JOY

I’m so blessed to reread this. Suzie still needs to hear it over and over.

dawnfanshawe

Yesterday and today Sue has been experiencing an incredible sensation of hope and of joy. This has come from the revelation that she can never earn her innocence or salvation. To get it right, to live by the rules, all these things are impossible to achieve in their totality. But that is the good news of Jesus – by believing in him, we appropriate His innocence, as the person bringing the spotless lamb in times past did (he would place a hand on the head of the innocent lamb and exchange his sin for the lamb’s purity. The lamb carrying the sin and guilt would then be sacrificed in his place and he would have been given pardon) And Jesus came to restore that lost innocence for all people, for all time. If we believe He carried ALL of our sinfulness to the cross and was sacrificed to bring innocence…

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Today is the first Sunday of Advent – ANGELS!!!!!

29th November 2020 – This is a message I shared in church this morning – for the children of all ages as we were all together. I feel compelled to share it with you too today. Please forgive the “note” type quality of this.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent.

You may think of Advent calendars, chocolate, counting the days down to Christmas…

You may be excited, expecting good things, looking forward to the holiday, to a celebration, to good food, special presents, maybe special visitors and family time…

It is also a time of preparation – you may be writing Christmas cards, inviting family over and working out who is going to cook the turkey! You may be decorating the tree or putting twinkling lights and tinsel up….

So you are waiting, looking forward, excited, but also busy preparing to help to make it a special time for everybody. We are preparing ourselves also to receive afresh the GOOD NEWS of the WORD made flesh, of Emmanuel.

When I was a primary school teacher, I would now be organising the class nativity and sorting out characters, speaking parts and costumes – we’d need a Mary and Joseph; maybe a Zechariah and Elizabeth; a narrator who would tell about the census and Mary having to ride on a donkey to Bethlehem, to be counted… how it was busy and there was no room in the Inn (and all our inn-keepers had to seriously shake their little heads at Mary and Joseph) and then the baby Jesus would appear and be plonked in the manger and on came the shepherds, wearing their tea-towels… and the wise-men, wearing crowns and turbans, and carrying gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. All the left-over children in the class would be the angels…

But I wonder what angels are like. Today I want us to consider the angels.

Often in paintings and statues and films, they are cute human children with wings, or beautiful women and men with wings.

We have expressions like – “HE has a face like an angel”, or, “She’s been a real angel this week…”

But real angels – What are they?

The name angel means messengers of God.

They are spiritual beings, created by God and for God;

God uses angels to help and protect his children on earth.

They are very joyful when a human person repents and turns to God.

They guide, protect, guard, fight, bring messages, obey God’s direct command. They are not humans and we won’t become angels.

Not all angels are good – Satan was once an angel of light, called Lucifer…

Many angels in the bible are mentioned – millions of them, it says, and 2 are mentioned by name – Michael and Gabriel.

There is a hierarchy of roles, described as Arch-angels, seraphs, cherubs, messengers and others in the heavenly hosts.

The Christmas story hangs on the announcement of angels – our messenger, Gabriel –

I was struck by reading the story in Luke by all the “Do not be afraid”s and I wondered why the characters were afraid? Personally I’ve never knowingly met an angel. One thing is for sure – nobody mistook this angel for a cute human being!

The following characters, in Luke’s gospel, met an angel –

1 – Zechariah (Luke 1:13-20) was “Startled and gripped with fear”!!! And the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard…” Later the angel tells him – “I am Gabriel, I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.” (v 19)

– came bringing good news, an answer to prayer, but Zechariah was “startled and gripped with fear”

2 – Six months later, God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:30) and Mary is “greatly troubled at his greeting”, so angel says, “Do not be afraid Mary, you have found favour with God…” and the angel goes on to tell her about the extraordinary events that would unfold and change the world, because of the son that would be born to her!

