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GA220 Friday worship: ‘The water of baptism confounds the boundaries that people hold so dear’

July 6, 2012

Pittsburgh

Drama overtook Friday morning worship (July 6) as the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community Team (Pittsburgh) enacted a modern version of Mark 2:1-12—the story of the paralyzed man who is lowered through the roof to be healed. With humor and slapstick the skit illustrated the tensions between a woman who wanted only nice young couples in the church and a motley crew who were trying get in to worship. In the drama’s end, Jesus heals and unifies the disagreeing parties.

In his message, ruling elder Tony De La Rosa, executive presbyter, New York City Presbytery, described the New Testament readings of Mark and Acts 8:27b-39—the Ethiopian eunuch— as stories that depict the trouble that some must go through to access Jesus. De La Rosa is the only ruling elder invited to preach in the General Assembly’s weekday worship services. The crowd, the walls and roof in Mark’s story, he explained, are barriers to those who are seeking Christ.

“No walls or crowds were able to deny the paralyzed man entrance to the building and access and Jesus,” De La Rosa said in his sermon. “His friends gave him a new mode of access; and Jesus blessed these efforts much to the chagrin of the murmuring scribes.”

De La Rosa also focused on the power of the water, pointing to what he learned from his carpenter father that water can be a force for destruction—weakening a roof or undermining a foundation. He learned from his faith that water also has the power to transform and renew.

“Water lifts up the overarching grace of God,” he said. “The water of baptism confounds the boundaries that people hold so dear.”

De La Rosa said that the gospel lesson describes the state of the church. Just as the opening skit demonstrated the tension between generations and expectations about access to the church from inside its walls, the story of the paralyzed man shows the lengths that those who feel that they are on the outside will go to be in the presence of Christ.

“Our physical and institutional edifices are shifting,” De La Rosa said. “Our roofs are coming down and allowing access to new and uncertain elements… Limiting access to the holy is not without consequences,” he said.

Music and readings for the service were provided by participants from Pittsburgh and Redstone presbyteries, including Scripture readers Karen Battle and Ceinwen King-Smith.

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