Mark 2:1-12 |Removing the Roof

matt-artz-4FS0keG0FKw-unsplashI love this story. It’s among my favorites in the Gospels, maybe because these young men cutting a hole in the roof remind me of some of the wild and funny antics of teenagers I led in my years in youth ministry. I feel like I know these guys. They drove me nuts in retreats.

But there’s is also a challenging message in here. One way to describe this story is a group of  people simply trying to get their friend to Jesus, but it’s too crowded. There isn’t room for them. It begs the challenging question for us today, “Have we who are already inside the home put up barriers to Jesus to such a degree that we are forcing people to cut holes in the roof just so they can get to him?”

In this scene the hindrance to Jesus is a crowd. Unfortunately that is the least of the worries in most churches today, but are their other hindrances we’ve placed that are driving people to other creative solutions to getting to Jesus without us even being aware of it? That is, do we have customs and habits that we love but that many who are not yet in the house find a hindrance to connecting to Jesus? I would submit that there people all over contemporary culture who are finding it difficult to connect to Jesus through the traditional front door of the church, so they are cutting holes in roofs all over the place.

The difference is that they’re not cutting holes in our roofs to get into the building. They’re not even showing up. They’re finding means other than the church to find spiritual connection, healing, and growth. In church-world we often blame the moral decay of culture for why people don’t go to church anymore. But what if the problem isn’t culture, but is us? What if we’ve developed structures that simply have more barriers than paths to the presence of God in people’s lives today?

When I look around, I don’t see a morally decayed culture as much as I see spiritually starving culture. And so I would argue that metaphorical holes are being cut all over the place, as people are finding spiritual connection, healing, and growth through other means. Means such as yoga and other exercises that help you come present to your body (this is where I could go off in the ways in which we are an embodied faith, but that’s all more the Gospel of John, so I’ll refrain); and means such as intimate in home groups with no “pastor” where people just share a meal, pray for one another and search the Scriptures; means such as concerts and other public events that have a message that connects people and grows them.

That’s where I want to pause for a second. I had an awakening last Summer at a concert at First Ave in Minneapolis. It was a Bad Religion concert, a punk bad that is pretty clear about their atheism, but I think better stated their a-religiosity. I hesitate to call them atheists because their music is actually quite spiritual. There was a moment in this show when they were singing the song “Sorrow”, which plays on language from the Book of Revelation’s vision of the “new city” (lyrics below). As the band and the crowd sang out, “There will be sorrow, there will be sorrow, there will be sorrow… no more”, I thought, ‘this is church’. It had all the markings of church. Something deeper than ourselves was resonating (see video below).

My point is this: This thing we call “church” needs to be a lot more adaptive. Because, you see, it’s not about church. It’s about people finding spiritual connection, healing, and growth in this crazy world. In the case of Christianity, that connection, healing, and growth is centered in opening ourselves to Christ by the power of the Spirit. And the means to that should be, as the opening of Mark indicates, torn wide open. Let’s get honest about the ways in which we might be putting up barriers to the presence of God without even realizing it. Let’s not crowd the space around Jesus. Let’s hold him loosely such that others who are seeking him may find him.

 

“Sorrow” (by Bad Religion)

Father can you hear me?
How have I let you down?
I curse the day that I was born
And all the sorrow in this world
Let me take you to the hurting ground
Where all good men are trampled down
Just to settle a bet that could not be won
Between a prideful father and his son
Will you guide me now, for I can’t see
A reason for the suffering and this long misery
What if every living soul could be upright and strong
Well, then I do imagine
There will be sorrow
Yeah there will be sorrow
And there will be sorrow no more
When all soldiers lay there weapons down
Or when all kings and all queens relinquish their crowns
Or when the only true messiah rescues us from ourselves
It’s easy to imagine
There will be sorrow
Yeah there will be sorrow
And there will be sorrow no more

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