Sunday, May 05, 2013

"Do you want to be healed?" | A Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Do you want to be healed?


Jesus saw the man –

the man who had been ill for thirty eight years –

lying by the pool just out of reach of the healing waters.

And the question he asked was

“Do you want to be healed?”


It might seem like a crazy question

to ask someone who has lying there

for what John tells us was “a long time”


By the side of the pool.

Just out of reach of the waters

he believed could heal him.

Without a plan. And without hope.


And yet Jesus asks him:

“Do you want to be healed?”

And maybe it’s not such a crazy question at all.


Because, you see,

being healed can change everything

and change – even change for the better –

even change we’ve been longing for

praying for

waiting for

comes with a price tag.


The question then becomes,

Are we willing to pay the cost?

Are we willing to do what it takes?


And sometimes the answer is no,

thanks anyway.

I think I’ll just stay here where I am –

as bad as it is – because at least I know what to expect –

and I’m just not willing

to take the risk that change brings.


And that is why I think this story

is about something bigger than the literal story

of physical illness –

of a paralyzed man by a pool.  


I think it is also about paralysis in a wider sense –

about what happens when we are

paralyzed by grief,

paralyzed by doubt or indecision,

paralyzed by anxiety.


Like that man beside the Beth-zatha pool,

we can feel completely immobilized.

Like him, we can feel alone in the crowd,

utterly without either inner or outer resources –

with no one to help.


We don’t have to look further

than the latest headlines

to be reminded that we live in stressful,

even scary times,

and that the world around us is unpredictable.


From the Boston Marathon bombing

to the Texas fertilizer plant explosion

to the ongoing warfare in Syria.

Violence in our schools and in our streets,

continued efforts to restrict health care for women

and a Congress

that seems to have collective amnesia

about the fact they were elected to protect and defend the Constitution –

not the gun lobby.


In the face of all that there is to be paralyzed about,

how do we stay connected

with our deep inner resources of creative energy, wisdom, and hope?

What do we do when we feel alone and paralyzed by the side of the pool,

cut off from the healing and wholeness

that seem so impossibly far away?


But back to the Gospel story.


“When Jesus saw [the man] lying there

and knew that he had been there a long time,

he said to him,

'Do you want to be healed?'”


The first step in the healing miracle was this:

Jesus drew near and he “saw” the man

and he “knew” him.


As John's Gospel underscores again and again,

when Jesus sees and knows us,

he sees and knows us through and through,

more widely and deeply than we know ourselves.


He looks deeply into us with eyes of love,

with eyes that see the whole truth of who we are,

eyes that perceive everything in us,

everything about us,

with loving kindness and compassion.


That is the first step in today's healing miracle:

Jesus draws near; he sees and knows.

The other step in healing is his question,

“Do you want to be healed?”


It is not just a rhetorical question …

the question invites the man beside the pool –

and invites us, as well –

to explore our desires,

to examine what we want and why.


Do I really want to be made well?

Well – if I’m honest -- yes and no.


Too often a part of me likes to play the role of victim,

to blame the other person for wounding or offending me,

or for keeping me stuck.


Some part of me likes to complain and to look for excuses,

to note the ways my parents have done me wrong

or my colleague has let me down

or the Anglican Communion has failed me (again)

or I deserve better or it's not my fault …

and so here I am,

stuck forever on the very edge of healing,

with healing so close,

but never quite making the move.


And still Jesus asks:

“Do you want to be healed?”


You might say that question comes with a shovel.

It is a question that calls us to dig down deep

into our motives and desires to discover

what we really want.


When we have sifted out and sorted through

all our lesser wants,

what we may discover is

that deep down we want to be fully alive.

Deep down we want to love and to be loved,

and to draw close to the holy Source of love.


Deep down we want our lives

to be about something much larger than ourselves

and our endless striving and self-promotion.

We want our lives to be full of light,

and to be a blessing to other people.


Knowing that is like having our spiritual GPS

 connected to the satellite of God’s love and justice and compassion –

guiding our steps … moment to moment,

in everything we do, in every situation we encounter.


And then we can then ask ourselves:

How do I meet this situation in a way

that is in alignment with my deepest desire

and my highest purpose?


What can I say in this moment,

what can I do in this moment

that will let the love of God be more fully expressed?


And the more completely our lives are aligned

with that deepest motive,

the more inner peace and stability we will feel,

no matter what our outer circumstances may be.

And the more healed and whole we become.


When it comes to healing,

Jesus does not appear out of nowhere,

waving a magic wand.

What Jesus asks is more demanding than that,

and more costly,

for he calls us to do the work of becoming conscious,

of becoming as self-aware as we can,

so that in every interaction and decision and thought,

we are tuned in to our motives,

to what we most deeply want.


As for the man beside the pool –

the one who had been ill for thirty eight years?

Notice that he did not need to climb

into the Beth-zatha pool in order to be healed.


The healing spring – it turned out –

was not beside him but inside him –

just as it is inside us.

As Jesus told the woman at the well

in the chapter right before this one in John’s Gospel,

Jesus gives us water

that will become in us a

“spring of water gushing up to eternal life” 


So even in the most troubled times –

times of grief and loss, of pain and paralysis –

we have everything we need.


The healing pool is within us;

the spring of healing is already rising up.

All we need, when we feel paralyzed and alone,

is to turn to the One who knows and loves us

through and through,

and to listen to the question that he is asking,

“Do you want to be healed?”


Because even when we’re not sure what our answer is,

we know what God’s answer is.


God never promised

that our lives would be free

from struggle, pain, or tragedy.


Instead, God –

the God who is present in the roses AND in the thorns –

promises us that nothing – absolutely nothing –

will ever separate us from the love of the God.


And that, my brothers and sisters,

is the promise that is worth

whatever the cost of the change that changes everything –

the change of saying “yes” to God –

“yes” to love -- and “yes” to the life abundant

God dreams for each and every one of us. Amen.




Thanks to Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Grace Church, Amherst, MA for some of the images in this homily.

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