Welcome to the Church
Welcome to all who are reading or listening online this morning. We may be physically separated but we are spiritually connected. We are together apart.
Let us worship our God.
Call to Worship
As we come before God, count your blessings:
remember that even on the darkest day,
some light has shone through the cloud.
You, my Lord, I will worship at all times,
your praise shall continually be in my mouth.
As we come before God, we affirm the best blessing of all:
Christ Jesus, brother and Lord, teacher and Saviour.
My soul boasts in the grace of the Lord,
let even the afflicted hear and be glad.
As we come before God, know you are never alone,
for the Spirit of truth is our friend and counsellor.
O magnify the Lord with me,
Let us exult together in God’s name!
Hymn: Here in this place your light is streaming
Prayer of praise thanksgiving and confession
Prayer of Invocation, praise and thanksgiving
Great God, our most holy Friend, please awaken every gram of sincerity within us. May we desire you more than anything else, value you above all earthly ambition and treasure, and adore you with a love which is free of guile or calculation.
Thanksgiving and praise we bring to you, most loving God. You are the drive and destination of all things seen and unseen. By your will the starry galaxies wheeled through space, and for your purposes earth became a pleasant habitation.
We give thanks for the beauty and bounty of this world. For its ranges, ravines and plains, the wide oceans and polar icelands; for minerals and oil, trees and grasses, flowers and fruits; for the multitude of animals, birds, reptiles and the fish of river and sea.
Thank you for your patient providence which brought human beings to life, made of star dust yet with the breath of yourself quickening each one; for the unique nature of each person yet the common humanity we share; for the many races, cultures, gifts and skills.
We offer our thanksgiving for the trust you have placed in us; for the special things you have done through called people; for your revelation to the Jewish nation, for their lawgivers, prophets, and seers; and for their longing for the Messiah.
Thanksgiving and praise we bring you for Jesus of Nazareth, your only true Son, our Teacher and Saviour; for his humble beginnings, his remarkable growing and maturing as the loving Messiah; whose words captivate us, whose deeds amaze us, and whose death and resurrection leave us ‘lost in wonder, love and praise.’
Thank you for your Holy Spirit whose inspiration carried the saving work of Christ far from Jerusalem, spreading its good news across the whole word. We rejoice that we here in this island continent are among those who have been caught up in this mighty, saving event, and are now witnesses to your unconditional love for all.
Prayer of Confession
© Moira Laidlaw
Lord Jesus Christ, even in the midst of a large, probably noisy crowd, you helped Bartimaeus move from blindness to sight by focusing your power on his cries for mercy and healing. The crowd and the attempt by some to silence Bartimaeus did not distract you from responding to the needs of this blind beggar. This interruption to your journey provides an example of the life you call your disciples to live. The question, however, disturbs us - would we have been among those who called out for Bartimaeus to be quiet?
When we find interruptions to our plans a source of irritation rather than an opportunity for serving others in your name, forgive us, Lord.
Jesus Christ have mercy on us
Bartimaeus’ desperation and cry for mercy is echoed in the lives of many people in our own communities and throughout the world. When we close our ears and our hearts to these cries forgetting that following you means responding to those who cry for mercy, forgive us, Lord.
Jesus Christ have mercy on us
Immediately Bartimaeus regained his sight, he followed Jesus on the way. The way to discipleship is entered when our eyes are graciously opened to see and to follow Christ in faith. When we find excuses to delay responding to your call to discipleship,
forgive us, Lord.
Jesus Christ have mercy on us
Jesus, Saviour and Lord, enlighten our minds with your wisdom, and imprint the image of your love once more on our hearts so that we can focus anew on your presence and your power whenever and wherever you call us to serve people in your name. Amen
Words of Assurance
Jesus is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25) . Hear then the good news that in and through Jesus Christ we are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!
Hymn: Praise, my soul, the king of heaven
Job 42:1-6, 10-17
Then Job answered the Lord: 2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. 12 The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. 15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. 17 And Job died, old and full of days.
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.
Sermon: “What do you want me to do for you?”
“What do you want me to do for you?”
I do not know how many times I have uttered that phrase and if I was to receive a dollar for every time I have responded with those words to my daughter when she has cried “Mum!” I would be a wealthy person indeed!!
It is such a loaded question that could have so many different responses. So let’s explore this question further in the context of Mark’s gospel and the story from Jericho.
