So this afternoon I saw this Tweet:
The idea behind it is a riff on Mark 2, when a group of friends tear up the roof of the house where Jesus is staying so they can lower down their paralysed friend. If you’re the guy on the mat or one of his friends, it’s a story of loyalty and determination. That’s where we like to position ourselves in the narrative; we like to see ourselves as the people on the roof, doing whatever we need to do to get people to Jesus.
Alternatively we see ourselves as loyal followers of Jesus, anticipating a miracle and admiring the commitment of those roof-breakers. What we don’t do is picture ourselves as the homeowner whose roof now has a hole in it.
(Incidentally, it’s likely that homeowner was Peter, which puts a bit of a twist on things. I wonder if Jesus the ex-builder helped fix the hole later?)
See, for all we like to say we’re outward looking, for all we like to believe that we want people to find Jesus through our churches ad services and congregations, too often that only extends as far as our own particular comfort zones. The moment disruption starts, the moment we have to spend some money on structural alterations, the moment we have to turn down the volume on our rockin’ worship, the moment things have to change…
Well, there are emergency church council meetings. There are concerned emails to the minister and whispers in corners, and meanwhile there’s a hole in the roof and instead of us welcoming those vandals in, they’re left outside in the cold while we set up a Special Purposes Committee to quickly clean up the thatch and the roof tiles. God bless the rare people who brew up cups of coffee and then get the ladders out.
And yes, this is directly true of people with disabilities. Look at it this way, is it ‘normal’, in your church, to buy a job lot of hymnbooks, but ‘disruptive’ to buy a couple of large print editions?
Is it ‘normal’ for people to sit in pews, but ‘disruptive’ to remove one of those pews to allow wheelchair access?
Is it ‘normal’ to play loud worship music, but ‘disruptive’ to modify that to support those with sensory processing difficulties?
Of course, this isn’t limited to the church’s relationship to people with disabilities, although that’s the original context of the story and a theme of this blog. It’s every time we seek to limit disruption for the sake of keeping things as they’ve always been, it’s every time we reinforce the roof so that people can’t break through and cause us ‘problems’.
But here’s the thing – Jesus welcomed the man on the mat and his friends into the house, even if they came in through an unconventional entrance. And if they hadn’t been able to make a hole, if they’d just been up there shouting for help, I believe Jesus would have climbed up there to meet them.
But we’ve had two thousand years to get used to Jesus’s grace for those on the margins, we’ve had centuries of church history to learn that the most disruptive people in our communities are often the prophets. Just once it would be nice to preempt the disruption by going out to find those who need our help before they feel forced to break out the ladders in the first place.
And if you’re struggling to see the real, powerful presence of Jesus at work in your church…
…Maybe it’s time to go outside and look for him up on the roof.