October 8, 2017
“We Are Beggars; It Is True”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
No one likes to beg. It’s demeaning. It’s embarrassing. It seems to take away our dignity.
It seems that my travels take me to the corner of Littleton Avenue and Broadway every few days. I’m heading north to Swedish or Porter’s to see you in the hospital. But even more importantly, Wendy’s, Burger King and Subway are that direction. At that corner there is a homeless man who holds out his sign to every car that passes that way. He needs help. That light is quite long and we had a chance to talk for a little bit a few weeks ago. He told me about his foot that is injured and bandaged – he has a definite limp. I guess he is just a beggar. And I bet he doesn’t like doing it.
All over our area, at many intersections, on the on-ramp or the off-ramp, there are beggars. Men, women, teenagers, old people and some in the middle are beggars. They hold out a sign, telling of their situation and ask for help. But, I imagine, no one likes to beg.
A few Saturdays ago we had a meeting of about 30 folks. The gathering was about the preparations for our Severe Weather Shelter Network – our care for the homeless on cold nights. We talked about the responsibilities that the guests – the homeless – have before they leave in the morning. But we have seen, as in any situation – some folks work and some don’t. One of our team leaders said of it, “I’m not going to beg for them to do the work.” No one likes to beg!!
If we don’t get enough attention from another, or not enough affection from those closest to us, it is difficult to bring it up. It is hard to beg for something that we need. At a recent Wednesday Evening Bible Study we seemed to get sidetracked, somehow, from our topic. One person started talking about a pastor at her church some time ago said that if he had to beg for money for the church that he needed to preach somewhere else. No one wants to beg!!
But the Bible is filled with beggars. Our reading is about a proud beggar. “Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and His disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus) was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” (Mark 10:46-52)
Maybe begging isn’t so bad. Bartimaeus couldn’t see a thing but he had heard about Jesus and the miracles He was doing. If Jesus would make him see he wouldn’t have to beg any more. He wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass him by. His life could change in an instant if Jesus would just do His work. But those around him told him to be quiet, but that got him more determined – “He shouted all the more.” He got louder and more obnoxious. I think there are various levels of persistence when people won’t take no for an answer. Let’s see – they start out as a nuisance, then they become a whiner, then they are a pain, followed by a pest, and finally a beggar. Bartimaeus was a beggar. He was loud and persistent and he wasn’t concerned that he made some of those folks uncomfortable. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” “Jesus, Help me!!”
A month ago Pastor Langness preached on the Matthew 15 passage about the faith of the Canaanite woman whose daughter was afflicted by a demon. The disciples of Jesus complained about her constant begging. They tell Jesus, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us!” (Matthew 15:23b) But she wouldn’t go away. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. Her request from Jesus was answered. Her daughter? Made well!! Begging isn’t always bad.
Martin Luther died on February 18, 1546 in Eisleben, Germany. Eisleben was the place of his birth, his Baptism and his death, though he lived other places in between. In the pocket of his German pants was a handwritten note, it said, “We are beggars; It is true.” I guess being a beggar, in Luther’s eye, wasn’t a bad thing. He didn’t regret it but acknowledged how proper it was.
That same piece of paper should be in our pockets, as well. “We are beggars; It is true.” We are sinners; we beg for forgiveness. We have no righteousness of our own to present to our God; we beg to be clothed with the very righteousness of Jesus Christ. We are weak; be beg to be made strong. We are very mortal; but we beg to have immortal breath. In the fourth stanza of the hymn, “Just as I Am, without One Plea” (LSB 570) we sing, “Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; sight, riches, healing of the mind, yea, all I need, in Thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
So, if begging from God is actually good, then begging for God is good, as well. That’s what I do today. Begging is made because there are great needs that must be met. Bartimaeus, the Canaanite mother, the guy at Littleton and Broadway – they all beg because they have a need that is real.
Someone asked me if I thought the end of the world will be soon, and I gave the same dumb answer I give for lots of things, “I don’t know”. Nobody knows. But I’m wondering if everything that has happened recently isn’t God telling us that the end is close. One disaster after another; one “thousand year storm” after another, an awful and gruesome slaughter in Las Vegas, are signs that Christ is coming again. Maybe soon.
But what does it also say? It says, “We are beggars; It is true.” The needs that exist in our world, and with our fellow human beings, are multiplying. In the Tuesday paper was the picture that captured our eyes for these days. A young man is shielding a young lady on the asphalt at the music festival in Las Vegas. Was she dead? Injured? Was this his girlfriend or wife? Matthew Cobos, a soldier in the U.S. Army, was protecting a stranger. He covered her from the danger and then covered her eyes from her having to witness the bloodshed all around. Shortly after that picture was taken they were able to run to safety, but he returned applying medical care to those who had been shot and were injured. There were a lot of beggars there. There were many who were asking for mercy. I’m glad that he and many others were available to give care.
I beg you in Christ’s name to be involved in mercy and kindness for the many people who need help. That is what we are called to do in the years that God gives us breath. We are called to do that every day of our life with our family, and those we work with, and those we go to school with, and those who are in our neighborhood. We help those who have needs. We do that individually.
And we do it collectively – together. I am a beggar and I ask you to involve yourself in the things that we are attempting to do together, in this church, in the name of Jesus Christ. When I get to tell someone who doesn’t know what this community of Christians is all about, I tell them, with joy, about you. I tell them how God is shown through your heart and actions, your generosity to a world that needs the gifts from Jesus so desperately.
Did you know that a beggar never stops asking? We never stop asking of God!! We beg for His goodness, cleansing, strength and many gifts. And this beggar, this balding senior citizen pastor, will never stop begging from you. I’m going to ask for your money – money that you made, that you invested, and I’m going to ask for a sacrificial gift every Sunday. I’ll send those plates out after every sermon – even twice if we need to. And I beg you for your time and skills. We are in need of people who have a heart for leadership, for outreach, evangelism, social ministry, small groups, the Columbarium – where we place the ashes of our saints, and many more areas of service in this church. A number of these areas of ministry and care have been vacant this year and some for more than a year. We need you, your heart, your time, your skills, your hands.
No one likes to be a beggar. But with humility we know that we are beggars before God for all the things of life. To a world that needs so much, that needs Jesus, that needs your love, I beg you give, sacrifice, lead and serve. That is what beggars do. Amen!!