Mark 2:1-22 Jesus heals a paralytic and eats with tax collectors.
People are clamoring to get near Jesus. When the crowds are so great, a group cuts a hole in the roof to lower a friend through to be healed by Jesus. They used creativity to figure out how to connect with Jesus. Jesus, too, reimagines what it means to be a follower when he seeks out Levi, a tax collector. People often think of church as unchanging — “we’ve always done it that way.” That is not the tone set by Jesus! Why church? Because church encourages re-imagination!
Introduction & Reflection
When the friends of a paralytic man wanted to get him to Jesus for healing, they found a large crowd. They could’ve just given up but instead they found a new way to help. The friends climbed up on the roof and cut a hole to lower their paralytic friend right down through the roof to Jesus whose healing gave new life. They saw a new way to get to Jesus. The paralytic man’s life was re-imagined!
When Jesus was out and about, he encountered a tax collector named Levi – or Matthew. Levi was rejected by his own people because tax collectors cheated the people and took profits for themselves. But Jesus saw something else in Levi. Who knew that Levi would become known as Matthew and write one of our four gospels? Jesus knew. Levi’s life was reimagined!
Jesus fills our church with hope and new life. Today, there are all kinds of ways that people find church – in school auditoriums, in warehouses, in old classic buildings, even in their own homes. When we close our eyes, minds, and imaginations to the possibilities that are before us, we limit our understanding of who God is.
A quick search of the internet leads to a myriad of examples of the creative ways people have found solutions to everyday issues by using their imaginations. God is the original creative genius. God can create something out of nothing. God can change any situation into one that blesses. We are co-creators with God in this earthly world we live in. Everything on our planet is designed to co-exist due to the imagination of God.
So often, the church overlooks opportunities to be creative and to break out of the way that things have always been done. There is no need to throughout valued traditions and rituals, but in a world so diverse, perhaps there are ways to discover an imaginative approach to our faith. When we feel stuck, we may remember that it is not about us but about sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, we could have unlimited vision of how to go about our mission.
Jesus knew how to think outside the box in a way that was inviting, loving, healing, and welcoming. He went to the margins, he visited people where they were at, and he offered a new way of looking at the world as well as our own lives. He showed us the way to God.
How might our churches do the same? So why church? Because church offers us re-imagination through Christ.
Rev. Karen Williams, Pastor
Grace Lutheran Church
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Call to Worship
L: Let us worship and hear the Word of Life.
C: The Word who re-imagines our lives!
L: He heals and forgives – eats and drinks with all.
C: The Word who re-imagines our relationships!
L: He gathers and makes new.
C: The Word who re-imagines our calling and our hope!
Prayer of the Day
Lord Jesus, pour the new wine of your love and grace into the old wine-skins of our thinking and doing. Help us re-imagine with you how the world can be re-shaped and renewed by your healing Word. Amen.
Narrator: When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
Jesus: “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Narrator: Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,
Scribes/ Pharisees/ Group of People: “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Narrator: At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them,
Jesus: “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.”
Narrator: And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying,
Scribes/ Pharisees/ Group of People: “We have never seen anything like this!”
Narrator: Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him,
Jesus: “Follow me.”
Narrator: And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples,
Scribes/ Pharisees/ Group of People: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Narrator: When Jesus heard this, he said to them,
Jesus: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Narrator: Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him,
Scribes/ Pharisees/ Group of People: “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
Narrator: Jesus said to them,
Jesus: “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”
• Praise to the Lord, the Almighty- ELW #858
• O God of Mercy, God of Light- ELW #714
• O Christ, the Healer, We Have Come- ELW #610
• Your Great Name- Nordhoff and Neale
• Your Grace is Enough- Matt Maher
• Come As You Are- David Crowder
How many of us go through life with blinders on, only seeing what has been in front of us throughout our life. When something comes along that is different we tend to tighten our blinders, narrowing our view even more. Jesus came into a world that had blinders. The religious leaders were unable to see God at work through all things. Jesus did not allow divisions or barriers to get in the way. When the church is at its best, it is able to remove blinders so people can see and experience the fullness of life – life that is re-imagined through Jesus.
“I have been in a process of reimagining my life. The word “reimagine” means to reinterpret or rethink an earlier version. It is approaching again something already experienced but in a new way. Sure, the church talked about living out on Monday what was preached on Sunday. But there was often an underlying assumption that spiritual stuff did not happen unless it was wrapped in certain language and experiences that had overtones of the ecclesial ethos. There was a subtle us vs. them mentality emanating from the church.
Today, when I encounter my former life as demonstrated by friends and acquaintances, I’m acutely aware of how that church life was a closed system. People who are within that sub-culture have difficulty truly grasping the meaning of life outside of the support structures without which life in that bubble would disintegrate.
In my journey into a reimagined life I am not forsaking Jesus, ceasing to follow him. Truly the opposite is happening. I’m reveling in his words as he walked on earth and allowing him to influence my life. I’m learning from those who knew him when he was a physical presence among humanity.
I believe the Christian life is lived in relationship and not in principles or rules or laws or things we’re supposed to do. I’m learning to live in a relationship with Jesus the Christ, and with people with whom I walk this earth. The governing principle in these relationships, both with Jesus the divine presence of God, and with earthly sojourners living out God’s great human experiment on earth, is love.
Many people, who claim Christ’s name, are not living this kind of life. I’m not saying they are not Christian in their life commitments, or even in their daily walk. What I am saying is that they have added way too many accoutrements to the Christian walk. The actual requirements are simple: love God and love humanity. – David Wigger
CHILDREN’S SERMON IDEA
Supplies needed: towel or blanket
Invite the kids to come forward. Today we are going to hear the story of Jesus healing someone who is sick and I want you to help me tell it. Ask for a volunteer to be the person who is sick. Spread out the towel or blanket and have the person lay down. The rest of the group can be the person’s friends.
Today Jesus is in a house talking and lots and lots of people are there. It is so crowded that no other people can get in. (Look around and say that the congregation is the people crowded into the house).
These friends really want Jesus to help their friend. But they can’t get in. They can’t get in through the door because there are so many people. They can’t get in through the windows because there are so many people. Any other ideas? Have everyone look up at the ceiling – is there any way to get in that way?
The friends did something pretty crazy! They climbed up on the roof and dug a hole through it. Now it was like a window and people could look up and see the sky!
Then they put their friend on a mat like this, and lowered it down through the hole. Do you think that got Jesus’ attention? It sure did!
Have the kids lift the edges of the towel as if they are going to lower it through the roof. Then gently set it on the floor again.
What do you think Jesus did? (healed him). Yes! Get up and walk. Can you walk? Jump? Dance? Great job!
Let’s have a prayer: Dear Jesus, you do amazing things! Help us to trust you and to ask you for help whenever we need it. Amen.
For reference: Spark Story Bible p. 348-353