January 18, 2019
by Barbara Dilly
Creighton University's Department of Sociology and Anthropology
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 309

Hebrews 4:1-5
Pslams 78:3 and 4bc, 6c-7, 8
Mark 2:1-12

Praying Ordinary Time

We are at the beginning of a new year, a time to think about the importance of our basic foundational values and beliefs as they guide our actions going forward.  It is helpful at this time to read that God’s “works were accomplished at the foundation of the world.”  That inspires me to reflect enthusiastically on the Psalm for today as I think about what I might attempt to do in 2019.  The Psalmist encourages us to not forget the works of the Lord!  Let’s put our hope in God!  Let’s aim to keep his commandments and keep our hearts steadfast in faith!

Now, what does that have to do with our usual resolutions to lose weight, get more exercise, eat less sugar, watch less television, and get to bed earlier?  Studies show that those resolutions are doomed for failure.  Is the same true of our desires to get closer to God?  I certainly hope not!  I think the key difference here is that when we are united in faith with those who listen to the Good News, we can have a great deal more confidence in our best intentions.  All those superficial new year’s resolutions are not based on any foundational values and beliefs or a sense of shared community.  They have very little to do with the faith values we learned from our parents and wish to pass down to our children.   Instead, they are usually shallow and unreflective.  They don’t get at any sort of transformative experiences like the one that Jesus talks about in Mark today.  Jesus says, “pick up your bed and walk” to a lame man.  That message unifies us in our faith because it is about the Good News for all of us, that our sins are forgiven, something we should have learned from our ancestors and something we should share with our children. 

I learned to think about that story in this way when I heard Reverend Cecil Williams at Glide United Methodist Church in the tenderloin district of San Francisco preach on that passage one Sunday when I was in college.  He said the story is not about our individual infirmities, it is about our attitudes.  It isn’t about what caused them, either.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is our attitude toward God in accepting that our sins are forgiven.  We all must think about what blocks us from remembering the deeds of God in sending Jesus to free us from our sins.  Because we are sinners, we are all cripples at some levels in our lives.  Jesus liberates us from our spiritual handicaps and moves us forward in partnership with the Good News!  The miracles are not just that Jesus healed individuals, but that he heals us all in the forgiveness of sins!

At the beginning of a new year, we have a fresh opportunity to align our desires with a steadfast faith and hope in God by reflecting on our basic foundational values and beliefs.  How can our assurance that our sins are forgiven draw on the strength of the Lord, in which we put our hope, instead of our weak human resolutions?  We might not lose weight or walk more, but we certainly just may have a transformative experience if we remove the barriers of our sins that keep us from receiving and accepting the healing experiences that lead to steadfast faithfulness and stronger spirits!  That is how we will have more abundant lives in the new year.

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