By Keith Lomen, Campus Pastor, Orchard Path
Don’t you miss seeing your friends? It seems like forever since I’ve seen so many of my good friends in person. I’ve been part of a men’s Bible study group that has been meeting on Friday mornings for more than two years now. During the COVID-19 era these last several months, we’ve continued to meet but only online. We’ve had good meetings, but it’s just not the same as meeting in person.
Recently, we decided that things had opened enough that we could at least meet in person together—outside at a park. It was so good to see everyone again face to face. Our meetings run an hour and a half, and we always spend a little time at the beginning of each meeting ‘checking in’ with one another. During that time, we simply let each other in on what is happening in our lives from week to week. Our first in-person meeting, the check-in time took an entire hour. We had a lot of catching up to do! Seeing each other again and being together face to face made me appreciate each of those men and the impact they have had on my life in these two years together.
How many really good friends do you have in your life? How many people can you count on when you need them? How many friends could you call in the middle of the night to see you through a crisis? How many friends would help you move?! As I get older, the list seems to get shorter and shorter. It’s sad.
One of my favorite Bible stories in all of Scripture is about friends, found in Luke chapter 5. It tells the story of four friends who carry their paralyzed friend who knows how far—just to get him to Jesus. When they finally get to the house where Jesus was, it was so crowded that they couldn’t get anywhere near Him. They could have easily given up and gone home. But these weren’t just any friends. They weren’t about to give up until they had gotten their friend into the presence of Jesus.
We aren’t told much about the four friends who carry their friend who was paralyzed to Jesus. We don’t know how much they knew about Jesus or what experiences they may have had with Him. We don’t know if they had a deep faith in Christ, or simply a blind hope that maybe, just maybe, Jesus could help their friend walk again.
We are told this: When at first they couldn’t get anywhere close to Jesus due to the crowds, they got creative. They went around to the back of the house, climbed up on the roof and started lowering their friend, on a mat (perhaps somewhat perilously!), through the tiles in the roof, right in front of Jesus. Wow! I LOVE that! They dug a hole in the roof to let their friend through, to get to see Jesus. As a former insurance adjuster and salesman, I’ve always wondered if ‘crazy friends’ are a peril covered by the homeowners’ insurance policy. The guy had to have SOME damage to his roof from these folks, don’t you think?
Jesus’ response to all this is predictably unpredictable. He forgives the sins of the man who was paralyzed, first! Of course, that got a rise out of the Pharisees in the crowd. “Hey, He can’t do that — only God can forgive sins!” That’s exactly right, but to show them all yet again just who He was, Jesus commands the potentially freaked out man to take up his mat and go home. And he does!
In the end, the people there that day gave praise and glory to God, saying, “We have seen remarkable things today!”
Reading through that story again this morning really convicted me about the people in my world who might need Jesus, just as that man did. How many people or friends in my life really need Jesus? A lot! Too many, I’m sure. Then I wondered, how far would I CARRY a friend of mine to Jesus? How far would I walk to get a friend or relative of mine to Jesus? And, if I got there and it was too crowded, to what lengths would I go to make sure that friend got to see Him? Hmm…
Don’t you want to be a friend like that? The best gift we could ever give to a friend of ours is to take him or her to Jesus, don’t you think? But how far would we be willing to go to do it? Friends in Christ, may it be said of us that there is nothing that we wouldn’t do to get a friend in need to Jesus.
Rev. Keith Lomen, Campus Pastor, serves at Orchard Path, a PHS community in Apple Valley, MN. He began his ministry there in January 2020. Pastor Keith leads worship and Bible studies, contributes regularly to RISE, the PHS pastoral care resource website, and provides spiritual care to residents, families and staff.
Are you looking for spiritual support and inspiration? Find additional messages by Pastor Keith and other PHS spiritual care leaders by going to RISE, the pastoral care resource page of PHS.