Read Sermon


More than we ask or deserve

19th Sunday after Trinity BCP

22 October 2006 11:00 | Fr. Roderick Leece

In St. Mark's version of the gospel for today, Jesus' own town (Capernaum) is named, and more details are given about lowering the man through the roof…in both accounts there is a sense of excitement and expectation for yet another miraculous display following on from what has already happened. But St. Mark also ends with the words 'we have never seen anything like it'. Similar words were used by Fr. Simon Hobbs who in his biography for last Tuesday's 2 Vicars in Concert here, referred to his pianistic debut and a stunned audience at the Grosvenor Chapel…one of whom commented 'I've never heard anything like it'!

The healing of the palsied or paralytic man is certainly a dramatic story, and the audience were indeed stunned. The teachers of the law are already vinegary and suspicious, and worked up about perceived blasphemy. Kind friends bring the paralytic to Jesus we presume for healing, and certainly not for forgiveness, but they got both. Why? Because Jesus saw faith in their eyes, and he gives a sign that God's power is now loose in the land, and His kingdom is at hand. What they wanted was a good old miracle…they believed in Jesus' power…and He rewarded their faith by giving them something better than they had the wit to ask for.

Men and women have messed up God's good world through arrogance and stupidity, selfishness and greed. Just as Hamlet's madness is a metaphor for the rot in the state of Denmark, so the sick man's palsy is a symbol of the out-of-jointness in the people of Israel. God's chosen people are blind or dumb or unable to move. The scribes fail to see that Christ's reason for curing the sick man was to show he had power to effect a similar cure in the soul.

Just ponder what our own reaction might be in similar circumstances. Wouldn't we be first in the queue for a miracle cure for our own ailments and diseases? Though we are in much less of a hurry to benefit from the forgiveness of sins. We would easily find the right words to describe in detail the chronic aches and pains we have…but as for sketching out a diagnosis of the state of our consciences or lack of enthusiasm for God or neighbour…that would be a different matter. And yet our spiritual health, much more than our physical health, is probably, in the words of a cynically humorous doctor ' in a precarious state…and likely to remain so!' Just listen to our sad list of sins we tell God in confession. Do we even really look for that healing love and forgiveness which sets us free, or are we content merely to be patched up in a kind of 2nd class spiritual health service?

Maybe there is more on offer. What if it is true that Jesus can change hearts, bring forgiveness, reconciliation, and ease those disabling and paralysing effects of sin, in order for us fully to become who we are created to be? This is surely what our faith is all about…it is what anybody…everybody needs to hear…to be set free from fear…Courage, my son, your sins are forgiven. Fear not. There really are no alternative medicines or therapy for the soul…and when forgiven we get up like the paralytic…and we go home…moving forward, set free from the past and open to God's glorious, moreover, endless future.

I'm not saying sin is something we can throw off once and for all, and discard like an old garment. Rather it is a condition in which we constantly live, for we are a sinful people in a sinful world loved by God and always in need of redemption. But most important is not so much our failures, as our struggle for goodness. The purpose of a good life, our moral vocation if you prefer, is not to win the battle and be done with it, but rather to wage it unceasingly. That's something we can take from today's gospel story. Regarding others there is a message too, that we need join in the divine action of forgiveness towards all those with whom we live… remembering we can play a huge role in bringing health and joy. Nothing greater can happen to a human being than that he, or she is forgiven.

The paralytic's friends may have been naive or misunderstanding concerning what God's kingdom is about, but nevertheless they remained a believing faithful group of people concerned for the welfare of a fellow human being. They carry to His love he who cannot reach Jesus under his own steam. A lesson to us that there is no room for inertia, idleness or selfishness in the life of faith as we bring others to Jesus, and carry them to his love…either in our prayers, or in more direct and practical ways. As we do this we hope he sees and notices the faith in our eyes, and brings in his kingdom.
Cookies used on this website
New EU legislation requires that all web sites clearly specify the presence of cookies and their purpose. Cookies are used to enhance the user experience. StGeorges uses Google Analytics to track activity on its site, helping to keep the site relevant and easier to use, via the use of these cookies . For an enhanced site experience, consumers will need to consent to the use of StGeorges cookies. A preference cookie, that will become available to you when you choose the ‘I agree’ button, will be a long-life cookie that will not automatically clear when you close the browser window. If you manually delete this cookie you will need to re-confirm your preferences every time you next visit this website, unless you choose accept the long life option.