Saturday, November 18, 2017

Some men came, bringing to Him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” — Mark 2: 3-5

                            The story in the quote is especially powerful to me today as I can identify with that paralyzed man and the faith of his friends.  Grief is a kind of paralysis that needs a lot of faithful friends.  This is not the only story that recounts miraculous healing because of the faith of another rather than the sufferer.  There is also the case of the centurion’s son or servant recounted in Matthew, Luke, and John where it was the faith of a non-Jew that caused the healing of someone else—and Jesus even said that He had not seen such faith in Israel as shown by the one asking for help for another.  It seems that having friends who believe is just as important or maybe even more important than your own belief.  Amen, I say.  I decided to preach on this healing by friendship in my second year here.  I knew just enough Swahili to think that I could preach in it, but I wasn’t quite ready.  If you make a big enough mistake here, the people will love you for trying, but they will laugh loudly as well.  The way I told the story (I was told after the laughter died down), I had the four friends get the guy on the roof, but instead of digging a hole and lowering him down, I had them throwing him with such strength that they threw the man through the roof and onto the floor below.  Now that didn’t change the story much, it just added some action and spice—and laughter, but the faith of the friends was still paramount.  Most of us don’t know how strong the faith of our friends might be unless and until we, like the paralyzed man, need their intervention.  I am here as a witness to tell you that the faith of friends has brought me through the valley of the shadow of death in the last two weeks.  It is as important to be surrounded by friends of faith as it is to be surrounded by faithful friends.  The power of prayer of friends who believe in God, in Christ’s healing power, and in you is just awesome.  No other way to say it—awesome!  
                       I am humbled, amazed, and so very grateful that there are so many who believe in me and what I am trying to do here.  It was easy do with St. Karen by my side, but she isn’t there any more.  But you folks have lowered me through the hole in the roof so that Jesus could heal me.  You may not know how much you are loved until something bad happens.  You have friends like these.  They may be members of your Sunday School class, in the choir with you, traveled to do mission work with you, or helped to build a house for Habitat for Humanity.  Whatever the source of their closeness to you, it is their love and admiration of you that will cause them to move heaven and earth (or to throw you through a roof) to bring Christ’s healing to you.  I know personally of cases where cancer was cured, where recovery from surgery was quicker and less painful, and even where grief was shared and lessened by the prayer of friends.  They don’t have to go to your church, you may know them through work, or charity functions, or even shared love of tennis, dogs, golf, yoga—things you love to do.  Of course, it helps if you not only have faith in God but have faith in your friends as well.   I wish more preachers would do sermons on the passage of the faith of the four friends and encourage their congregations to gather and pray for one another.  To have friends like this, you have to be a friend like this.  Everyone wins and everyone’s faith is deepened and strengthened when friends of faith pray for each other.   You’ve done it for me, and others will do it for you when you need it.  Then you will know joy and comfort.  

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