May22SunA sermon for May 22 (Easter 6) May 22, 2022 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
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- Pr. Sebastian
One of the most incredible journeys for a Christian must be a trip to the Holy Land to see the places of the Bible.
I’ve had the good fortune to go twice to Israel and Palestine,
once as a student at the Seminary, and once as a tour leader.
In Jerusalem, there are actually not that many locations that date from Jesus’ time, and can be connected with actual stories involving Jesus.
One of the locations that does is a bath complex that goes back to Roman times which includes 5 large arches,
and some archaeologists think this may be the location of the pool of Beth-zatha, (or Bethesda) as mentioned in our Gospel text this morning.
In my first trip there,
I remember sitting down in that location and imagining myself as an invalid, someone who like the man in the story
had been unable to walk for 38 years, lonely, with nobody to help,
and then all of a sudden,
talked to by none other than Jesus himself.
In our Gospel reading, the actual exchange is brief:
Jesus asks the man if he wants to be healed,
and the man evades the question, perhaps because he is beyond caring, he is hopeless,
he is tired of the pity and exhausted by years of frustration,
and he complains:
“I have no one to put me in the pool, to be healed by the healing waters when the water is stirred up, someone is always ahead of me in line, everyone else seems to have a friend or family to help, but I’m all alone.”
Jesus doesn’t discuss this further, but commands briefly:
“Stand up, take your mat and walk. “
Which is really a ridiculous idea given what the man just said,
but for some reason, the man does as he’s told,
and wouldn’t you believe it, he is healed.
Jesus’ remedy to the man’s problem is perfect,
because Jesus sees his need, and knows what to do.
Given that he is God’s Son, his words have power to heal and give life.
Now this story of the man who wants to be healed by the healing waters but ends up getting healed by the words of life of the Son of God,
is actually a pretty neat text for a Sunday in Easter
where there’s a baptism.
As we celebrate Eleanor’s entry through the waters of Baptism into God’s family,
we remind ourselves that God brings us all through death into life,
because God is more powerful than sin, death and the devil.
We also remember that Baptism, as a sign of God’s love, is a gift,
and there is nothing we need to do to earn it.
This is shown so purely in how infants are baptized…
they can do nothing to earn God’s favour,
They can’t even say that want to baptized by themselves.
And yet infants are still baptized,
underscoring how God’s gifts are true gifts,
no matter how undeserving we are.
God’s gifts come with no conditions, and are freely bestowed.
The waters of baptism are often called waters of healing,
because they cleanse us from all sin,
from everything that separates us from God and neighbour.
Because you know, we are like that invalid long ago,
needing Jesus’ help.
We are rendered helpless by our ailments, by our loneliness,
by our ineptitudes, and our foibles.
We cannot see a way out of our predicament.
This pandemic has just made things worse as we struggle through the fears of everyday life, trying to determine appropriate risks given our own personal health situation,
while also trying to maintain our friendship and family ties.
What is the mat that we are lying on that Jesus bids us take up?
Is our mat our complacency, or perhaps our nest egg or our various support structures that help to a certain degree,
but actually never get us anywhere,
when all we need really is to hear Jesus’ voice.
Jesus’ voice who consoles us, who intimately knows us,
who can heal us in strange and mysterious ways.
Jesus sees our illnesses, our limitations and struggles, and helps us.
How? You may ask.
Perhaps, the answer lies in what we are celebrating for 7 weeks,
In this season of Easter, the season of the Resurrection.
These Sundays we focus on how through Christ’s death and resurrection,
we also take part in his death and resurrection too.
From Death to life is the story of Easter,
an incredible story which defies human logic and flies in the face of all we see around us.
But yet, with faith we cling to that knowledge,
that God grants us life beyond death,
that God heals that most human existential predicament.
In community gathered, we proclaim the Easter faith:
-that peace, and hope which is granted by the Holy Spirit is given as a gift,
-that God, the healer of our every ill, the light of each tomorrow, who loves us and intimately knows us, calls us Child of God,
-That this love for us, though we are undeserving,
helps us hear those words from Jesus to that man long ago,
being spoken to us:
Stand up, take up your mat and walk.
Maybe this week we can imagine Jesus saying these words to us personally.
From what thing or situation do we need help to stand up from?
What is the mat that has been our support for so long that needs to be taken up, rolled away and set aside for a time?
What is holding us back from living life in the fullness that God intended?
Let us pray.
Dear God, who raised up Christ from the dead, who gives us abundant life,
and who call us your children through the gift of Baptism,
Speak to us your words of healing,
encourage us to rely more on the Words of your Son,
and help us to walk in your paths.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.