A Bumpy Road

How’s this for a weird story:

It’s early in Jesus’s ministry.  He’s generated some buzz on the local level.  Movers and shakers are wanting to get in on hearing from this guy they keep hearing about.   It ends up standing room only.  The people spill out into the surrounding yard.

Into this scene wander four guys carrying a paralyzed friend on a stretcher.  They realize that there is no way to bring their friend to see Jesus through the door.  So they climb up on the roof, make a hole, and lower him down.

Jesus tells the man that his sins are forgiven, because of the faith of his friends.  Some members of his audience are taken aback at this.  Jesus follows his claim up by inviting the man to walk away.  And he does.

Some of the most obvious examples of wierdness that is lurking around this story:

* These guys subvert Jesus teaching agenda, destroy somebody’s roof, and act as if there friend is more important than all the people who apparently showed up on time.  And yet they are praised for it.

* The guy gets healed because of his friends faith?!?!?  I can get the idea that I might be healed because of my own faith.  But because of my friends?  This seems a little scary… like reality is some sort of strange popularity contest where the people with the faith-filled friends will do o.k. but the people whose friends aren’t faith filled are out of luck.

The most obvious reading isn’t always the right one.  Sometimes things aren’t quite as wierd as they look.

I had this realization about this whole story today.

Two thousand(ish) years ago, there were five friends.  One of them was paralyzed.  They all heard about Jesus.  And they created a plan to see him.  These five guys put aside whatever commitments and schedules they otherwise would have had.  They trudged as far as they needed to go.  They dealt with obstacles like a crowd full of people.  They prioritized the possibility of this man’s healing over the property destruction and other inconveniences.

I think that Jesus could have used his cool God powers to look inside these guys hearts and measure whether or not these guys were full of faith.  I think he could have in the sense that this was within his power.

But I don’t think that’s what happened.  I don’t think that Jesus was referring to an intangible, abstract quality when he congratulated the men on their faith.  I think the whole point of this episode is that the faith of these men manifested itself in a concrete manner.  When Jesus said, “Because of their faith you are healed” he wasn’t saying, “If your friends had less faith I wouldn’t have used my cool Jesus-powers to heal you.”  Jesus meant something quite literal.  If they had not believed they would not have gotten him into that room.

It’s so easy for me to get talked out of my acts of faith.  I get it into my head to do something kind, but at the first little wrinkle I back away.  When my conscience rises up I tell myself that God didn’t really want my act of kindness to happen, or the road would have been smoother.  The problem, of course, is that Jesus praised the faith of those men… And as they carried their friend down those dirt roads, through that crowded yard, up and over the house walls, and down through the cieling… I am sure that the road was not smooth for them.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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