The ‘Yes’ of God – February 23, 2003

This sermon was preached in my capacity as Director of Alumni Relations & Annual Fund of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

Epiphany 7, Year B
2 Cor 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12
February 23, 2003

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord
Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

“When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was
reported that he was at home.

 So many
gathered around that there was no longer room for them,

 not even in
front of the door;

and he was speaking the word to them.”

And so our Gospel story begins today,

 it begins
with a crowd gathered around Jesus’ house,

 and he was
speaking the word.

Can you imagine this scene?

We’re in Capernaum, a fishing village nestled along the northern
edge of the Sea of Galilee,

 lying in
the shadow of Israel’s northern hills.

Fishing boats are pulled up against the water’s edge,

 and less
than one hundred yards away lies an earthen-roofed house

 at the end
of the village’s main street.

Just down the street lies the synagogue made of large, white
stone blocks,

 a few more
houses, an early kind of apartment building,

 and an
open-air market.

Yet the market is empty,

the synagogue is empty,

many of the town’s other houses are empty –

 the crowd,
the people of Capernaum are gathered in and around one house.

Jesus’ house.

And he was at home. He was speaking the word.

 

These houses were decent-sized,

 perhaps the
size of this chancel/nave.

Jesus was perhaps standing against the wall, along with
Simon and Andrew,

 and the
crowd was pressed into the house –

 some
sitting, some standing, perhaps a few children on the shoulders of parents.

Yes, the crowd was Capernaum and the surrounding regions –

 there was
young and old,

 male and
female,

 day laborers,
fishermen, scribes and priests,

 and
probably a tax collector or two.

It was like an eclectic crowd that gathers for 4th of July
fireworks at the Art Museum steps –

 cramped
together, pressing flesh, gathered from all over –

 yet these
people were drawn by something

 much
more amazing than some red, white and blue pyrotechnics.

Jesus was at home. And he was speaking the word to them.

 

Now in the midst of this great crowd gathered around this
earthen-roofed house

 was a group
of people – “some people” is all that the Bible tells us.

Were these men, women? We’re not sure.

Just some people. Four
of them carried a paralyzed man.

These people – obviously people who cared for or who were
friends with this paralyzed man –

 these
people were eager to get to Jesus, and to place their friend at the feet of
Jesus.



Yet because of the large crowd gathered around Jesus,

 cramped
into every nook and cranny of the house,

 flowing out
from the doorway and onto the street,

these people could not get their paralyzed friend to Jesus.

I can imagine that they walked all around the house,

 anxiously
looking for another doorway or a window or some other way to enter the house.

And there was nothing.

And then they looked up.

And with a smile and a smirk I can imagine that these four
who carried our paralyzed friend

 made their
way to the roof

 and began
digging through the mud and grass and sticks that composed that roof.

I’m sure that those inside the house heard

 the
scratching and digging and scrapping of our friends on the roof.

Yes, add to the sounds of Jesus’ words, babies crying

 and those
folks in the back complaining that they couldn’t

 see or hear
what was going on,

add to these sounds the sounds of a roof being torn apart.

And finally, after some time,

 pieces of
the earthen roof fall to the ground,

 sunlight
pours in and the four friends pass the paralyzed man

 to the
gathered crowd, who make room for him,

 and
place him at Jesus’ feet.

 



Why were they doing this?

What drove these people to go to such extraordinary means to
get around the crowd

 to place
their friend in front of Jesus?

And for that matter,

 why was
such a large crowd gathered around Jesus in the first place?

What were they doing there? What were those people doing on the roof?

 Why was the
paralyzed man placed at Jesus’ feet?

 

These people – they knew something. They knew that Jesus was at home.

 They knew
that Jesus would speak the word to them.

And those people on the roof who carried the paralyzed man,

 they knew
that Jesus could accomplish this miracle.

 

You see, the crowd and our friends who cared for the
paralyzed man,

 they knew
something about Jesus –

 they had
already witnessed the Goodness of God through Jesus.

Just days earlier – in chapter 1 of Mark’s Gospel – Jesus
came to Capernaum,

 taught in
the synagogue, cast out a demon from an afflicted man,

 healed
Simon’s mother-in-law,

 and
then healed dozens, hundreds? We’re not
sure how many,

 but then he
healed many, many more who were brought to the door of Jesus’ home.

Why were they brought there?

Because they knew what Jesus could do.



They knew that Jesus’ words, that Jesus’ touch could heal
the sick, lift up the down-trodden.

 They knew
that Jesus could change lives.

 

Dear friends,

 we are like
those people. 

 We are like
the crowd. 

 We are like
the paralyzed man’s friends.

We know what God can do.

 

And that is why you come here.

You come here because you know what God can do.

You come here week after week to be amazed and fed by the
great story of God’s goodness,

 told in the
person of Jesus Christ.

You come here to experience anew the words of Jesus,

 words that
heal, words that work miracles, words that change lives.

You come here, like the crowd in our story today,

 to hear and
experience something new, something special, something miraculous.

Yes, it was reported that Jesus was at home, and he was
speaking the word to them.

 

And this word – what was it?

What was it like? What was so special about it?

In our second reading today, St. Paul tells us that “in
Jesus every one of God’s promises is a “yes.”

YES!



The affirming, life-giving, healing and renewing YES of God

 that is the
word that these people craved.

 That is the
word that the paralyzed man sought.

 That is the
word that gathered the crowd.

 That is the
word that gathers us. 

This Yes of God – it draws us, unites us, comforts us, and
makes us whole.

indeed, dear friends, you know about this Yes, and that is
why you come here.

You come to the table to experience God’s radical Yes.

You were brought to this baptismal font –

by your family, by the church, by the Holy Spirit –

so that you might be graced with the Yes of God.

Yes, dear friends, God’s word, God’s promise for you and for
everyone is a Yes.

God loves us – Yes!

God embraces us – Yes!

God works mighty things in each of us – Yes!

God works mighty things in this community – Yes!

 

And that is why you are here.

You come to hear this Yes, but you come also to testify to
this Yes.

You are here in this place,

 reaching
out to your neighborhood,

 caring for
those in need –

 such
as your fundraiser for the Lutheran Home at Topton –

 because you
are confident about this Yes.

You tell the wonderful story of Jesus here,

 you
minister to youth and adults alike,

 you nurture
faith and love and life

 because
you know about this God of Yes.

You are active in this place because,

 like the
crowd in today’s Gospel story,

 you know
what God can do. 

You know what word God speaks.

You know the powerful Yes of God’s promises, and you want to
share it!

 

Like you,

 we at The Lutheran
Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

 are moved
by the powerful Yes of God.

We know what God can do,

 and we are
excited by it.

That is why we prepare dozens of students each year

 who become
pastors and lay leaders in our congregations.

Our students study history, theology, pastoral practice and,
of course, the Bible.

They serve year-long internships, hospital chaplancies

and work part-time in congregations while studying.

Our students are immersed in the study and practice of
ministry,

 preparing
for a full-time ministry of proclamation of God’s goodness,

 God’s
grace, God’s yes to God’s people.



We are grateful for your support,

 for you
help us continue this important ministry.

Your prayers and gifts make it possible for us to prepare
leaders for congregations like yours.

 

Dear friends,

 the Good
News is that in Jesus everyone of God’s promises is a yes –

 God’s
promise to the crowd in Capernaum,

God’s promise to the paralyzed man,

 God’s
promise to this congregation and to our seminary,

 and yes,
God’s promise to you in baptism, in the Word, in the Sacrament.

God’s promise is always Yes.

Thanks be to God.

 

Amen.

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
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