“Even crooked sticks can be used”
He’s reading from Matthew. There, Jesus is assembling his starting lineup, some of those He’s chosen to go the distance. By looking at who He’s picking, won’t it tell us something about Him, the Captain, the manager of the team? Oh, it will…
From Matthew 9, Pastor begins to name them. First up, a paralytic (the stuck). Unable to move, dependent on friends, Jesus picks him. And gives mercy, forgiving sins first, and then healing his body. That Jesus! Always working from the inside out instead of the other way around.
Next, he picks a “Richie Rich,” a tax collector. A man with money, but despised in his town. Huh. Jesus clearly cares about the “up and out” as much as he does the “down and out.” He’s picked the unpopular.
Then come the questioners (the confused), His disciples. Jesus answers them kindly, discipling them, and keeps them solidly on His team. Jesus can handle our questions.
How I love His next choice. Pressed in a crowd of people, all clamoring for His attention, she slips up close, extends her hand.
For 12 long years, she’s endured it, an issue of blood that has made her unclean. Pushed away, arms length, untouchable. “If only…”
Jesus turns. “Take heart, daughter.” In the rumble of the throng, He speaks it kind. “Your faith has healed you.” Friend of the needy, He’s taken her up, let her come close. Jesus loves the wounded.
Lastly, He stops at the cry of the blind. Once again, it’s the inward that He’s after. “Do you believe?” This, to the helpless pair. Then the ‘yes,’ hands on eyes and sight’s restored. Our Jesus, He cares for those living in a fog.
The stuck. The confused. The unpopular. The needy. The blind. These, He chooses to be on His team. For “even crooked sticks can be used.”
It’s time to close the service. In the pews sit two rows of young men from Teen Challenge. Lives in shambles; hopes, dreams crumbled like mortar, shattered around feet; they’ve reached the end. Hit the wall. And met The Captain.
The Master, the One who chooses the unlikely and helpless to be on His team, they tell how they’ve found Him. Faces shining joy, they say how He picked them right up from the paralytic’s mat. How He went straight to work from the inside on out. How He cleared up the fog, giving sight to blind eyes and healed their own “issues of blood.”
Crooked sticks. Even these.
Down front now, just behind the altar, they’ve stretched straight across. Today, these “crooked sticks” will pray blessing over others. The unlikely and helpless; the stuck and confused; the needy, unpopular and blind will minister this time to the rest of us.
Tears leak, sliding down my face, as I look at what’s happening down front. For there, on both sides of the altar, “crooked sticks” are embracing. They’re calling for blessing, seeking The Captain. Prayers are arising, tears intermingling, all of us together, crooked sticks.
He’s chosen us all, and we can be used. Even us. Even these. Crooked sticks.
With thanks to Pastor Dave Engbrecht for his powerful sermon and for sharing the Teen Challenge group and their ministry with us.