May 20, 2019
Rev. Kristen Provost Switzer is the Minister of Youth and Mission at Newtown Congregational Church.
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 paralysed. 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.
This has never been a story about faith.
The man who is about to be healed in this story is less than enthusiastic when Jesus asks him if he wishes to be made well. He doesn’t even give a slightly affirmative answer. He names limitations to his situation and reasons why he will never be healed.
The well in this story is a symbol of divine healing. Other ancient versions of this text add the common belief of that time that the “stirring of the water” occurred when an angel of God would stir up the water of the pool, a symbol of divine action, and that the first person to step in the pool after the water had been stirred would be made well.
And yet, it’s not the pool or the water or angels that heal this man. Instead, the miracle happens this way: a person of God recognizes God inside of another person. A human sees another human who is suffering but who also has agency and potential and so, that first human says something encouraging to the other that moves them to action. And it works.
What if rather than passing the buck to God, placing the responsibility of healing on faith and overlooking our own agency, we recognized God’s potential in one another and in ourselves and we did something? Would we then become God’s healers? Perhaps our greatest sin and failing is when we underestimate our own power in creating God’s Kin-dom and our role in ushering in God’s perfect realm of justice here on earth.
Here’s the thing: God needs you to do Her work. You are the one that God yearns for. Your gifts, your imperfections, all of the parts of your story that make you unique and all of the ways that God made you to be you- you are the one that God needs today and every day. And not just you- God needs all of us too. Our existence, our liberation, our planet, our collective survival are all intertwined. In more ways than one, we need each other to survive and God needs us as much as we need one another.
This has never been a story about faith. But it is a story about the best of humanity exemplified in the one who embodied the divine. May we do the same.
Holy One, grant us with a holy discomfort... and then move us into action. Help us to remember that this work is neither ours to complete nor ours to abandon. Amen.
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Congregational Church of Old Lyme
First Church of Christ in Saybrook (Congregational)
Orange Congregational Church
Oxford UCC Congregational
The First Congregational Church of Plainfield
This Week in History:
May 20, 1996, (13 years ago) The U.S. Supreme Court votes to strike down an amendment to the Colorado state constitution that would have prevented any municipality protecting the rights of gays and lesbians. The court's decision argued that the law violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. 14th Amendment.
Starting With Scripture: May 20, 2019 , by Kristen Provost Switzer.