HEALING THE PARALYZED CHURCH
Rev. Thurlow B Weed III
Key West UPUSA Aug 31, 1969
Ibid., May 1, 1977
Revised, Rt. Rev. Thurlow B Weed IV
April 20, 2016
When he returned to Capernaum some time later, word went round that he was back; and so many people collected that there was no room left, even in front of the door. He was preaching the word to them hen some people came bringing him a paralytic carried by four men, but as the crowd made it impossible to get the man to him, they stripped the roof over the place where Jesus was; and when they had made an opening, they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic lay. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
Now the scribes were sitting there, and they though to themselves, “How can this man talk like that? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God?”
Jesus, inwardly aware that this was what they were thinking, said to them, “Why do you have these thoughts in your hearts? Which if these is easier: to say to the paralytic ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say ‘Get up, pick up your stretcher and walk’? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” – he said to the paralytic – “I order you: get up, pick up your stretcher and go off home.”
And the man got up, picked up his stretcher at once, and walked out in front of everyone, so that they were all astounded and praised God saying “We have never seen anything like this.”
As this story opens, Jesus has just returned from a preaching tour in Galilee. He is now back in Capernaum, and the word has gotten around that he is back. Rumor says that the man has returned, and great numbers of people hear the rumor and come to the house where Jesus is.
Rumor is a powerful thing. Rumor can destroy a person by spreading false information that sounds so interesting it MUST be true. Rumor is such a powerful force that in time of war, governments set up special offices to counteract rumors.
But rumor can be a force for good. We have in this story a case of how a rumor can bring a person to Jesus.
Those were exciting days in Capernaum. People were interested in what was going on. There was a new teaching at hand, there was a new power working among them, there was something extraordinary. News of this thing got around, and crowds would follow Jesus, gather where he stopped, and listen to his teaching.
It was a new teaching and a new power. It was something extraordinary.
Do you know one thing that is seriously wrong with the church these days? --- It has become ordinary.
Every city and town has many churches, sometimes two or three in one block. They are scattered around the countryside. The church has become ordinary. It is no longer something unusual.
I can illustrate this point by a story I once heard, and it is supposed to be a true story. A visiting preacher went to preach in a church in another town. Before the service started he was visiting with the Elders and talking about the order for morning worship. He asked the Clerk of Session, “Do you expect anything unusual to happen this morning?”
The Clerk of Session replied, “Why no, of course not!”
And the preacher said, “Well, I do. I expect the Spirit of God to be present with us this morning, and that is something unusual.”
Our church has become too usual, too ordinary.
The church is a little like that man lying on the stretcher – it is paralyzed. It is in need of a cure. The church needs to be brought to Jesus and have its sins forgiven.
Four friends brought the paralyzed man to Jesus on a stretcher and used extraordinary methods to bring about the face-to-face contact. They entered by breaking a hole in the roof and coming in from there.
The church is paralyzed because its members are paralyzed. You and I are the church. Our duty as the church is to bring the word of life to our world, and to live that word of life.
But what do we do instead? We do too much arguing about the past and feeling sorry for ourselves. In some church organizations and activities, we have some people who will not participate because certain other people do. In our organizations we have confusion and conflict because some people know better than others do what should be done and who should do it and how it should be done. The result is a paralyzed organization that does nothing. This is also true worldwide – the divided state of Christians into so many competing denominations.
How long has it been since you have seen a church organization preaching the word of life by living it?
The problem is that to live the word of life, you are going to have to give something of yourself. Until we are willing to give of ourselves to the church, we are going to remain paralyzed. And I am not talking about money, although that is involved also. I mean time, and talent. But above all I mean spirit, and soul. Until we give ourselves in soul and spirit to Jesus and his teachings, until we receive the forgiveness and healing that he offers, until we share that forgiveness and healing with the broken world around us, we are going to remain paralyzed, and our church and every church is a joke.
The church – our church and other churches – needs four good friends to put us on a stretcher and CARRY us to Jesus.
And did you know the church has four good friends who can do just that, if we are willing to let them? Four good friends who can take us to Jesus. Their names are MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE, and JOHN.
Let is start with us as individuals. If we as individual men and women allow those four friends to carry us to Jesus for our healing, then the church could pick up its stretcher and walk.
This is the call to dedication. Dedication to God in and through Jesus Christ. Not just the first dedication that we call conversion. Conversion is the necessary first step, but it does not end there. Conversion is the beginning, and the continuation is dedication, rededication, and rededication again.
If we keep reading our four good friends, Matthew, Luke, John, and Mark, then we will be carried to a constant rededication.
When the four friends brought the man to Jesus, the very first thing Jesus did was to forgive his sins. It was obvious to the naked eye that the man was paralyzed and could not move, but Jesus first dealt with his invisible trouble, the sickness in his soul.
No matter what else is wrong with the individual or wring with his life, his basic need is a spiritual one. This is sometimes a mystery to us because we don’t think much about the spirit, but it was no mystery to Jesus. Jesus dealt first with the deepest source of the evil in the man’s life – in his soul. He didn’t first deal with the physical problem,
You can see here the sort of approach Jesus had to life, and it is the approach that must be ours if were are to be truly human.
It is the religious approach. Jesus didn’t try to cure the man’s soul by curing his body. You don’t cure pneumonia by dressing the patient in a beautiful suit or dress – you have to get at the germs that cause it. You can’t cure the paralyzed church by giving it a new coat of paint or building a beautiful new building – you have to get at the souls of its people.
It is also true on the international scene. Our world is badly ill with spiritual illness, and the only cure it will respond to will be a spiritual cure. We can have all the Four-Power Treaties we want, or even 50-Power treaties – it is like trying to cure cancer with pretty new clothes.
What we need, in all areas of life in our world, is a One-Power Treaty – an agreement with God. We have sinned. We must have forgiveness.
We have made oil more important than blood.
We have made land more important than people.
We have made national prestige more important the human welfare.
We have made pride of race more important than suffering children.
We have made our love of money more important than feeding the hungry.
We have made our love of religion more important than love for God and neighbour.
We have made politics more important than justice.
We have made pleasure more important than truth.
We have made profit more important than peace.
We have made having our own way more important than love.
We have made pride and glory for what WE have done for the church more important than what we have done for the CHURCH.
We have made ourselves more important than God.
When Jesus forgave his sins, the scribes that were sitting around didn’t say anything, but in their heads they were thinking, “How can this man talk like that? Only God can forgive sins and this man is therefore pretending to be God.”
But Jesus saw through them. They didn’t say those things, but he knew they were thinking them.
How would you like to live just one day in which every private though you had, every private and personal feeling, was visible to every person you met? How would you like to be talking to someone, and have them know exactly what you were really thinking? That would be a hard day to get through, wouldn’t it?
Well, that’s exactly the way we live before God. We can have no secrets from him. We can have secrets from each other, but not from God. There is no way and no place we can hide from God. All hearts are open to him, just as the hearts of those scribes were open to Jesus. We need to be more aware of the fact that we are transparent to God.
In Jesus there is healing for the soul, the forgiveness of sin.
In Jesus there is power to put right what is wrong.
Let us go to him … go to him for our healing, and then go out to be his true disciples.
Let us pray.
We are paralyzed before thee, O Jesus, and we pray thee enter our hearts to forgive our sins and to heal our paralysis. Open us, clean us, grant us the Holy Spirit, and sustain us as we go forth to be thy disciples in our generation. Amen.