– found favour with God, but M was “greatly troubled”

3 – The angels appeared to the shepherds (Luke 2:9) “And they were terrified” “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…”

So why were they startled/ gripped with fear/ greatly troubled/ and terrified?

What was it about their appearance or presence that made them terrifying?

Was is the bright light? Was it “The glory of the Lord” (from being in the presence of God)? Or was it simply because they were minding their own business – in the kitchen, or in the temple, or in the fields and SUDDENLY something UNUSUAL happened – something “out of the ordinary”?

And I wonder how I respond when something unusual happens, something unexpected or something frightening? What do I do when I’m frightened, or worried?

Do I hide and refuse to look or listen? Do I run for help?

Lets look at what these well known characters did, because how they responded to the message of the angels is central to the story of Christmas!

1 – Zechariah – At the birth of their baby boy, he wrote “His name is John” – as he had been told by the angel. (Luke 1:63)

2 – Mary said – “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me, as you have said.” (Luke 1:38) Whatever You say, I’ll do it! Wow!!!

3 – Joseph (who we hear about more in Matthew chapter 1) He “did what the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (instead of sending her away, as he’d planned)

4 – The shepherds – “hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby… And when they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them… And Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:16 – 20)

So, in summary –

1 – I wonder how the angels appeared and what made the characters in our story so afraid?

And 2 – I ‘m so glad they listened to the angels! I marvel at their responses to the message of the angels. – They listened, they believed and they said yes and did what they were told. And then they spread the good news.

As Elizabeth said to Mary –

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord said to her will be accomplished” (Luke 1:45)

And as the angel Gabriel said to Mary – “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37)

And as all the angels say to us – “Do not be afraid!”

We are to present our requests to God, knowing He hears our prayers and loves us with an everlasting love.

The beautiful, gentle image…
The innocent, cute image

The warrior image…

How do you imagine angels to look?

Have you met an angel? Some people know the name of their guardian angel – Do you?

An Awesome Veil

My first ever (recorded 1986)) poem, from a train window…

dawnfanshawe

Trundling…

Trundling by, fleetingly

From the window all is silent;

The whole vista veiled,

White gowned,

Evenly covering colour

Softening all form

Hushed; moulded,

Clothed, but revealing a greater glory

Than the temporal greys and smudged hues of winter earth.

River grey and ashen clouds holding their breath…

That which was of its own –

Rich in momentary splendour and beauty –

Surpassed and overwhelmed

By a fresh, pure down,

Delicately and graciously bestowing,

Unfolding revelation.

Dazzling white light

As heavenly curtains draw a gentle, baby blue,

Life-giving light consoling with warm promises

Ever present,

The source of joy to its bride – nature’s bride, adorned and ready –

Purified in time to rekindle beauty and vibrant colour

Richness and depth;

Blushing in her glory

She reflects the rays of her life,

Truth and mystery, clear as crystal

As precious pearls.

Still the flakes flutter and fall…

Train journey back…

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The Secret Den

it needs to be covered in woven grass with a woven lattice grass door….

Once upon a lifetime, there was an ordinary little girl, who lived in a big old house, with secret corridors, a scary dark cellar and the bogeyman. Suzie did as she was told (mostly because she would be in very big trouble if she didn’t) and she wanted everyone to be happy and to like her. She lived with her mother, her father, her big sister, and the cat, Smokey.

She didn’t really remember their first house, where her mother had gone up in flames, but then, when she was four, they went to live in the caravan in the countryside. In the waking hours, between sleeps on her little bench in the caravan, she would daydream in the stream, or in her dens in the bushes and trees. She has some scary memories of beatings, rifles and accidents, but mostly she loved the caravan, emerging into herself in the fresh space outside and with her friend at the little village school. She sees and smells the pinks and wallflowers in the skimpy border around the tiny metal home, and feels how, one bleak September day, she returned to find her dens and all the bushes destroyed.

