We are the Friends of the Paralytic Man

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In my experience, this time of year can be especially challenging for worship leaders. After busy Advent and Christmas seasons, Epiphany can be a blur with our attention quickly turning to upcoming special services and events related to Lent and Easter. There’s little, if any time to recover in between. We whisper prayers asking God to help us muster up a fresh breath of creativity and inspiration for what’s to come, and hope that our volunteer pool is wide enough to cover the gamete of ongoing needs.

In busy seasons, like these, it feels important for worship leaders to be reminded of why we do what we do and of why the charge to lead the people of God in worship is a holy calling. This encouragement is beautifully illustrated in a familiar story from the fifth chapter of Luke’s gospel—the story of Jesus healing the paralytic man.

While a quick read of this chapter might incline us to focus on Jesus’ miraculous healing power or the disbelief and exasperation of the Pharisees at Christ’s claims to possess such abilities, I recently found myself focused on the people who brought the paralytic man to Jesus, taking pause when reading verses 18 and 19:

Some people came carrying a paralytic man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles, into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

These everyday, ordinary men and women became facilitators of a very important interaction between a broken man and a Holy God. They were worship leaders–people who recognized the need someone amongst them had to dialogue with Christ and who creatively and resourcefully designed a way for this encounter to take place.

Think about it, in order for this interaction between Jesus and the man to occur, it required those assisting to be:

  • Faith filled – they knew that if they could just help the man into the presence of Christ, his need could be met!
  • Creative – when they realized the crowd in and surrounding the house was too thick for them to pass, they used their imaginations and what they had to create an alternative route to Jesus—through the roof!
  • Selfless – we don’t read about any of these people jumping through the roof themselves, jockeying to get position to see Christ before the paralytic. Instead, they put this man’s need to encounter Christ first and made getting him there a priority.

Upon being healed, the text tells us that the man “immediately…stood up and went home praising God,” as well he should have! Yet I can’t help but think that after the man had thrown his arms around his healer, but before he grabbed his mat and barreled through the thick crowd of onlookers heading to tell his family and friends of the amazing thing that had just happened, there wouldn’t have been a moment where he would have paused to give a knowing glance to those men and women who were peering down from their perch above. A glance which recognized their role in making this encounter a reality—that thanked them for putting his need first and for sharing their faith and creativity in orchestrating what was a life-changing encounter with Jesus.

As worship leaders, we are called to make it possible for the people in our congregations to encounter Jesus just like those who lowered the one in need down to encounter Christ that day in Capernaum. May your faith-filled, creative, and self-sacrificing service be met with moments of joy and knowing glances of gratitude for your service as you witness genuine encounters of transformation between Jesus and his people.

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Emily Vermilya is the Executive Pastor at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana. Having previously served as a Worship Pastor in multiple churches, one of Emily’s passions is empowering and inspiring other worship leaders to lead worship that is biblically, historically, and theologically rooted in the Story of God. Emily also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Worship at Indiana Wesleyan University and as a Regular Faculty member at the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. Emily resides in Marion, with her husband Jim and her children, Silas and Aynsley.

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