Thought for the Day: Over the next three Sundays, I am going to preach from Matthew 10. It is one of the lectionary text, and I have been needing a different challenge lately. In recent months, we have moved from one crisis to another, and my preaching has, for the most part, been focused on speaking to what I have been hearing from people. This is one approach to preaching, but the lectionary (a three year cycle that covers a significant portion of the Bible) hands you four different texts each week – usually one Old Testament, a Psalm, a Gospel reading and one from the Epistles. I didn’t even read Matthew 10 before making that decision. This is all to say that for the next few days, I plan to give the preaching some context by looking at chapter 9.
In this story, Jesus saw a paralyzed man and his first response was to offer forgiveness. That seems strange. Was the man paralyzed because he had sinned? Does this mean that our ailments are nothing more than punishment for our transgressions? Most of us would find that troubling, and the Book of Job is a parable-like attempt to dismantle any such thought. Jesus was living in a time when many believed that bad health was directly tied to sin, and for many who found themselves under Roman occupation, those who were sick, paralyzed or blind were blamed for the occupation. They must have sinned, and it was believed that they carried the mark of their sin (whatever the ailment might be) so that people could ascribe responsibility.
Jesus publicly forgave the man, and then later in the story, provided him healing. Suddenly, the old narrative that had scapegoated the weak and unwell, was taken away. It forced many, who had never questioned this thinking before, to rethink and reimagine the world in which they were living. Maybe it was a bit more complicated than previously thought. It was easy to cast blame on those who could not defend themselves, and it might have even made some feel a little better. But in the end, scapegoating the wrong people keeps the old system in place. Jesus, by forgiving the man, was inviting the people to ask deeper and more challenging questions.
Prayer: Holy One – Holy Spirit, keep us asking the needed questions about life, how we live and interact. Allow long held assumptions to be questioned, especially when assumptions seek to blame those who have no power to defend themselves. Create healthy conversations where we are confessional, acknowledging how easy it is to be drawn into simple explanations that may not necessarily be accurate. Amen.
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