One of my earliest memories of Sunday School was gluing popsicle sticks together to make a walled home, a roof, and a stretcher. We tied strings to the popsicle stick stretcher to lower it through a hole in the popsicle stick roof over the popsicle stick home. It probably took a month of Sundays for the lesson to “stick”. We were learning about the miracle from the gospel of Mark, chapter 2 — Jesus returning home and forgiving and healing a paralyzed person.
Mark relates to us that because of the hometown crowds gathered in and around the house where Jesus was, four friends of a paralytic tie him to a stretcher, climb to the roof of the house, dig a hole, and lower the man down by ropes so Jesus could see, touch, and heal him.
When Jesus tells the lowered man that his sins are forgiven, the scribes — basically the religious lawyers of that day — hold court about the legality of a human forgiving sins. Jesus gives them an object lesson that a human can forgive sins plus even more amazingly say to a paralyzed man, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk home.”
In childhood Sunday School, I didn’t get all the religious legalese…. guess I still don’t. I wondered what the man would do with the mat that he would carry that was no longer needed to carry him. I fantasized he could hang it on the wall as a memory, use it as a hospitality mat, or donate it to another paralytic. Mostly, due to the myriad of popsicle sticks and my role of lowering the stretcher we made through the roof we made, I identified with the four faithful friends who brought the one they knew into the loving and healing presence of Jesus.
Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney published a poem “Miracle” in his final collection of poems. He said he could only have written the poems in “The Human Chain” due to suffering a stroke in 2005. He too focused on the friends who had known him all along and he brought to light the image of “paid out ropes” — which would come to fruition three years later when friends lowered the ropes of his coffin in faith and hope in the funeral tradition of Heaney’s Ireland.
As you support those who labor and remember those who “from their labors rest”, I invite you to read Mark 2 and the poem “Miracle” by Seamus Heaney.