I’ve been preparing for the sermon for this coming Sunday and I’ve been reading and thinking about the text: Mark 2:1-22. The very first story is the story of the four men who went up to the roof and lowered their friend down to where Jesus was healing. Everyone always focuses on the extreme faith and love on the part of those four friends. But what made no sense, is when Jesus sees the man being lowered, he doesn’t immediately make this man walk. I mean it was as plain as the nose on one’s faith. Why Jesus feel the need to say this man’s sins are forgiven?
Maybe it was because the man himself wondered if his predicament was because of the result of sin. Does it mean that he sinned and became a paralytic as a result? Probably not. But think about this man’s situation for moment. We don’t know if this has been his condition since birth or it happened later, but you can wonder why you are in this predicament. In John 9, Jesus meets a blind man and his disciples wonder if he sinned or did the man’s parents sin to make this man blind. Jesus says neither. But when you are in this condition, you might be more aware of your sin than other times in one’s life.
What matters is that Jesus saw this man, saw the awesome faith of his friends and told the man what he needed to hear: that he was forgiven, that the burden that he carried was no longer his.
There are lots of people in our midst who are weighed down with guilt, sin and sadness. The question for us today is not that we can forgive their sins, but can we bring them to Jesus in the same way that this man’s friend did? They were willing to help their friend even if it meant tearing up a roof to get their friend to be healed by Jesus.
As Christians we are called to share the love of God with our friends and neighbors. A friend recently said that in many cases, the people that we meet are longing for forgiveness. Bring them to Jesus can help them realize a sense of grace in a world that is graceless.
Now, that might sound odd to some because especially in mainline Protestantism, there has been a move away from forgiveness towards justice. There is a need to focus on justice issues, but there is also a spiritual side of life where people just want to feel a sense of grace, to know they are forgiven. Sometimes that is even more important to people than a physical healing.
So as we prepare for Sunday and we meet our friends, know they are carrying burdens. How can we bring them to have an encounter with Christ? How can they experience forgiveness from Jesus?
Sometimes forgiveness feels more important than healing.
Today I was visiting with a couple of retired neighbors when on my biycle ride of the day. One said as a result of war memories they sometimes become so real he has even jumped out of his window in the middle of the night. A few days ago one of our church members said when flying a small plane in Vietnam a person came out of a bunker and armed a rifle at him. He shot first, as the person fell he saw that it was a woman. “I shot a women” – he said as he teared up. Memories of all kind, but especailly of war expereinces can hault us like an orginal sin.
We used to live in Middlesex County Virginia. There is the remains of any old fort that has been restored, it’s has long been called “Fort Nonsense”. It seems that no one remembers when it was first built – perhaps to protect a farm/ranch back in Colonial Days. Then during the Civil War it was restored to help protect Richmond, a Confederate stronghold. But it was never used, no one attacted Richmond from that direction! More recently it has been restored as a “Historic Site” – – with the name Fort Nonsense. May we see the day when all Forts are named Nonsense!
My favoite Statue is one on the grounds of the United Nations. It is of a metalsmith beating a sword into a plowshare.
“Let us Beat Swords into Plowshares” at the United Nations north garden area
The sculpture by Evgeniy Vuchetich, called “Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares”, a gift from the then Soviet Union was presented on 4 December 1959. The bronze statue represents the figure of a manholding a hammer in one hand, in the other, a sword which he is making into a plowshare, symbolizing man’s desire to put an end to war andconvert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefitof all mankind.
First Sunday in Advent, Year A: The second chapter of Isaiah, verse 4, is powerfully represented by this sculpture gift from an “enemy” country: “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
Vuchetich, Evgeniy Viktorovich, 1908-1974
It was donated by the USSR.