Back to School Blessing 2018
Mark tells one of my favorite gospel stories in Chapter 2: Several days later, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and the news quickly spread that he was back in town. Soon there were so many people crowded inside the house to hear him that there was no more room, even outside the door.
While Jesus was preaching the word of God, four men arrived, carrying a paralyzed man. But when they realized that they couldn’t even get near him because of the crowd, they went up on top of the house and tore away the roof above Jesus’ head. And when they had broken through, they lowered the paralyzed man on a stretcher right down in front of him! (Mark 2:1-4, The Passion Translation)
I love seeing this story play out in my mind. There is a man who cannot walk, and he has a few friends who love him and are thankful to have him in their circle of friends. News begins to get around town that Jesus has come back to the area. The same Jesus that they say has been healing people. There are stories of Jesus healing a woman with a fever, a blind man, the guy with leprosy. Surely He could heal their friend as well. So, they placed him on a mat and took him to see Jesus. But once they get to the house, they realize that they are not the only ones who had come to see Jesus.
The crowd outside is so thick with people, there is no way that they would be able to get Jesus’ attention. Folks were sitting on all the furniture, on the floor, in the windows, standing in the doors, and crowded around the outside of the house. It was so packed they could not get in. But someone had an idea.
They were desperate to get their friend to Jesus, and it would take some pretty unusual actions to make sure that happened. This house had an outside staircase giving access to the roof. So, these men carried their friend up the stairs to the top of the roof. Then they began to tear the roof away so there would be a hole in the roof, large enough to lower their friend down in front of Jesus. It was a beautiful picture of their love, friendship, and faith in Jesus.
Usually when we talk about this story we talk about how Jesus changed this man’s life, but today as we are having our back to school blessing, I want us to notice something else. I want us to look at the four friends who held the ropes for the paralyzed man.
I know that many of you have spent the last few weeks getting ready for this new school year, you have been getting your backpacks in order, checking your supplies, and anticipating your class schedule. But today I want to remind you that no matter where you go to school or what grade you are in, you cannot have a successful school year if you try to make it alone. Just like the paralyzed man in our text, you are going to need people to hold the ropes for you and help you succeed. So let’s think about four ropes for a bit. Every one of them is important.
The first rope will be held by your teachers.
Let me assure you that your teachers really want for you to be successful. They have spent hours, days, and weeks getting ready for this school year so that they can help you have the best year ever. But sometimes you might not understand the method in their madness. You might wonder why they ask you to do an assignment this way or that way, but they have a reason. They will give you some assignments that at first you think are too difficult. But don’t ever be afraid to ask them for help. They want you to take steps to learn new things, even how to do the difficult things.
You have a great opportunity to learn many things in school. Proverbs 3:13 says: Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding. God wants us to grow in wisdom and knowledge, and your teachers can help you do that. They will be there, holding the rope.
The second rope is held by your family.
Sometimes we forget how important our parents, grandparents, and family are to our success. They not only provide you with food and clothes and a place to live. More importantly, they are your sounding board when it comes time to make decisions. And they can be a point of encouragement in the days when life is the most discouraging.
For just a moment, think back to how the adults in your life have support and encouraged you. Maybe you relied on the adults in your life to get you from school, to practice, and back home again. Maybe they sat down with you and struggled through the Common Core Math or algebraic equations that hadn’t used in 20 years. Maybe they stood over you and forced you to read those books that were required and would help give you a little bit of culture. Or maybe they were there to listen to how unfairly you were being treated by the other kids and encouraged you to be the better person.
Let me take a moment here, to encourage the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters, to hold that rope tightly. One of the things that breaks my hearts, is the reality of pain and heartache. Schools are supposed to be a safe place, but unfortunately that is not always the case. Everyone of our young people will be bullied, harassed, or mistreated in one way or another this school year. Our homes need to be a safe place, a place of compassion and love. If you are family hold that rope tightly.
And young people, if you are experiencing mistreatment or pain this year, speak up and speak out. Evil likes silence, and fear. Your families love is greater than the fear. Trust them to hold your rope, and help you deal with the evil in this world and in your school.
The third rope is one that your friends hold.
In our house, the excitement about going back to school is less about Biology and World History, and more about getting too see the friends that they have missed over the summer break. We enjoy the company of our friends, and even when they tell the worst joke we have ever heard, they are still good friends. We may injure one another with our words from time to time, but they still are our friends. Proverbs 17:17 says that a friend loves at all times. In other words, whether you get an A or an F in class, your friend is always there for you. Whether you make the winning shot, or give up the winning run, they still care about you.
But let me offer a word of caution here, we need to make sure that we choose our friends carefully. Another Proverb says: Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble. (Proverbs 13:20) The Cajun translation of that passage, is if you lay down with the dogs you wake up with fleas. Friends have a lot of influence in our lives; so, let me encourage you to surround yourself with friends who are kind, understanding, and respectful. Find friends who are honest and who know how to make good choices when they buy things or when they do things. Surround yourself with people who you can depend on when times get tough.
And remember it’s not enough to surround yourself with those types of people, you need to make sure you are that type of person as well.
The final rope is one that the church holds.
It was never in God’s plan to offer us salvation and then to say, good luck. God’s intention was to put us in a body, in a group of people who will support and encourage us, folks who are walking along side of us as we take this journey together.
The Body of Christ will help us face life’s problems. The Church will not only help us learn who Jesus is and how to follow Him, but it also gives us to room to question, explore, and strengthen your faith. The church is a gift from God. And if we are going to experience the beauty and allure of this gift then we must be open and involved in the life of the church. God gave us the church so that we can love one another, encourage one another, support one another, and bless one another.
This rope is vital to you life, without it, you would not know where to turn when you get discouraged or when you bump against a problem. The church is filled with people who want to hold the rope of being your teachers, hold the rope of being your family, and hold the rope of being your friends.
So today as we stand on the precipice of a new year filled with wonder, excitement, and a little dread, remember that you are not alone. You have the support of your teachers, your family, your friends, and this church. Let’s have the best year ever.
Close with a prayer for the new school year.