Sunday, September 13, 2015

Outside the Lines



Mark 2:1-12
September 13, 2015
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Mark 2:1-12
After a few days, Jesus went back to Capernaum, and people heard that he was at home. So many gathered that there was no longer space, not even near the door. Jesus was speaking the word to them. Some people arrived, and four of them were bringing to him a man who was paralyzed. They couldn’t carry him through the crowd, so they tore off part of the roof above where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they lowered the mat on which the paralyzed man was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven!”
Some legal experts were sitting there, muttering among themselves, “Why does he speak this way? He’s insulting God. Only the one God can forgive sins.”
Jesus immediately recognized what they were discussing, and he said to them, “Why do you fill your minds with these questions? Which is easier—to say to a paralyzed person, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk’? But so you will know that the Human One has authority on the earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed, “Get up, take your mat, and go home.”
Jesus raised him up, and right away he picked up his mat and walked out in front of everybody. They were all amazed and praised God, saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this!”
This is the word of the Lord. 
Thanks be to God.


Nan just told a story that you may have heard many times before. But you have never heard the story told in just that way. Even if you were at our Vacation Bible School worship, even if you were at Bible study on Wednesday, even if you have heard the story a thousand times before, you have never heard it in exactly the way you heard it just now. We humans are storied people. I heard a preacher talk about stories, once, and he said something that I have not forgotten. He said,
“We learn the stories we live by, and we live by the stories we learn.”
We learn the stories we live by, and we live by the stories we learn.

The stories we live by, as people who follow Jesus, are stories that are not ordinary. Our stories are not ordinary because Jesus was not ordinary. If you look at the stories of Jesus, the way he lived, the way he talked, the way he called people, the way he healed people, you will find nothing at all ordinary in them.

Great stories are often about ordinary people, but usually there is something in the story that is not ordinary. It is when the people in the story do something unexpected that the tale really takes off. Nobody wants to read a story that narrates the boring details of life:

“I woke up. I washed my face and brushed my teeth. I went downstairs and ate breakfast.
I walked the dog. I went to work. Nothing unusual happened. I went home. The end.”

Who cares? Maybe you, if it is your story. Maybe the dog…
But what makes stories exciting is when something unexpected enters into the narrative:
The princess kisses the frog and it turns out to be a prince.
The nerdy kid grows up to be a super hero.
The German shepherd runs into the burning building and saves the child.
The poor washerwoman dies and leaves a million dollars to a school.
These are stories that go outside the lines.

If you have ever spent time with little kids coloring pictures in a coloring book, you know that most kids have one goal – to stay inside the lines. But when you color outside the lines, you can make the story yours, and turn it into something unexpected.

If you haven’t already, look at the coloring picture on the front of your bulletin. What might be happening outside the frame? Why is that mouse on that guy’s head? Is there a cat down at the guy’s feet who chased the mouse up to the fellow’s head? Whose face might be looking out of the door or window, and what might they be saying? That lady on the left – what could she be holding in her hand?

When Jesus began his ministry, he immediately began surprising the people around him.
He went and asked John the Baptist to baptize him.
He healed people who could not be healed.
He said things that were not acceptable.
He challenged the way things had always been done;
he challenged the way people had always thought.

In this story, he forgave the man his sins.
He called the man “son,” as if he were related to him.
He engaged in a controversy with the scribes.
And then, Jesus healed the man.
He went outside the lines, in every way that was possible.

The four friends went outside the lines, too.
They didn’t let the crowds stop them.
They refused to give up.
They were intent on bringing their friend to Jesus, whatever it required of them.
Imagine the grumbling, the criticism, the anger that they may have encountered.
Imagine how crazy they must have felt as they crowded through the mob to get to the roof.
Imagine what went through their minds as Jesus saw their faith, and offered forgiveness.
Forgiveness? We came for healing. But Jesus knew what was needed most, knew when to go outside the lines and when to argue with the scribes. 

As I said, our stories are not ordinary because Jesus was not ordinary. We know how Jesus went outside the lines
in the way he lived,
in the way he loved,
in the way he healed.

When he faced the last lines,
the line of betrayal,
the line of accusation,
the line of torment,
the line of pain,
the line of suffering,
the line of death,
he CROSSED the lines.

Then he did what no one expected,
what no one thought he could do, or would do.
He created a whole new picture,
that morning at sunrise.
He went outside the lines of death
and rose again to show us
that our story is extraordinary.
We learn the stories we live by.
We live by the stories we learn.

Our stories are in Jesus,
and our stories are outside the lines.

Amen.

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