It’s spring in Jericho, one of the oldest cities in the world. The road is dusty and is filled with noisy excited people, competing to get close to Jesus so they could hang onto His every word. The crowd was only interested in their own needs and wants and hearing Jesus speak. They were not interested in the unimportant nobody that was Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus was treated by others as someone who did not matter, he was sidelined to the side of the road. This was the only place for beggars – strategically located outside the city gate to appeal to passers-by. A beggar’s life was always on the outside, they were not even allowed to be anywhere near the precinct of the temple. They were nobodies to society.
What a contrast; a large jostling crowd and a blind beggar, a nobody to the crowd. Someone unseen until he shouts out. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowds sternly demand he is silent. Bartimaeus was in a desperate situation - being urged not to believe that Jesus is for him by voices in the crowd who tell him to stop shouting – to stop being a nuisance. Though Bartimaeus believes that Jesus is for him, the crowd believes that Jesus is not for a nobody like him – a doubly marginalised outsider – a blind beggar. “Jesus” he cried, “have mercy on me”. “Quiet, beggar” cried the people in the crowd, “the master’s busy.”
The people in the crowd had hearts of stone and didn’t want anybody, especially someone so unimportant and a blind beggar to get in their way. They did not want someone so lowly to divert their attention from Jesus. Yet, hearing Bartimaeus shout even louder, Jesus stops the crowd and calls the person to him. Jesus then asks Bartimaeus what might seem to us an astonishing question - “What do you want me to do for you?” We instinctively think that it is obvious that Bartimaeus wanted to see.
But we have to stop at this point to ponder the question. “What do you want me to do for you?” To stop and remember that these were Jesus’ exact words to his disciples, James and John, in last week’s gospel.
In fact, we need to retrace our steps to see more clearly how Mark, by placing this question – addressed to people in such different circumstances, is highlighting the contrast between seeing and unseeing – outwardly and inwardly – and how one informs the other.
Just a couple of chapters back, in Mark chapter 8, we have another story about an unnamed blind man – whose sight - like Bartimaeus, was restored. This story is followed by Peter’s confession that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Messiah. This confession is understood to be the heart, the central truth of Mark’s gospel. The message above all others that he wants to get over to his readers in the early church. In fact, the message about Jesus being the Messiah stands right at the centre of the Gospel of Mark in order to highlight its importance.
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus spells out the necessary qualification for discipleship; “If anyone comes after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Apart from this, as the disciples journeyed with Jesus, they experienced firsthand Jesus healing people, sitting and eating with those considered by society as outcasts, and hearing Jesus described as God’s beloved son.
James and John were an integral part of that journey and as such, among the most privileged people ever to have lived, yet they did not see that Jesus’ message – his words and actions, was about empowering others, not taking power for themselves so that they could lord it over others. In other words, they wanted Jesus to do for them whatever they wished for themselves.
That was when Jesus asked: “What do you want me to do for you? And their answer revealed how appallingly blind they still were. Although they had witnessed all these healing and empowering acts and words of Jesus, they had not really seen, not understood. Still blinded by their own selfish wants, I believed they felt they needed some special treatment and favouritism.
Their eyesight was perfect, yet James and John were far more blind than many of those, like Bartimaeus, who had no eyesight. So, following the story of James and John, Mark deliberately takes us to the story of Bartimaeus. Mark is therefore using these incidents to proclaim a particular message to all who hear it.
A message that is still relevant for us today. The questions raised for us today is this:
What do we hear and where do we stand?
With the crowd or the beggar on the Jericho road - or with James and John?
Do we hear these stories as a Bartimaeus, aware of our needs, saying “Lord, have mercy on me, all I have is faith.” Or do we enter the story as one of the crowd, impatient with the plight of an unimportant person in need? Does our manner suggest the words of the crowd “go away” or the words of Jesus - “come”? Jesus stopping and his caring told Bartimaeus that he counted. Bartimaeus became a follower of Jesus and I’m sure that his testimony would have served as a reminder to all that all people are valued and loved in God’s eyes.
As followers of Christ and through him we know we count. We know we are important and have a voice, no matter what the crowds and society say.
Hopefully we don’t enter the story as the two disciples who believed that their importance counted for more than the needs of others.
If Jesus were to ask us: “What do you want me to do for you?” What would be our honest answer? What do we really want – or maybe the question should be what do we really need?
