Lenten meditation on John 5

I wish I were blogging every day for Lent!  But my colleague Carrie Finch started a wonderful daily Scripture meditation for the Lenten season, which is great reading.  Here’s a link to it:  http://finched.tumblr.com/

It seems, though, that my thoughts this Lenten season are especially attuned to death and new life.  My grandmother recently passed away, and some people close to me are dealing with the death of parents and grandparents as well.  In each case, the dying person had been ill for some time, and at some point had ceased to seek healing in a strict clinical sense (through medications, surgeries, etc.)

So I offered these thoughts on healing during our weekly Lenten mediation at First Presbyterian on March 23.  I used John 5:1-9,which was the daily Gospel reading on the PC(USA) lectionary webpage:  http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/devotions/

(Since we preach without notes at First Pres, these are notes, not necessarily complete sentences!)

***

During Lent we often focus on themes of sin, cleansing, repentance, making ourselves ready to receive new life.  We give up ice cream or caffeine or whatever as a symbol of our internal process of clearing out everything that stands in the way of new life.  In addition to focusing on repentance, it is also appropriate to consider the issues of death, healing and new life in light of Christ’s journey toward the cross.

There are three ways of dealing with human suffering:

  1. Wallow in it.  Some people have accused the man by the pool of being a malingerer, someone who enjoys being sick and receiving other people’s pity.  They look at his complaint about not being able to get in the pool, and see a whiny person.  I’m not sure if that is the case with him, but it certainly happens with many people.
  2. Deny it.  My husband is a funeral director.  He sees a wide variety of responses to grief.  Certainly there are the families that overdo it and seem to wallow in grief.  But then there are the families that act like nothing happened at all.  And then there are the families trying to cover it all up with happiness.  It seems just as odd to him to bypass grief as to get stuck in it.  Anyway, can you truly wish grief away?
  3. Seek healing.  This is the often the most convoluted way to respond to suffering.  But it has the possibility of truly closing the door on sin, death, and suffering.  This man had lain at the pool for thirty-eight years, longer than Jesus had been alive. He was considered useless, a burden.  No one came to visit him and take him for a dip in the pool.  Sometimes he never even made it in.  Surely a healed, renewed life would be a blessing to him, but also would open a potentially scary wide door of possibilities.  What to do now?  How to make a living?  Go back to family?  He has the chance to take on responsibility — will he jump at the chance or run from it?  Jesus was very perceptive in asking him if he wanted to be healed.

If we wish to receive the new life offered by Christ, we must ask ourselves the same question:  do you want to be healed?  Healing isn’t a quick fix.  It may be a long process.   It may open more doors than we are ready to investigate, and bring up more questions than we are ready to ask.

Yet, in some sense we were born ready.  Although we are mixed up by sin, and taken down the wrong path from time to time, we were made in the image of God.  We were created to get up and walk.  If we allow Christ to dwell within us, then we live in the fullness of being who we were created to be.  That’s the ultimate goal of healing.  When the chance comes for that healing, for that return to our full self, may we say yes!

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