Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Recently I attended a preaching workshop and the speaker, Dr. Anna Carter Florence encouraged us to concentrate on the verbs of scripture. As preachers we usually focus on the nouns. That’s where the fun Biblical research exists. You can go back and research what a “denarii” was and how much it was worth, and how many a typical worker would make in a day, and where they were manufactured, the material used, the fact that you can buy one on EBay for $3,000, etc., etc., etc.. Then you are 20 minutes into your sermon! The problem with nouns is they make us very away that the text was written 2,000 years ago, and serve to remove us from the texts in many ways. Dr. Florence encouraged us to look at the verbs. They are universal, immediate and filled with action. So, I thought it would be fun to read our text today and look at the verbs and see what they have to tell us. She also said that nouns and verbs dominate our scripture and adjectives much less so (about 10:1 nouns and verbs to adjectives).
We have two healing stories to consider today. I have included them both, but cut the second one off before the extensive hunt to find Jesus. In my mind these two healing stories are quite removed from each other. Sometimes random chapter numbers do that. There must be a reason for them being placed so closely.
Courtney reminded us recently that Jesus probably made many trips to Jerusalem. By the end of our reading he is back again for another feast (Jesus seems to like feasts in this Gospel). Remember the last time he was there he caused an uproar, turning over tables and driving out the commerce from the temple. This time around he’s much quieter, but gets in big trouble none the less. These two readings are fascinating to look at together. The first seems to be passive, “your son lives”, “the man believed”. Things simply happen without any action on the part of Jesus, or the one healed (who isn’t even present). Jesus words simply make it reality. In the second story Jesus is much more direct, “Do you want to get well? Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.”
I remember preaching on this passage a while back and saying how strange the man’s response is to Jesus first question. He doesn’t respond to whether or not he wants to get well, but instead fills Jesus in on his process. Rick shared that that is exactly what he does in AA, works a process, not entirely sure how it works, or if it will work, but being faithful none the less. I sometimes feel the same way about anointing people for healing. I do it, but I don’t know how it might work, or if it will work. It’s a process given to us in the book of James, to anoint with oil and pray for those who are sick. We will be offering anointing in worship today. Hopefully those present will experience healing in some way, in body mind, or spirit.
I’m not sure if my prayers have ever healed anyone. In the hospital I pray for the medical staff, that they would do their jobs well and with skill. I know my prayers have brought peace and relief, and maybe that’s enough. Why do some of us get healing, and some do not? Why was Jesus able to heal everyone, and we are not? Perhaps those are the wrong questions. Perhaps we need to ask how we can participate in our own healing, our own good health, and how we can bring healing to other people.
Quotes for the Week
“And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore.”
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
The only work that will ultimately bring any good to any of us is the work of contributing to the healing of the world. Marianne Williamson
There is hope for the future because God has a sense of humor and we are funny to God. Bill Cosby
Lesson John 4:46-54 and 5:1-9 (The Message)
Now he was back in Cana of Galilee, the place where he made the water into wine. Meanwhile in Capernaum, there was a certain official from the king’s court whose son was sick. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and asked that he come down and heal his son, who was on the brink of death. Jesus put him off: “Unless you people are dazzled by a miracle, you refuse to believe.”
49 But the court official wouldn’t be put off. “Come down! It’s life or death for my son.”
50-51 Jesus simply replied, “Go home. Your son lives.”
The man believed the bare word Jesus spoke and headed home. On his way back, his servants intercepted him and announced, “Your son lives!”
52-53 He asked them what time he began to get better. They said, “The fever broke yesterday afternoon at one o’clock.” The father knew that that was the very moment Jesus had said, “Your son lives.”
53-54 That clinched it. Not only he but his entire household believed. This was now the second sign Jesus gave after having come from Judea into Galilee.
5 1-6 Soon another Feast came around and Jesus was back in Jerusalem. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. Hundreds of sick people—blind, crippled, paralyzed—were in these alcoves. One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?”
7 The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.”
8-9 Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off.
Questions for the Week
Where is healing needed in your life?
How might we help heal one another in this place?