Courage to be Whole
In John 5: 1-9, Jesus is in Jerusalem and he goes by the Pool of Bethesda. This pool, fed by an underground spring, is down, off of the street, and surrounded by porticoes offering some shade and shelter. Legend said that on occasion an angel would trouble the waters of the pool and the first person into the water after that would be healed. So, the pool had become a sort of gathering for those who were sick, especially the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed. They gathered there watching the surface of the water for the smallest sign of rippling waves. A small bubbling from the underground spring or even a slight breeze could cause a stampede of invalids trying to be the first into the water.
And Jesus asks a man who is lying over to one side of the pool, “Do you want to be made well?” How did he respond?
“No thanks, I think I’ll just stay here on my pallet and wait for the waters to ripple. I’ve been here 38 years and I know what to expect and I know all of the other people nearby. True, I’m probably not going to get in the water first, but – you know – I’ve gotten used to being here, so thanks all the same, Jesus, but I’ll just lie here.”
No, John writes that this man did not respond that way, but instead he said yes to Jesus’ question, and Jesus told him to get up, and pick up his mat and walk. He responded to the call and was made whole.
It has almost been two years since we started battling this horrible disease that became a pandemic in our land. In that time most of our secretariats have canceled all of their weekends in order to not spread COVID 19. In the Texas Gulf Coast secretariat we just had to cancel our November weekend for lack of pilgrims. People are still afraid to gather in large groups that present uncertainty for them in regards to safety from COVID.
So rather than lose our deposit to the camp we decided to come together as a team, joined by any other Fourth Dayers who would like to come for a Spiritual Retreat. And God blessed us with some twenty plus retreaters who responded to the call of Via de Cristo again and said “Yes” to God, like the paralyzed man at the Pool of Bethesda did when Jesus asked if he wanted to be healed.
Yes, we need healing too. Our secretariats need to say yes to God again and stand up and walk in the healing power of Jesus Christ. It may mean that we gather for retreats for spiritual renewal and a shared vision of where God is leading us. In any case we know that God is not finished with us and we need to stand up and walk.
Our churches are shrinking today because as Christians we have ceased responding to God’s call to stand up, pick up our mat and walk the walk instead of just talk the talk.
Jesus’ question to us in 2022 is “Do you want to be healed?” If so, we must start being responsible and stand up in faith. Then our legs of faith become strong enough for us to walk beside others to help them grow in their faith life. Our arms will be empowered by Jesus to embrace our brothers and sisters and give them an opportunity to shed the victims’ clothing of fear and stand and walk with Jesus in service to others in responsibly safe environments.
I wonder, “do we fear the cure more than the illness?” Bill Coffin, a writer of novels and roleplaying games, once said that it’s scary to be responsible, or in our case, able to respond to God’s call, able to respond to the word and love of Jesus, in the midst of a threatening disease like COVID 19. If we cease being a victim, saying, “I can’t get to the water Jesus; someone else always gets there first”. Instead let us prepare our hearts for the healing God wants to give us. Perhaps Ultreyas, spiritual retreats, group prayer days, and other ways of experiencing the healing that God desires to give us will prepare us to stand up and walk so we can help other Christians grow stronger in their faith lives.
May God help us to no longer make excuses, or shrink with fear, but stand up and walk by the Grace of God to grow in our faith and help others get excited about what God is doing in their lives too.
Via de Cristo is a call from Christ to stand and walk instead of sit and bemoan the decline in our churches. Through Via de Cristo we have the opportunity to grow our congregations in spiritual formation, faith and service to God, and live a life of joy and fullness.
To get up and follow Jesus will involve us in people’s lives, because to be whole means to be re-membered, re-connected with God and with God’s people and God’s creation. No more faith isolation. No more living my own private life where no one bothers me. To be made well means to get off of the couch and get involved. It means to work our tails off, often doing behind the scenes work that is tedious and overlooked in order to create a safe environment for others to experience Via de Cristo.
We know that to walk out of the door and say, “Here, am I Jesus! Send me!” is an invitation to maybe get crucified like Jesus. Jesus never avoided the paralyzed, the sick or infirm, or the outcast. He walked among them and brought healing, and so must we, for this is God’s work in the midst of a sick and fallen world.
In John’s story, this paralyzed man had the guts to become well. He takes a deep breath and nods to Jesus, “Yes, I want to be whole, healed and well.” For Via de Cristo it will take work and lots of unlearning of old habits we may have accumulated during the pandemic and learning new and safer ways of doing weekends. Jesus reaches out to us and asks if we want to be made well. I know it is not going to be easy, but, let us say, “Yes, Jesus, make us whole.”
To be made well means that we can’t accept the lax spiritual attitudes of our own lives or what may seem to pervade. It means that we will stand up and pick up our mat we have been resting on and walk up to our pastor and invite him or her to Via de Cristo to assess whether or not it would be a source of spiritual renewal for their members. Invite them to come and experience the work of the Holy Spirit in their life and in the lives of others. Let us help our home congregations to grow spiritually and let the life of God’s love and Grace flow through us in our communities. At the invitation of Jesus, let us stand up and walk
Pastor Sue Beall