Sunday, February 22, 2009
Which is easier to say?
Isaiah 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25
2 Corinthians 1:18-22
So, which is easier:
to say to the paralytic,
“Your sins are forgiven,”
- or -
“Rise, pick up your mat and walk”?
I suspect there’s a gap between our answer to that question
and the answer in the minds of Jesus and the scribes in this story.
Just to be clear:
the scribes believed that only God could forgive sin
so for Jesus to claim such power was blasphemous in their eyes.
What do we think would be easier to say:
“Your sins are forgiven”
- or -
“Get up and walk!”
I'll bet many of us might say, “Forgiving sins would be easier.”
After all, we know how to forgive someone who offends us
– we’ve done that -
but we don’t know how to heal a paralyzed person, with just a word.
But forgiving sin is something that runs much deeper
than pardoning someone who sins against me.
Forgiving sin is what Isaiah writes about in the first lesson today.
Don’t remember what’s long gone!
Look – I’m doing something new – for you!
You burdened and wearied me with your sins but I wipe them out.
I have forgiven and I have forgotten your sins.
Understanding all of this may depend on what our priorities are.
If I were I a paralyzed person, estranged from God by my sins,
which would be more important to me:
being healed of my sins and reconciled with God -
or being healed of my paralysis?
And how many of you want to tell me that’s not a fair question?
Well, you’re right - it’s not.
And it’s not a fair question
because the chance of being miraculously healed of illness is slight
but the possibility of being healed of my sins is 110%.
We’ll never get to the heart of figuring out which is easier to do
- forgive sins or heal bodies -
if we don't grapple with the question of which is more important to us.
And that struggle is at the heart of so many debates
whose terms boil down to:
spiritual wholeness and integrity on the one side
and personal physical relief and comfort on the other.
This struggle is at the heart of our debates about so many issues:
war, stem cell research, abortion, torture, sexual morality,
capital punishment, immigration and the economy.
Very often the God we want to believe in
is the God who, in our imagination,
will heal and cure and fix things for us, take away the pain
and make things more comfortable and happy for us
- and preferably as soon as possible.
But the God who invites our belief is God whose deepest desire
is for our hearts to be one with his
and to take away, to heal whatever in our hearts
might estrange us from his love.
In the gospel today Jesus is teaching us
that he didn’t come to be the next miracle worker
but that he came to reconcile our hearts with his Father's heart.
And the heart of this reconciling love is the Cross
- the pain of which Jesus was not spared.
We find ourselves on the eve of Lent:
the middle of the week ahead is Ash Wednesday.
Lent is a season for reconciling with the heart of God, in Christ.
Lent promises neither the cure of our aches and pains
nor the fixing of our problems
but it does guarantee - 110% -
the reconciliation of our hearts with God through the love of Jesus.
Which is easier, then, to say:
“Your sins are forgiven,” or, “Rise, pick up your mat and walk?”
To answer that question, look to the Cross.
And if it’s too much to look to the Cross
then look to the altar, the table of the Cross
where the sacrifice of the greatest Lover of all
heals and nourishes the brokenness of hearts and souls like our own.
Posted by Austin Fleming at 2:20 PM