So much in this story that’s right and good – so much going on that’s helpful and faithful.
People have come to Jerusalem for one of the feasts. We don’t know which one, but they have come together from different parts of the country – come from separated lives
- to be a people together at the holy centre
- to remember the old stories of the acts of God in earlier days
- to nourish and rekindle their flickering hope in God someday acting again to save them and set them free
- in this combination of memory and hope, to find the strength to carry on as God’s people in the world as it is
And that’s enough, isn’t it? We know it is. It’s good and right – helpful and faithful. It’s something we need, and most times it is enough.
And now it’s the sabbath – day of rest, and in the midst of the festivities and busyness of the city and the feast, people have gathered to share the peace of the day at the pool by the Sheep Gate.
The pool is a good size – about 20 by 300 feet – 6 by almost 100 metres, with large columns and porticoes where people can gather in groups. It’s ornate and attractive. Soothing and inviting. It’s a public place where people meet, where for six days business is done, where on the sabbath people rest together in the grace of the day. Because on the sabbath they are prohibited from working, from travelling, from cooking, from carrying loads – from doing most ordinary things of the week. And it’s a liberating thing – a chance to rest in God’s goodness and promise – to remember all things are held together for good ultimately by God – to live now with a little foretaste of heaven – and that’s good, isn’t it? At times, that’s as good as it gets – as close as we can feel to heaven in this life.
And yet there is more. This pool is a healing pool. The water is from an underground spring, and at times it is stirred – some say by an angel, and when that happens, those who are able to enter it in time are healed. They are cured of weakness and infirmity – their pains and sorrows in life are removed – they are lifted and set free by the good will of God for whole and true life.
Not all find their way in. Like the man who has been lame, for 38 years. He has found his way to the pool, but when the water’s stirred, others push in ahead of him, others have friends to help them. And he is left – nearby, at the edge, just outside the circle of those who are healed and set free for new and true life. But still -- sometimes that seems enough. Just knowing that it happens – even if just for others. From what we see and hear, knowing it’s real and possible. Sometimes – most times?? – isn’t that enough? As close to God’s healing power as we need – or maybe want, to come?
Except – Jesus then comes to us. Jesus sees the man-lame-for-38-years lying there just beyond the edge of the water. He knows he has been there a long time. And he says, “Do you want to be made well?”
And that’s the question, isn’t it? Do you want to stay on the edge, or do you want to enter in? Do you want as good as it gets, or do you want more? Do you want enough, or do you want life lifted up, made whole, and filled to overflowing?
Through the Easter season in our worship we have been made aware of a variety of opportunities for mission and ministry that have come to us, and we’ve put symbols of them on the resurrection tree here in our sanctuary:
- · Stoney Creek Food Bank – helping to feed the hungry in our community.
- · City Kidz – caring for, and sharing hope with children and families living in poverty in Hamilton
- · United to Help Syrians – helping a family still living at risk in Syria to come to safety in Canada
- · Don McEneny – on the weekend of June 4, we will give the proceeds from the Lobster Dinner and will collect other donations as well, as a gift of support to Don, who was injured while volunteering at the church
It sounds like a lot, especially all at once. It may seem we cannot do them all. In fact, in a very deep way, we cannot do any. In many ways we are as unable to do what we would like to be able, as the man who was lame for 38 years and unable to get into the pool.
We cannot save the world. We cannot solve all hunger and poverty, cure all war and brokenness. But – and here is the good news – we are invited to be part of the working of God in the midst of all these things. We are invited to stand up and find our way in to the stirring of God’s Word and Spirit in the waters of our time.
And it really is an invitation. An open and honest question God asks of us, to which we are free to say yes or no or whatever.
I can’t tell you how many times, for instance, Japhia and I have looked at the picture of the child in Bolivia that we sponsor through World Vision, have said we should finally write a letter to get involved beyond just our monthly donation, and we haven’t yet. Or how many other invitations to take part in some opportunity for mission have been met with excuses, good reasons, and just simple evasions.
We’ve no idea why things come to us as they do. Why certain opportunities open up, and others don’t.
Just as we’ve no idea why Jesus offers healing and new life to the man that he does. Why that man and not another? Why anyone at all?
Except this is how God works – how the God’s Word and Spirit stir the water of our time and of our lives – how we are saved and made whole. It’s by God seeing us where we are … coming to us with wholeness of life in mind … reaching out to touch and stir our hearts with a vision and an invitation … and us responding as we will.
There’s so much in this story … and so much all around us, that’s right and good, that’s helpful and faithful.