for Ascension of Christ (May 5)
for Sunday, May 8
For each week of the church year, we have several Scripture lessons we may study and pray over. As a preacher, it falls to me to choose what to try to communicate through Sunday morning preaching. Most weeks, I also have the blessing of preparing two Bible study lessons. At Journeys Crossing, we usually work on a lesson which will NOT be the main focus of our worship service at Bethel, that week. In our worship services at Bethel, you may have noticed that, most Sundays, pieces and parts of three or more of these Scripture texts find their way into our responsive readings, songs, prayers, and the bulletin.
Even with all of these opportunities to glance at the Scriptures, it is never enough. In our lifetimes, we will never wring from the Bible all the meaning and direction it could give us. But we keep going back for another taste- just the same way we go back to the kitchen for another meal.
So, here are a couple of “leftovers” from last week’s Scriptures, which I would regret if I didn’t call to your attention. Don’t dare let them get moldy !
† John’s gospel gives us a mysterious story, not found in the other gospels, of Jesus encountering a handicapped man who lay on the pavement by a bathing pool in Jerusalem. John reports that Jesus knew the man had been there for a long, long time: thirty-eight years ! The handicapped man did not ask Jesus for healing: rather, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be made well ?”
The man replied to Jesus, that nobody had ever managed to get him into the bathing pool while the water was stirred up— and that was why he had never yet been healed from his handicap.
Jesus told the man, “Stand up, take your mat, and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
I’ll repeat: I find this story mysterious.
Nevertheless, there seems to be a lesson there: if we actually want to arrive at the place of wholeness where God wants us to be, maybe we ought to demonstrate some desire, and do our best to head in that direction. Even so, Jesus healed that handicapped man: sometimes, God blesses us even when we have shown no initiative at all.
And, perhaps, there may be a criticism within this story of the people of Jerusalem, who for thirty-eight years NEVER took the trouble to give that handicapped man his turn in the healing pool.
† In Revelation chapter 22, the prophet John says, Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. (Revelation 22:1-3)
This is such a beautiful picture— we can all appreciate it.
If we take a moment to consider the day-to-day reality faced by ordinary people in John’s time, this vision of heavenly, pure, clear water becomes even more precious. In those days, the wealthiest and most powerful people commanded the high places in the towns and cities. They arranged for supplies of clean water for themselves, with the help of the best engineering available, plus servants at their command to fetch water from protected wells and springs. Meanwhile, everyone’s sewage flowed in the public streets… downhill. It flows downhill from the good real estate to the bad, making it hard for the less-well-off to have any clean water at all— plus, passing the filth and diseases of the mighty and rich down to the poor.
How glorious, then, that in God’s City, the pure, clean water is freely available to everybody. Not only that, but God’s gift of water irrigates the Trees of Life, helping them produce free medicine for all people. It is not God’s will that only a few should enjoy the blessings of creation, while the many get crap.
Now- On to this coming week’s lessons ! In which we get to rise with Christ Jesus to the heavenly places and see him seated at the right hand of the Father. Show a little motivation ! Let’s GO !!
[God] has put all things under his feet
and has made him the head over all things
for the church, which is his body,
the fullness of Him who fills all in all.