Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lying by the Pool

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 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 going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:1-18

When I served in Middletown years ago, our neighbor was the senior warden and also a generous friend. Beth and Tom had an in-ground pool which they made freely available to us. We often found ourselves on sweltering afternoons hanging around the pool, and even some sticky summer nights found us bringing our supper and sharing stories sitting in their back yard as the kids splashed about. They were kind and generous and made room for our rowdy bunch. The water took away the fierceness of summer, washed away all of the extra energy of childhood and absorbed the competition of three girls. I always dreamed of having a pool of our own. Because of their generosity, they made us feel right at home and welcomed always.

The pool where Jesus found the man was not like a backyard summer fun spot. It was surrounded by folks in terrible need and in terrible pain. If you were poor and had no help, you were likely never to get in the water. And yet this man was healed, by Jesus, who took pity on him, saw his need and touched him with healing. It was an amazing thing, a transforming event, the gift of a completely new life. And Jesus made the man feel part of the beloved family, forgiving him and setting him free from the illness that bound him and held him down. And God promises to be there for us also, at the point where we cannot move, where we are immobilized by pain, when we have given up home of ever finding a new life.

Today, I ask God to help me remember that Jesus is never far off, but always drawing close to us, taking us in his arms and transforming us through love and compassion. To those who need healing this day may we take heart. For the ones who have been transformed, may we reach out in love. And may we all wait with patient hope knowing that God is always more ready to stir the pool than we are to jump in.

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