Sunday, May 22, 2022
Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C

Prayer of the Day

Bountiful God, you gather your people into your realm, and you promise us food from your tree of life. Nourish us with your word, that empowered by your Spirit we may love one another and the world you have made, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings and Psalm

Acts 16:9-15 Lydia and her household are baptized by Paul
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10, 22–22:5 The Lamb is the light of the city of God
John 5:1-9 Jesus heals on the Sabbath


Title:  Sitting on the Edge of Healing

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  The Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

Those beautiful lilies are gone.  The shiny butterflies are dropping…well…like flies.  We don’t even have a baptism like we had last week to lift our spirits.  So, perhaps like me, you are having to work a little harder this Sunday to fill that Easter proclamation with joy and enthusiasm.  But let’s be honest with ourselves. (Well, I’ll be honest with myself.) It’s not about missing flowers, or fading butterflies, or the absence of dripping wet baby Essex…It’s about a grocery store in Buffalo – that’s what is challenging me, dampening my shout, burdening my joy.  It’s about a church in Laguna Hills.  It’s about shattered and lost lives in Ukraine. It’s about women in Afghanistan.  It’s about healthcare and freedoms in our own nation.  It’s about replacement theory, white supremacy, and racism.  In this landscape of suffering, pain, and death; how do we find the joy to shout?  Find the hope to embrace our new life in Christ?  Find the power to live the new life that is ours in the resurrected life of Jesus the risen Savior? Yes, it is most certainly true that every day is resurrection day for us who are the baptized people of God.  But somedays hearing the news and the pain and the oppression and the hate mongering that fills this wounded and broken world, we may have a hard time rising out of bed, let alone rising out of our graves.

How often we are like the man sitting at the edge of the pool that Jesus encountered in today’s gospel reading from John.  Our spirits sit there on the edge of resurrection life, unable to move, frozen in despair.  We see the source of our spirit’s healing and our soul’s hope, but, on our own, we are not able to connect with it.  We convince ourselves that we do not have what it will take to bring ourselves to the healing that will enable us to get up, to go on in and be washed into new life.  We are waiting for some sign like the man was waiting for the stirring of the waters.

In another context, I can’t help but see our nation sitting on the edge of another pool.  Like the man in the gospel who is convinced that only the first into the stirring water will be healed and so he never makes it to the pool in time to be the one made whole; our country is being crippled by the myth of scarcity.  Convincing ourselves that there is not enough for everyone. Someone and some groups will be replaced.  Power will shift away from some and onto others. The gunman in Buffalo tried to make sure there would be no replacing him or people like him. And so he inflicted his own brokenness on others. Hurt people hurt people.

And still another context, I can’t help but see our world sitting on the edge of yet another pool. And again, like the man, seeing the healing desired as an impossibility, saying to himself: “I can’t get there from here.”  Similarly, we say: “We can’t get to what will make for a healthier planet,” and so we sit longing to take the steps necessary to bring climate-changing habits under control, to ensure future generations, but we lack the will.

Jesus says to the man:  Do you want to be made well?

Take note, the man does not answer the question.  Instead he tells why, as he sees things, he can’t get himself healed.

Jesus says to us, to our nation, and to our world:  Do you want to be made well?

(Of course those who are suffering from physical or emotional challenges are answering YES to this question.  Of course you, they, want to be made well.  And an absence of healing what ails you does not in any way mean a lack of faith or conviction on your part or a lack of presence or compassion on the part of the healing power of Christ.)

This morning, I ask us to direct Jesus’ question “Do you want to be made well?” to these ailments of the soul that plague us, that keep us and our communities from living into the resurrection new life that is ours in Christ.  That life that is filled with love for our neighbors, mercy for the stranger, compassion for those who suffer injustice and oppression, stewardship and wisdom for our planet for the sake of future generations.  Think on these things and hear Jesus asking us:  Do you want to be made well?

Something else to take note of – Jesus does not offer the man at the pool assistance toward that thing, (toward those means), by which the man thinks he will be healed.  Jesus does not help him get into the waters.  The one who heals does not participate in the old stories of stirring waters and limited healing.   Instead, it is the power of Jesus’ word that brings healing and wholeness to the one in need.  “Stand up,” Jesus says – prepare yourself for a new way of being.  “Take up your mat,” Jesus says – pack up that place where you have been stalled all this time. “And walk,” Jesus says – walk forward, move onward, take steps into and in the wholeness of new life.  And the man does, on the Sabbath, none the less.  It is a holy day indeed.  No law will delay or prevent his healing.

According to John’s gospel, that last time Jesus was in Jerusalem, he performed that well-known act of fury in which he cleared the temple of moneychangers.  (In John’s narrative, this bold temple-cleansing happens early in Jesus’ ministry.)  Today’s reading describes the second time Jesus comes to Jerusalem.  On the first visit, Jesus addressed institutional healing.  On the second visit, he addresses personal healing.  Clearly God in Christ desires healing in all aspects of our lives. 

We see this again in the completeness and perfection of the new Jerusalem described in the vision reported in Revelation.  Security is in God, not behind locked doors and gates. Life in the new Jerusalem is illuminated by Christ’s light.  There is no need for sun or moon.  All our brokenness is left behind and only our resurrected life in the Spirit enters in.  There is no illness or death.  Fruit filled with the healing power of the resurrection grows in the new and perfected city and radiates out for the sake of all.  There is no replacement, limitation, or alienation.

The one who is light and life, healing and wholeness, is saying to us:  Do you want to be made well? Saying to our nation:  Do you want to be made well?  Saying to our world: Do you want to be made well?

As baptized people of God, made alive in Christ Jesus, and filled with the Holy Spirit, to God’s goodness and mercy we respond to this question…correction, to this invitation; and in faith, we say yes.  We respond in humility, admitting that we cannot do it on our own.  And in trust, as we look to the one who saves us from death.  In hope, as we look to the Spirit who renews us through the promises made in baptismal waters. And with compassion, as we seek healing not only for our own sake, but for the sake of our neighbor and our world.

Thanks be to God that the healing presence of the resurrected Christ Jesus fills this time, renewing and refreshing; for we, our nation, and our world, need to hear yet again that…

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!

The Rev. Mark Erson,

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