Rev. Kelly Murphy Mason
Scripture: The Gospel of John 5:2-9
Selection: Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Bethsaida, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids – blind, lame, and paralyzed, waiting for the stirring of the water, for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made well from whatever disease that person had. 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, “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. (5.2-9)
Meditation: Among some Christians, both the lapsed and observant, Lent has acquired a bad reputation. That’s particularly understandable if we think of this time as the season to don the proverbial hair-shirt. Yet the hair-shirt is a human invention, nothing we’ve been preordained to wear. If you feel one scratching against your skin, you might want to take it off sooner rather than later. Try donning your Sunday best instead; begin dusting off that Easter bonnet.
Lent gives us a chance to contemplate what needs to be resurrected in our own lives: exuberance, possibility, maybe, a willingness to risk? The truth is that too many of us have gotten comfortable with our discomfort. We congratulate ourselves if we have stopped complaining, but in the process, we’ve also stopped aspiring to much, either. Jesus has never been impressed by our human capacity for complacency; he doesn’t count it among our finer endowments.
What’s so very interesting about this gospel passage is that the sick man does not actually answer the question Jesus poses to him: “Do you want to be made well?” Not all of us do. Perhaps we feel unworthy; perhaps we feel routinely deprived or denied. Angels or fortunes or friends have not favored us, we think, and then we assume the spiritual realm to be as stinting as our imaginations. We’re wrong.
Easter isn’t an easy pill for us to swallow, honestly, and most of us need Lent to help the medicine go down. All that joy – who can stomach it? The victory, the triumph, the fearlessness of it – are we really prepared to digest that? We may first need to get sick and tired of being sick in tired, as they say in Twelve-Step recovery programs. How long must we spend lingering at our own personal Bethsaida? We may want to take some Sabbath time from ourselves. God is altogether eager to grant it, always.
Focusing Questions: How ready are you to recover from spiritual ills? Are you willing to be well, or even better than fine? When are you able to stand up and walk away from all that limits your ability to sense of the inexplicable and outrageous abundance of grace?
Prayer: O good and gracious God, you stir our souls as surely as you stir the waters. Do not leave us to the tyranny of our own devices. Increase our desire to be ready, willing, and able to be well, and ultimately, more useful to you and our brethren. You send us angels, teachers, physicians, even when we resist their ministration. Make us thankful for them. Let our ability to rise testify to the enduring truth of Easter. May we witness to the healing powers of faith and trust, and hope for something bigger and better than our own imagining. Amen!