Cleaning out.

  • First reading: Isaiah 43:18-19,21-22,24-25
  • Psalm: 41:2-3,4-5,13-14
  • Epistle: 2 Corinthians 1:18-22
  • Gospel: Mark 2:1-12

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

We are in the second week of this short two-and-a-half-week season dedicated to preparation for our Lenten journey. It is a season of ‘cleaning out the old’ to make room for the new thing God has waiting for us.

Last Sunday we recognized our likeness to the leper in the Gospel. We acknowledged the fact that we must throw away the old idols within us and clean ourselves of the rebellion against God that is in us. We must ask Jesus to cleanse us of our ẓaraʿat, and trust that He will cleanse us.

Jesus pointedly brings that message home to us today. We must trust that He can and will cleanse us.

The story of the paralyzed man and his friends is dramatic. A crowded street and entryway to a home. People pressing in on all sides, the man and his friends unable to get to Jesus. They get up to the roof and tear it open to lower their friend to Jesus. It is miracle time. Jesus is going to cleanse him of his paralyzing condition.

Jesus had been sitting there speaking the word to them. He was proclaiming the gospel message, repent and believe, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. I have come to free you from your handicaps, from your blindness and captivity. He was alluding to the words of Isaiah: The past is forgotten; a new way is being made. No matter how obstinate you have been, no matter how sinful, for My own sake I wipe out your offenses, and remember not your sins. I have come to cleanse you at a whole different level – completely.

Some in the room were listening, others not. Along (or down) comes the paralyzed man. The room goes silent. What will happen next. Will he walk? Will Jesus fail?

Jesus looks up and says: “Son, your sins are forgiven.” I am hereby cleansing you of every sin, every failing, every fault. 

The Scribes (read lawyers) were shocked. Jesus cannot cleanse that way. That is blasphemy. So, Jesus confronts them. He asks them what is harder, the cleansing of forgiveness or of healing.

Jesus shows that His cleaning is God’s cleaning and that His cleaning is at a different level – it is so deep it is complete.

St. Paul got our doubt about the completeness of Jesus’ cleansing. How could God free me, heal me, cleanse me. That is why Paul told us that Jesus is YES and AMEN. In Greek “yes” means “sure” and “amen” means “firm.” All of God’s promises are sure and firm. They are unchanging, unwavering, and unmovable. He will do what He says. He will provide us complete cleansing. Jesus has forgiveness and healing waiting for us. Yes, we can trust in Him.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Wholeness, completeness – words that present a sense of the ideal, and concepts that are so hard to live on a day-to-day basis. As a Church dedicated to scripture, and considering that we classify the proclamation and teaching of God’s word as a sacrament. let’s take a moment to consider the Bible. I remember classes from grade school on up – and the oft repeated question – what is the Bible? The expected, technical answer, which most kids got wrong? The Bible is a Book of Books. A Book of Books? Makes it seem as if the Bible is a kind of library, and indeed it could be considered that. However, my classmates and I would invariably get the ‘answer’ wrong, blurting out – “It is a book.” But what if we were right? My classmates and I were right because perhaps, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we were seeing the bigger picture, the completeness, the wholeness of scripture. All of scripture, from its inspired stories, histories, prophecies, and poetry in the Old Testament is one. It points invariably to the coming salvation found only in Jesus Christ. The Gospels give us Jesus in His complete revelation – the call to live life as He lived, the call to be a true sons and daughters of the Father as He is the Son of the Father. The invitation to accept Him as our Savior by confession of our sin and belief by faith. The remainder of the New Testament interprets the Gospel into keys for daily living within the wholeness of the Christian community. We dedicate the month of November to remembering our dearly departed. We have a lesson here. The wholeness and completeness of scripture is life’s model, who we are and where we are going. Life is not a series of separate stories and events, just a book of books, or unrelated chapters. Our life extends from birth to eternity. We are not just separate people and events. We live in a continuum that has, as its goal and end, life in the eternal wholeness and completeness of God Who holds all things together.

November and days of remembrance, days of honor and prayer, days of Thanksgiving. We have an active schedule throughout the month including the most important aspect of our life together – regular worship and fellowships that renews and strengths us for the totality of our life in Jesus.

Read more in our November 2019 Newsletter.

Love to
completion.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.

Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks was a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Mr Jinks is an orange tuxedo cat. Mr. Jinks was always outfoxed by Pixie and Dixie, the mice. Mr. Jinks trademark line was, “I hates those meeces to pieces!”

Reading today’s Epistle, we could easily imagine all sorts of Christians saying the same thing about other Christians. “I hate those _________ to pieces!” What we fail to recognize is that saying things like that ends up as I want Jesus in pieces.

We have a centuries long legacy of that which Paul warned against, people choosing Church leaders over the Lord. I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”

Paul words show a hint of weariness and frustration. The Church, just a few decades old, was descending into factionalism. Yet Paul’s love and devotion to this quarrelsome community would not let him stand by. He understood that the sinful side of human nature eventually reveals itself. The brokenness of our human condition causes all manner of brokenness in the flock.

Church leaders can behave unethically and inappropriately. Parishioners can turn into a pack of church-going coyotes attacking the weak and vulnerable in their midst. Pastors burn out and leave ministry. Parish Committee members become disillusioned by the dark underbelly of the church world or by grabs for power and control. Children of church workers see this and decide that organized religion is hypocritical and vile. We’ve all seen the fallout from trying to follow the call of Christ in a wounded and difficult world.

“Follow me,” Jesus says to the fisherman by the Sea, “and I will make you fish for people.” Those fishermen knew that fishing is dangerous business and hard work. Did they think fishing for people would be any less? And yet they immediately dropped everything and followed Jesus.

We have been called to follow and disciple for Jesus. He believes each of us is worthy. We all have our story of how Jesus called us into discipleship. Whatever expression our call takes it is not going to be an easy journey but will be one of great reward. Yes, we are called. We are called into discipleship that does not hate or divide into pieces. We are called to make the Holy Name of Jesus known; to magnify Him above all else. We are called to live in real agreement with all who proclaim Jesus – loving all in Jesus to completeness.