“Tear the roof off” with praise and service

Posted on September 30, 2014 by Heidi Hagstrom

“To dream about painting and not also to work at it doesn’t ever bring about a painting. To dream about creating a new world that is not teetering on the edge of total destruction and not to work at it doesn’t make a peaceful world. So it is important that we are creative people working daily on the greater picture as well, bringing to it all our skills of imagination and making.” This quote from Sister Corita Kent’s book “Learning by Heart” struck me as representative of the spirit of ELCA youth who will be attending the Youth Gathering in Detroit.

ELCA youth are not unlike their peers in that they are people of action, and they like to take action alongside their friends. Friends are extremely important, often influencing the direction and quality of one’s life.

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One of the stories from the Gospel of Mark that youth will enter into at the Gathering is the story of the paralytic being lowered through the roof by his friends so he can get close to Jesus. (Mark 2:1-5)

When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them.3Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.4And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’

For the purpose of this blog I want to focus on the phrase “dug through it.” Some translations read “tear the roof off.”

I don’t know what you have pictured when reading this text, but I have, erroneously, thought it was some kind of thatched roof that the friends tore apart. But that was not the case. It is more likely that the roof was a mud clay (a lot like cement) roof with tiles. To lower the paralyzed man through the roof they had to do major construction and demolition to the roof.

The paralyzed man’s friends tore the tiles off the roof, tore a hole in the roof, and lowered him by a rope into the house.

Imagine if you’re in this house packed with wall to wall people trying to listen to Jesus. All of a sudden you start to hear some banging above you. Then the roof begins to fall in on you.

How would you respond? I’m guessing some of us would be angry because we are there to listen to Jesus. We thought ahead, got in line early, and earned our spot in the crowd. Jesus could have been in the middle of a life-changing sermon, and because of the chaos from above, we could have missed the best part. And what about the person who owned the house? The zealous friends were creating a huge, gaping hole in the roof of his home. Fixing it will be a major project, not simply a minor, cosmetic repair.

Now look at Jesus’ response. “When Jesus saw their faith …” Did you get that? The Bible does not say that Jesus “saw the paralytic’s faith.” It says that Jesus “saw their faith.” Jesus didn’t scold them and say, “Don’t you know how much a roof costs?” He didn’t say, “Have you ever heard of a door?” Jesus saw their faith and their lives were never the same.

The paralyzed man would have never gotten to Jesus or been healed without his friends, and their lives would never have been changed had they not acted on their faith. At the Gathering young people will ask themselves if they have friends who are willing to “tear the roof off” for them and if they are willing to do that for others.

In one sense, ELCA youth will be “tearing the roof off” for the people of Detroit by their presence and service in July and by their advocacy and witness when they go home. At the Gathering they will learn – experience – that Jesus replenishes our lives in sacramental community, which in turn offers us as individuals the opportunity to find and connect with Jesus’ regenerating impulse in our own lives. As the Spirit works in their hearts and minds, young people may feel emboldened to “tear the roof off” for their peers who need to be exposed to Jesus love, grace and healing. Young people may eventually connect that impulse to their vocational choices so that they can “bring to it all [their] skills of imagination and making” (see Sister Corita Kent’s quote above) for the healing of humanity and the earth.

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