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Troubled Waters: A Sabbath Healing

Easter 7,  Common Lectionary Year C

John 5:1- 10

©2016 Rev Elisabeth R. Jones

It was the Sabbath.
In John’s Gospel that’s code.
For trouble brewin’
On the Sabbath, the carrying of a mat is work, and work is not allowed.
On the Sabbath, healing is work, and work is not allowed.
On the Sabbath, the ritually clean
must stay away from the sick,
lest they be rendered themselves unclean,
and unfit to enter the Temple to worship.
You don’t go to BethZatha on the Sabbath,
unless you want to stir up some trouble.

On this Sabbath,
Jesus walks not by the mythical magical pool,
where the flotsam and jetsam,
with their sores and sorrows
huddle in various states of hopelessness.
No, Jesus walks to the pool.
…Trouble’s a’brewin…

Jesus steps over, and around bodies sweating in the shade.
He bends down to one,
thirty-eight years waiting
for wellness, for wholeness,
for a way past the blighted isolation of sickness.
So desperate is this one that she/he will wait for
some god or angel – who cares which? –
to trouble the waters of a stagnant pond
just to be well.

Jesus doesn’t play by Sabbath rules.
Jesus is a Dreamer,
a God-Dreamer.
Jesus is a healer,
a God-healer.
And where there is brokenness, God in Jesus mends.
And where there is sickness, God in Jesus heals,
And where there is incompleteness, God in Jesus gives wholeness,
Sabbath or no Sabbath.

To the pool of BethZatha,
to every place where the
hungry for healing wait,
Jesus Sabbath walks;
stepping over taboos,
breaking through barriers,
of etiquette, religious rubric,
of the status quo,
of the political structures that mandate an unequal parcelling of
wealth, health, access, opportunity.
Jesus Sabbath-steps into the entrenched brokenness of human life, with one thing,
with one question so simple
it takes your breath away!

No tricks, no leaping into a pool
of angel-troubled water first.
No hurdles of faith that need to be successfully jumped.
No dogmas to assent to.
No membership dues.
No Sabbath rule to be kept.

Just a question to be answered:
“Do you want to be well?”
“Do you want to be well?”

Perhaps you are like this thirty-eight year waiting one; you don’t even need to blink before answering!
“Do you want to be well?”
Yes! Of course! Sabbath be damned. Yes!
But equally, perhaps,
this question is less easy,
less straightforward, more troubling.

Perhaps we hold back,
we don’t quite trust this Sabbath-breaking healing,
this grace-without- cost
offer to walk toward wholeness
that Jesus offers,
that his church still offers in his name.

Perhaps we think we are unworthy
of God’s healing attention.
Perhaps, if the sadness were not so deep,
we might say yes.
Perhaps if the fear were not so gripping,
if the grief were not so overwhelming,
if the doubts not so debilitating,
if the grip of sickness of mind, body
or soul so lasting,
we might say yes.
Perhaps if the question were not so starkly simple…
“Do you want to be well?”

This is a troublesome tale,
for in it Jesus isn’t interested
in the Sabbath, in the barriers,
in the what ifs and if onlys,
in the conditions we are so wont to impose on ourselves.
Jesus, in God’s name is only interested
in the heart’s deepest desire,
Do you want to be well?
And the heart,
of God, and of every one of us
is a heart that longs always for wholeness.

And to that heart’s desire he answers,
with troublesome simplicity;
Take the first step.
Healing is yours.
Take the first step.

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