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The Seventh Sunday of Epiphany, Year B

And God said "Yes!"

Readings: Isaiah 43:18-25; Psalm 41: 2 Corinthians 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12

CTV news interviewed a Hockey Coach and the Team Captain of a winning Peewee team earlier this week. The team won without one penalty through the whole season. In fact, they were able to use their sense of fair play to their advantage. They attribute their win to their good sportsmanship. While the opposing team had players sitting in the penalty box they went on to score goals. The young team captain had an amazing sense of self. It was his proud smile that said it all for me. I can imagine him on the ice, making a triumphant gesture with his arm. “Yes! There! That is how it is supposed to be done! That was our very best!”

I can imagine God making such gestures as Jesus goes about healing, touching, forgiving. “Yes!” says God as Jesus reaches out to heal a blind man. “Yes!” says God, as a leper is cleansed. “Yes!” says God as yet another sinner receives forgiveness.

Yet I know that there are many times when we find it difficult to imagine God as really saying “Yes!” at all. We have a very negative view of God. We see God constantly saying “No!” to us. “Does God answer prayer?” we question. “After all, I prayed for healing for my friend when she got cancer, and she died.” “I asked God to help me get a new job, and I am still pounding the pavement.” But you know, God throughout history has affirmed humanity. God’s “yes,” affirms the possibilities there are for us in our personal lives and as a church. So how do we begin to hear God’s “yes”?

It starts by hearing God say “yes” to forgiveness. God’s “yes” is that God will not remember our sin. God will forget the past so that we can be open to the future. What a wonderful gift of grace that is! Isaiah reminded the people of Israel that it was God’s gift to them. “Don’t forget God’s saving acts from the past,” Isaiah says to them. ‘Forget the disasters that have happened. Don’t dwell on the past. Take responsibility for what has happened. But rely on God. Remember what God has done. God gave you manna in the desert. Water gushed from a rock! Remember what God has promised. Let your past experience of God carry you through your present difficulties.’

Paul too knew that we can depend on God’s affirmation. Circumstances had arisen and Paul had cancelled a scheduled visit to Corinth. The people were none too pleased to have received a letter instead of a personal visit. They saw it as a breach of trust. Paul reminds the Corinthians that it not about trusting him, but about trusting God. Paul is following God’s plan for his ministry. He never really answers their objection. ‘I don’t see a problem in changing my plans,’ he seems to be saying. ‘I did it to be faithful to God so that God can work in and through me.’ He has that sense of assurance that what he is doing is fulfilling God’s call. As far as Paul is concerned, God is saying “Yes!”

God said “Yes!” to the paralytic. It was not simply about healing. Forgiveness was the real gift. This is someone who didn’t even have the resources to get to Jesus himself. Even with the help of his friends he couldn’t get in the normal way. He couldn’t get through the crowded doorway. His faithful friends didn’t give up on him. They found a way, a pretty drastic way! They cut a hole in the roof and lowered him to Jesus on his bed.

What a great gift Jesus gave to the paralytic! “Your sins are forgiven,” he told him. What a great gift God gives us! “Your sins are forgiven,” God tells us over and over again. Wiped clean! Erased! A new beginning! A clean slate!

It is, after all, a common metaphor to link paralysis and guilt. That is not because we think that paralysis is caused by sin. It is because guilt can be like a paralysis in our lives. It can keep us from feeling truly free. It can keep us from realizing God’s continuous love and forgiveness. It is by freeing ourselves from that paralysis, by accepting God’s forgiveness that we are freed from all that paralyzes us. Then we can look back and see how God has been at work in our lives, how God has been saying “Yes!” We can look back and recognize the times when God has been most with us. We can remember the times that we have called out to God for help. It needs to be the ground of our belief that God will continue to be with us.

Forgiveness has to be the most difficult gift for anyone to really take in and accept. Let’s face it! Even on a human level it is pretty difficult to simply accept graciously. There is an episode of “Dharma and Greg” that illustrates that beautifully. Dharma says to Greg, “OK, let’s make up.”

“What?” says Greg.

“I’m done arguing. Let’s make up,” she says.

“But we haven’t resolved anything. Nobody won,” he says.

“Good point! You win.”

“But you can’t just do that!” he says.

“OK. I win.”

“No, you don’t!” replies Greg.

“Boy, you really love to argue, don’t you?” Dharma says to him.

“I do not.”

“Then stop it,” she says.

“But we’re not done yet.”

“Yes we are.”

“No we’re not.”

“I love you!” says Dharma.

“What?”

“I … love … you.”

“Oh man, you really don’t play by the rules, do you?” says Greg.

“Nope!”

Greg kisses her, “I love you, too.”

God doesn’t play by the rules. God doesn’t worry about whose fault it is. God loves us enough to simply to forgive us and to keep on forgiving. God’s “yes” comes when we finally get it, when we accept God’s forgiveness, accept God’s wholeness and move on in our lives. You are forgiven. You are healed. You are free. You are my children. Let us affirm God’s “yes” to us because we can be sure of it.
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