Holding up your corner

 Romans 12:1-13

 So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.

And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you. We have many parts in the one body, and all these parts have different functions. In the same way, though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body. So we are to use our different gifts in accordance with the grace that God has given us. If our gift is to speak God’s message, we should do it according to the faith that we have; if it is to serve, we should serve; if it is to teach, we should teach; if it is to encourage others, we should do so. Whoever shares with others should do it generously; whoever has authority should work hard; whoever shows kindness to others should do it cheerfully.

Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10 Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11 Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12 Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13 Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers.

 

Mark 2:1-12

A few days later Jesus went back to Capernaum, and the news spread that he was at home. 2So many people came together that there was no room left, not even out in front of the door. Jesus was preaching the message to them 3when four men arrived, carrying a paralysed man to Jesus. 4Because of the crowd, however, they could not get the man to him. So they made a hole in the roof right above the place where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they let the man down, lying on his mat. 5Seeing how much faith they had, Jesus said to the paralysed man, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”

6 Some teachers of the Law who were sitting there thought to themselves, 7“How does he dare to talk like this? This is blasphemy! God is the only one who can forgive sins!”

8 At once Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said to them, “Why do you think such things? 9Is it easier to say to this paralysed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10I will prove to you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralysed man, 11“I tell you, get up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

12 While they all watched, the man got up, picked up his mat, and hurried away. They were all completely amazed and praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

 

 

 

 

I want you to imagine something today. I want you to imagine that you are living almost 2000 years ago in Israel. You might want to close your eyes and imagine.

You are Jewish. You live in a village in the north of Israel near the sea of Galilee. You and your family work the land and while you don’t have much money you are not starving.

So, try to imagine what that must be like to live before computers and televisions and cars and machines and cell phones and electricity.

Imagine your clothes, what you are wearing, what your home might look like. Imagine who is in your family and what life is like. Is it good? Is it hard?

If you are not sure what it might be like, just make it up and don’t worry about whether you are right or accurate, just imagine.

 

Just take a second.

 

Now that you have imagined a life back then, imagine you go to visit one of your friends. He has had a bad fall while doing some construction, and he has been in bed for weeks. The local healer has been and he says that there is not much hope. Your friend will not walk again. He is paralyzed.

And then another friend says that there is talk of a wonderful healer. And another said that he heard him speak. Someone else says that she saw a healing.

This healer, it turns out is names Jesus. The name Jesus is a version of Joshua, and it means Saviour.

 

And you don’t know who said it first, but you all come up with the idea that you should take your friend to Jesus.

 

And imagine you reach down and grab a corner of the pallet on which your friend lays, and you and three others lift him up and put a corner on your shoulders.

Feel the weight of it. Feel not only the physical weight, but the emotional weight. This friend needs you. You are bearing him up in more ways that one.

 

And you are determined to bring him to Jesus. There is some distance to go. It is hot and dusty and the weight on your shoulders, it hurts, it is cutting into your shoulder, but you don’t want to be the one to say we need to stop.

You grin and bear it.

People look and you. Sometimes someone asks what you are doing and where are you going?

We are going to that healer Jesus.

We hear he is at the house at the edge of town.

A few people start to follow you. A couple of people help hold up the pallet. It eases the pain in your shoulder.

 

You can see the house ahead. You are getting closer, but it is swarmed with people. The house is packed, and there is a big crowd outside.

There is no way you can get inside.

The weight seems so much. The pain in your shoulder is throbbing. What can you do? There is no way in. And trying to move the people is crazy. They are a mob. They won’t listen.

And then you shout about the din of the crowd. “The roof.”

“The roof” the others say.

 

“Yes, we’ll take him on the roof and make a hole in it. He needs help. Who cares about the cost. We’ll fix it later.

Let’s go.

 

And so up on the roof you and your three friends carrying your sick friend.

 

And frantically you start digging away on the roof with the knives you always have at your waist for farming.

 

The hole gets bigger and bigger, until finally it is big enough to see Jesus below. Everybody is staring at you.

