Psalms 97; 147:12-20, Isaiah 41:17-29, Ephesians 2:11-22, Mark 2:1-12
What do you get when you cross an argument about circumcision with a paralyzed man lowered through a hole in the roof? You get today’s scripture readings from Ephesians and Mark.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul addressed the reconciliation of Jewish (circumcised) and Gentile (uncircumcised) Christians. This was a major controversy within the early church, because Jews considered circumcision a sacred and necessary sign of their covenant with the Lord. They weren’t yet convinced non-Jews could even be Christians, let alone disregard centuries-old tradition, but Paul taught them about the new life that unites all people who followed Christ.
In Mark, a paralyzed man had friends who wanted him to encounter Christ. They couldn’t get through the crowd surrounding the house where Jesus stayed, so they broke through the roof and lowered the man on a mat. Moved by their faith, Jesus told the paralyzed man his sins were forgiven. When the scribes questioned by what right he forgave sins, Jesus also healed the man of his paralysis as a demonstration of his divine authority (though one suspects the healing was on its way all the while).
And when we cross these stories, we see a consistent theme of how faith in Christ removes barriers between people. Paul said of Christ, “in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” Because of faith, the paralyzed man’s friends broke through a physical barrier, and Christ broke through a religious barrier.
Religion can be the source of a lot of barriers. Jesus, the Apostles, and Paul spent decades tearing down the false barriers religion created between God’s children, but we’ve spent centuries building replacements. We try to wall God inside our creeds, denominations, and dogma. We convince ourselves it’s because we want to preserve something – our version of the circumcision, perhaps? – but in the end we use them to reinforce a tribal mindset declaring who is inside and who is outside.
Relationships – at least the kind Christ calls us to – are a lot messier than religion: they refuse to be defined by walls. All those stones Jesus discourages us from throwing? Let’s use them to build bridges instead of barriers.
Comfort: Christ is breaking barriers for us right now.
Challenge: Meditate on your beliefs. Which ones are walls, and which ones are bridges?
Prayer: God of all creation, let me build no obstacles where you would not have them. Amen.
Discussion: When have you found yourself excluded on “religious” grounds?
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