The Gospel: John 5:1-9
After Jesus healed the son of the official in Capernaum, there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids-- blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me." Jesus said to him, "Stand up, take your mat and walk." At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: Today in the RCL, that we follow for our lectionary, there are two options for the Gospel reading. The first one is John 14: 23 - 29 and the second one is John 5: 1-9
So when it comes time to prepare a message or a sermon for today the person speaking has the option of choosing one or the other. Today I chose to focus on John 5. But I am going to take a few minutes to lay a foundation for my thoughts about John 5 by referring to John 14.
John 14: 25- 29 says this:
“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur you may believe."
In these few sentences, the great promise of the Holy Spirit and the spirit's role in our lives is laid out. Along with the role of the spirit, there is also the promise of the Lord's peace to be with us.
Which leads me to wonder what might stop me / us from experiencing that wonderful companionship and peace in my life / in our lives?
As I was considering that question I found myself thinking about time and excuses. I found myself considering how much time I give to the Holy Spirit in my life and what excuses I make for not being willing, to live my life as fully as I can, from a Christian / Holy Spirit motivated perspective.
At the end of our time of worship and communion this morning we will say together our concluding prayer. Now we say this prayer, or one similar to it, every time we have communion. But do we stop and think about what it asking of us and what it says about how we will live our lives this coming week.
The prayer goes like this: "Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. AMEN"
"Send us now into the world in peace, grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart"
Isn't that a wonderful phrase: "singleness of heart" In other words, our hearts are focused on the single purpose of serving and loving the Lord.
But the only way that we can do that is to be dependent on having peace and being granted the strength and courage to love and serve by the Holy Spirit.
As I reflect on that I have to ask myself how much time do I give to the Holy Spirit in my life? How do I make space for the Holy Spirit to provide the peace I need. Then am I open to the Holy Spirit giving me the strength and courage I need to love and serve with singleness of heart?
The Book of Common Prayer provides some wonderful prayers around those questions. This morning I want to encourage us to consider the words of the Collect for Guidance:
Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The center section of that prayer bears repeating: ” We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight."
That the work of the Holy Spirit will be within us so that all the things that weigh us down and bother us will not distract us from the Lord.
Of course, the flip side of that coin is to ask what excuses do I make for not being willing, to live my life as fully as I can, from a Christian / Holy Spirit motivated perspective?
I wonder if it is because of our life experiences and the things that we have had happen to us? We want to live into a life of singleness of heart. We know that is available to us. It just feels like we can't get there because of what we have had happen to us in the past.
Without knowing it we begin to make excuses and we settle for our life as we know it.
The man sitting on the sidelines at the pool - named Beth-zatha - knows what it is like to be right there but be unable to make the final moves that will bring his healing.
Jesus comes and speaks directly to him. Jesus chooses him out of all the people sitting there and asks him a most astounding question.
"Do you want to be made well?"
I don't know about you but I feel like stepping in and defending this poor man. To say something like: "Jesus, that is pretty harsh, why do you think he is sitting here, what do you think he wants? Of course, he wants to get well."
The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me."
It is almost as if he is saying "I want to be healed, but there are all these reasons why I can't." There are all these obstacles and besides that these other people won't help me, or they push me aside so I can't get there."
I know that there have been times in my life when that has been my response. To be honest there are some areas in my life where I am probably making excuses right now.
Jesus cuts through all that he is saying and all that he might have to say. Jesus directs him to stand up and walk. He does and he is healed. Now we may not have a moment like that in our lives. But we can certainly help ourselves to seek the Holy Spirit's activity in our lives.
I had an interesting experience a few years ago when I had to take my care to a mechanic. After he had completed the work and I was paying the bill we got into a conversation. He knew I was ordained and often would ask me questions about my experience.
But on this particular occasion, he had what I would call a lifestyle or immersion question. He started out by saying: "oh by the way I turned your radio off. I just wanted you to know."
Then he went on to ask me why I had my radio on a Christian radio station. He joked with me and said: "given your job, isn't that overkill? I mean don't you get enough of Christian stuff without listening to it on the radio as well?"
We had an interesting conversation about what I understood to be immersion in Christian things or the things of Christ. I was able to say to him that with all that I am surrounded with, all the influences that I face every day, sometimes I just need to find a way to counteract those other influences.
I was able to talk about my understanding of the beginning of the Collect I quoted earlier: "Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being."
Rather than make excuses I wanted to try to seek that singleness of heart that I knew was available to me.
I would like to end this morning by encouraging us all to consider how much time and energy do we put into living out our faith? Then to encourage us to consider what excuses we may be making for why we aren't where we could be with the Lord?
As an encouragement to us all, I would like us to look at the words of Christ Our Passover from the Morning Prayer service:
Alleluia. Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.
Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.
Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.