Holding Up Our Corner?
For those of us who grew up attending Sunday school, and church, regularly… I’m sure you remember hearing amazing stories! Stories we’ve carried with us... like the parting of the Red Sea… The walls of Jericho tumbling down… David killing Goliath with a slingshot… or Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt!
Those wonderful, fantastic, enthralling stories… are all from God’s Word, and they all convey an eternal Truth. And one of the stories that I love the most, that captured my imagination most vividly… is from our scripture lesson for today. The story of a paralyzed man being brought to Jesus by his friends. Other stories may have been more dramatic, but I’ve always been drawn to the story.
I’ll admit... I think the reason that I’ve always liked the story so much, is because, if you noticed… many of the characters in the story do the exact opposite of what we’re told to do, particularly as children. They pretty much do everything that children are told not to do.
I mean think about it: Jesus is preaching, there’s a large crowd gathered. People are straining to hear. When four men bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Of course, they can’t actually get the man to Jesus because of the crowd. And we all know that common courtesy dictates that we “take a number” and wait. We’re supposed to just get in line and wait our turn! We all get a little irritated if someone cuts us off, we get aggravated if someone cuts in line, don’t we?
But that’s exactly what these four men do… they cut in line, in order to get their friend Jesus. I’m sure there were other people who needed to see Jesus just as badly, but they had to wait their turn. But these guys decided to cut.
And not only did they cut in line: they had a plan, too! They climbed up on the roof! Now you’ve got a love a plan like that. When I was a kid, I loved climb up on the roof. If my mother was here she would tell you it’s true. If I could get a “toe-hold“ on a porch railing, I’d be on the roof in a second. Course I wasn’t supposed to be on the roof. And I’d been told several times, in no uncertain terms to stay off the roof. But I would climb up every chance I got!
But not only did these for men climb up on the roof, with their friend, they cut a hole in the roof! Can you believe that? What do you suppose would happen if someone started cutting hole in the roof this morning while we’re holding our service? I think most of the members of the Session would freak out! Most of us would be a little upset. You don’t just go around cutting holes in other peoples property.
And then, to top things off, they dropped the paralyzed man down through the hole in the roof to Jesus. Jesus was preaching. Jesus and the assemble crowd were in the middle of a worship service. In other words, these men interrupted. How many times do we tell children, “just be quiet.” Or, “don’t interrupt, it’s rude.” Yet here these men are, interrupting, right in the middle of a worship service!
This story is no doubt, fantastic. The example set before us as a group of men who cut in line, climb on buildings, tear up other peoples property, and interrupt. No wonder the story has always appealed to me.
Now listen… There is no doubt about it… The action of these men was rude! Ordinarily it would be completely unacceptable to do the things that they did. But proper decorum and politeness was put on hold for this man’s need.
Of course, sometimes we come to a story like this, and we focus on Jesus’ actions. Jesus is obviously a central character in the story. We may choose to look at the man who is healed… He’s a primary character in the story, too. But today, I want us to think about the four men who went to so much trouble to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus.
The fact is: we don’t know a lot about these men, we don’t know their names, they’re fairly obscure characters. But, we do know, if it were not for these four men, there would be no story at all. Each and everyone of these men were needed, on their corner of that pallet, to lift and carry this paralyzed man to Jesus. They all had to “hold up their corner.”
Don’t you wish we lived in a world where everyone held up their corner? Where everyone did their part? Where everyone use their gifts, talents, graces, and service to God, and for the benefit of others?
Lord knows we’ve all experienced those times in life when someone didn’t hold up their corner.
There was a guy who took his car to the garage to be worked on. When he came to pick it up, drove off, he found that it ran worse than it did when he first brought it in! He’d spent hundreds of dollars on this car, and it was in worse shape. So the man took a look under the hood… Even though we didn’t know much about cars… And he could immediately tell that a “thingamabob” was missing. So he took his car back in to the garage, and showed it to the service manager. The manager called over the lead mechanic: “Didn’t you notice that the “thingamabob” was missing?” The mechanic said, “yeah, I saw it, but I didn’t take it off. Bubba did. And I ain’t got time to fix what Bubba messes up.”
That little story sums up our world to day fairly well. No one seems willing to take responsibility. It’s someone else’s job!
But God’s Word makes it clear: we all have a corner to hold. I think that’s a word from God that we all need to hear. Even Sunday in, and Sunday out Christians, need to hear it from time to time, because sometimes we don’t hold up our corners very well.
Sometimes we start to believe that we don’t really have a corner to hold up. Holding up corners, something for pastors, or elders, committee members, official people who are elected to serve. But that’s not what church, that’s not what serving Christ, it’s all about. We don’t have to have an official job to have a friend in need. We don’t need to be ordained to share our talent. We don’t have to be the most talented person in the church to contribute and to make a difference in someone’s life.
One of the biblical images of the church, that I love the most, is the image of the body of Christ. Paul develops this image, by saying, “what if one part of the body decides to go on strike? (Paraphrasing) what is the Hands refused to work, or the liver says, ‘count me out,’ or the feet say ‘I quit.’” Same thing’s true in the church right? We all have a contribution to make, we all have a corner to hold up, and if we don’t hold up our corner, the whole church suffers.
There was once a nail, a simple ordinary nail. It’s only job in the world, was to hold in one, single tile, on the roof of a beautiful church. The nail would look down from the roof, and it could see the beautiful pulpit, and the altar… And how they did their important job holding up the Bible and the communion hardware.
The nail wanted so badly to be a pulpit, or an altar… But it was just a nail… So it wiggled and wiggled until it finally worked itself free… And rolled off the roof and fell behind a bush… where it rusted.
Meanwhile, the tile on the roof the nail had been holding in, slipped out… And it, too, fell to the ground. And as fate would have it… it began to rain. Rain poured in on the alter, and the pulpit because the shingle was missing… the Bible was destroyed and the cross, the communion hardware, was tarnished… The beautiful pulpit and altar ruined… All because the nail failed to “hold up its corner.“
I wonder what the church would look like, if we all truly held up our corner for Christ? Can you imagine?
If just 4 people, absolutely committed to holding up their corner can accomplish great things, what about 8, or 10, or 50? What if we all committed ourselves to using the giftings and graces God has given us for his service?
I know this: I’m eternally grateful for all the people in my own life, who’ve held up their corner. I think of family, and friends... teachers, preachers... who went way out of their way - to bring me to Jesus.
My prayer is, that in the days ahead, that you I will all know what happens when we all hold up our corners!