The work of so many GPPC members on the session and on the committees of our church reminds me of the gospel story about the friends who each take a corner of a pallet in which a paralyzed man lies, and they work together to carry him to Jesus for healing. When they find their path to Jesus blocked, they climb the building where Jesus is teaching, make a hole in the roof, and lower their friend on his pallet, through the opening down to the feet of Jesus. The perseverance of those friends in overcoming obstacles in their path is amazing! (Matthew 9:1-8; Mark2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26)
The friends’ aim is God’s command to love our neighbors, to work for healing in Christ.
Might we be bringing our fellow church members to the love of Christ when we encourage each other to assist the oppressed? May a section of Matthew 25 be rephrased? “If you bring your community members to care for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the imprisoned, the foreigner, you are bringing them to care for me (Christ)”. And for this end, how may we best equip one another to care for these marginalized people and to understand how we are blessed by them?
Imagine a scene in the Bible story at the point when the friends see all the doors and windows full of people blocking their pathway to Jesus: They set the paralytic down on the ground and all sit in a circle to plan next steps. They review barriers to their plan and how to overcome these. They review the resources available to the group. Who knows the building owner? Does anyone know a roofer who may have tools? Who knows someone with a rope? Which of us will offer first aid if chucks of ceiling bricks fall on the heads of the people below? ……
In 2021-2024 what will our discussions be? What are the barriers to establishing true healing in our community? How will we overcome obstacles to supporting the human rights for each and every person? Including the poor? Including those imprisoned by bars or hurt by unfair laws and unjust practices? How will we be communicating together about the needs of our own members and the concerns of our community?
Members of GPPC have many gifts and talents to contribute to community building! How do we learn about them all? How may we use them all? What are our plans for using our gifts to bring healing through and in and by Christ’s love? In what ways will we persevere? In what ways will we be creative and brave?
Might such creativity and courage lead to partnering with other groups to assist us in holding the corners of the pallet? Different committees of GPPC, working together? Different churches in Ginter Park? GPPC with Presbyterian Hunger Program and Self Development of People and a local Richmond housing group each taking a corner of that pallet?
We remember Jesus’ reaction to those carrying the paralytic. He saw their persistence, their courage, their creative action. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the words are the same: “When Jesus saw their faith”...he forgave the sins of the paralyzed man and then healed him.
We know that our church will respond to the love of God. We know that RISC will create positive change in Richmond and that our relationships with residents of adult homes will produce stronger communities. The agricultural work on the corner of Brook and Walton will bring people together for the building up of community and for the care of God’s creation. Conditions will improve in our own city and in the communities where our mission co-workers’ work in Haiti and Congo. Our gifts to the special offerings of the Church will support life-giving programs. The ends of our Kairos statement will be realized: there will be “shalom of liberation, restoration, dignity, and joy for all God’s creation”.
How do we know this? Because in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in Haiti and Congo, and in Richmond, VA, and throughout this world, Christ forgives and heals when he sees our faith.
Ruth Brown, recently retired from a career of international mission work, is an elder in the new Session class.