It was a matter of serious concern, a major interruption. He was teaching. We were listening, when suddenly dust began to fall, then little pieces of dried mud and soon it was as though major renovation was taking place. Light flooded down upon us and out of it came a stretcher lowered from the roof. The crowd pushed back. Jesus stopped. There before us lay a man, motionless, obviously paralysed.
We were aghast at the intrusion. We had seen people pushing and shoving before to bring their sick, but this was far worse. Jesus handled it with amazing calm. Your sins are forgiven, he said. Well, I hope so. Rather generous, I thought, about the roof. The guy probably should have been sued for damages, - or his friends.
I got to imagining. Taking a service, preaching, celebrating the eucharist and suddenly someone starts descending from the ceiling, bits of ceiling falling all around, and then there they are spreadeagled on the carpet or sprawled across the Lords table. And I look into the eyes of their interruption and see anger, pain, poverty, paralysis. There is no other way, they say. You wont listen to people like us. I see a child, hundreds of children, thousands, tens of thousands, countless. I see a woman begging. I see a whole family crushed by internal and external systems which poison possibilities for change. I see black and white, able and disabled, young and aged, unemployed, people paralysed by despair. I see mutilated flesh, victims of atrocity, the still silence of the beaten and the afraid ... angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
For a moment I forgot where I was in the liturgy. I lost my place. It was one of those nightmares. How could I continue? I knew I must. They expected me to do so, the way I always had. They paid me and they are good men and women. And now I would fail. Someone would show me the way. I would have to start again .. return to where I was before the interruption. But where was the book? Where are my notes? and the order?
I stood before the table unable to move, looking into the eyes of the one sprawled across the table. What could I do? It was as though I was in a deep sleep. The words which wakened me I knew too well. Your sins are forgiven. They came from the table, from the one stretched out there. Interrupted my sleep, wakened me to new life, summoned me to get up and get on with it. I was real again. When I turned to look, the table was as it was before. The figure had ascended where it was before, the ceiling intact.
Now whenever I stand before this table I hear the cries of interruption, above the hymns, above the chants of the liturgy, above the angels and heavenly hosts, cherubim and seraphim, I hear the sighing. The paralysed move and speak. They protest and tear off the covers. They float in the cup of wine and break in the broken bread. There is my nourishment, there my deliverance from paralysis, there my path from the betrayal of the worlds people through the business of religion.
And I look out and I see paralysed men and women, paralysed congregations, paralysed ministries and I want to cry; Your sins are forgiven. Rise, take up your bed and walk! And I treasure those moments of intrusion, when the heavens are torn apart and the Spirit descends and I rise from the water and I know there is hope.