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June 30, 2024

Luke 5:17-26

Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman


This is based on a real story shared in a book written by Martha Grace Reese.

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was going through a very tough time in her life.  Maybe because an important relationship in her life ended – maybe because of divorced, maybe because someone moved, maybe because someone died.  Maybe she was struggling because she or a loved one had been diagnosed with a challenging illness: fibromyalgia, cancer, ALS.  There are so many reasons why life gets challenging.  So many obstacles that get thrown in our path on this journey of life.

The woman talked with her neighbors and co-workers, with those around her, about what she was going through.  She absolutely sought out the support of her friends.  And yet, it still felt like something was missing.

The woman started looking for a church.  She didn’t know why, but she thought that maybe, maybe a relationship with God, a community of prayer, would help her heal, would help her move forward in life.

“After a while she decided to try a church.  One Sunday morning, she walked into a congregation close to her house.  She was shocked to find that five of her friends and coworkers were sitting in the sanctuary.  She had discussed her problems with most of these people!  Not one of them suggested that church might help.  Even worse, she had no idea that any of them were even members of a church.  She didn’t know they were Christians.” (Unbinding the Gospel, Martha Grace Reese, pg 77)

Once upon a time, there was a man who was going through a very tough time in his life.  Something had happened in his life that had left him paralyzed.  He went from active, a full part of his community, to inactive, sidelined in his community.

In some communities, he might have become an outcast; however this man had a solid, committed, persistent community of friends.  When he became paralyzed, those who called themselves his friends might have cast him off.  After all in Jesus’ time, physical ailments were equated with sin.  (Sadly, in our time, physical ailments are often equated with sin as people try to figure out how someone caused the illness in their own lives.)  When the man became paralyzed, those who called themselves his friends might have turned their backs on him.  Or they could have done what compassionate people did in Jesus’ time – each day carry the man to a place where he could beg for money and support.

That’s not what this man’s friends did.  Even after this terrible incident that had left him paralyzed, they did not forsake him.  Neither though were they content to just help him adjust to his “new” life.  They wanted more for him.  They thought more was possible for him.  They believed that he could be healed.

And they believed that Jesus could heal him.  They believed that a relationship, a connection with Jesus could heal him.

So one day, when they heard that Jesus was teaching nearby, the man’s friends took a chance and picked up his stretcher and brought the paralyzed man to Jesus.  Or they tried; however there were so many people – so many important people gathered all around Jesus: “Pharisees and teachers of the law who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem” (Luke 5:17).  Try as the men might they just could not get through the crowd, and they might have said “Oh, well.  We tried.  What could anyone expect of us?!  It’s not like we could go through the roof.”

They could have given up.  They could have thought, ‘we did our best’.  They didn’t though.  They were committed.  They were persistent.  They were creative.  They were faithful.  And they did go through the roof – to get their friend to Jesus.

The gospel of Luke says, “When [Jesus] saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:20)  When Jesus saw their faith.  When Jesus saw how committed and persistent the men were.  When Jesus saw how far the men would go to bring their friend to Jesus.  When Jesus saw how strongly the men believed in Jesus, that was when the paralyzed man was healed.

Two stories.  Two people in need of healing.  Two people who had friends, good friends, friends who were willing to listen to them in their time of need and lend a shoulder to cry on.  Two sets of friends who believed that Jesus heals, that Jesus cares for us, that Jesus reaches out a hand and helps us walk through the darkness of life into the light.

Only one set of friends though who was willing to invite their friend to come see Jesus, to come meet Jesus, to come be healed.

And why was that?  Why didn’t the woman’s friends and coworkers think to invite her to church, invite her to know Jesus?  They were compassionate people.  They had listened to her talk about her problems.  They were Christians who followed Jesus and turned to Jesus.  It just had clearly never occurred to them to connect the dots between “my faith makes me feel better; my faith brings me joy and peace; my faith makes me well” to “my faith will make her feel better; my faith will bring her joy and peace; my faith will make her well.”

For years, I have had this anonymous quote in my spiritual practice journal.  “A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.” (Anonymous)

“A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.” (Anonymous)

The song in my heart is that I am beloved; that I am wonderfully created by God; that God has blessed me with talents and abilities to make a difference in this world.

I might not have it all together, all of the time; however when Jesus takes me by the hand, rather when I allow Jesus to take me by the hand, I might stumble, I will never fall though.  The rough places in me will be soothed; the broken places in me will be healed.  I will know hope, peace, joy, love as I walk in the light with him.

A friend knows the song in my heart.  A friend knows the song God has placed in my heart, and when I am going through a tough time in my life, my friend sings, “There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole….”  And when I am feeling disheartened, hopeless, my friend sings, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!”   And when my faith in God is wavering, when I am wondering where God is, my friend sings to me, “To God be the glory, great things God has done!”

A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when I need Jesus, when I need Jesus’ unconditional love and grace, when I need Jesus’ healing, when I need Jesus’ strength and presence.

Two sets of friends.  Both had compassion and sympathy for what their friend was going through.  Both knew that Jesus heals.  Only one set of friends though was willing to share that good news.  Only one set of friends had the courage to share their faith.  Only one set of friends brought their friend to Jesus.  And the faith of those friends made the man well.