Mark 2:1-4

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. Mark 2:1-4

Today’s devotion is for everybody but especially for men. It is both a celebration and a challenge to how we do “church” in our lives. Here it goes.

Years ago I heard someone ask the question while talking about the lives of men: “If your world was falling apart and you needed help at 3:00 AM, who would you call?” The speaker suggested that many men cannot identify even one other man with whom they have a close, mutual, deep friendship. The kind of friendship where you wouldn’t hesitate to ask for help in the middle of the night.

A 2018 Barna Report came to the same conclusion. Barna says that “Earlier this year, a study from health insurer Cigna found that most Americans report feeling lonely, left out and not known.” Loneliness is an epidemic in America today. It afflicts young people as badly as it retired people. The ache of loneliness, the pain of not being known, the sadness of social isolation, gives rise to a host of self-destructive behaviors which seek to self-medicate and numb the pain.

What is the answer to this? Community. Connection. Safe spaces and safe people among whom we can be ourselves. We can be vulnerable. We can speak our truth. We will be heard and we will be able to both give and receive support. This IS exactly what Jesus was talking about when he called his followers to love one another. That is the celebration of church.

Later this morning I am going to meet a group of men at a golf course to spend the day together. The core group have been meeting every Friday for over eight years. We are always open to others and often invite guys to make room to play. I met all of those guys at church. Through the years we have all been through the highs and lows of life. Together. I wouldn’t hesitate to call any of those guys at 3:00 AM. They are a blessing.

The church is one of the few institutions which enables long term relationships between people. That’s a good thing. It is essential. But the church is also a place where people can put on their Sunday best and pretend. Church is somewhere they go when Jesus’ idea is that church is something we do. That is the challenge to the church – are we willing to do Christian community that goes more than skin deep?

Don’t get the wrong idea about that paralyzed guy. He wasn’t helpless. Sure, he couldn’t walk but he wasn’t helpless. He had plenty of help. All the help he needed. Because he had four friends who were willing to carry his mat to Jesus. Four friends who were not going to be satisfied standing among the overflow crowd. Four friends who hoisted him to the roof, dug a hole in it, and dropped their friend right in Jesus’ lap. That is what friends do!

As we will see next week, Jesus welcomed him. That is another challenge to the church. Are we ready and open to welcoming the physically and mentally infirm into the community? Do we make room for the full participation and inclusion of the physically challenged? Don’t you think that congregations ought to strive toward that?

By the way, there are two ways to develop deeper friendships at church. Be a friend and bring a friend. It is worth it. There is healing in there.

Let us pray: Thank you Lord for the people with whom we share our lives. Thank you for friendship and for opportunities to both give and receive help. We pray for those who suffer from loneliness and isolation and pray that you guide us toward being church in a way that proves a real blessing in peoples’ lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

One Response to “Mark 2:1-4”

  1. David Armstrong Says:

    Well written words that speak a to a current need!

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