Reflection for Monday 6th December 2021

The Rev’d Penny Body

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Reflection 6th December 2021
The Gospel Luke 5.17-26
17 One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting nearby (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal.18Just then some men came, carrying a paralysed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus;19but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. 20When he saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you.’ 21Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, ‘Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ 22When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 23Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? 24But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the one who was paralysed—‘I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.’ 25Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. 26Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’

Last Friday in his reflection Derek spoke about our need for faith in seeking and receiving Jesus’s healing – and that theme seems to flow into our gospel and reflection today as the man is healed when Jesus saw the faith of him and his friends as they went to such great lengths to bring him into his presence.
And today we also have the theme of forgiveness interwoven with that of faith and healing – because when Jesus sees their faith he says to the man “Friend, your sins are forgiven you”. This of course upsets the Scribes and Pharisees and causes them to question Jesus who answers “Which is easier to say – your sins are forgiven you – or to say “stand up and walk”” – and to show that he has the authority to forgive sins he then says to the man “stand up, take your bed and go home”. Forgiveness and healing are one.
And of course, we know forgiveness is healing. It is not good for us to continue in a state of sin and guilt – the only way forward is to seek out God and beg his forgiveness and be healed.
When we realise something about ourselves that we have said, or done, or thought that has been unloving or unkind or we have hurt someone badly we feel wretched. The guilt and shame can become too much to bear – as we pray in the BCP confession about our sins – “the burden of them is intolerable”. And the intolerable burden can take a huge toll on our physical, mental and spiritual health – to say nothing of our relationships with each other and with God. To be forgiven is to be freed from the burden – to be made light again, to be able to walk with our heads held upwards to his love, free to worship him and to love one another.
I think of the words of John Newman
Amazing Grace – how sweet the sound – that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost – but now am found – was blind – but now I see.
But – aah – if only it was easy. Sometimes it seems to me it can be as difficult to accept and truly believe that God has forgiven us as it can sometimes be for us to forgive others.
It can be hard to believe that as wretched as we are God can so completely remove our sins from us – as far as the east is from the west – that he could love us that much. And that’s where it comes back to faith.
It takes humility to recognise where we have gone wrong, and then faith as we approach God in repentance, knowing that we are not worthy of his forgiveness from any right of our own, but at the same time, in deep humility and thankfulness, knowing and believing that he loves us so much he will forgive us anyway and gladly welcome us home.
No wonder Jesus says to people he heals – your faith has healed you. Amen.

Collect for the 2nd Sunday of Advent
O Lord, raise up, we pray, your power
and come among us,
and with great might succour us;
that whereas, through our sins and wickedness
we are grievously hindered
in running the race that is set before us,
your bountiful grace and mercy
may speedily help and deliver us;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honour and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

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