Thought for the week: Joseph Jones on a lift in the spirit

‘Those already attending weren’t prepared to do what it took.’

Engraving: ‘Christ Heals a Man Paralyzed by the Gout, Mark 2:4’, Bernhard Rode, 1780.

Remember the one about the guy who, for real and difficult reasons, couldn’t get to a meeting? I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Four of his friends were determined to help him participate, but the building wasn’t accessible to him. Those already attending weren’t prepared to do what it took to make sure everyone could gather.

These weren’t bad people. They were wise and weighty enough to know that there was a genuine encounter with the divine to be had. Some of them had come a long way themselves – ‘It isn’t easy for us either, you know’ – and yet had managed to arrive on time. In normal circumstances they were willing to listen, and were worth listening to, but it’s always more difficult to make something new happen when people are good at demonstrating how sensible they already are.

Most people would have given in to the status quo at this point. There’s a way things should be done, and it exists for good reasons. Processes are important. Perhaps a home visit at a later date? 

I heard this story three different ways, but each version agrees on one thing: these friends were propelled by their faith to keep trying to access the gathering. They weren’t seeking to challenge authority, primarily, or trying to make a point, it was just that their pal deserved an encounter of his own: he needed to make that meeting.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. I’m not sure about that. I’m not convinced that we needed to go to the moon, say, important though that was, and too many needs go unmet. But I do reckon that this was one of those problems that could only be solved with empathy, passion, and a certain willingness to make a fuss. Teamwork too, probably. One friend to say, ‘You know what, we could take part that way’, another to consider the method, and a couple more to deal with the practicalities. I imagine they were all aware that their solution might not be in right order but fīat jūstitia ruat cælum – do justice even if the skies fall – and opening the meeting up to the cloud, to see those who made it on foot, worked a treat.

The divine encounter, when it happened, was like all such exchanges: surprising, vivid, and causing a reactionary response in those who missed the direction in which the spirit was moving. Some people went home feeling like it should never have happened that way (they didn’t say this out loud, but made it clear in more passive ways). Everyone else was amazed: ‘We have never seen anything like this!’

Joe is editor of the Friend.

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