Running With Mark 15

Day Fifteen – January 12, 2020

Read: Mark 2:1-22 New Revised Standard Version

Visual Liturgy:

Jesus Heals the Paralytic by Jesus Mafa

Jesus Mafa is an artist from Cameroon whose work I really like.  He used to have a website where you could order prints, but that site is no longer active.  This work is called, “Jesus Heal the Paralyzed Man”


Stretching Bearing Christians

Today I want to focus on the four friends.  What kind of a bond must they have had?  They loved their friend so much that they were willing to carry him on a stretcher to Jesus.  And when the crowd was so large that they couldn’t get near him, they climbed up a ladder to the roof of the house.  There they started breaking the roof apart.  I have an image in my mind of Jesus busy teaching, when dirt begins to fall on his head, first just some dust, but eventually big clumps of dirt and pieces of wood or sticks from which the roof was made.

Somehow these four friends manage to take some rope (or something) and lower their friend before Jesus.  Jesus responded to the faith of the four friends. Nothing is said about the faith of the man with paralysis. 

Jesus says something strange.  “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5). Notice that it is not healing that he gives first.  He forgives the man’s sins.  I think Jesus wanted to restore this man fully to community, to health, and to himself.  His physical healing was a manifestation of the authority of Jesus but was not the main miracle of the story. 


Do you have friends who would carry you to Jesus?  Do you have friends you trust enough to see your brokenness, your need for healing?  It is scary to feel vulnerable, yet the gift of truly being “seen” by another person brings connection and a relief from carrying a heavy burden all on your own.



Anne Lamott, in her book, Traveling Mercies, tells of a little girl named Olivia, who had been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.  Olivia was a close family friend.  LaMott writes,

“From the beginning, Olivia always got sicker than other babies: she caught colds that wouldn’t leave, which led to coughs and eventually to the diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis.   Now she and I sit in her room and eat chocolate, and I tell her that in a very long time when we both get to heaven, we should try to get chairs next to each other, close to the dessert table.  “Yes” 2-year-old Olivia agrees.  She has round brown eyes and short yellow hair.  What a dish!  “More chocolate” she shrieks and she throws me the ball she is holding.  I taught her to love chocolate, which her parents still hold against me.


Whenever I am out of town I worry that there will be bad news when I come home, that a friend will have come over to their house not knowing he or she was about to come down with a cold, and Olivia will end up back in the hospital on the two-week IV drip.  This trip, I didn’t call Olivia, but I kept her in my prayers.  I said to God, “Look, I’m sure you know what you’re doing but my patience is beginning to wear a little thin…”  I looked up at God, and thinking about Olivia, about how badly scarred her lungs are already, I said, “God, what on earth are you thinking?” 


After the diagnosis, we were almost too stunned to cry.  Olivia’s family has a tribe of good friends around them, and everyone wanted to help, but at first people didn’t know what to do: they were immobilized by shock and sadness. 


By mid-January though, I had a vision of disaster as a gigantic canvas on which had been painted an exquisitely beautiful picture.  We all wanted to take up a corner or stand side by side and lift it together so that Olivia’s parents didn’t have to carry the whole thing by themselves.  But I saw that they did in fact have to carry almost the whole heartbreaking picture alone.  Then the image of a canvas changed into one wall of a barn, and I saw that the people who loved them could build a marvelous barn of sorts around the family.


So we did.  We raised a lot of money; catastrophes can be expensive.  We showed up.  Sometimes we cleaned, we listened, some of took care of the children, we walked their dog, and we cried and then made them laugh; we gave them a lot of privacy then we showed up and listened and let them cry and cry and cry, and then took them for hikes.  We took the mother to the movies.


I took Adam, the father, out for dinner one night right after the diagnosis.  He was a mess.  The first time the waiter came over, he was wracked with sobs, and the second time the waiter came over, he was laughing hysterically.  “He’s a little erratic, isn’t he?” I smiled to the waiter and he nodded gravely.


Sometimes we let them resist finding any meaning or solace in anything having to do with their daughter’s diagnosis, and this was one of the hardest things to do – to stop trying to make things come out better than they were. Then we shopped for groceries.  And we surrounded them with prayer.  There are a number of churches in the Bay Area and in fact around the country whose congregations pray for Olivia every week.


And that is how we built our Amish barn.  Now, eight months later, things are sometimes pretty terrible for them in a lot of ways, but at the same time, they got a miracle.  It wasn’t the kind that comes in on a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float.  And it wasn’t the one they wanted, where God would reach down from the sky and touch their girl with a magic wand and restore her to perfect health.  Maybe that will still happen – who knows?  I wouldn’t put anything past God.  Still, they got their miracle, and they understand this.”[1]

Traveling Mercies – Anne Lamott


Intercessory prayer is the spiritual practice of praying for others, to “intercede” to God on their behalf.  It is one way we can build an Amish barn.  Check out this great song that comes from the musical “Dear Evan Hansen”.

“You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen


“Holy, Holy, Holy”


Prayer Focus:

Think about someone in your life that is going through something.  Picture that person lying on a mat.  Are there others who will help you carry that person to Jesus?  Who are they?  Imagine the physical exertion it would take to somehow climb up that ladder while carrying that friend.  Feel your fingers as you dig at the roof and break it apart.  Slowly and carefully you lower your friend before Jesus.


Then imagine Jesus looking at your friend.  What does his face look like?  What does compassion, mercy and love look like on the face of the Savior?


Leave your friend there.  God has got this.  Feel the peace that comes from interceding for someone else.



Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

[1] Traveling Mercies by Anne LaMott