And then it is big enough to let your friend down.

 

And as he descends you see Jesus turn his attention to not to the patient but to you and the other three friends.

 

“Your faith” Jesus says to you, “has made this man whole.”

 

And Jesus heals him.

 

Imagine what you feel. Your friend is better. Your friend is healed. Do you feel relief, or joy… or amazement…..or surprise…

 

What do you feel about Jesus?

 

 

And ponder what Jesus said to you: “Your faith, your actions, your courage, your support, your determination healed your friend.”

 

How do you feel?

 

You brought healing to your friend?

 

That’s what friends do though, they bring healing.

 

Think about your best friend or your best friends or your BFF or your besties and think about what it means to have friends like him or her or them…

 

A best friend you can tell anything to…you can be absolutely and totally honest with and they don’t reject you and they understand you.

 

So, one aspect of healing a best friend brings is the truth. They help you look at the whole truth because they don’t judge you. Instead they understand. And because they understand, it frees you to tell the truth, to let all your feelings out, to look inside

 

A best friend is with you through thick and thin. That is another aspect of healing. Whether you are going through the toughest time, you are not alone, there is someone beside you. There for you.

 

A best friend will often give advice or will even challenge what you say. Because there is a such a good bond with you and your friend, and you know they are acting in you best interest you are able to better listen to their advice, or to them disagreeing with you.

 

A best friend loves you even when you have screwed up or made a mistake. They don’t give up on you, even when you have said or done something to hurt them. They forgive you and invite you to be reconciled.

 

A best friend has faith in you, trusts in you, believes in your goodness and worth…

 

A best friend who is a Christian prays for you, holds you up to Christ.

 

And those are just some of the ways a best friend holds up the corner of your pallet and brings you to healing or brings you to Christ.

 

So today I am wondering, who are your saints?

 

Who are the four friends that would hold up your pallet and bring you to Jesus? They may be friends and possibly some these friends are your family members.

So, I will use the term friends, with the understanding that some family members can be like a best friend. I also understand that some family members love you very much but do not have a relationship like a friend.

 

Who are the friends who would be there come hell or high water to support you or save you?

 

Who are the friends with whom you can bare your soul? Who are the ones who will tell you the truth even if it hurts, but still will love you?

 

Who are the ones who get you, who totally understand you, who forgive you, who don’t judge you?

 

Who holds up your corner?

 

On All Saints Sunday, I want us to think about those who have acted like Jesus towards you. I want you to celebrate that there are people who deserve the title Saint in the traditional Christian view of those who best represented Christ.

 

In the scriptures the term saint is used to refer to all Christians. The word “Saint” in English comes from the Latin word “Sanctus” which means holy. In the New Testament which is written in Greek the word for Saint is hagios which is found 229 times in the New Testament. Sometimes the word hagios is translate holy as in the Holy Spirit. Sixty times the word is translated as Saint or Saints.

 

The understanding of Christians being saints or holy ones, is not the common understanding of holiness and saintliness that is often understood today…

that being: Saints are super holy people or saintly people that are better people than others, more Christian, more sacrificial, more Christlike, more moral, more religious, more pious and in Roman Catholic tradition have done a miracle.

 

However, the original understanding of all Christians being saints was that as Christians we were different. Not better, but set apart. As followers of Christ we had set a different path. That path was to follow Christ, wherever that took us.

I guess in reality there were those who took that calling more seriously than others and better exemplified Christ. That became the common understanding of the saints. The original biblical understanding was all the Christians were set apart to follow Christ, so we are all saints.

And maybe, just maybe if we are saints, we should be challenged every day to be more like Christ.

 

And maybe we should be challenged to be the kind of people that would hold up the corner of someone’s pallet and bring them to Jesus.

 

Maybe you can think of four friends that would bring you to Jesus.

 

I wonder how many people put your name down on their list of four friends.

 

Could you be somebody’s saint?

