Mark 2:1-10; 1 Sam 7:10-13
3rd Sunday before Lent
St Barbara’s; 12.2.17
Rev Tulo Raistrick
Today we are thinking about St Ignatius, a Spanish man who lived 500 years ago, and was the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). At the age of 30 he had a profound religious experience that turned him away from pursuing glory as a knight and led him to commit his life to following Christ. During the rest of his life he developed approaches to growing in the Christian life that he practiced and shared with others. These became known as the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius. These have had a profound impact on Christians for centuries, but today we will look at just two of his exercises – a way of reading the Bible and a way of prayer.
Part 1: Reading the Bible with Our Senses
One of the things that Ignatius encouraged people to do was to use their imagination when they read the Bible – to imagine what the scene must have been like.
When we read a story in the Bible Ignatius encouraged people to step into the shoes of one of the people in the story and imagine:
what could they see?
what could they hear?
what were some of the smells?
what did the dusty sand feel like between their toes? or what did it feel like when Jesus touched them?
what were they feeling? happy? sad?
Read Mark 2:1-12 The story of the paralysed man
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.
Imagine being in the crowd, standing on tiptoe to catch a glimpse of Jesus through the door into the house. Imagine the excited murmur of the crowd and straining to hear Jesus. Imagine all the people pushing up against you. Imagine the smell of lots of sweaty excited people.
Some men came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.
Imagine what happens when the four men appear carrying a stretcher. Imagine them trying to push through but the crowd not able to give way. Imagine how the crowd react – maybe some are grumbling about “waiting your turn”; others wondering whether this is expecting too much for Jesus to heal a paralysed man. Imagine how the crowd react when they see them going up on to the roof – surprise, maybe? Imagine what it is like for the people in the room below as soil and sticks begin to fall on their heads?
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralysed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’
As you stand in the crowd and hear Jesus say “Son, your sins are forgiven”, what do you think? How are other people reacting? Maybe some are shocked or angry – only God can do that? Maybe others are pleased – that’s going to upset the religious teachers – serves them right for being so harsh? How are the crowd acting? Are they straining forward trying to catch what’s happening next, or are they starting to have conversations among themselves about what Jesus has just said?
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralysed man, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, take your mat and walk”? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’
When the paralysed man suddenly gets up, how does the crowd react? Do they reach out to shake his hand, to congratulate him? Do they touch him to check that he is real? What do they say?
Can you see how this story comes alive?
You may find in reading the story like this that you see things in a new way, or see Jesus in a new way.
Part 2: Praying about our day
We’ve thought about a way of reading the Bible that Ignatius taught people. He also taught people a way to pray. He called it the Examen, because its a way of examining our day and praying about it.
Think back over the last 24 hours. When during that time have you encountered something of the goodness of God? Maybe it was in the kindness of someone; maybe it was in the beauty of nature; maybe it was in some good news you received. Ignatius encouraged people to think about these times, to give thanks for them, to ask what God may be saying to us through them. In the Bible, when Samuel was helped by God against his enemies he put up a pile of stones and called it Ebenezer – which means “Thus far has the Lord helped us”. When we reflect on our day and notice where we have received God’s love, we too can say “Thus far has God been with us”.
As we think back over the last 24 hours we may also become aware of times when we realise that we have missed God’s presence. Maybe hard or difficult times – and we can invite God to help us with those now. Maybe times when we feel we have let God down – and we can say sorry to God now.
Many people find it helpful to pray this prayer at the end of the day, but it can be prayed at any time. In fact some people try and do it several times every day, so that they become more and more attuned to recognising the presence and love of God in their daily life.
Take time this week to pray this prayer.