Acts 16:9-15 Psalm 67 Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 John 5:1-9
Today our gospel reading is about healing. In it, we have Jesus in Jerusalem by a pool known for its healing qualities. People would come and hang out in the shade of one of the five porticoes there and wait for the water to be stirred up. It was believed that an angel would periodically come and stir the water and the first to enter it would be healed.
You just heard me read about the man who had been ill for 38 years. He had been there for a long, long time so Jesus asks, “Do you want to be made well?” This is not an unreasonable question. There are many today who are disabled and have learned to live with their disability. They have made peace with their limitations and are living a happy and productive life – just not productive in the traditional sense of the word. What they do, does not generate an income, but they are actively involved in the lives of their family, and/or church.
There are also people who do not like their situation, they are unhappy, but can no longer imagine life any other way. Either way, to be freed of whatever it is that limits them would change everyone’s expectations of them. And, it might even require them to return to the work force to earn a living – which would mean living an entirely different life from what is familiar to them.
Sadly, even people who live in dysfunctional families or who are in abusive relationships are often reluctant to change. Their current way of life is the only life they know and they are afraid of change. Changes, even changes for the better, are difficult and a person who has been beaten down by life may not have the energy necessary to change – so they remain in unhealthy relationships.
Do you want to be healed – is the same as asking, do you want to change? As much as we may think we want to change, we may find it too frightening. Writing on this passage, theologian William Barclay makes this more personal by suggesting some of us are too accustomed to things as they are to answer yes to Christ. We may like the thought of following Christ, but we do not really want to be changed by Christ. We are content with life as it is. Do we really and truly want to forgive our neighbors? Our annoying neighbor who talks too much? Truth be told we are happy avoiding them because of something that was said years ago?
Once the man at the pool explains to Jesus that he had tried to make it to the pool, but needs help, Jesus heals him. Jesus tells him to “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” Whether or not the man knew it when he stood, he is about to find out that being changed by Christ can be challenging at times. Recently, I was asked if I believe people are all doing the best they can. After considering it a moment I said, “Yes, but that doesn’t mean they can’t, or don’t, need to do better.”
I think we can all do better – we all need to do better, but we are like the man who could not get into the water quick enough. We need help. The more difficult question is, “do we want to change?” If the answer is yes, I believe Jesus smiles, then says, “Stand up, take your mat, and walk.” Saying yes isn’t a miracle cure, it is a first step. And, we must learn to see that Christ comes to us in many forms in order to receive his help. Christ comes to us through our friends, through strangers, and through professionals who are willing to walk the difficult path with us to recovery.
This Memorial Day weekend, we remember that our lives are connected to people who have come before us, who died to preserve the freedoms we enjoy in this country. We remember that the path we walk today was built with their lives. Until God’s kingdom is on earth as it is in heaven, there will be conflict and their will be men and women serving and dying in the armed forces for us. It is a sobering thought, but one that reminds us there are people whose names we will never know who have died to make our lives better.
Though Memorial Day is about remembering those who died in service, we are also still working to heal from a painful time in our nation’s history when those who fought for their country were not received home by a grateful nation. At the 10:30 service we will hear portions of a presidential proclamation declaring a period of time to remember and support our Vietnam Veterans. It began on Memorial Day in 2012 and will continue through Veterans Day in 2025. As part of this commendation, today, we will honor the service of Sargent Scott Wright, a Batesville veteran.
Like the man at the pool by the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem, our nation needs help to heal from the Vietnam era and we need to take part in healing by saying “Yes” to Christ. I believe we do want to change; we so want to be better. I spoke of Christ appearing to us in many forms – when we say yes to Christ, we not only begin to experience the healing power of his love, we can share his love with others in need of healing.
Saying yes is not easy as some suggest, but it is necessary if we are to experience peace in our lives. It is necessary if we truly want to know love.
Let us pray. Loving and gracious God, we ask for your help that we might answer yes, and experience healing in our lives, and in the life of our nation. We give thanks for all who gave their lives in defense of our nation and our freedom, and we pray that we might be even mindful that our lives are forever connected to others. We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen