Jesus came into the world to heal. Christ came into the world to restore.

We saw that in last week’s reading, when Jesus rebuked an unclean spirit and healed Simon’s mother-in-law… like it was nothing.

We saw it in last week’s reading, when, after Jesus did those things, more and more people showed up, saying, “Will you touch, will you heal me Christ?” And he touched them, and he healed them… like it was nothing.

And, after a while, there were so many people that Jesus couldn’t even go into town without the mob showing up. So he stayed in the country. And still people came to him. Will you touch, will you heal me Christ?

Jesus came into the world to heal. Christ came into the world to restore.

And in today’s reading, it is… later.

Jesus has come back into town and he’s staying at home. And the people have shown up. They have filled up the house. They have crowded around the house. We have gone beyond standing-room-only. There is no room left at the house. There is not room for one more.

But… there are these guys. Their friend is paralyzed… and they’ve heard about this Jesus guy… who heals. And he’s back in town. So they take their friend to see him.

They get to the house and there’s not room for one more; there sure ain’t room for five more. So they climb up to the roof with their paralyzed friend. And they take part of the roof apart. And they lower their paralyzed friend down through the hole in the roof. And Jesus sees him. And Jesus sees the faith that he and his friends have.

Will you touch, will you heal me Christ?

And Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven.” Like it’s nothing.

In our reading today, the story keeps going with the religious authorities who are in the house. Because they start thinking, “Who is this guy? What blasphemy is this? I mean, the healing was fine. And the exorcisms were fine. But only God can forgive sins. And this guy is not God.”

But the paralyzed man is still on the floor. And his friends are still on the roof. And they have to be thinking, “… sins are forgiven? That’s… not what… we came here for?”

There was a time when I didn’t go to church. Not for any real reason. Like a lot of people my age who were raised in the church, I just sort of drifted away after confirmation.

And at some point—after college, after years of being away—I came back. And I’ll be honest. I don’t know why I came back. I mean, sure, Jesus called me to come back; God had a plan; all of that. That’s true. But I still don’t know why I came back. 

I’m sure I was looking for something. I’m sure I wanted something. Just like those guys who climbed to the top of a house and dug through the roof were looking for something.

And I don’t know why you’re here. I mean that in the big sense. I don’t know what it is about the Christian story that speaks to you. I don’t know how Jesus is calling to you or what God’s plan for you is. I mean, I have faith that it does… and that he is… and that God has one, but…

And I mean that in the small sense. I don’t know what got you out of bed and into the car and through the church doors and into a pew this morning. But you did all of those things. And even though I don’t know why—and even if you don’t know why (and that’s fine)—I’m sure that you’re looking for something. I’m sure that you want something.

Just like those guys who climbed to the top of a house and dug through the roof.

But…

Those guys had climbed to the top of the house. And they took part of the roof apart. And they rigged up their friend’s mat so that they could lower it into the house. And they lowered it down, carefully, until he was on the floor. And Jesus saw him. And Jesus saw the faith that he and his friends had.

Will you touch, will you heal me Christ? 

And Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.” Like it was nothing. And that was amazing, but it wasn’t why they were there.

And then this thing happened. The religious authorities looked annoyed, and Jesus said, “You think I can’t forgive sins. What do you think is easier? To forgive sins, or to have him stand up and walk?” And then Jesus looked at their friend and said, “Stand up, take your mat, and walk home.” And he did.

And here’s the thing: Jesus sets this all up like forgiveness is the easy part and healing is the hard part. The guys climbed to the top of the house and took part of the roof apart to get something hard and they got something easy

And we know the truth—it’s not always the truth, but it was the truth in that moment, and it is the truth in so many moments—the easy thing was more important.

In other sermons, I’ve talked about how love can be hard. In other sermons, I’ve talked about how Christ calls us to hard love. To love strangers and enemies. To love people who are marginalized and oppressed. To love even when loving means that others will laugh at us and sneer with us.

And that’s all true. Love can be hard. Christ does call us to love that is hard. Following Jesus is risky and difficult and occasionally dangerous. Sometimes, it is climbing to the roof of a house… and taking part of the roof apart… and rigging up a system to lower a mat… and all of that kind of work.

But love can also be easy. Love can also be simple.

Love can be as easy as sending a birthday card… or a get well card… or a thinking of you card. Love can be as simple as a phone call.

Love can be as easy as asking, “How are you?” or “What’s wrong?” Love can be as simple as saying, “Congratulations,” or “I’m proud of you.”

Love can be as easy as giving someone a ride when you’re heading that way, anyway. Love can be as simple as stopping to say hi when you’re in the neighborhood.

Love can be as easy as saying, “You are loved, and you are worthy of love.” Love can be as simple as saying, “I’m glad you’re here.”

Love can be a hug… or a handshake… or a smile.

And it’s true that we need more of the love that is risky and difficult and dangerous. But it is also true that we need more of the love that is easy and simple. We need more of the love that we can hand out… like it’s nothing.

Jesus came into the world to heal. Christ came into the world to restore. 

Sometimes, that looks like telling a man to stand up and walk. And that’s impressive and that’s good and that’s what the man wanted

Sometimes, that looks like telling a man that his sins are forgiven. And that’s more impressive and that’s better and that’s what the man needed.

Jesus came into the world to heal. Christ came into the world to restore. And he calls us to the same work.

Sometimes, that means doing something big. Sometimes, that means climbing the building and breaking through the roof. Sometimes, maybe, that means miracles. It’s true.

But sometimes, that means offering a touch… or a word… or a look. Sometimes that means offering something that feels like nothing; and that can be everything.

I don’t know what got you here this morning. I don’t know what got you out of bed and into the car and through the church doors and into a pew today. I don’t know what you are looking for or what you want.

But what I can offer to you—and what we can offer to each other—is this: You are loved and you are worthy of love; and I’m glad you are here.

And maybe that’s not quite what you came here for. Maybe that’s not what you were looking for. Maybe that’s not what you wanted. But I know for certain, without a shred of doubt, that those words are something that we all need.

And they are something we can all receive. And they are something that we can all give. Thanks be to God!

Right now, there is a movement in churches and nonprofits arguing that charity is toxic, that helping hurts, and that the entire nonprofit sector needs to be reformed to truly lift people out of poverty. These charity skeptics are telling Christians that traditional charity deepens dependency, fosters a sense of entitlement, and erodes the work ethic of people who receive it. Charity skepticism is increasingly popular; and it is almost certainly wrong.

Now available from Wipf and Stock’s Cascade Books imprint, Radical Charity: How Generosity Can Save the World (And the Church) weaves together research and scholarship on topics as diverse as biblical scholarship, Christian history, economics, and behavioral psychology to tell a different story. In this story, charity is the heart of Christianity and one of the most effective ways that we can help people who are living in poverty. Charity—giving to people experiencing poverty without any expectation of return or reformation—can save the world and help make God’s vision for the church a reality.

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