 

There’s a story that comes out of the United States form about 50 years ago when Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered.

 

A lady named Pat Shannon Baker was living in Reno, Nevada and when she heard that Martin Luther King had been killed she sat up late that night thinking that she had to do something. But what?

 

She remembered a vacant lot that she passed every day on her way to work and thought it would make a nice park. She went to see her city councilor who said that it would take a lot of time and money and be very unlikely to get done.

But Pat went around the mostly black neighborhood to get people on board, and she went to the contracting companies and the cement companies and the garden nurseries and the head of companies and unions.

 

And one Friday morning at 7:30 when a lot of people were still sleeping, a crown of people and machines got together on that lot. Within an hour 2 thousand tons of topsoil was spreading our over the lot by heavy equipment operators working for free.

Mechanics, labourers, school teachers, doctors, unemployed people, mothers and fathers, a couple of marines teenagers and children dug ditches. A 13 year-old boy sawed wood all day. An eight year old girl carried water to the workers.

 

By noon there was cement laid for a tennis court and by nightfall a basketball court was made. Some people worked throughout the night and in the morning a big crowd started again. Sod was laid, a sprinkler system put in, playground equipment erected.

By Sunday afternoon the park was complete, with walks and benches and trees and playing courts and lights.

 

The newscaster who covered the story went back twenty years later and the park was still there and the trees were big and children were playing.

 

He ran into an old black man who remembered the park being built. He said that it was the best thing that ever happened in Reno. Not the park itself. But building it.

 

It seems to me that one of the features of being a saint, whether it is the view that all of us are saints, or the view that there are those who better exemplify Christ…

Is this…

 

We are in it together.

 

When you imagining taking your paralyzed friend to Jesus, did you think about who the other three carrying the pallet were.

 

You couldn’t carry it alone.

 

And the scripture from Romans we read today:

 

We have many parts in the one body, and all these parts have different functions. In the same way, though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body. So we are to use our different gifts in accordance with the grace that God has given us

 

Saints work together. Saints have one purpose, Christ, and if we are in Christ then we have the same purpose Christ. And even though we are different, we get along,w e love each other, we respect each other…

 

The way to bring healing to this world is not to do it ourselves, nor to insist on our own theology or understanding, but to work together to hold up the corners of those who need help.

Maybe the four friends on the four corners are different in culture and skin colour, have different theologies, or different understandings of God and Christ but they agree on one thing.

Let us take this person to Christ. Let us lift this one up to Christ.

I think a saint is someone who brought you closer to Christ. Who are the people who have been your spiritual guides or leaders or mentors or friends?

Who have been the people who brought you closer to Jesus? Who are the people you wanted to emulate, or the people of faith you admired.

Which character in the bible inspired you?

What Christian writers or theologians have influenced you?

These are all saints that helped carry you to Jesus.

 

About five years ago I watched an interesting movie called St. Vincent.

 

It is about a single mom Maggie played by Melissa McCarthy and her son Oliver who moves next door to grumpy, foul-mouthed, immoral man called Vincent….played by Bill Murray.

Who ends up being the babysitter for the boy. Vincent takes the boy to horsetracks and bars when he is babysitting after school.

 

The boy attends a good school run by the Catholic church and has to learn about Saints…..

Then he has to pick someone he knows here and now that he thinks is most like a saint.

He nominates Vincent, because when he asked what a saint was, his teacher told him that a saint shows commitment and dedication and sacrifice.

And to Oliver’s mind Vincent is a saint because he saved people in Vietnam, he took care of him Oliver after school, and Vincent sacrificed a lot to keep his wife in. a nursing home before she died.

 

It is a moving scene, because Vincent is tricked to come to the school, and he watches how Oliver stand up for Vincent and everyone applauds him.

 

The plot is all too predictable but in the end, we learn that the real saints aren’t the ones who do miracles, walk on water and are perfect…

The real saints are the ones who love you, and care for you, and are there for you…

the ones you can count on to hold up their corner when you need a hand.

Amen.