Then they moved to this big house, with the cellar, the bogeyman and the blue Persian cat, Smokey. Her mother had a shop to run and her father had cars to mend, but often he stayed at home, battling a wicked spirit that would make him either frighteningly angry, or terribly sad. At the new school, they laughed at her old clothes and silly haircuts and she went bright red, clumsy and dumb. The two friends she made were never allowed in her house and she was never allowed in theirs. The teachers liked her work, so she worked hard to please them. At school, she learned that she was slow, poor, shy and ‘boring’, but good at reading, writing and drawing. She knew she was strong and wanted to be a gymnast and a circus-acrobat. At home she learned that men could become suddenly violent and very dangerous; that nobody could be trusted; that she was ‘just like her mother’; and that the safest thing, in life, was to try to make people happy and get them to like you… but sadly, that it was impossible for Suzie and, no matter what she did, she always got it wrong!

In the Summer of her twelfth year, Suzie joined a group of singing sunbeams for a week’s holiday to a seaside in Wales. She felt happy there and every morning and evening they would go into a little chapel and sing songs and tell stories about Jesus. At night, the chapel became a magical place with candles twinkling, colours dancing and soothing sounds of rest. It was more than all the words she had to describe her feelings, and she wanted it to last forever. She hadn’t dared to hope for such a thing, but the chapel felt like the home in a Fairy Tale. In the daylight, the seaside was real, but, every evening, the magic returned. On the third evening, Suzie desperately cried for the magic to stay with her forever; for Jesus to forgive all her sins and to make His home in her. She gave Jesus her heart, but she wasn’t sure He would want it! The following morning, in the cold light of cornflakes, she felt foolish for having hoped and knew she’d done it wrong and deserved nothing anyway. But every night the magic became more real and every night she gave Him her heart and sat beside Him, allowing Him to welcome her, gentle, listening, and to let her rest her head… He became her secret place of rest, her new den, and although He already knew everything, Suzie could say whatever she thought or felt and be safe…

She had to leave the chapel, but Suzie took home her secret hiding-place. She gave her heart to Him over and over, just in case she’d got it wrong, because she still felt so dirty, lazy and stupid. And in that special den, she was made right again; forgiven, safe, warm, welcome and wanted. Like magic!

But Jesus was not magic. At the onset of her teenage years, forces of wickedness grew wild and ferocious against her, but He did not wave a magic wand and make the bad things stop, or give her the nice things she asked for. He simply promised to be with her. He was not her fairy God-mother after-all, so, as she left girlhood behind and the battle against her raged, she was often terrified and either rebelled or resisted as she fought her many battles. But He kept His promise to always be with her. Every time she looked for Jesus in her secret den, there He was, faithfully waiting, gently listening, full of mercy, love and forgiveness. He let her hide, get her breath and courage back, picked her back up, refreshed her, gave her another chance, another hope…

She escaped from the battlefield at home, but had still more skirmishes to fight, and finally, battle weary and scarred, 19 years old and full of hope, she gave Him not just her broken-heart, but her whole life and let Him wash off all the grime in the waters of baptism. Such Joy. Such hope. Such transforming love!

43 years on from that chapel in Wales, Suzie still has her den. It is her heart’s home of precious treasure and plunder from battle victories. In the centre is the cross and the crown, of the lamb and the lion, who are her faithful friends; the surrounding space is filled with the light of love, illuminating tiny containers of years of tears, the perfume of prayer and gifts of grace, permeated with thankful praise. Mountains of mercy embrace the treasure and a fountain of healing joy bubbles daily, fresh from the well beside the cross…

Nobody, nor any force in all creation, can ever destroy this den or the treasure contained within. It is an everlasting testimony to the Glory of a faithful God.

Happy Re-Birthday 11/11

11/11/84

I celebrate my ‘second’ birthday… why not, as a daughter of the King?

I remember that day – 11/11/84 – A day I’ll never forget.

