Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Shared Strength

There is a wonderful story in the New Testament told by Mark in chapter 2 about four friends who help another friend who cannot help himself.  The friend is paralyzed, cannot walk or move without assistance from others, so his four friends put him on a stretcher and try to bring him to Jesus because they have heard that Jesus can heal people and they think that if they can get him to Jesus then their friend may be able to walk.  They encounter a problem in making their efforts fruitful, though....lots of people stand in the way.  Jesus is teaching inside of a house and the crowd is standing room only, literally.  People are packed so tightly inside the house that there is no room for another person, even if he can stand up on his own.

I can just imagine that the four friends who are carrying the man on the stretcher look at the situation and are just about to give up on their plan when suddenly one of them sees a ladder propped up against the wall and comes up with the scheme to take their friend up on the room and lower him down right in front of Jesus.  Of course, there is still the matter of the roof being in their way.  Roofs in the ancient world were mostly made of dirt so that obstacle soon is clawed and dug away as they tore through the roof to make a whole large enough to lower a stretcher by ropes into the room below.  Can you just imagine what the people who were listening to Jesus teach must have thought?  As they saw the sunshine break through into the room, perhaps they even shielded their eyes from the sunlight and from the dirt particles drifting down.

The crowd may have been amazed at the event unfolding before them and perhaps even Jesus was unable to speak for a moment, wondering what in the world was going on as he tried to teach the crowd gathered there.  When he realized what was being done, though, he responded to the need of this paralyzed man freeing him from his sins and restoring his health to him.  Not everyone there rejoiced in the new found health of the man, though.  The religious leaders judged Jesus for what he said as he healed this man.  The man and his friends did not care what those religious folks had to say though.  They rejoiced that their friend was well and could walk.

"You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am, I'll come running to see you again, winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call, and I'll be there, yes I will, you have a friend."  I remember James Taylor singing those words about friends helping each other and how they come running when you have a need.  We all have to have help now and then.  That's what friends are for (that's another song).  We all help each other when a need arises.  We see what needs to be done and we do it.  We get into action because someone needs our help.

The Church is like that.  We share a common bond and we share the strength that is needed in good times and bad.  We become like St. Paul who says in this week's reading from his letter to the Corinthians that he tried to be "all things to all people".  That is a hard phrase to sort out but it has something to do with finding common ground with others and realizing that we are all human beings and we are more alike than we are different.  We share this journey that all of us are on and it takes us through life in partnership.

Even Jesus needed others to help him.  Think about the fact that Jesus called disciples to help him in his ministry.  He was God's Son and as such he could have just announced who he was and worked miracles and performed his ministry all by himself.   That was not his plan, however.  He involved others in the ministry that happened and commissioned others to repeat what he had done as they branched out into the world so that once he was gone they could commission even more people to help and teach and bring healing where it was needed.

Even the Lone Ranger was not alone.  He had Tonto to help him.  We all need each other and all of us need to find the Tontos in life who can share our burdens and to be Tonto to others who may be trying to be Lone Rangers in life.  There is a shared strength that comes from living and working in community.  It is the way life works and the way we receive the energy to go on from day to day.  You are needed by others and you need them, even if it is hard for you to admit that.  Go out and find the place where you belong, and if you think you do not belong, then come join us on our journey.  We welcome everyone, regardless of where you are on the journey of life.

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