A few days ago, I received a text message from a friend asking me to “Pray, pray, pray. Awful stuff going on in our world.” Surely, he had in mind the tragic flood that devastated West Virginia as well as the recent terror attacks and shootings, which had shaken not only our country, but also other countries across the world. Without doubt, we are living challenging times.
While amazing technologies connect us with people all over the planet, hatred and violence bring forth what seems to be an unbridgeable chasm between people in many regions of our world.
In some areas of the world, people live under the constant threat and fear of unexpected and fiendish terrorist attacks.
Global inequality and upheavals are causing massive movements of people. And though we have extraordinary breakthroughs in medicine, we still face the terror of pandemics. Clearly, our world is broken. Our world needs forgiveness and healing.
No matter how frightful the world appears to be, I believe we have before us a tremendous opportunity to shine with God’s love and grace.
The gospel reminds us that because of Jesus there is hope. And with faith and love, we can serve the kingdom of God.
The gospel of Mark describes a story about a community effort to help a hopeless, helpless man (see Mark 2:1-12). Nothing could be done to mend his predicament. He was a paralytic.
But he had a community of friends. Four of these friends have heard about Jesus and wholeheartedly believed he could restore their paralyzed friend.
However, he could not get to Jesus by himself. He could not do it alone. He needed help.
So, with determination to defy their friend’s reality, they girded themselves with faith, hope, and love, carried the mat he was lying on, and brought him to Jesus.
When they arrived to Jesus’s home, they realized that the crowds were blocking the way. The multitude was so thrilled listening to Jesus that they had become an obstacle to the one needing a healing touch.
Was that the end of their effort? Was their attempt a failure? I can imagine their discouraged faces.
Perhaps the most disheartened among them said, “Well, we did what we could. It’s over.”
Another with a tiny bit of faith might have said, “Wait…there must be a way…we must find a way.”
The other began to look around and excitedly as if he had found the solution exclaimed, “Look there…what if…what if we go up on the roof, make a hole and lower him through the opening?” To which the disheartened one responded, “What? That’s Jesus’s house. He will get mad. It’s going to be costly…”
Undaunted by the challenge the last one said, “Let’s stop talking and let’s dig through the roof. It’s going be hard and costly, but…who cares? Our friend needs Jesus.”
Their faith, hope and love engendered creativity, innovation, and unity. And despite the questions and objections, they worked together to achieve their mission.
They climbed the roof, made an opening large enough to fit the stretcher, and got their friend down to where Jesus was. Jesus didn’t get furious because they dug a hole in the roof and interrupted his teaching of God’s word.
But rather, Jesus recognized their vibrant faith and was “impressed by their bold belief.” (Mark 2:5, The Message). They were willing to do something unexpected and costly.
They sought healing, but Jesus knew the matter was way deeper. The man needed forgiveness. And Jesus forgave him, lifting in that way the burden – the sin – that crippled him.
Not surprisingly, Jesus’ action raised hostility.
The forgiveness of sins he granted to the paralytic so disturbed the religious leaders that they whispered among themselves: “Who is this fellow to forgive sins? As far as we know only God can forgive sins.”
Jesus riposted, “I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matthew 2:10). Then, Jesus commanded the man to “get up, take [his] mat and go home” (Matthew 2:11). Jesus granted the paralytic both forgiveness and healing.
The man was restored to wholeness. His friends’ faith, hope, and love paid off.
A couple of weeks ago, at the World Mission Conference Ruth Padilla Deborst reminded us that “the only way to make the good news known is if we live it out as community.” “Faithful testimony of the good news,” she declared, “is a community affair only fully carried out by a body of people woven together by Christ’s reconciling work.”
We are a community of faith, hope, and love wove together by God’s Spirit to manifest God´s love on earth as in heaven.
Like the paralytic in Mark’s story, there are people in our families, neighborhoods, villages, cities, and nations for whom the sun has not shined for ages. They’ve been stuck in a rut for so long that they have become hopeless. They alone cannot overcome the obstacles afflicting their lives.
They need to experience God’s grace through the lives of God’s children.
At the World Mission Conference, we were also reminded of the powerful and beautiful things that can happen when led by God’s Spirit God’s children band together to change the world.
As we join God’s mission and live out our calling, we must remember that as the four folks met obstacles and challenges to help their friend, so too will we face difficulties and uncertainties as we proclaim “God’s reign of justice, peace and abundant life.”
But the Spirit of God equips us with creativity and courage to overcome the obstacles we face. And “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
Denise and I are deeply grateful for your partnership in prayers and financial support as we continue to develop our Mission Partnership Network to raise the Personalized Support IM needs to fully underwrite the cost of our missionary service in Chiapas, Mexico.