Sunday, February 6, 2011

First in the Pool

Pastor Brad, having been at a conference all week, yielded the pulpit to Pastor Dave Eaton this morning, but welcomed us warmly and led the service. In his opening remarks Brad reminded us that everything we do matters. For Christians, life is not simply a "holding pattern" till Jesus returns. Our actions here matter and we're on earth to make a difference.

Announcements were several.
1) Saturday is the Sweetheart Banquet here at the church, featuring delicious hors d'oeuvres, exquisite cuisine and scrumptious desserts by Chef Leonard, followed by a modest evening of entertainment. You can't beat the price... free (with a suggested donation of ten dollars for those who are able.) 5:30 p.m. Saturday the 12th.
2) Paula S. reminded us that a number of folks from the church will be going as a group to see a theatrical production of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None at St. Scholastica the weekend of the 19th. Call Paula if interested in being part of it and to suggest whether Saturday eve or Sunday at two is best for you.
3) Susie Newman shared that if anyone is interested in more information on being a mentor through Mentor Duluth, give her a call.
4) Deacons meeting is Tuesday at 6:00 p.m.
5) This Wednesday will be an Adventure Club Fun Night with sledding and a bonfire.

Darlene played a beautiful medley of Open Our Eyes, Lord and Be Thou My Vision to begin the service in earnest. After leading us in worship, Brad read to us from John 5:1-15, the passage from which today's sermon would be derived. After a time of prayer, Pastor Eaton brought us the message.

First in the Pool

The Pool of Bethesda was a place of expectation. The basis of this expectation was a belief that at certain times the waters would be stirred and the first into the pool after the stirring of the waters would be healed. In fact, some translations of the Bible include a verse explaining the basis of this belief, in verse four: For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. (KJV)

This "stirring of the waters" was not something that occurred daily. It was an occasional event, and unfortunately for those who were especially debilitated, the least seek could usually reach the pool faster and get there first.

The story tells of an invalid who had been poolside there for 38 years. It is probable that at this point he had lost hope of ever being healed. Possibly he was paraplegic, and most certainly a man with hygiene issues, a man neglected and ignored. But when Jesus saw this man, He had compassion.

The story records three statements that Jesus made to this man that are applicable to all of us who are in need.

1) "Do you want to get well?"
We get used to things. When things become familiar to us we often don't even notice them anymore. We often adopt an attitude of resignation to our problems and some people even get a sense of identity from their misery.

What Jesus was saying is, "Do you have the will to be healed?" The man himself began like many of us do, making excuses. In his case, he said he had no one to help him into the pool. But why was he alone? Why did he have no one there? Has he alienated the people who once loved him?

2) "Get up. Pick up your mat and walk."
Grace is an amazing thing. God is willing and able to help us. This man's healing was wholly grace, but for grace to take effect it required a response of faith. To his credit, the invalid when instructed attempted to obey, and was indeed healed. God did it, but the man had a response of faith.

Note the reaction of the religious leaders though. They were no rejoicing. Yet had they noticed him before? Had they shown compassion to the man before? Instead they are critical legalists. Spiritual legalism is a life sucking spirit. The problem was in the early church and is often with us today.

3) "Stop sinning"
As He addressed the woman caught in adultery, so Jesus spoke here an important third statement. We have been healed to bring glory to God and to leave behind what does not bring honor to Him.

As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans:
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2)

The important thing for each of us in our relationship with Jesus, which gives us the strength to follow that which God has called us to be and do.

After a story about a man who rescued a drowning swimmer, we celebrated the Sacrament of Communion.

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