I was so so scared! I see myself standing on the podium, with a glass lectern in front of me and a microphone and I see a huge crowd of people… I see two ex boyfriends in the crowd – one would also be baptised today, the other thought me as mad as a fish and had recently dumped me, because I had become so radical! I see my new boyfriend – a German Catholic from a large family in the North, looking bemused and lost, but there for me to witness my baptism – they all were – even my sister and her fella… but I had to give my testimony to all these… I had written it down, but as I stood there I was stuck, frozen, mute like in thick treacle… I could hardly see my script, or my hands, and I could not hear my voice… I don’t recall speaking, just standing terrified! And yet, I was so excited! Believe me, this was me being brave, being a witness to Christ in my life. How pathetic I felt too. This was me stepping out boldly, in faith, believing that God would give me the words to say. “Jesus take me as I am”, was my song that day.

I had such hope that day; real hope, despite my terrible nerves. For the first time ever, I knew, I believed, that I was truly born again. I was completely washed clean in that baptismal pool and forgiven on that day. I was born again by the Holy Spirit, even a born-again virgin! I had believed I was ‘saved’ long before that day, back in August 1977, but now I was certain. Theologically I may have been ‘born-again’ before my baptism, but that was the day I knew it for sure. I KNEW I was forgiven and clean of all guilt and all sin and all shame. This was a momentous, unforgettable day. I was a new creation, the old had gone and the new had come. I am so grateful to God for His mercy and love, but also grateful to the 19 year old me, who stood before the crowd, scared, courageous and excited that day.

I wondered why that day in 1984 was so different from the day for the 12 year old in 1977? But that little girl was so scared and damaged and so full of mistrust, that when she met Jesus, she gave Him her heart and she hid in Him. He was her safe place, her refuge, her comfort and her hiding place. He was her light, He was beautiful, gentle, kind, lovely and her heart’s desire was to be like Him. Her two songs were “Jesus, how lovely You are” and “To Be Like Jesus”. These were her songs and her prayer. She hid in Him over the next 7 difficult years, learning to trust Him, learning that He was not her fairy-godmother and things were not as black and white as she thought. Every week, she gave her heart afresh to Jesus and asked forgiveness, repenting of her many sins… Learning that we all had good, bad and ugly in us… I am so inexplicably grateful to Jesus for picking up that broken, scared little girl and holding her safe enough to begin to knit her back together… and I am grateful for that little girl, for the disappointed, frightened adolescent and the rebellious, heart-broken teenager – that she saw You, Jesus, held on to You and never lost sight of Your mercy.

Jesus never left me, though I was sporadic and unfaithful in my behaviour, before and after my baptism, but I never left Him either.

I learned to trust Him, as I grew up and learned to know Him more. I was a mess, but God is more powerful, more patient, more wise and more everything than I could ever have imagined. He didn’t lift me out of the mess, as I wanted, (though I suspect He saved me from more than I’ll ever know) but He did bring me faithfully through the mess and, true to God’s hallmark, my mess has become my message.

Those five loaves I gave Him have become over 12 baskets full of leftovers!

My Jesus wastes nothing!

Today I thank and honour my God who has been faithful and gracious to me, since before I ever knew Him, but I want to honour Him today for taking hold of me in 1977 and giving me a hiding place of safety and a light in my darkness. And I want to honour Him for protecting and nurturing me until I had courage to stand before that crowd and be publicly baptised in the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. 36 years later, on this day I shall never forget, I want to honour Him for His continued mighty patience, forgiveness, mercy, grace and love, and for the gift of abundant, eternal life! All glory be to God.

His mercies are new every morning. ALL our sins can be forgiven because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. My life is a testament to His love and His saving grace.

If you, reading this today, do not KNOW that your sins are forgiven, please speak out to Jesus now. He is the son of God who died on the cross so that you can be forgiven and have abundant, eternal life – NOW. Don’t waste another day. Today is a day to remember. Make it your re-birthday.

Simple Peace or Distraction?

Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

One of the most difficult challenges of our times, I believe, is the volume and all-pervasive seduction of distraction. Amidst the News, TV, smart phone beeps, buzzes and pings, social media, blogs, radio, newspapers, online articles, You Tube, advertisements… I remember the days when folk would put a notice on their letter-box, politely prohibiting junk-mail – but how do we do that now, when it comes into our homes through so many channels – invited and uninvited? I’m not advocating that all this access to information is a bad thing, indeed, in theory it makes communication and connection with others easier than ever before, but I believe that it overwhelms our limited human capacity. It certainly overwhelms this pea-brained human! Like all good things and neutral things, it is potentially good in moderation! But the mobility and centrality of technology has made it far from moderate in the world I observe.

Over this last year, more than ever before, even with my own attempts at moderation, I’ve found myself so distracted by a wide diversity of opinions – by theories, viewpoints, philosophies and all manner of interpretations of the truth – and that among those I love! Some folk have a strong, clear mindset – they have ‘made up their mind’ and that’s it. They may be called stubborn, narrow-minded, or a whole host of less savoury things by opponents to their way of thinking, but their belief systems are strengthened and fed by algorithms on the computer, choosing their ‘food for thought’, just as browsing in the same shelves of the bookshop, or reading the same newspapers, did in the past.

But I have found myself desperately seeking wisdom and peace! I’m one of those who hears a well-argued point of view and weighs it and finds it compelling – I suspend judgment, if you like – and then I hear an opposing view and I see that one too – equally compelling… I can, and do, find myself buffeted hither and thither by all manner of theories. Today I saw myself stepping out of the storm tossed boat onto the raging waters, but keeping my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. Often that is all I can do, not to drown under the huge waves of opinion. It is a battlefield of the mind, or a storm in the mind – a spiritual battle, not a human struggle , and I see where this person is “coming from”, I understand – but it is a distraction, and I need to keep my eyes on Jesus in order to survive. Solution number one – keep my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. One might argue that I should choose a life of no information – and I do find it appealing – indeed I don’t have TV, radio, newspapers, or smart-phone as it is. But I live in this world and I believe that in order to relate to other persons in this world, I need to share some of the same struggles. It is a balance. We each have a different capacity for this, I believe. Perhaps I have less capacity than most!

I have had a few answers to my prayers of late, one is Isaiah 8:11–14

“This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people:

“Do not call conspiracy, everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.
The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread. He will be a sanctuary.”

And the other answer is a strong call in my spirit to keep everything simple! Jesus doesn’t just call great theologians and charismatic speakers to follow Him, He calls you and me. The whole message of the gospel is about relationship! Jesus’ death on the cross is the contract that guarantees reconciliation with God, spirit and neighbour. In Him all are reconciled (1 Tim 4:10) – brought into relationship, made ‘at one with’ (atonement with) the Creator and all creation. Reconciliation that brings acceptance, wholeness, love and lasting Peace.

We have so many laws and theories and beliefs and often a local legality of our own making, but Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better way – to sit and listen at the feet of Jesus. The most important laws emanate from this relationship of love – first law is (Matthew 22:36-40)“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Relationships of love – with God, with myself and with my neighbour. And how do I do this? – By staying close to God, in relationship with Him, listening to what He is guiding me to, every moment of every day.

There are many who would like to chain us up with legalism and more instructions on how to live, but the simple message of love acts in love towards all – and against love there is no law. Of God’s love and reconciliation through the cross, I am certain, but of all the trappings, shoulds and shouldn’ts, I do not know how to begin to judge. Often theories and theologies and philosophies cause dissension, division and a breakdown of relationship, but love is an action that is visible and promotes growth – it desires only God’s best for the recipient of that love. Love encourages. Love comes alongside a fellow traveller in support and offers to carry their bag and listen… and then places the other’s burdens at the foot of the cross. Love gives what it can to the one who needs it more… Love forgives, accepts, trusts and inspires the other to forgive and accept and trust themselves…

