February 23, 2003

Mark 2:1-12

After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to him, carried by four men. When they weren't able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, "Son, I forgive your sins."

Some religion scholars sitting there started whispering among themselves, "He can't talk that way! That's blasphemy! God and only God can forgive sins."

Jesus knew right away what they were thinking, and said, "Why are you so skeptical? Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, 'I forgive your sins,' or say, 'Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking'? Well, just so it's clear that I'm the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both . . ." (he looked now at the paraplegic), "Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home." And the man did it - got up, grabbed his stretcher, and walked out, with everyone there watching him. They rubbed their eyes, incredulous - and then praised God, saying, "We've never seen anything like this!"

[The Message]


1. So what had they never seen? We hear about healing after healing, so it may not be the walking of a paraplegic. What we see less frequently is this kind of perspective and talk that doesn't separate the world into sacred and profane.

How might you practice getting out of your comfort zone and using "religious" language on the street where you live and using "street" language in the congregation you belong to? How do you excuse keeping these two streams separate from one another when Jesus uses both and heals with both?

2. Would your friends start whispering among themselves, "(Name) can't talk that way! That's pious nonsense! GOD doesn't have anything to do with this matter, its for us to decide." Do you think they would do this as quickly as religious people would start muttering about your street language being used in the hallowed halls of holiness?

How do we break down the separation between the what we label holy and what we call secular?

3. "I forgive you." "Get up and get on with life."

We need to hear both at the same time. This is a week to practice living what we believe, being real in our language beyond the stylebook of surface piety.

So get real. Whichever language you are less conversant in (church or society), practice using it until you can respond in any situation in either language with equal ease and proficiency. [note: this is not license to substitute the unthinking swear words of our day for thoughtful, clear speaking to the point. It is encouragement to move beyond a religious dictionary.]