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The question…

September 9, 2013

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For 20+ years I have been using (off and on) a devotional guide named “A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants” by Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck.  I have mixed feelings about some of the contents but overall it has provided a good model for devotions – Prayer, Psalm of the Week, Daily Scripture Reading, Readings for Reflection, Prayers, Hymn of the Week, and Benediction.  Today’s Scripture Reading is John 5:1-15.  Jesus is in Jerusalem and sees a man by the Pool of Bethesda who has been an “invalid” for 38 years and he asks him “Do you want to get well?”

It occurs to me that this is one of the major questions of life for us both as individuals and as a “church.”  I use quotes for church as I simply do not believe that all those who gather on Sunday morning are the true church.  The institutional church is more of a preaching point, a missionary outpost to the community in which many figuratively gather by the “pool of Bethesda” to hear the Word of God only to have Jesus ask them “Do you want to get well?”  And so often the answer seems to be “not yet” or some other excuse.

Every week I wonder what it will take to present the question to so many who seem to be so busy “Do you want to get well?”   It seems that so often we show up for Sunday School or worship either out of habit, or because we want to “raise our children right” or because we are “looking for a good program to teach moral values.”  But we don’t necessarily want to have to change our way of life.  We are content.  Life is pretty good.  We are reasonably happy.  Reading about the invalid by the pool I am struck by his response to Jesus – “I have no one to help me into the pool…”

So often we come up with excuses to keep from taking the plunge.  I picture this invalid almost content in his way.  For 38 years he had been an invalid.  He likely had grown used to sitting there beside the waters with other people who also needed healing but who relied on the capricious nature of a pool that only healed when the waters were stirred and then only for the first one in…  And so too do we so often see the Lord God as capricious and wait for something special to happen or for someone else to do the work we need to do to be healed.  We are content with worship or perhaps we consider it to be  pretty good.  We are reasonably happy until the waters are stirred and someone else is healed before  us.  It was a divine appointment that put the invalid there that day.  Day after day, likely for many years, he have been deposited by the pool, waiting, watching others get healed and perhaps even developing some resentment about that… 

And Jesus walks by and asks the most important question, a question he still asks us – “Do you want to get well?”

Getting well, means a change in our circumstances.  It means we no longer are carried about.  It means we no longer have an excuse for not doing things ourselves, for our dependence on others to do the work we are called to do. In the life of any congregation it means we pick up our mats (perhaps our crosses) and carry them.  We walk, we run, we carry loads, we participate in the life of the healed and freed community.  And we testify to the One who heals us.  We point to Jesus.  We likely will be questioned, as he was.  We may be accused of doing improper (undignified ?) things.  But we won’t care.  We’ve been healed.  We’re walking.  Perhaps we are dancing.  But we are free.

And so the question that resonates in my mind as I enter this day is how to ask the question “Do you want to be healed?”  Sunday is coming and there are lost sheep…

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