sermon was preached
Readings: Mark 2:1-12
“Jesus...said to the paralytic
‘My son, your sins are forgiven’”(Mk2:5)
“Father forgive them,
for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34)
us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us”(Lk 11:4)
Our Gospel reading today tells of a man
let down through the roof and brought to Jesus on a stretcher -
he cannot walk.
But evidently he also has another deeper problem -
he is a sinner.
The two problems may or may not be directly related –
but if nothing else his physical ailment
is a powerful symbol of that other maybe hidden illness,
his inner malaise.
And sin and guilt can cripple and incapacitate us as
and often much more, than a broken leg or a paralysed spine.
Maybe physically I can walk across the room to greet you – but
if I am blinded by pride,
if indifference makes me deaf to your needs,
if I am repelled from you by bitterness or envy,
if I am paralysed by fear,
if my very being is twisted with greed and selfishness
or if I am weighed down with hatred,
then my physical abilities count for little.
I may be able to walk physically, but what use is that,
if I cannot walk with the Lord, and with my neighbour?
So this doubly injured man is brought to Jesus –
and Jesus says: “there is a way to cure sin and guilt –
it is the way of love, acceptance, and forgiveness”
And Jesus heals his physical condition –
but really in order to provide a sign,
a symbol of the deeper healing within –
Love and forgiveness
have released his twisted, blinded, paralysed inner self,
and made him fully human again.
That was 2000 years ago – but the age of miracles is not past.
In every generation people live out forgiveness love & acceptance…
is a crowd in the American deep South,
outside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Selma,
at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
The crowd hears that the notoriously brutal racist Sheriff Jim Clark
has ordered the brutal beating of a group of black college students.
A ripple of rage flows through the crowd,
until a pastor steps up to the microphone,
"Do you love Martin King?" he sings out.
The crowd enthusiastically sang back,
"Certainly, Lord. Certainly, certainly, certainly, Lord."
The minister goes on, naming leaders in the Civil Rights Movement.
"Do you love Medgar Evers?
Do you love Charles Steele?
Do you love Rosa Parks?"
Each time he sang a name, the crowd sang back,
"Certainly, certainly, certainly, Lord."
He goes on, "Do you love Sheriff Jim Clark?"
"Cer-Certainly” – a few reply -
Do you love Jim Clark? Stronger now: Yes Lord.
So the pastor continues - "It's not enough to defeat Jim Clark.
We need to convert Jim Clark.
If we hate our enemies, we're no better than them.
We've got to love them until they change."
Remember Nelson Mandela
at his inauguration as President of South Africa.
Whom does he invite to be part of the celebration?
The man who was his gaoler on Robben Island.
it is 15 Aug 1936 in the throws of the Spanish Civil War
and Fr Carmelo Sastre Sastre
is about to be shot as part of a purge of the religious leaders.
One of the firing squad asks that they shoot Fr Sastre in the back –
this man helped my father, he explains –
I couldn’t bear him looking at me”
But he is told Fr Sastre must face the guns –
and he does so smiling, assuring he executioners
that he forgave them as he was gunned down
Here is the mother of Abigail Witchells
who was paralysed by a knife attack last April.
She writes describing her hurt but also
her feelings for the man who attacked her daughter
and subsequently took his own life.
'His death is the real tragedy in this story', she writes –
And Rowan Williams comments –
was not making light of her daughter's terrible ordeal
or denying the complex evil of the action,
but simply making space in her heart
for someone else's fear and pain.”
here is Gee Walker, Christian mother
of the murdered Liverpool teenager, Anthony Walker,
saying to the press, yes my heart is still broken,
but yes, I forgive my son's killers
Now hear the story of Marietta
describing her feelings about the man
who kidnapped and murdered her 7 year old daughter Susie –
She says, she felt that her daughter
deserved a more beautiful memorial
than the state sanctioned killing of a murderer,
however evil his deeds –
so she asked for the death sentence
to be commuted to life imprisonment –
She says initially she had wanted
to kill the man with her bare hands
but came to believe that forgiveness was best.
Now she works with victims and says
“Victim families have every right initially to the
valid human response of rage,
but those who retain a vindictive mind set
ultimately give the offender another victim…”
listen to Edmund Nicol,
a Baptist who lost both his hands
during the Sierra Leonese Civil War – he writes
I loved my hands:
they were useful to me.
Today they are no more….
Come and show yourself to me,
and I will forgive you,
pray with you,
with my missing hands”
And here is a more than half
familiar prayer –
this wrought out of the anguish of the Irish troubles
in the 1970s and 80s –
Father, who art in heaven hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And if we haven’t forgiven them Lord,
there isn’t much point in going
any further with this prayer.
But if we have,
then we dare ask for two great favours:
to be delivered from all evil
and to learn to live together in peace.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The words of a man on a cross echo
down the ages -
“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do…..”
And here - in every time and place
is a man crippled and lying on an old stretcher
needing forgiveness –
he has friends but they perhaps do not know how to help him –
but they do know how to dig a hole in a daub and wattle roof,
they know how to lower a stretcher,
they know where to find Jesus the forgiver….
The age of miracles is not over….
you in need of a miracle?
Are there parts of your life which are twisted & crippled -
selfish, loveless and cold?
Christ will forgive and heal you.
You don’t need
great faith or a lifetime of theology
and ecclesiastical brownie points –
you just need to let someone bring you to Jesus.
And his love will cover all.
And then of course he will send you off
saying now you have seen how it is done –
Now you go and work miracles –
the world is full of people crippled by sin and guilt.
Go and find them –
fetch, carry, dig holes in the roof,
do whatever you have to do
to bring them to know God’s love and forgiveness.
Tell them they can walk and love and hug and laugh again.
they need no longer despise themselves
but rather love themselves again
as now they love their neighbours –
together as God’s forgiven children.
indeed Lord shall thine be the Kingdom
and the Power and the Glory, for ever and ever, Amen.