I was woken up this morning at 2am to the sound of tearful cries. This time it was our oldest, Emmaline who is going to be five years old in two months (not sure when that happened)! I ran in to see what was the matter and she was in pain; she was growing again and her little legs were cramping. I rubbed them, wiped her tear-stained face and gave her Tylenol and water. After a kiss and a tuck back in, she fell back asleep. Sometimes growing really does hurt us, both on the outside and on the inside. But as I carried my tired self back to bed, I was immediately reminded about how some pain isn’t as easily fixed as hers was with Tylenol. No, some of our brokenness isn’t so easily healed and some of our wounds are too deep to address right away. As a pastor, I feel the weight of our congregation and world and it feels so heavy at times. There are days I wish we had a spiritual remedy like a “Trinitarian Tylenol” or a “Godly Gripe Water” or a “Holy Hydrogen Peroxide.” (Do you see what I did there)?
There is this story where Jesus chooses to heal a disabled man on the Sabbath in the 5th chapter of the Gospel of John. The Message version tells the story this way:
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.
9-10 That day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, “It’s the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll around. It’s against the rules.”
11 But he told them, “The man who made me well told me to. He said, ‘Take your bedroll and start walking.’”
12-13 They asked, “Who gave you the order to take it up and start walking?” But the healed man didn’t know, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd.”
Aside from the fact that Jesus, the Christ, healed on the Sabbath which was a big No-No, the question is, why him? Sure, he had his disability for 38 years, but there were hundreds of other sick people at Bethesda that day, and it was a big pool of vulnerable people. I know because I have seen it when we visited there in February on our Ordination Trip to the Holy Land. There were many places for sick people to wait for the opportune time for the water to stir up and bless them with a healing. But for some reason, for over 38 years, this man never had anyone near him to toss him into the pool. Why is this? Was he a cranky man and he had no friends? Did he have some sort of skin disease that made him untouchable according to the purity laws? Did he have poor time management and never got to the pool on time? Who knows, but Jesus decided that today was his day.
One reason why I LOVE this story is because of the seemingly obvious question Jesus asks the man. “Do you want to be made well?” I stifle a laugh when I read this, because it seems so obvious. Of course, Jesus, he wants to be made well…what kind of question is this? But when Jesus asks a question in the Gospels, there is ALWAYS something deeper at play here. To me, what is at play is the list of small excuses that we use with our Big God. When we essentially say to the Creator of the Universe that I am miserable where I am at, but I am also not willing to move towards wholeness. For whatever reason, we struggle to ask for help. Not when we are children of course; we can’t help but ask our parents for assistance every 14 minutes it seems. But when we grow up and become independent, we stop asking for help from the people that love us most. Maybe it is our pride, maybe it is our fear, maybe it is our own laziness, but whatever it is, it keeps us from really moving toward healing and wholeness.
As I begin my fifth month at First United Methodist Church of Winter Park, I want you to know what a stellar team of caring laity and staff we have here! I have been blown away by the team of 16 Care Ministers that call, pray with and support many individuals in our church on a weekly basis. Our Congregational Care Team consists of lay and staff that meet weekly to pray for our congregation and to reach out to those that have physical, spiritual and emotional needs. In addition to this incredible group, I am privileged to be a part of the new Stephen Ministry Team that hopes to relaunch a ministry that will walk with people one-on-one in a confidential way as they navigate through grieve, divorce, tragedy and many other debilitating circumstances. While the ministry is still in its infancy, I can already see God’s hand at work as we prepare, plan and pray over how Stephen Ministry will continue to build up the Kingdom of God.
I don’t know where you are today, what your needs might be and what growing pains are hurting you the most. But I do know that today is your day, and maybe you have been waiting by the pool, hoping for a miracle for far too long. Maybe you have made excuses about why you shouldn’t reach out, or ask for help, or share your burdens. I know, it is tempting to turn inward, especially when there is already so much going on around us. But Jesus is asking each of us today, “Beloved, do you want to be made well?” And if that answer is yes, I hope you will reach out and pick up the phone and call the church. Or you can go to our website: fumcwp.org/care
And submit a prayer request, request a pastoral call, ask for a Care Minister, or sign up to learn more about Stephens Ministries. Whatever you do, don’t spend 38 years or even 38 days waiting any longer. We are the church, we are a family and we love to be together through the growing pains of the faith. Let us wipe your tear-stained face, remind you that you are loved and help you move toward healing and wholeness through the power and grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Let it be so.