Love is not a particular way of doing things, for all persons for all time, or a set of rules to bind others to, it is fresh manna every morning, to be used as refreshing dew and nourishing food for the purposes of that day… His mercies are new every morning, His anointing is fresh every morning, His presence is here, now… Enquire of the Lord today, for He has fresh plans for today. Today is a new day that the Lord has made. Listen to Him and walk today’s adventure with Your shepherd and those whom the Lord has placed you beside; walk today’s journey beside Him who guides, protects and fights our battles; walk today’s blessed hours amidst the storm, with abundant, fullness of life and in the Peace and Joy of relationship with Our creator, lover and mighty God. Oh what eternal, adventurous Joy!

I love this amazing young lady’s story.

My 10K Wheelchair Roll for Charity — The Wheelchair Teen

When I was sixteen, I decided to undertake one of the most physically challenging feats of my life: to push myself in my wheelchair for ten kilometres to help raise money for a school in Kenya. The ten kilometres ‘Walk For Water’ is a fund-raising event that every student in my school had to participate […]

My 10K Wheelchair Roll for Charity — The Wheelchair Teen

Bidden or not bidden –

updated reminder of the Almighty…

dawnfanshawe

 

In the spirit, soaring the selfless songs of the silent soul,

The Supreme Spirit is present ;

 

In the limbs, labouring in the undulating land of the living,

The Lord of Life is present ;

 

In the mind, climbing mountains for meaning and ambition,

The Majestic Maker is present ;

 

In the heart, responding to the pulsating passions of perception,

The Prince of Peace is present ;

 

In the soul, delving into valleys of survival, forgiveness and self-worth,

The loving Saviour is present ;

 

In the spirit, soaring the selfless songs of the silent soul,

The Supreme Spirit is present …

 

Bidden or not bidden

God is present.

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“I’ll never know how much it cost” [You]

(Inspired by the song – see below)

Sitting prim in my primrose-yellow bonnet and Sunday best,

anticipating savours of simnel cake, chocolate and the rest…

I’m disturbed by the thought of blood and sweat,

soldiers and swords, anguish and tears,

crown of thorns and human fears…

Betrayal!

**

I eat my piece of fresh bread and sip my sweet juice,

to remember Your forgiveness, the New Covenant,

me washed clean, like the laundered linen cloth

– draped artistically on the polished vacant cross,

on the altar before us…

Complacent!

I don’t want to see the real shroud

– caked in blood and dust, agony and death;

Nor see the splinters, nails and beaten, naked flesh…

I want to hear the melodious voices of praise songs,

not the relentless taunt of the murderous throngs,

Condemning –

“Crucify Him, Crucify Him! We have no God but Caesar!”

Or see Pilate wash his hands, because “it was easier”…

**

I want to remember that “the ‘spotless lamb’ for me was slain”;

not hear the agonised cry of the crucified One –

Son of God, Son of Mary –

bleeding, dying, writhing in pain;

sacrificing His final breaths to say again –

“Father, forgive them, for they know no what they do!”

For even then You saw my cowardly complacency, You forgave my betrayal

You saw my indifference and my sanitised ignorance …

You forgave me, because You knew

that I knew not,

that we knew not, and knew –

“I’ll never know how much it cost [You], to see my sins upon that cross”…

Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do!

**

I hope you enjoy a Karaoke version and join in with your own worship.

Which is easier?

Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?

Which is easier? Which is more important?

These questions came to me in my heart this morning, when praying for the needs of loved ones and my various communities. The question took me back to the story of Jesus, saying this – “which is easier, to say ‘your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘get up and walk’?”

I was struck by how our attitudes and expectations in today’s world are so different now than for the people in Jesus’ day. I don’t see a great many physical healings in my own day-to-day life, but I do believe that Jesus still heals. But forgiveness – do we take forgiveness of sins for granted, maybe? Or do we know we are forgiven and other things become more important to us? How important is the forgiveness of my sins to me?

