Before I start my sermon, I need to read you a letter I have just written to Mary as Clerk to the Congregational Board. I apologies to anyone who may feel offended.
As you will remember some weeks ago, I asked a chap from Nazareth to do a Sundays’ Pulpit supply here when I was away to Balgay. You can imagine my surprise when Elizabeth, our Church Officer, phoned on the Monday after to say there was a huge hole in the Hall roof. As a result, I phoned Ken who told me the whole story. Apparently, this itinerant preacher started healing people of all sorts of diseases. Before he knew it, the place was full to capacity and more. They were literally queuing up in Queen Street to get in. Suddenly, he heard this racket from the ceiling. The next thing he knew a saw blade appeared through the roof. Dust was flying everywhere. Once the gap was big enough, a couple of guys lowered a man with multiple sclerosis down. This didn’t phase the preacher, who simply healed him and told him to get off to the Occidental with his mates.
As you can imagine this will not do! So, I went around and confronted the vandals. They were a rough crew from Ballinard Road. They immediately owned up but said their pal Bill had been getting more and more disabled for years. He was now even unable even to get to the loo himself. So, when they heard about this Jesus fellow curing people in St Luke’s, they hoisted him to the car and brought him down. One was a bit of dab hand at DIY. And, as the queue stretched to Claypotts Road, they simply climbed onto the hall roof and broke in. Needless to say, I made our displeasure very clear indeed. Where will churches be if we start healing all and sundry?
I have an estimate for the repairs from LG Cooper. Really, it just isn’t good enough and I won’t be having this preacher back anytime soon. At least their Bill enjoyed lifting a pint for the first time in a very long while with his pals. Pity about our bill!
Yours in Christ’s service, Graham.
Well that is a light-hearted way to look at the event in our lesson from Luke. But at its heart is message that is at once expensive, heart-warming and inspiring.
Let’s start with the expensive part. Because the friends of the paralysed man did have some costs to pay. They had all the effort of getting up on to the roof of the house Christ was in in. But that was nothing compared to the ridicule of taking part in such a foolhardy venture and trusting such an untried healer. They would also have come in for criticism for helping someone the religious authorities considered a sinner. Put directly, to the powers that be, the invalid was no better than he should be. And of course, as human responses never change, they also probably had to pay to get the house’s roof put back. Friendship in this case, as in many others, was costly.
Nevertheless, none of this stopped them bringing their pal to Jesus. To them, he was their friend in need and they would find away through. They would pay the bills on his behalf.
Can there then be any better definition of friendship; the fellowship that goes to the very essence of Christ’s command love one another. The companionship that is Jesus’ gift to us through others.
And that brings us to the heart-warming aspect of this story. Since it never ceases to surprise me how much friends do for each other. These efforts can often exceed that done by family members. And as a result, this makes that hackneyed phrase ‘blood is thicker than water’ a tad silly.
May then this day we be grateful for the true friends we have around us at this very moment. Since, we should be in no doubt, we are here for each other. Because that is the very definition of a church. That is indeed the embodiment of the love summarised in Emily Robinson’s poem:
When tears fell from my eyes,
you were there to brush them away.
When I was lost in confusion,
you were there to say that everything would be okay.
When I stood before you falling apart,
you were there to lend your heart.
When I felt like no one could understand,
you were there to take my hand.
When no one else was left to care,
you were there.
Ah, you say, I am with you so far. But where does inspiration come in?
A radio item this week said that we are far more concerned for those caught up in distant events that ever before. And whose heart does not go out to those who lost loved ones in New Zealand and Mozambique? Here then is an opportunity to express the genus of love called friendship. Here is our opportunity to be instruments of Christ’s love for all his friends. Here, in each misfortune and misadventure, is the opportunity to retrieve something by friendship expressed in practical even sacrificial help. And if the idea of changing the world through active friendship is not inspiring, I don’t know what is. If the idea of expressing of Christian faith through friendship isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is. If our own experience of friendship inspired by Jesus is not awe-inspiring, I truly don’t know what is.
So, let us taking just a few moments to relish the friendship around us. Let us feel God’s call to give and receive friendship as his fruit to our hungry souls. Then let us sing of that friendship to all that thirst for its life-giving strains. Because if we do indeed find the unison of unrestricted friendship, our loving harmony will indeed bring the roof down.