The first week of June, our Children’s Ministry will kick-off the summer with God’s Big BackyardVacation Bible School. (Click here for more info about all the Camps at Cumming FUMC) It is one of those, don’t miss it experiences. Because of that, I feel like it isn’t fair for all the fun to get hogged by the Children so like last year, we’re kicking off “Beyond Your Backyard.” It is like Vacation Bible School for all of us!
I love this year’s theme because growing up, the “backyard,” any yard for that matter, was where our imaginations ran wild. I remember the countless football games played between the Cowboys and Steelers in David’s front yard across from my house. I can remember Star Wars, the original trilogy, played around my club house and swing set. And there was the winter of our fifth grade year when cafeteria trays became the best sleds ever as the ice storm of that year created a winter wonderland.
What all these had in common was how these adventures and the countless one’s like them, were made possible by one factor being present: my friends. Now we did not always get along. We fought hard and went home with a few bloody noses and hurt feelings now and again. But after a day or two we would be back at, riding bikes that had become X-wing fighters or playing spotlight after dark. Backyards, rock. So do side yards and front yards too!
Now I say this because I do not want you to leave here today without considering the question - how important are friends? There is something in this message on healing often overlooked and it is that it was made possible by friends. For one thing, this man’s healing would not have happened had these friends not picked up his mat and him with it. But secondly, the healing was based on faith. It is just that the faith wasn’t the paralyzed man’s. Jesus said it was the friends.
This paralyzed man had four of them. Some of us may have one or many. Some of our Facebook pages say that we have 500 or 1,000 or even more. But it is what one does for another which really shows who your friends are. This was something Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play Major League baseball discovered. If you’ve seen the movie “42“ or have read about his story you know that Robinson was not warmly greeted when he got the call to join the Brooklyn Dodgers. Everywhere he went, he was called names, pitchers threw pitches at his head and even on his own team, he found himself alone. It came to a head one game following an error that caused the stands to errupt in jeers. Shortstop, Pee Wee Reese, called timeout, walked over to Robinson and with all eyes on the two men, Reese put his arm around Robinson’s shoulder.
It is one thing to say your a friend. It is a whole other thing to act like it. Friends are not going to heal us when we’re sick or bring back a family member who has passed away. What friends can do, what friends do, is they stand beside us and offer us a ministry of presence. Friends are going to be there when we need them.
There was a whole crowd of people in that town who stood at the door on that day. It was a whole town of people, many, I suspect who may have known this man or his family. They too could have gone to his home and picked up the mat, but they did not. They may have thought, as many did and many still do, that this bad thing happened because he had “taken God off the throne of his heart.”
After seeing the faith of these friends, Jesus deals with the full extent that healing requires. Jesus does offer the forgiveness of sins for that is the condition of all of us - we’ve all taken God off the throne of our heart, Jesus dealt with what couldn’t be seen. But then Jesus goes on to address the physical: what everyone could see.
Jesus didn’t dwell on the specifics of the sin - he went to the root - all of us need forgiveness. What we all need too, is that friend or group of friends who love us enough to get us to Jesus when we can’t, to carry our soul and prayer and our body to the gathering of believers called the church. But we also need is to be the kind of friend who does this very same thing to others, to our friends. We need to be the ones who won’t let the crowd stand in our way. We are called to be the ones who won’t let a roof or a wall keep our friends from Jesus. This is how we serve friends.