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FLY: Daring New Heights, May 21, 2023

Mark 2:1-12, Finally!! The moment has arrived! The butterfly launches into its new environment — the heights that are now possible through transformation into what it was always meant to be. Nothing will hold it back!!

When the crowds made it impossible for the friends to get their friend confined to a mat to Jesus, they broke through the roof of the home where Jesus was. We too can be roof-breakers, we can “raise the roof” into new ways of moving and being in the world. What was bound….. has been freed!

Let us boldly look like, act like, know ourselves to be the healed and freed people, as children of GOD!

We continue our message series “Emerge: A Metamorphosis Moment.” Last week, we focused on the invitation to LET GO of what we are clinging to and accept God's invitation to flight. This week the emergence is complete!

We can “FLY: Daring New Heights!”

I don't think of Jesus as having a home, do you? I think of him as traveling, preaching, teaching, and healing with "nowhere to lay his head" as he said in the eighth chapter of Matthew.

But here, in Mark chapter 2, the story goes that Jesus came HOME to Capernaum for a couple of days. It even makes it sound like the house he's at, might have been his house!

It was probably the family house, of course; BUT he had a home before he began his traveling ministry, so why not?

Could be! Wouldn’t that be cool? “Hey Guys!! Let’s go over to Jesus’ place!!”

Our story this week is that of the man who is paralyzed and needs to get to Jesus. Perhaps the characters who helped him get to Jesus are friends who were dogged enough to find any way possible for their friend to reach Jesus and be blessed. So as not to be deterred by crowds blocking the way toward Jesus on the ground, they went to the roof and literally broke through the roof and lowered him down right in front of Jesus.

The Gospel of Mark is scripture's shortest Gospel. Mark doesn't offer us a lot of narrative detail! But this brevity provides us an opportunity to use our own imagination. We can wonder what the conversation among the group who brought their paralyzed friend was like. What kind of love for their friend did they have to be so resourceful and determined to get their friend in front of Jesus no matter what?

They must have had a powerful motivation, a vision of what Jesus' healing could do for their friend to drive their resourcefulness.

But what if they weren’t friends? Our translation says is that there were “four men” who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus.

What if it is also possible that the paralyzed man himself organized a group of people to help him and convinced them to do whatever was necessary to get him to Jesus?

The butterfly has an urgent mission the moment it takes flight: it must stay nourished, and it must procreate. Butterflies, in general, have a very brief life span of only a few weeks. They have a very short amount of time to achieve what flight enables for them: the ability to travel a long enough distance to procreate with another butterfly. Caterpillars cannot procreate, and they are fairly limited on how far they can travel. Whereas butterflies like the Monarch traverse continents.

The “third generation” of Monarchs birthed in an annual migratory group are equipped, mysteriously and wonderfully, to live up to 7-8 months, many times longer than other generations — hence they are also sometimes referred to as the “Methuselah” generation. In North America, Monarch butterflies are known for migrating from the US into Mexico during winter.

No longer is the caterpillar limited to the plant on which they were placed by their mother — now the sky is literally the limit!

I think the helpers of the paralyzed man were determined to have him healed after learning of Jesus' acts of healing and driving out evil spirits that we see in Mark’s 1st chapter.

What was once bound, has been freed! Like the butterfly encased in a chrysalis opening its wings and finally taking flight, the man bound to lie on a mat or be carried around, was able to pick up his own mat and walk. He came to Jesus and Jesus healed him!!

Throughout the church's history, a tradition has emerged in associating disabled folks being in a sinful state. In other healings done by Jesus in the Gospels, for instance, we hear characters in the story asking questions like "What sins did this person's parents commit for their child to have been born blind?”

My friends, PLEASE DO NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE. Some preachers have associated physical paralysis with the spiritual paralysis of the church, or spiritual paralysis of the man lowered down on the mat as a sermon illustration.

DON’T DO IT!!

I had a wonderful friend, Chris McMaster, who had muscular dystrophy, and was confined to a powered wheel chair. I would drive to Chris’ parents’ home where Chris lived and he would roll out to his parents’ van and onto the ramp/lift. I would raise the lift; and strap the chair in place. We would head to church for Bible study, and then do the same procedure in reverse.

I have learned from Chris the ways that his physical disability has absolutely nothing to do with the state of his spirit, or his relationship with God.

All of who walk around, are what I consider “TABS,” temporaily abled bodied;” and we never know for how long.

The facts of this passage in Mark 2 are clear: Jesus actually differentiated between the paralyzed man's sin and his disability. Jesus first forgave his sins.

But when some of the "teachers of the law" grumbled that Jesus had no such authority to do that, Jesus proved his spiritual authority by demonstrating his power to heal paralysis.

A part of church tradition frequently fails to provide a useful theology that includes people with disabilities and their lived experience of God's grace despite, or perhaps in light of, the mental and physical disabilities they live with.

In many ways, the paralyzed man was capable of a full spiritual life in relationship with God regardless of his paralysis. At the end of the day, expectations or desire for healing should be up to the one who is disabled, rather than others who are not. In some ways, maybe we can be glad his friends did not speak for their friend when they placed him in front of Jesus — the healing was between the paralyzed man and Jesus, anyway!

In either case, we see the fruits of relationship with Jesus: forgiveness and liberation from bondage.

The mission of the church, our church and all churches. is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

In our fully emerged state, we are empowered and grace-filled to seek liberation for our neighbor as well!

WE CAN FLY WITH CHRIST AND CARRY THE GOSPEL TO THE WORLD!!

And so, while our focus is on the exchange between Jesus and the man lowered into the house; we can also think about the daring and creative nature of those who broke through the roof to get/give access to the liberating presence of Jesus.

Two kinds of barriers have to be overcome to bring our friends to Jesus: Internal Barriers and External Barriers.

First, internal, or personal barriers, are the barriers inside our heads. When we think about talking to someone about our faith, we can get stuck before the words even come out of our mouth. Usually, it's because we don't want to lose a friendship. We worry: What happens if I invite my neighbor to church and then they say NO? What if I make my friend feel awkward? What if someone thinks I’m pressuring them? What if I come across as judgmental? What if . . . ? What if . . . ? What if . . . ?

So, most of the time, we don't talk to our disconnected-to-God friends about our faith. Then maybe we feel a little guilty about not doing it. Guilt is never helpful to keep us truly motivated for the long haul. These inner barriers can keep us from ever mentioning our faith to our friends. The very best way to approach a friend or family member is to tell them what Jesus has done for you….

External barriers must also be dismantled. When the four people got there with the man on the stretcher, the physical entrance was crowded. People were not letting them by.

I wonder how long they tried to push their way through before they decided to try another way.

External barriers can be very daunting. Do you remember how vulnerable you felt the first time you visited a church? Some of you really can’t remember because you were raised in the church.

That’s a good thing, but it makes it hard to see our church from the eyes of a 1st time visitor. Maybe you recall going to some other organization for the first time.

Mark 2 verse 4 says, "They could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowds." We need to ask ourselves and the Holy Spirit this very searching question: “Are there any barriers that are keeping people from getting to Jesus in our church?”

We are called, like the taking off to new heights of the butterfly, to become daring and creative ……as we seek to be those who will find ways to bring liberating love… including breaking boundaries, tearing down walls, or opening up the roofto possibility, where only the sky is the limit!

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