My friend, Cindy Bolbach, had a small poster in her office. When you looked at it, what you saw first were hands piled up in a circle – sort of like a basketball team right before it breaks the huddle. The hands were all different colors – white, black, brown. Your first impression on looking at it quickly – “Isn’t that nice. An inspirational moment celebrating people coming together in all their rich diversity.”
When you looked again, under the photo, in relatively large letters, it read “Meetings.” Under that caption, in much smaller letters, was a second line. “None of us is as dumb as all of us.”
“None of us is as dumb as all of us.” That’s a line that will resonate with a lot of people.
There are plenty of horror stories to could be shared about meetings – meetings at work, homeowner association meetings, PTA meetings, town halls meetings.
Most of us have been to some group think event and come away shaking our heads. “None of is as dumb as all of us.”
That experience of the sheer complexity of getting people together and how quickly and thoroughly things go wrong is front and center in our collective psyche now.
We watch congress and senate ostensibly meet together while all the while, they are marching off in different directions. We listen to the wrecking ball of political decisions made by groups of people meeting in Russia, or Venezuela, Australia, Hong Kong, and Great Britain. We know how often people who don’t have time to meet because they are too busy working feel like everyone from their health care provider, to their children’s school administrators, to their corporate bosses have met and devised a plan that will add time, stress and cost to their lives.
This collective sense that none of us is as dumb as all of us may be driving a lack of church involvement.
People tell us they are done with meetings. Even if it is meeting on Sunday morning for worship.
Like me, you have heard people say, “O yes, I’m Christian. In fact, I’m very spiritual. I worship watching the birds on Sunday morning. Or when I’m drinking coffee and catching up on the news. Or I worship when I spend time with my family or go for a run.”
I don’t deny that feeding the birds, families, or even drinking coffee can be very spiritual.
But the truth is we can’t get to the gospel on our own.
We can’t get to Jesus without the complicated realities of other people. We can’t get to the good news of God’s kingdom without spending time with people who are different than we are. Who don’t process information like we do. Who don’t share our background. Who are focused on different outcomes than we are.
No matter how much we wish we could live out the gospel without those realities, we can’t.
Just look at the men from our scripture reading. There is a man who suffers from paralysis. There are crowds of able-bodied people crowding around the rabbi. It is hard enough for someone with a normative body to get in, but this man definitely has no way to get to Jesus.
On his own, this man who is paralyzed can spend time feeding the birds. He can hang out with his family. He can read the Capernaum Times, while he drinks some Turkish coffee. But he can’t see Jesus.
But the paralyzed man is not alone.
There are some people who think outside the box or maybe outside the house.
These four people lift the paralyzed man up onto the roof of the house and cut a hole. They don’t care dust and rubble is falling all over Jesus and the people who are already near him. The creative and resourceful people lower the paralyzed man through the hole in the roof and there he is before Jesus.
The paralyzed man could not see Jesus on his own. And neither can we.
Each one of us is paralyzed in some way.
Maybe we are paralyzed by fear that faith in Jesus will cause us to be ridiculed or not taken seriously or demand too much of us. Perhaps we are paralyzed by an awful sermon we heard 20 years ago by someone who should never have been allowed in a pulpit. Maybe we are paralyzed by the sobering reality of what humans have done to other humans across twenty centuries, all ostensibly in the name of Jesus. Perhaps we are paralyzed by the death of someone we love. Maybe we are paralyzed by a diagnosis of cancer. We wonder how a God of mercy and love can let these things happen, and we are paralyzed.
And each of us will overcome our paralysis only if and when we reach out to each other, just as those five people reached out to each other. Only then will we see Jesus.
We don’t know how it was the paralyzed man came to find these people who helped him. Were they his friends? We don’t know. Some translations call them simply “some people.”
We don’t know if they had the same political views. We don’t know if they all were from Capernaum. We don’t know if they agreed on how many services to have at the synagogue on Friday or what should be served at funeral receptions. We don’t know if they even liked each other. And we don’t know how they came to be together to see Jesus together.
What we do know is how we can find people to help us overcome our paralysis.
We find those persons by coming together in a community of faith – a community of faith called Faith Presbyterian Church, a community of faith called Whitewater Valley Presbytery, a community of faith called the Presbyterian Church (USA).
We come together as persons whose only common denominator – other than our common paralysis – whose only common denominator is we want to see Jesus. That is all we have in common. But that is enough. Because with that in common, we can help each other break through our paralysis and break through to see Jesus together.
This is not an easy thing to do.
The people who come through the doors of the sanctuary Sunday after Sunday are not always people we agree with. Some are cantankerous. Some talk too long. Some are hard to understand. Some will knock holes in things we like to have in place. Some will fulfill the caption of Cindy’s poster.
The easy thing to do is to withdraw entirely, to go back to the isolation of our garden or snowy walkway, or the newspaper or our family and say, “I don’t come to church to be involved arguments. I don’t come to church to feel my blood pressure rise. I don’t come to church to be around people who don’t know any better.”
But it is – according to Jesus – the only way to see him.
Jesus did so many things that are hard for us. And perhaps one of the hardest is that he gathered all sorts of people around him. In fact, he welcomed the kind of people we mean when we say some people or those people. Oh, in his time, they were called tax collectors and sinners, the unclean and possessed, the paralyzed. We have other names for them now.
Jesus showed those people how to live and work together so that more people got to see him.
And he is still showing us.
We come to church, the paralyzed, dysfunctional people that we are, with other paralyzed, dysfunctional people. We come to see Jesus.
He shows us how to take advantage of the fact that we are not all alike. He calls us to harness the different edges of our disparate personalities with all the messiness and meetings that might entail. He wants us to think outside the box, outside the church, and determine what holes have to be cut in what roofs today so the whole world can see Jesus.
None of us can see Jesus without all of us.
It is in the very act of meeting together, all of us paralyzed people see Jesus.
That is when he speaks to us. He says, “Your sins are forgiven.” And we are paralyzed no more.