Last Sunday we gathered, round the table and opened in prayer. Then was check-in time with a homework assignment that was likely challenging. We were to honestly assess how we ourselves do with the “golden rule,” you know, treating others as we wish to be treated. Even more challenging than this however, was likely the homework to be honest with ourselves as to whether or not we are the enemies or the people judging/condemning that Christ references in Luke 6:27-38….are we actually the people he is instructing others to pray for?
Sometimes we treat others fairly good. Sometimes we find ourselves (yes — including me!) being unkind, being like an enemy — like a bully — like someone who is judging. (forgive us God we pray) What struck a cord within the group though was thinking that the golden rule is good on an individual level, but what exactly are we supposed to do when we are thinking about an entire group, an entire people? There are many examples of this that could be considered — two which were specifically mentioned were Native Americans and African Americans — questions about what does asking forgiveness mean, or what does forgiveness mean (is forgiveness possible by ourselves? are we able to forgive that which was not done to us? are we able to ask forgiveness for something that we didn’t specifically do? what is the point of forgiveness if it is just words and not actions?) None of these are easy questions. None of these have easy answers. I imagine though that even thinking about these things, even being concerned (and passionate, and uncomfortable) with these conversations — or how often these conversations have not been happening — make God’s heart a bit warmer, I imagine the Holy Spirit getting excited because when we are thinking of forgiveness, when we are imagining how to live into exactly what Christ taught us to pray that God is pleased & that is encouraging — that gives us an openness to allow God to lead us — that allows some healing to live and breathe in places where brokenness has been thus far…
And after taking some time here in the challenging spaces and in conversations that demand much more time than a few minutes we pivoted (yes – before some were ready) to consider another passage of scripture, Matthew 9:1-8:
Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man
9 Jesus climbed into a boat and went back across the lake to his own town. 2 Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.”
3 But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?”
4 Jesus knew[a] what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? 6 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man[b] has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
7 And the man jumped up and went home! 8 Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for giving humans such authority.
New Living Translation
9:4 Some manuscripts read saw.
9:6 “Son of Man” is a title Jesus used for himself.
We had conversations about the name Jesus chooses for himself, “Son of Man” and also compared it with the name of “Son of God” — thinking about what is Jesus emphasizing, considering how he is fully God & fully human. There also was a comment how Jesus was speaking in his own town, and remembering again how it can be hard to speak & be fully you (even for Jesus) in a place that knows your story — knows your name — knows you (or thinks that they do)…
This is a rich text, with much going on — including of course, forgiveness & healing. It is a text that allows you really (whenever you have time) to find yourself in the story, to really be there — seeing the scene unfold right around you. And the homework for this week invites us in a way to do just that — to put ourselves into the narrative — so the question we have to hold in our homework for this week is, who are you?
- Are you one of the (unnamed) people carrying a paralyzed person (lying on a mat) to Jesus? If YES…who do you need to bring before God for forgiveness/healing? It might be one person all week….it might be different people depending on the day….who is the Holy Spirit prompting you to bring to God (in prayer)?
- Or are you the paralytic? Are you the one needing forgiveness & healing? If YES, imagine hearing Jesus say to you, “Take heart beloved; your sins are forgiven. Stand up & go home; go and live free & fully!”
You are invited to do one or both of the above….and the reality is in life we are both those (the faithful unnamed) who carry those who cannot make it on their own to Jesus & those who need to be carried (by the faith of those who believe when we can’t!). I very much look forward to how God will move in our midst with this homework & cannot wait to hear how you’ve joined this divine dance this week with God.
In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater