Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Year B Lent 2 WEDNESDAY 2021 God is Working

Year B Lent 2, 3 March 2021 Video Service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA “God is Working” Collect: O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. A Reading from John 5:1-18 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 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?’ 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.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. 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.’ But he answered them, ‘The man who made me well said to me, “Take up your mat and walk.” ’ They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take it up and walk”?’ Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. 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.’ The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.’ For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. There is no day off for doing good. We know from Mark that the “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” But yes, there are some who have their priorities out of whack. A few weeks ago, Harrison and I were talking and pondering what is wrong with how we are able to communicate in our society now. I do not think we are enemies, and I think we share much that it is in common. However, we are in a place where our priorities are in competition, and because we are often blind to our assumptions we are not able to speak to our differences, much less communicate our differences and come to a common place. I was had an amazing experience. I was at a Camp Convention, which gathered camp leadership from all over the East Coast at the same place at the same time. It was amazing. Camp people are fun people, and the diversity was such a thrill to be a part of. I went to one workshop where the leader led us through a popular group dynamics exercise called Alligator River. You can google and read about it in detail, but the gist of it is that there is a woman trying to save her fiancé at the point of death, and to do so she has to get across Alligator River. She tries several ways, and finally the only way to get a ride is to sleep with a scumbag. Because it was life and death she agreed. She arrived to save her fiancé but when he learned how she got there he dumped her. Of the six characters in the story, we were then tasked with rating the best character to the worst. Now none were “pure.” But what the ranking that we each did separately showed was our underlying assumptions as to what was righteous and what was not. We then got into preset groups to come up with a common answer to this conundrum. I was in a group with many ethnic groups, and few different religions. There were Hasidic camp directors, Muslim camp directors, Catholic, Protestant, and secular camp directors. It was great. A few people almost came to blows arguing over who was worst. Looking at the interactions, some valued honesty most. Some purity. Some hospitality or caring for others. What their priorities were came out in their responses. And when people question what we hold most dear we are VERY THREATENED. Fish do not think about water unless something is wrong. We do not think about our values unless they are challenged. The healed man in today’s story was challenged about carrying his mat after he was healed. This very well may have been his ONLY possession. But for the religious authorities were challenged in their understanding of the Sabbath. And they took issue with the man, and then with Jesus. When we cannot have calm and rational discussions, maybe we can reach deep and ask what value of mine is being challenged or threatened. What is conflicting with something I treasure? Could it be we could find a middle place? Could we disagree on what we value most without dismissing the other person? Jesus chose to err on the side of God. He put it this way, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” May we always choose where God is going. It may go against some things we have always assumed and taken for granted. And when in doubt, we have each other where we can confront, wrestle with, and love one another to the right place. Thanks be to God! Amen.

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Blessings, Rock