After hearing Kate’s message two weeks ago I knew it was time and then Ken announced that there was an opening to speak this Sunday. About two years ago I began worshipping with you after being away for about twenty five years. I felt welcome, I feel welcome. This is my home. Last June I asked Pat Conover to be my spiritual guide. In the fall I joined the Mission Support Group. With the help of others I created two mini retreat experiences for men, I am still actively working with the Sacred Racial Conversations group, there are classes with the school of Christian Living, a Buddha class at the Festival Center, cooking, silent retreats, holidays, my birthday party and the list goes on and on. I have seen almost every face in this room. I am at home. I have been transformed and I am transforming myself with every breath. And I feel the need to share my insights and my experience with you.
What exactly is transformation? Has there ever been a transformation in your life? Or if I was asking a defensive teenager, I would say, "Can you think of someone in your life you would like to transform? How about your parents, for example. What would the transformation look like after it took place?
I was startled to find in today’s scripture reading that Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, also wanted transformation. Well, that is, he wanted to see because he was a blind man.
I realized a long time ago that I remain a high school counselor because I believe in change. In fact, I reassure kids all of the time that their parents can be changed. Then I set about telling them the clues as to how their behavior, the teenager’s behavior can actually cause their parents’ behavior to change. In fact, I gurantee it will stick, that is under certain conditions.
So in the next fifteen minutes I hope to accomplish two things. For those of you who still have active connections with your children I will share a few of my clues for how teenagers get their parents to change. Second, I hope to inspire you to connect with yourself and others with greater awareness of what it takes to make the changes you want to make in your own life. Or, for that matter the lives of those around you.
My professional commitment has always been to expect of myself what I expect from people in the high school community. Today I want to share, in part, from what I have learned from my own life.
Two weeks ago the Bible reading was from Mark 10:21 The rich man was asking Jesus what could he do to gain eternal life. After Jesus listed almost everything, the man replied, "All these I have done since childhood." Jesus then responded that the remaining task is to sell everything and follow me. The man was sad and left Jesus because he had many possessions that he apparently did not want to sell.
This passage has bothered me since I became a born again follower of Jesus in 1967. I have been stuck with paralyzing shame at the point of feeling or rather believing that I have to be willing to give everything away to follow Jesus. Kate expanded the challenge to think of things that become an idol that gets in the way of me and God. The passage has troubled me before and it troubled me two weeks ago. I am in the middle of letting go of things in my marriage and giving up things and I want to take up the cross and follow him. As are mediation sessions are coming to an end I still wrestle with what it means to be a steward of what I have been given.
Shortly after her sermon I made time with my fellow seeker friends to ride our bikes on the sixty two mile Seagull Bike Ride in Salisbury. During the seven hours we were riding I reflected on the fact I had decided to give up everything for the sake of Jesus back in 1967. God knows I have had many imperfect moments in the past forty two years but none the less I have been driven by the challenge to embody the Christ consciousness in everything I do.
I called Glen and told him I wasn’t ready and could not go on the ride. He asked if I had registered, yes. He asked if I had paid my money, yes. He then told me I was ready. He believed not so much in me but in the vision and decision I made two months ago to make the bike ride. He believed I as a competent stewart of my body and my own goals. I finished with energy to eat a big meal with my Seekers’ friends.
Then I turned to Mathew. He told stories about what the kingdom of Heaven is like. In particular, he talked about the man who shared his wealth with his servants and then left town. When he eventually returned his first servant brought back five additional talents to the five he had been originally given, His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you are faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord. Matthew 25: 20,21.
Mr. Ramsey, I told my parents that I would make good grades if they would buy me a car and your ideas don’t work. They said, "No way." This is where timing and context come into play. First of all you can only control your behavior. So think about what they really want from you. You are correct. They want you to make a commitment and to do your best. So, first you determine how important is that car? Oh, you say it is the most important, it is more important than any one thing in your life right now? So lets keep this simple. You only have to do one thing. You start doing everything you can to make good grades. But when will I get the car? Besides I know I will mess up. I’m not perfect plus I have to change so many habits. So, again lets keep it simple. When you slip and fall short you go to them before they come to you. It works everytime. It is like magic or maybe grace. When you go to them first they see the ownership you have accepted and they see the small transformations that are occurring as your habits and patterns begin to change.
Timing and context-commitment comes first, then grace follows.
But I have discovered that life is not always so linear and predictable. Look at Job. Good man, loyal friends and nothing makes sense. Why is it that pain never makes sense? Never mind, that is a different element of life. We can talk about that later. I will say, though, that when he decided that the answers did not matter, that he was going to simply trust and accept, God gave him everything back. In AA they saw that We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. We turn our life and our will over to the care of God as we understood her.
Give everything away so I can have eternal life or Invest my talents so I can be noticed and get a promotion.
Once I was able to get past my physical attachments, ie I was able to identify with Bartimaeus. In today’s reading, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, cried out, Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me…Son of David, have mercy on me. Mark 10:46-52.
Then I saw me.
Will, son of Claude Ramsey, is crying out, have mercy on me. My gremlin warned me to be quiet and I cried out all the more. The people told him to be quiet. Even my friends told me to be quiet. Then it says, "Jesus stood still". And Jesus stood still. And he commanded me to be called and my call continues to this minute. Once the crowd knew he was being called they told him to "be happy." Once my friends know me and know my call they also start telling me to "rise up and be happy. My friends at Seekers, my mission group, my fellow counselors at work, my men’s group all reflect back to me that I can be happy if I respond to her call. I have choices just as Bartimaeus did. He is calling me. And he/she is calling you.
He threw aside his cloak. I wonder what that was? I have to throw aside my old routines, habits and wounds, which I have so carefully nursed, to step up and come to Jesus.
And why have I stepped up? I noticed that the man who wanted eternal
life went to Jesus. Bartimaeus went to Jesus. Jesus was a busy man, but he stood still and waited.
And Jesus responded, What do you want me to do for you?
I said or rather I say, "oh, that I may receive my sight."
I want to see and know how to live my life. Do you ever have this longing?
I have to make myself vulnerable, remove my garment(s) so I can be seen. And I have to ask for help.
It is like magic or maybe grace. When you go to your parents and they see the ownership you have accepted and they see the small transformations that are occurring as your habits and patterns begin to change they respond. Actually their behavior changes. You might even get the new car.
Asking for help
And solidifies trust Which creates faith.
And so I learn from community Someone gave me a chance
A friend, an employer
A family member, a neighbor,
A police officer, a jail cell, a hospital, painful experiences are all my teachers.
Balance, timing and context.
•There is the time when I have to let go.
• the time I have to ask for help
• and the time to take back responsibility
• And continue to be vulnerable
But vulnerability is like the trickster because
It makes no sense, it is counter intuitive
It takes us to a place where the answers don’t matter
And what is left at that point?
Job described it as dust and ashes and we have all been to that place,
• but how are we able to use it. I am experiencing it as
• Grace, acceptance and non judgment
And the mystical magic sets in
• your parents buy you a car
• I become happy with very little
• my prayers are answered and the pain makes sense
• because I believe my prayers are answered.
And now I can say, for me today, "Having had a spiritual awakening I carry my message to others by practicing these principles in all my affairs.
• I see others as O.D. (God) sees me).
• I stop and hear your truth with only love
• I am living by principles of Jesu
• And in the eyes of O.D. (God) I am love.
My hope is that every person, male and female will respond to his or her call and one day we can be described as a "City on its Knees." On how would the spirit’s behavior change if we each prayed for others as ourselves, like doing to others like we want them to do to us? To read the lyrics go to here.