill their eyes as they jockey for a position in the Kingdom of God, wanting to be at the right and left of Jesus in glory. They do not see the glory of Jesus hidden in his servanthood. Blindness is a biblical metaphor for spiritual blindness.
Bartimaeus’ call for help causes Jesus to respond immediately. His sight is restored. The blind man is you and I, missing all the details of Jesus’ love that comes to seek us out and open our eyes to living in a kingdom whose priority and values are fashioned by a crucified Lord. Jesus can do something about things that bind and blind us. We need to take a leap of faith and ask for help, believing that we qualify for help before we can even ask. Like Bartimaeus, we are children of God, looking for a Savior who already claims us as his. Faith can make us well. Faith is the catalyst for asking and asking is the key to healing. One of the keys to asking and receiving help is gratitude. When we have an attitude of gratitude, it shakes us out of our self-sufficiency and allows us to celebrate what others have done for us. It feels good to receive gratitude when we have done a service for others and it feels good to give gratitude when someone has done something for us.
Do not be afraid to ask, to have faith, and to be grateful to the God who supplies all our needs Be thankful for the people ready to help us in God’s behalf. In asking, you shall receive (Matthew 7:7).
Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it.—Unknown. Amen.