“Jesus Heals our Paralysis” – Sermon for Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church South San Francisco 7th Sunday after Epiphany
Sermon for Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church in South San Francisco, the 7th Sunday after Epiphany, February 19, 2006
Isaiah 43:1-25 Psalm 41 II Corinthians 1:18-22 Mark 2: 1-12
Jesus Heals our Paralysis
Isaiah says God is doing a new thing. That new thing took place in Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ is the Word of God and to use St. Paul’s phrase, he is God’s yes in all God’s promises for us. Jesus is God’s yes in all the words God speaks to us. Christ is the yes of the Word of God for us.
Jesus is speaking the word to the people there in his hometown Capernaum beside the Sea of Galilee. The Greek for “speaking” is lego and the “word spoken” is logos.
That word had a very special meaning in Greek and that is why the Gospel of John starts off:
In the beginning was the word and the word was before God and God was the word.
Here you see that the word has a very special meaning for us, too. Even in the Parable of the Sower and the seed, Jesus says the seed is the word.
The Greeks thought of this word as reasoning and from it they developed philosophy and from their philosophy we get modern science and I believe that the miracles of modern science have made us think that the miracles of faith are impossible. The miracle story that we heard this morning is about Jesus healing a person who is paralyzed. And it is quite a dramatic story. Some people loved this paralytic so much they assured his access to Jesus by lowering him right through the roof of the crowded building in which Jesus was speaking. The people had to move.
But let me get back to the word and the kind of miracles that Jesus’ thorough-going understanding of human nature brings. From science we get electricity, we get such miracles as radios, televisions, cars, airplanes. Isn’t it a miracle the way they stay up in the air? Computers. Those miracles really have us worshipping at the feet of modern science – but I believe that we have become modern technological barbarians. Let me explain.
Human beings use cars but also make them into car bombs. We have the miracle of airplanes and they transport people and we also drop bombs on people from them. We have computers and they can do a world of good, but we don’t have to hold our breath long to discover how much evil they will also introduce. Computer surveillance could make it possible for our president to become Big Brother. Children can be abducted through them and by them hurtful pornography can come right into our homes.
We need the miracles of Jesus – the miracles of the word Jesus introduced. It is the word of God from heaven that understands human nature and gives us eyes that see, healing our blindness; ears that hear, healing our deafness; a body that moves and can be moved so that our paralysis is healed.
Out of Jesus’ divine understanding he could look into our human nature and see what was going on in our hearts. He was reading those scribes around him like a book. Jesus can look into our hearts and throw the light of faith, hope, and love into them to bring about the miracles of forgiveness, healing, the miracles of personal and social transformation.
Just let us reason together – what good are all our scientific miracles without the miracles of Christ? They merely exaggerate the problems of our human nature. There is a saying about fathers and sons that can be used here too: “Like father like son, nothing but a second verse, a little bit louder, a little bit worse.” Our technologically improved nature by our modern scientific miracles only makes our old human nature a little bit louder, a little bit worse, perhaps even far worse. A child can pull a trigger and mow a whole number of his class-mates down. And what an increase in violence our scientific miracles make possible! We can now inflict mega-death by mass-production. They also make the miracles that Jesus accomplished for human nature seem much more unbelievable than ever before.
Science operates on nature with our bodily senses – sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Jesus challenges our human nature so we muster the courage to have the faith, hope, and love to enter our inner-persons, to become living souls who see with the eyes of our hearts, hear with the ears of our deepest selves, touch and move other hearts and become one heart, soul, and mind with God.
Jesus complains that we have eyes, but they do not see; ears, but they do not hear; a heart, but it does not understand; and a will, but it is paralyzed. We see what global climate change is doing and the threat it represents, but we can’t get ourselves to do anything. Paralysis. We saw Rita and Katrina coming and we couldn’t get ourselves to respond until the city of 550,000 people was completely destroyed. Now all the rubble is lying there, hundreds of thousands of people are homeless, and nothing seems to be getting done. A film director made a film about the devastation of Katrina 170 minutes long. When he drove along the Gulf coast through Alabama, Mississippi and into New Orleans, he said for the same amount of time, even over 170 minutes of driving, all that was left down there was rubble and devastated lives.
Our scientific miracles took Iraq down pretty easily, but we don’t have Jesus’ miracles that can bring peace and forgiveness back into that area. The miracles of Jesus bring personal and social transformation with the new seeing, hearing, understanding, and forgiving hearts that could bring peace to Iraq again.
So, how about you? Are you getting the word that Jesus is speaking? Are you hearing your God speaking to you? Are you rising up in your inward self, born out of the love and compassion of Christ, and are you seeing with the eyes of your heart? Don’t you realize that you can have 20/20 vision and be blinds as a bat? It can be bright sun-shining daylight, and you can be in the dark. Are you hearing your neighbors and each other with the ears of your soul? Are you opening yourselves up to the pain and suffering of others because you have become one heart and soul with Christ?
We do not have to speak of miracles in only a social way. We have mentioned our need to overcome war, help hurricane, earthquake, and other victims; shelter the homeless and stop the genocide in Dafur.
It hits us on a personal level, too. What miracle will it take to make us eat right, to help us lose weight, to make us read a book, to make us be able to forgive someone who hurt us? To make us change and improve?
What miracle will it take to make us know what we were called by God to do, and to get out of the rut in life we’ve gotten stuck in and do it? Sometimes I say, “Jesus I’m not getting anywhere!”
Jesus understands you and me. Out of the boundless love of God, Jesus had mercy on our paralyzed souls and says to you and says to me: “I forgive you. I forgive you all your sins. Get up and do the thing you need to do. Get up, and be the loving, miraculous, true self, the real person, the Christ, you’ve been called by God to be.”
And you and I are those scribes sitting there in the presence of Christ, saying, “Who does he think he is? Forgiving that person her sins! How dare he cover up those atrocities done to us? How can he forgive all this injustice, all our apathy and ignorance? Only God can do that.”
And Jesus gives us the word, you know, that Word that was from the beginning, is before God and is God. Let me prove to you that my understanding of your human nature can produce miracles that eyes have not seen, nor ears ever heard, beautiful things, that your hearts cannot even imagine.
Get up and in the power of the resurrection, in your new birth of love, pick up the stretcher your soul is lying on, take off the straight-jacket your soul is imprisoned in, and get into the marvelous miracles that our Lord Christ Jesus has set afoot time and again. Are you going to shield yourself from God’s grace so these miracles cannot happen in your life, in your family, in this church, in this community?
Friday night, Nora and I watched a video called St. Ralph. Ralph is a 14 year-old kid always getting into trouble and is in a strict Catholic school that certainly does not believe in miracles. His mother goes into a coma and he needs a miracle to wake her back up. Ralph gets it in his head, that if he could win the Boston Marathon, it would be a miracle, and it would take a miracle to wake his mother out of her coma. This problem kid starts training with all his heart and along the way, – fixing his heart to believe in a miracle – minds are changed, hearts are transformed, and a heartless and cruel bunch undergo a marvelous change.
Realize that Jesus is doing a new thing to which the miracles of science cannot hold a candle!
As paralyzed as I am and you are: get four friends to lower you right through the roof and lie there on your stretcher right at Jesus’ feet. Be forgiven and then in the miracle of your healing, step right out into your new self – full of love, compassion, and understanding. Receive your new eyes, ears, heart, soul, and mind (don’t forget your mind, mind you) from Christ. Amen.