How important was it/ is it to Jesus? Is that not why He came and died on the cross?

In this account, Jesus had healed many people and had driven out evil spirits and that’s why He had attracted such a crowd, so that people had come from all over, to hear Him speak and to bring the sick to Him… and hence, these 4 friends had faith to bring their paralysed friend directly to Jesus and to lower him through the roof… They expected Him to heal the paralysed man – straight up – but what they didn’t expect, was what He said instead – “Friend, your sins are forgiven”. I wonder how I would have felt, if I’d gone to all that trouble and heard Jesus say that? I wonder how they felt? That wasn’t why they’d brought him to Jesus and the religious were shocked and indignant – “Nobody but God can forgive sins,” they complained… which is why He said it – so they would “know that the Son of Man has power to forgive sins”!

Imagine yourself there in the story as you read it – become one of the friends, or one of the crowd!

Luke 5:17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.

18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.

19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?

23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?

24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”

25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.

26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

Am I “amazed” and in “awe” of His forgiveness and do I still consider it more “remarkable” than miracles of healing?

We Christians know today that Jesus came to take away our sins, but I think that I largely take that for granted many days. I know it and am grateful, but the initial impact that forgiveness had, has worn off a bit – a bit like the “first love” feeling.

In the society that Jesus lived in the flesh, forgiveness was a cause for sacrifice, blood and ritual, but for me, it is not such a substantial much a part of my day to day or religious life, despite frequent celebration of Communion/Eucharist. Of course I am aware of my sinful nature, every day, and I ask for forgiveness at least daily, and keep “short accounts” with God – “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23)

But the people in that place and time came to Jesus for physical healings, and for their material needs to be met, and for His teaching; and I think that more often than not, that is when I cry out to Jesus – when I or my friend is sick, when I need to see a miracle of provision for the hungry and the needy, or when I have questions and seek answers from the Word of Truth. My focus is often temporal.

“Which is easier?” You said.

I, of course, will die one day. The poor we will ‘always have with us’. Our sufferings are “light and momentary” in comparison with the joy of eternity. But I am here now and concerned with health and wealth, and the things of my humanity press on me on a daily basis; and You know this Lord, so when You lived among us in the flesh, You had compassion to ease some of these burdens. You healed, You fed and You loved and provided for those You met. And I long to see lots more of those temporal miracles in the world around me. You know what is important to me and You care about every tiny detail. Thank You.

Which is easier? To make sandwiches for the hungry in my community or to forgive my enemies; to forgive the one who abused me or my beloved? Which is easier? To feed and respect the dirty man in the doorway, or to throw him some change and pray for him? Which is easier? To come alongside and speak out for those without a voice, or to forgive the oppressor? He went on to expand this truth of forgiveness by describing the call of Levi, the tax-collector. Everybody hates tax-collectors, right? (Or maybe the corrupt politicians are today’s equivalent.) Where is the cross I am called to carry?

I am challenged by these questions and by Him who said of His murderers and mockers “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing!”

Which is easier and Which is more important? You came to earth, not primarily to feed us and cure our diseases, but to forgive us and to offer us reconciliation with our heavenly Father and offer us everlasting life. Forgiveness was not easier for You. You paid the greatest price. You gave up everything to become as nothing – despised and rejected and crucified with the weight of the sin of mankind! That was not easy. I think the reality of what you did is largely beyond my comprehension. I am truly grateful, but the words I use, or my feelings, cannot do justice to the enormity of the reality. That was the greatest miracle of all time!!!

I ask that I will always have before me what is most important for You – the eternal – that forgiveness, reconciliation and Salvation of our eternal spirit, for which You gave Your all, is the most important thing on Your compassionate, merciful heart and plan. I ask that I will have the humility to accept my cross and to forgive those who most challenge me. May I work with You intentionally to promote not only good works, but though it, your Good News, for Your Glory.