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22 March 2020 message – Pursued by the love of God

Readings: Psalm 23; John 5:1-17 (read and acted out by the children)


We were going to talk about healing today and look at John 9 – where the man born blind is healed. Remember – the mud and spit in the eye healing method of Jesus?

I think with the current social distancing no touch protocols acting that out in a play might have been tricky.

We chose John 5 – another healing of a person sick for 38 years.

Interesting that Jesus asks the guy – do you want to get well?

They used to doubt that this pool called Bethesda was a real place – until archeologists discovered it in the late 19th century. It was a place where people waited for the waters to be moved by an angel, and the first one in the pool after that would ge well.

Do you want to get well?  It’s a good question for people who have been sick for so long that they can’t be separated from their condition. It defines them.

Like the spies who went into the promised land – their sickness is an unconquered giant. And they are a bit too happy to be grasshoppers.

The man’s answer to Jesus’ question: I can’t do it!

Joh 5:7  “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.”

Jesus responds immediately: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (5:8). IN the next verse we read: Joh 5:9  At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath.

I was at a prison chaplains’ training day Thursday. We had to do this exercise – they read out something and you had to move to a section of the room to show if you strongly agreed, or strongly disagreed, or were somewhere in the middle.

Guess what – I was often on my own.  You’re probably not surprised.

I especially could not say easily that I was a religious person.

I’ve never felt religious. I used to say to the kids I worked with in three schools – I’m not very religious. They often were left scratching their heads. There I was in a dog collar and sometimes wearing a robe a chapel.

The “religious” people in this Gospel passage in john 5 are some of the reasons why I don’t feel comfortable being called religious.

Here’s a man healed after 38 years as an invalid, and they are objecting to the day of the week it happens on? The text continues:

Joh 5:16  So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him.Joh 5:17  Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

When it comes to helping people – you can’t stop because of the day of the week. Or  a crisis. Or risk. Yes, you have to take all reasonable precautions.

Jesus kept healing and speaking the truth. He engaged the untouchables. The people living on the margins. The bad people of his generation. And they changed.

A good shepherd doesn’t leave the sheep on a Sabbath – so that they are easy supper for the wolves.

Today fortunately we have Psalm 23 in the readings, which my new friend Tim who heads up the bile reading group I belong to (operating in Russia) -says “is the perfect antidote to the current worldwide panic.”

He points to the final verse: “Surely goodness and covenant-faithfulness (traditionally mercy) will follow (pursue) me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for length of days.” (Ps. 23:6) Goodness and mercy.

We were studying Proverbs 3 in our Bible Study on Wednesday. Pro 3:5  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; Pro 3:6  in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

The previous verse sprung up from the pages Pro 3:3  Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

Love and faithfulness – loving kindness and truth. Goodness and mercy. We can’t stop caring because God’s goodness and loving kindness don’t just follow us. They are the hounds of heaven. They pursue us!

Tim says: “The word “pursue” is used outside of its normal context in an ironic manner and creates a unique, but pleasant word picture of God’s favour (or a kind God) “chasing down” the one whom he loves.”

Jesus compassion for those who suffered long and tough was there – he healed them.

He sought hem out. He listened. At the pool he discovered this man’s predicament. And intervened effectively. Do we want to be healed?

Do we know that he is pursuing us?

  • Let’s not be afraid at this time in our lives.
  • The Lord is our shepherd. We won’t want  for anything.
  • He restores our soul – heals our hears- and feeds us.
  • We are never alone.

We learnt a song recently and the words really spoke to me:

I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a good good father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

In the face of global fear, may you have faith in the pursuing goodness of God.