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"Just Dropping In"
by Gary in New Bern
Mark 2:1-12

Jesus has been having some problems – the same problem we’ve been facing here lately – he’s a bit too popular. He’s run out of space to do his ministry. Mark says that he can’t go into the local towns and teach, because of the commotion and press of the crowds. But, now and then, even a Rock star has to end his tour and go home, change his socks and get a decent meal. So Jesus goes to his new-found home in Capernaum, the home of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law.


But the crowds follow him even there. Now her house, if archeologists are correct, was probably shaped like a large "U" with a courtyard in the middle, rooms for the disciples along one side, storage and cooking facilities along the other side, and connected by a Great Room in the middle. It would have been here that Jesus was receiving some of the local religious when the crowds showed up at the door. The house fills up. The courtyard fills up. People are pressing at the door as Jesus heals and teaches, probably commenting to his invited guests as he ministers to the crowd.


Meanwhile, outside, there are a few fellows that want to get in to see Jesus – not for their own sakes, but for the sake of a friend. He is paralyzed, and they have brought him on a pallet to see Jesus, promising him that they will, indeed, make sure that he gets in, filling him with hope of healing. But when they get there, they see the crowds and realize the impossibility of their task. They are not dismayed – not to be put off. "Don’t you worry," they tell their friend. "We’ll get you in."


I like to think of these friends as the "Frat Boys." I remember in college when the school was going to tear down old Recitation Hall, one of the first buildings erected on the campus. It had a bell up in its bell tower that the kids would run up and ring whenever the school won a game. But the administration said they couldn’t save the bell. It was too hard. Too expensive. Too dangerous. So, on Homecoming Eve, five of us slipped into the building, lifted a three-hundred pound bell off of its moorings, lowered it through the tower, carried it down two flights of steps, and hauled it to the student center, chaining it to a post there. We sent the President of the University the key to the lock.


If you want something bad enough, possibilities open up. The "Frat Boys" looked over the situation, and noticed something: the crowds were pressing everywhere – except on the roof!


Inside, Jesus is healing and teaching. There is enough noise that no one hears the ladder bang against the side of the house, the footsteps above, the scraping, the voices. Until dust and a few small twigs drift to the ground. A couple of folks point up, nudging those beside them, "Look at that woodja!" There is some laughter from the crowd, along with some consternation, especially on the part of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, whose roof they are destroying. She’s thinking, "It’s a good thing that Jesus is a carpenter – he’ll have a job to do tomorrow!"


The religious are shaking their heads. They are the "I told you so," bunch. "See, Jesus – this is what happens! You start this stuff, telling them your little stories and healing people, and suddenly you have plaster in your eyes and the roof is caving in!"


Jesus stops and watches along with the crowd. Is there the hint of a smile on his face? A small hole opens at first, and a shaft of sunlight filters in, picking up the dust drifting down upon the crowd. Small sticks and chunks of mud fall, and hands can be seen reaching down, tearing at mud and sticks, lifting some pieces up, and letting others drop. Then a smiling face or two at the hole, a hand waves cheerily at the crowd below; the faces disappear, shouting ensues with the sound of something heavy being pulled across the roof. A large package is lowered down. With every jerk of the rope, a grunt emerges from it, until all can see that it is a palate with a man on it. Soon it rests upon the floor, in front of Jesus.


Whatever Jesus might have been saying to the crowds before is lost in the moment – Mark doesn’t even mention it. Yet it doesn’t seem to bother Jesus. There is a compelling quality about him – he is always open to new opportunities, open to change; he receives these moments as gifts from his Father – teachable moments. Ministry often happens in times like this, moments of holy praxis, where God breaks unexpectedly into our life, opening up new possibilities.


Those who are with him look at him wonderingly – the religious, the crowd, the disciples, the friends, the man. But Jesus is focused on the man before him. He kneels and talks quietly to him, perhaps taking his hand in his own, as he did the leper. "My son," he says to him, "your sins are forgiven."


What was that? Wait a minute! That isn’t what he came for! That isn’t what his friends climbed up the roof for, tearing at it until their hands were bloody! That isn’t the spectacle the crowds came to see. And the religious – the religious are thinking, "Blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!"

Jesus looks up at the scribes, their questioning hearts now on his mind. It was for this teachable moment, this time of holy praxis, that God sent this man. "Which is harder to say," he asks, " ‘your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘rise, take up your pallet, and walk?’" And of course, the answer seems clear. Who can test whether one’s sins are forgiven? I can stand up here all day long and say, "Your sins are forgiven," and who knows? Many will still leave, not sure whether THEIR sins are forgiven! What do I know? But a healing – well, as they say, "the proof is in the pudding!"

Jesus turns to the man, and addresses him again. The man is still lying there. Sins forgiven? Maybe. He doesn’t know. Probably doesn’t care. That’s not why he came. Then Jesus speaks to him: "But that you may know that the Son of Man has the power to forgive sins, I tell you – rise, take up your pallet and walk!"

And he does.

To the crowd, that is the miracle. And perhaps to us as well. We love a good show, don’t we? But which is easier? To heal or to forgive? To Jesus, it’s all the same. But the latter exacts a greater cost on him. For him, to heal is a small thing. To forgive will cost him his life.

St Paul, in our Epistle lesson, says, "In God, it is never ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ For in him it is always, ‘yes.’" He points us back to our baptism, to God’s great "Yes!" over our life, where God opened to you that great Mother of All Possibilities – that you are, indeed, his child, eternally loved, eternally planned for, eternally in his heart and mind.

The four friends dare to open up a new possibility for their friend – the first skylight. In faith they dare to entertain the notion that God may break into life in unusual ways, if we will only believe. Jesus also opens up a new possibility to those gathered there that day – that God’s healing power reaches beyond the expected, into the furthest stretches of life, that where we had limited the scope of our expectations, God opens up possibilities for healing, reconciliation and forgiveness.

In these waters, the waters of our baptism, God opens up new possibilities for our life. We look at life with blinders on. As St. Paul says elsewhere, "We see as through a dim mirror." Meanwhile the Holy Spirit is at work. Meanwhile God is opening up whole new world for us, new dimensions of life, as he said, "I have come that they may have life – life in all of its abundance!" God opens new paths for us. Where they lead us, the journey and the end, only God knows.