Bartimaeus knew his first need. He was desperate. How desperate are we? Are we the sighted who are blind, or the blind who are longing to see?
I believe the challenge arising from the story from Jericho is to hear Jesus asking “What do you want me to do for you?” and to answer “Lord, that we might see – see what you want us to do for you – so that others might know that, in your eyes, they count through our witness, worship and service”.
May it be so.
If Jesus said to us:
“What do you want me to do for you?”
We are not sure what we would say,
we might blurt out something silly and selfish.
But we do know what we should ask.
And we ask that right now.
Teach us, dear God,
to see what is really, really important.
May we trust the truths your Spirit teaches,
enjoy the actions which make you smile,
help those people you reckon need our help,
and love you more and more each day.
In Jesus’ name.
Hymn: Beauty for Brokenness
Prayers of Intercession
God of power, God of might,
God of gentleness, God of peace,
We bring before you now are prayers for others.
Loving God, when others cry out, help us to listen and not turn them away. When their cries are to us, give us the strength and courage to respond on your behalf. When we cry out to you, help us to listen and rejoice in the answers you give.
Loving God, our minds are inundated with news on developments in the Covid-space. Whilst it is good that we have been able to develop and distribute multiple versions of the Covid vaccines across many countries, there still remains many, many countries that have yet to receive any vaccine. We pray that the distribution of the vaccines will become fairer and more equitable and the requirements of the neediest are not subjugated to the largesse of rich countries. May the generosity that has been displayed in recent times continue and increase.
Our TV screens are carrying distressing images from Ethiopia as different factions, following personal ambition and greed, fight for control of the Tigray region. We struggle to wrap our minds around events such as these so we seek your intervention. The sight of malnourished young children is heart-breaking and we ask that first world nations will be generous in their food donations and the distribution be fast and efficient.
Be with the innocent victims of war (eg Syria), flood (eg India), earthquakes and other natural disasters (eg Canary Islands). May they experience generosity from other nations in the restoration of infrastructure damaged in these events. Particularly, where there is war, may peace prevail.
As the world prepares for the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow in a few weeks, may there be honesty by government representatives
in approaching the discussions and a genuineness in proffering targets and the like. We pray that this conference will be a watershed moment in the way we, as humans, treat and care for the planet we live on. As the sign on the front of our church says: “God did not create a Planet B”.
As our congregation prepares to gather again for face-to-face worship over the next few weeks, we pray for an outflowing of your Spirit upon our congregation, that we will be invigorated in calling you Lord and hungry in our desire to know you better and more deeply.
We uphold before you our worship leader this morning, Trish Rooney. Trish will be taking a break and finishing her formation over next couple of months. As she steps out in this new stage of her career, we pray that you will provide her with the guidance so vital in making the decisions before her and continue to bless her.
Within our congregation, we pray for those who are unwell or in care. Surround them with your loving arms of mercy and comfort and healing as required.
We offer these prayers in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ who taught us, when we pray, to say:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen
We are offered abundant gifts. May we exercise generosity and open hands for God’s mission in the world.
Gracious and merciful God, we offer these gifts and our lives in response to the blessings we receive as followers of Jesus, your Son, our Lord. Empower us with your Spirit to hear those who cry out for mercy that we may be loving and committed bearers of the gospel in word and in deed. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen
Hymn: Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Good bye and Benediction
Today is my last Sunday I will be leading a service at Carlingford. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to have shared in worship with you during these last six months. Disappointing that we have not been able to be together in person. Thank you for inviting me in and making me welcome. It is a time of transition for me as I begin to discern where God is calling me too. It’s exciting and it is scary. Today maybe goodbye for now but I am confident we will cross paths again. My prayer for each of you and the community of Carlingford Uniting is this: may you open yourselves up to new possibilities, dare to dream, never lose sight of the One who has called and may you always walk in the light of Christ.
As we prepare to head off along diverse walks of life,
Jesus says to us: “What do you want me to do for you?”
Get your answer right and you will never walk alone.
The grace of Christ be yours wherever you go,
the love of God be yours whatever you do,
the friendship of the Spirit be yours whatever you have to face,
today and always.
Yes, today and always. Amen!
Next Week: 31 October, 2021
Theme: The art of asking a good question.
Readings: Mark 12:28-34
Ru 1:1-18 Ps 146 Heb 9:11-14 Mk 12:28-34