Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Year C Epiphany WED 2018 Cut The Middle Man

Year C Epiphany WEDNESDAY, 9 January 2019 
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“Cut The Middle Man”  
Collect: O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. 

John 5:1-15 
1 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew (or Aramiac)] Beth-zatha,(or Bethesda) which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed—waiting for the stirring of the water; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made well from whatever disease that person had. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 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 making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 

We are funny creatures. We cannot help it, I don’t think. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, but at the same time we can really do some stupid things, and usually with the best of intentions. 

If you have never seen them, a wonderful way of highlighting this, and making fun of it is something called a Rube Goldberg machine. If you have never seen one of these, there are videos galore in the internet. Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist, who drew overly complex and indirect machines to perform a simple task. People actually construct some, and this is the foundation of the crazy kids’ game Mousetrap 

Why, why, why do we insist on making things so complicated? What is it about us? 

I think part of it is that we think because the problem is big we have to have a complicated solution. But sometimes easiest works best. Two stories: 
  1. 1) There is a story told of big rig getting stuck in the entrance of a tunnel in New York City. It wedged itself in there in an unbelievable way. Police, fire department, city engineers all came and tried to figure out what to do. A tow truck? A crane? How might they get it out? A little boy approached an officer, and tried to get him to listen. Imagine, if you can, your best W.C. Fields impersonation, “Go away, kid, you bother me.” But in his insistence, the little boy suggested letting some of the air out of the tires and backing it out. When in doubt, make sense. 
  1. 2) The other story that comes to mind is when we were having our astronauts in space, and the need for them to do calculations, take measurements, and record observations in the zero G environment. NASA engineers had to figure out a way for ink to flow no matter the direction. They developed a pressurized ink cartridge that would push the ink out no matter the direction or even if there were no up or down. You can still buy a Fisher Space Pen in any NASA gift shop. When they were having a meeting, a proud NASA engineer asked a Soviet engineer how they dealt with the same problem, he said they just sent up pencils. Why, why, why do we have to make it so hard? 

The man begging for a chance at a healing thought in much the same way. He wanted to be able to get to the pool first, so he could be first in the water to receive the blessing of the angel who caused the ripple on the pool. He had put his hope on this for years, 38 years. And Jesus asked if he wanted to be well. The man at the pool just complained. Little did he realize that his hope was there. He put all his thoughts and hopes on a chance at healing with all the help. He had constructed a scenario that was only a maybe. But Jesus cut out the middle man. Jesus cut out all the machinations in the head of this desperate man. “Take up your mat and walk.” Simple. Direct. From the source.  

When we have a need, think of all the things we go through, the plans, the scenarios, the mental constructs, when we can go to the source of our hope and ask directly. This year, may we bathe everything in pray. May we cut out the middle persons who only clutter and make us feel like we are “doing something.” Our faith need not be a Rube Goldberg machine. Our faith can be direct and simple, and probably more effective. Amen. 

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Blessings, Rock