Sunday of the paralytic (3rd Sunday of Easter)
I lost my job during Easter Week! Not my employment I hasten to add, but I was given a new role.
In some ways the change brought fear and disappointment. I was losing my staff management role and being given a “super” researcher's role. In my new role I can roam the organisation looking for problems to solve and difficult issues to tackle – this is surely and exhilirating challenge! Why the fear? Why the disappointment?
To start with I had been doing something I had wanted to do for a long time – look after people, encourage them, “grow them on”, get them to achieve things that they thought they couldn't and hopefully contribute in a meaningful way to New Zealand. I'd moved to my curent employer close to my thirty eighth year. Part of the motivation was to do some interesting research work alongside other people interested in the same things. But I was also wanting to develop “management skills” and hopefully manage a team of people. It took over four years to be allocated a team to work with and lead. Thus, I think you can understand why I was feeling a little disappointed not to be directly leading a team anymore.
An other thing was that I was just starting to get comfortable with the team I took over just on eight months ago and the work that the team does. Yes, there had been some teething problems, but we were more-or-less out of the initial troubles and fruits were starting to be produced.
So, about 18 months after being given my first management challenge I was being asked to move back to a more research oriented position. Management possibilities would present themeselves, but more in the way of project management.
The new role that I have though is going to be very challenging and gives me enormous freedom to roam around the organisation. I have a mandate to think about and solve problems across a variety of different boundaries – something that a “common or garden” manager or researcher cannot do.
Despite this, I think my manager is probably right and that I am more likely to be better suited to my new role. I may have felt disappointed and disheartened, but I was willing to accept the judgement of my manager. I have total trust in him – and though at times it is hard to do as he has asked I know that provided he has been properly briefed and advised that what he asks will be for the best (of course, if it isn't I'm sure he will change his mind!).
To put it another way, I “believe and trust in him”. Why?
Well, I've known him a very long time. Through his works I know I can trust him.
Why should I do as I'm asked if I feel disappointed? Not just because I trust that what he has asked will be right but also, there at the back of my mind is a little voice which tells me that I should do as I am asked by my manager – as we are commanded to do in the scriptures.
I can think of any number of examples where people have done as they have been asked by their leader – even when it has been at great cost to themselves – because they had great faith in their leader.
The one that springs to my mind is the “Long March” of the communist forces under Mao Tse Tung. The number of people involved was immense (from a little New Zealander perspective). In October 1934, one hundred thousand soldiers under Mao commenced an eight thousand mile march (including all the detours) across China from the south eastern province of Kiangsi to the north western province of Shensi. The journey took a year. Of the one hundred thousand who had left Kiangsi, only thirty thousand arrived in Shensi. “The most famous episodes included the crossing of the Tatu River under a hail of enemy fire, making alliances with minority groups by drinking chicken blood, marching through inhospitable swamps without sufficient supplies, and promoting the revolutionary spirit against seemingly hopeless conditions" (Leung; 237).
In what spirit where these people being led? They had faith in their leader, for the cause which they were fighting for. Was their faith mis-placed? What was the ultimate goal of the leadership? It is perhaps difficult, if not impossible, to disentangle the various threads of the conflict and the following years of the People's Republic of China. We do however know one thing – the creation of a state in which the ordinary people had the freedom to practice relgiion was not one of the aims.
Today in our own country we follow our leaders – more or less. We may grumble about the laws that are made and sometimes ignore them. But on the whole we are a fairly compliant bunch of people. We elect leaders – they spend a few years in power and then we elect some more. Someimes the results are not favourable to us individually, sometimes they are. But do we have faith in our leaders? Do we trust them? Do we try to get on with our own thing and hope that whatever our elected representatives get up to doesn't interfere with what we want to do? Would we do what we were commanded to do? I suspect not.
Many of us have a great deal of suscpicion for our politicians – at least that is what the various opinion polls would have us believe. I for one am aware that despite good intentions on the part of a number – if not most - of our MPs, that bad (if not evil) legislation is passed.
However, poor legislation and conflict between the Church and the State is not peculiar to our own times. From the very beginnning of the Christian Church there has been conflict between it and various authorities – whether they be secular or religous. The first persecution of the Church was by the Jewish authorities. This spread for one reason or another to be a persecution of the Church by the Emperor himself.
Christians were tortured and martyred for refusing to do as the Emperor commanded – sacrifice to the Roman gods. Pain, suffering and often death inflicted on otherwise innocent people for not doing as the Emperor commands.
What does God do to us if we don't obey his commands?
Nothing! The utlimate result of not obeying God's commands is death – but we inflict that upon ourselves!
What happened to the Israelites when they fled Egypt? Because they didn't obey God's commands they wandered in the desert for thiry eight years before they were told “Now get up and cross the Zered Valley”.
What is the result of something the paralytic had done? Thirty eight years as an invalid! What did the Lord command him? “Get up! Pick up your bed and walk!”.
Did the paralytic ignore the command? No!
He did as he was told – by someone he did not know and did not recognise!
We know a little bit about God don't we?
We want to please Him don't we?
We have faith in Him don't we? (even though it maybe as small as a grain of mustard seed?)
Well why don't we do as we are asked?
Why don't we folow Him?
Why don't we“Pick up our beds and walk”!