Jesus Heals a ParalyticLuke 5:17-26 (NRSV)
One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the one who was paralyzed—“I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.” Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.”
STORYBOOK: I’m Sticking With You by Smriti Prasadam-Halls
Have you ever had a close group of friends? You know, friends that you might not see every day, but who are always there for you? Friends who you can tell anything, and they won’t judge you? Friends that you can share good news with, and they will always celebrate and be excited for you, but friends who will also be there when you are sad or mad or disappointed or frustrated? There is nothing better than knowing that you have people that care about you like that. It’s kind of like Bear and Squirrel in today’s story, at least when they started out.
But what happens if one of those friends says something and it hurts your feelings? What if you don’t see eye to eye with them on one of today’s hot topics? And what if they don’t follow through with something they say they are going to do, or they do something that you don’t agree with, or they talk about you behind your back?
Well, sometimes you might need to take a little break–a little space to take a deep breath and clam down, kind of like squirrel did. But if your friends are really your friends, then you need to talk. You need to Listen. You need to let go. You need to forgive. And you need to love them no matter what because they are your friends!
Folks, I have some important information to share with you today. But I’m going to whisper it because it is something that not everyone knows. Are you ready? We all make mistakes. We all sometimes say things that hurt our friends’ feelings, whether we know it or not. We all get bossy sometimes. Like Bear in today’s story, we get too clingy or needy. Or we get stubborn about changes. Or we forget to follow through on something we said that we would. Or we talk about someone behind their back, even though we know we shouldn’t. Because none of us are perfect! We’re all human beings.
And that is true, not only with a close-knit group of friends, but it’s also true with family, colleagues at work, friends at school, neighbors in your neighborhood, and yes, even with people here at church.
Look around. I am sure there are people here today that have said something or done something at some point that has hurt your feelings or that you have strongly disagreed with, whether they knew it or not. So, what I want you to do, is take a minute with that first sermon box in your bulletin and think about who that person or those people might be and what it was that they said or did to upset you. (PAUSE)
We attend church to be part of a community, to walk hand and hand with others on the journey of discipleship. Now some of the people that we walk with are just like us. We have so much in common and we seem so much to be on the same wavelength it’s almost like we are soul sisters and brothers. But then there are others that are quite different. We may not see the world through the same lens as they do or feel as connected to them as we do to others, but that is okay. Actually, it’s more than okay because that is an important part of the experience. Because out in the world, we face all kinds of people and it is our job–if we are going to truly follow in the footsteps of Jesus–to remember that each and every one of them is a brother or sister and has been made in the image of God, just like us.
Now sometimes in our faith, we lead and sometimes we follow. But it’s being part of a faith community that helps us to practice living out our faith and treating others as Jesus has taught us. And friends, I’ll be honest, as you know, some days it is easy when everyone is being kind and working together, and other days can be quite a challenge. But no matter what, we are called to love our neighbors and help our friends, no matter who our neighbors and friends are, and no matter what they have said or done.
There is a story about a man who was quite sick, actually, he was paralyzed and couldn’t walk. His friends had heard that Jesus was in town, and they knew in their hearts that Jesus could heal him. So they carried him to the house where Jesus was. When they got there, they found a crowd of people. It was so crowded, that they had to climb up onto the roof and lower their friend down through the tiles to get him to Jesus. Can you imagine the faith they must have had in Jesus and the love and dedication they had for their friend? The friends knew that they couldn’t heal him themselves, but they did what they could to bring him to a place of possibility. Without the faith of his friends, he wouldn’t have had the chance to be healed because he never would have encountered Jesus.
Now as the man is being lowered down, I always imagine that Jesus begins to smile because he sees the faith of the four friends. But Jesus then speaks to the paralyzed man. “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” What? He is paralyzed, why would Jesus forgive his sins? Well, folks, this is when the trouble kind of starts. Because in the crowd that day, there were many Pharisees and Scribes. Now in Jesus’ day, Pharisees were the religious teachers and Scribes were the lawyers or people who knew the law. And they were there that day, watching every move that Jesus made. Honestly, some of them were hoping to catch Jesus doing something that he shouldn’t. Well, just as everyone was surprised by the lowering down of this paralyzed man, they were even more surprised at Jesus’ comment about sin. Some of the Pharisees and Scribes who were sitting there began questioning in their hearts, “Who is this that speaks such blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Well, regardless of the reason for the man’s condition, we are told that Jesus both forgives and heals him. And that moment of healing is the evidence, the proof of Jesus’ power and authority to not only heal but to forgive sins.
Okay, so Jesus is proving a point to the Pharisees and the Scribes, but all this talk of healing and forgiving, what does it really mean to us? Well, sometimes it is hard for us to determine whether we need healing or forgiveness or both. The truth is, many of us become emotionally and spiritually paralyzed or stuck because of a need to forgive. Now sometimes we need to forgive ourselves and sometimes we need to forgive someone else. But either way, we need to let go of the hurtful comments, disappointments, or judgments that we carry in our hearts. Because when we hold onto those things, we are not only unable to move forward in our walk of faith, but also in our relationships with friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and even other church members.
In the notebooks that our young people have this morning, they each received a “magic erase board” where they can draw or write something and then, by pulling the tab across, erase it. I wish I had one for each of you today. Because sometimes we need to acknowledge the hurts and disappointment that we have experienced so that we can then magically erase them, forgive them, and let them go. Now let me be clear–when we forgive these things, that does not necessarily mean that we have to forget them, but we need to let them go so that they won’t weigh us down and stop us and those around us from being healthy and whole.
Okay, friends, I want you to take a moment with that second sermon box to think about the person or people that you thought about just a minute ago. And then think about how, like Jesus, you might forgive them and allow yourself and your relationship to heal. (PAUSE)
Folks, life is too short to hold grudges, and our call to love and serve others is a full-time job. We don’t have time to point fingers and to blame, to gossip, or to hold “secret parking lot conversations” to talk about people we disagree with. It’s time to let go of our resentments and disappointments, to forgive, and to move on. Because that is the only way that we truly begin to live lives of joy and peace, bring healing and wholeness to ourselves, to our church, and to the world.
So, friends, let’s be a little more like Bear and Squirrel from today’s story, realizing that sometimes we might drive each other crazy, and sometimes we might need to take a little break. But as we walk this journey of faith together here in Oldtown, we really need each other.
My friends may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen.