A Sermon From All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Briarcliff Manor
Sermon preached by the Rev. Timothy E. Schenck, Rector, on February 19, 2009.
Mark 2:1-12 (Epiphany 7, Year B).
“What would you do for a Klondike Bar?” You may remember this ad campaign for Klondike bars – those thick, chocolate-coated vanilla ice cream bars. The premise, of course, being that they’re so good you’d go to great lengths to get one, even if that meant risking all dignity, dressing up like a chicken and walking down Pleasantville Road during rush hour. And then there was that catchy, yet irritating jingle that went with it [sing it].
I thought about this jingle in relation to this morning’s gospel reading from Mark, though I realize that the evangelist himself would probably cringe at the association. But who knows what Mark would have done for a Klondike bar? Okay, this does warrant some explanation so I’ll rephrase the question: what would you do for a meeting with Jesus? The people in this story go to great lengths, absurd lengths, for a meeting with Jesus. A friend of theirs is a paralytic. They have great faith that this man Jesus can heal him.
And why wouldn’t they think this? After all, the word on the street was that this Jesus could do miraculous things. His fame was spreading rapidly, so much so that he couldn’t even go anywhere without being followed by throngs of people. As we’ve heard over the past several weeks, Jesus has driven out demons, healed the sick, and cured a leper. He’s on a roll. Finally he goes home hoping for a little R&R but the crowds swarm around his door hoping for an encounter with this newly discovered miracle worker.
In this spirit, we’ll ask the question again: what would you do for an encounter with Jesus? These folks, knowing that Jesus was inside the house and quickly realizing that because of the swarm of people they’d never get their paralyzed friend to the front door, go to Plan B. They climb onto the roof, dig through it, and let down their friend on a mat. Fortunately Jesus saw this as an act of faith rather than an act of breaking and entering. These people went to the greatest possible length to get their friend in to see Jesus. And they were rewarded.
And this small group of persevering people are wonderful role models for our own faith journeys. We know precious little about them but we do know that their faith had both conviction and urgency. And they force us to ask the question of ourselves: what would you do for a meeting with Jesus? Would you go to such lengths to meet the savior and redeemer of the world, the one who offers us forgiveness of sins and eternal life? Would you actively seek him out despite any obstacles that may hinder you? Would you metaphorically scale a building to enter into his presence? Or do you sit idly by and wait for him to come to you? The good news in all of this is that Jesus goes to great lengths to meet us. He’s the one scaling buildings and climbing through roofs to meet you and me. We simply need to turn and welcome him. And we do so through the daily encounter of prayer and through the weekly encounter that takes place at this altar through the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. But even so, we can all make greater efforts to set Jesus at the center of our lives. So on this day, I bid you to go to great lengths to follow Jesus. We may sometimes embarrass ourselves in the process, we may even fall off the occasional ladder. But keep striving for meaningful encounters with him. That way our answer to the question, “what would you do for a meeting with Jesus?” becomes ‘absolutely anything.’
I won’t even ask the question: ‘what would Jesus do’ for a Klondike bar?
© The Rev. Tim Schenck 2003