Reading: John 5: 2-16 (abridged)
Now there is in Jerusalem…a pool…called Bethesda…. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years…. Jesus…asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to him… “The law forbids you to carry your mat…Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him.
Lord, I want to be well! Spare me from the sins of bitterness, envy and resentment. Sometimes these sins are not up and walking around in the world, making mischief. Sometimes they are just there, lying recumbent in my heart. But either way, I am sinning when I give them any voice or quarter. If, by the power of your Holy Spirit, I do not have the grace to put them to death while they are still inward, they WILL arise, and make mischief in the world. It is only a matter of time. And then I shall be guilty of the “something worse” — an actual harming of the envied ones or, which is more likely, the innocent ones in my life, those who try to do me good, but whose hand I bite while it feeds me. Jesus, thank you for these words of warning. For the “something worse,” even the loss of my own soul, is something You wish to spare me —which I should also want to spare myself. Lord, make me “want to be well!”
Come Holy Spirit. Show me one by one the areas of bitterness, envy and resentment in my heart. I pause now to let You Speak… Give me an ear to hear bitterness, envy and resentment for what they are in my daily complaints, and in the way I speak about others who manage to get into the pool ahead of me. Spirit of God, breathe Your killing breath, in which there is such Mercy, over those bitter weeds.
And then, help me to take up my mat and walk. Help me to do something positive in the world with the strength and wholeness I have, to whatever degree, by Your grace. For there is always grace, there is always resource, there is always power to draw on from your Life-Giving Spirit, even when our overwhelming experience is one of suffering or deprivation. Help me to regard the ways in which my life has been more crippled, more deprived, more friendless than I think it should have been, as sources of refining, so that I can endure with less for myself, giving more to others. “You are free, therefore choose.” “You are healed, therefore walk.” But where shall I walk? Lord, show me. Do not let the beckoning finger of the enemies of Jesus distract me. Do not let me join myself to any group that is typified by bitterness, envy or resentment. Let me go my own way, following you. In Jesus name, I ask it, AMEN.
-Rev. Karla Wubbenhorst