Sixth Sunday of Easter: The Gospel Passage – Healing Mode

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” (John 5:1)

A good portion of Jesus’ ministry was healing people. Jesus had healed the royal official’s son before going up to Jerusalem (that was the “after this” proceeding this passage). As someone who has all manner of illnesses, I pay special attention to the healings in the New Testament.

“Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.” (Verses 2 – 5)

If you, beloved reader, say “I cannot begin to imagine being ill for 38 years!” then you are not well acquainted with chronic illness. I must tell you, however, if it were me I would not be sitting/laying in a portico hoping to get well. I would be out living life as best I could. Even if it meant doing only a little bit every day, I would be doing as much as I could as long as I could. It could be that Jesus asked this the man the following question because there is the appearance that he had spent 38 years of his life focusing on the negative, what he cannot do.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” (Verses 6 – 7)

What you may not realize, beloved reader, is that verse 4 is missing and it would tell you more about vignette at this pool; legend said that the waters of the pool are stirred up by an angel at intervals and the first person in the water gets miraculously healed. Now the source for this detail is unreliable enough that most translations have omitted this detail. It seems to me that if something like that was going on during the time of Jesus’ ministry – that is, an angel stirring the water – Jesus might have been more aware of it and done some stirring himself. Perhaps that is why verse 4 was omitted, and why Jesus makes no comment on the legend but instead intercedes with a more direct miracle.

“Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a Sabbath.” (Verses 8 – 9)

Setting aside the tale of the angel stirring the water, I do have several questions about this passage. Was the man’s answer enough? That he wanted to be healed and was putting for the effort with all his energy and ability? Was Jesus’ heart moved because obviously the man had no friends or family to help or support him. And while there is a presumption that the man might have been by the pool for 38 years, maybe his illness only recently became chronic enough that it lead him to “reach for a miracle”.

I am reminded too of the blind man who comes later in the gospel of John (ironically) and who Jesus said was blind “so that God’s works can be revealed in him.” Now, I don’t know if that is the same situation here. But it certainly seems that Jesus was on a mission to heal those who were in need. And then I think of myself – my illnesses – and I think how I could use some healing too. As I said previously (here and other places) that I am not waiting on healing but moving forward as best I can. Not exactly taking up my mat and “walking”; but neither am I waiting for the waters to be stirred so that I can regain the health I lost. Jesus may have not healed my body, but my spirit – beloved reader – soars!

I hope and prayer beloved reader that what ever illness may be in your life, the Divine lifts you and leads you to wholeness. Selah!

Advertisements

Third Sunday of Easter: The Psalm Passage – Praising the Divine in the midst of our personal stories

I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit. Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30: 1 – 5)

This psalm reminds me, beloved reader, of the time I was getting radiation for my skin cancer. At the peak of its worst (end of January 2019) I was in the hospital for several days trying to recover from the affects of the radiation. From the perspective of receiving the news that my latest CT scan was clear of any tumor/skin cancer, I can say that the “foe” of skin cancer did not “rejoice” over me, and that I was brought up from “Sheol” and restored to life! I did weep for many nights, but joy eventually came!

As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” (Verse 6)

Before the cancer, I had thought nothing worse could happen to me than the diagnoses I already had – I was wrong. For a time I was literally fighting for my health and life! It is tempting to believe that the worst is behind me. But I cannot say for a certainty that is true. I thought I have had hard times in years past, but the future always brought more unpleasant surprise and bad news. I know now that I can be shaken, and moved. Each experience teaches me again not to put my faith in my own ability, power or strength – but to look to and depend on the Divine.

“By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face; I was dismayed. To you, O LORD, I cried, and to the LORD I made supplication: “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?” (Verses 7 – 9)

Actually, to my way of thinking I don’t value myself so greatly that my demise will cease praise of the Lord or tell of the Divine’s faithfulness. And more to the point, I my life shows praise and faithfulness to the Lord, my actions in the face of demise will be a greater testimony than my successes. But still, it is good to continue and endure.

“Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!” You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.” (Verses 10 – 12)

Maybe if I was THE psalmist I would consider my successes in life and overcoming of obstacles and difficulties as strong praise and testimony. But what effect does my small voice have? The Lord God knows of my gratitude to the Divine for seeing me through so much. And as you have been reading my postings, you know too beloved reader. Does that small testimony into the largeness of all the world really reverberate? To be honest, I do not know. And actually and honestly I do not need to know. It is enough that I know, and that I speak/write of it.

As the days and weeks of Easter pass by, may you speak in your own way of what the Lord God the Divine has done for you. Selah!

Fourth Sunday of Lent 2019: The Epistle Passage – Ambassadors for a new life

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (II Corinthians 5:16 – 17)

One of the things that I was concerned about during my radiation treatment was that after it ended and I had recovered – something would have changed. Be it my taste buds, my skin’s appearance . . . . my life expectancy – something would have changed. And I kind of liked my life, skin and taste buds the way they were! My skin is healed, but it is subtly different. My taste buds are back, but slightly changed. And my life expectancy? Would know about that until early April. But during the treatment and the weeks afterwards, I did learn something new. I learned that I had resiliency that I did not know I had. And that the experience added new possibilities for helping others go through this potentially life altering change. It is not a new me, or even a better me. But a changed me.

The writer of II Corinthians, Paul, can get a little dramatic. And as he sees it the change from being a non-believer to a believer can be like turning 180 degrees – it was for him so why should it not be for others. Paul goes on to explain his reasoning.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (Verses 18 – 21)

For Paul becoming a believer in Jesus Christ and a new view of the Lord God – he saw this change as radical because previously he thought believers in Jesus Christ were heretics and should be killed. From killing those who believed in Jesus to encouraging and exhorting people to believe in Jesus – I can see where that would make one feel like they were a new creation. And convince one to be an ambassador for this new way of thinking and a new life. That is, after all, the final outcome of Lent – Easter and new life.

May you, beloved reader, embrace new experiences and not be afraid of changes – as long as the Divine is leading you and under girding your life. Selah!

Transfiguration Sunday 2019: The Psalm Passage – Not questioning the Divine

The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.
Let them praise your great and awesome name. Holy is he!” (Psalm 99:1 – 3)

I am pleased to say that I am doing better. The tough days as a result of my radiation treatment are over, and I am slowly healing. Being in a better space and frame of mind, the psalm passages do not hit me as hard. And this psalm passage does not ask me to follow a pre-ordained and prescribed pattern of praise, so I am fine listening to the psalmist. It is good to be at peace like this.

“Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. Extol the LORD our God; worship at his footstool. Holy is he!” (Verses 4 – 5)

And the psalmist is doing a good job of describing the Lord God who has helped me through this journey. Of course my approval (or disapproval for that matter) does not change a whit of the truth that is being told nor does it change who and what the Divine is and has done.

“Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called on his name. They cried to the LORD, and he answered them. He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud; they kept his decrees, and the statutes that he gave them. O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. Extol the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy.” (Verses 7 – 9)

And then comes the part where this touches on Transfiguration Sunday – the harking back to Moses. And then appearance on the holy mountain of of Moses and Elijah (who strangely enough is not mentioned by the psalmist). Elijah lived his life according to the decrees and statutes of the Lord God. That is why he was a colleague of Moses and a support of Jesus at this moment in his ministry. Furthermore, in the transfiguration we have the confirmation again of Jesus being the son of and part of the Lord God.

As one who believes deeply in the triune nature of the Lord God Jesus Christ who inspires the Holy Spirit – I do not question at all the Divine. Yes, sometimes I struggle in my life and in my faith life. But question? No. Selah!

Seventh Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Psalm Passage – The unfathomable ways of Christian living, Part II – cease fretting and worrying

Okay, this Psalms passage I need.

“Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.” (Psalm 37: 1 – 3)

My “wicked” and “wrongdoers” right now are the lingering side effects of radiation treatment. I know, not your typical “foes.” But for me, they have been “smiting” me mightily, ruining my mood, and souring my predisposition. Who knows, maybe even causing me to “sin”. Or at lest not trusting in the Lord very much!

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.” (Verses 4 – 6)

I know I have been a little difficult to live with lately – if for no other reason than I cause my family to worry about me. And there has been a lack of joy of living. These treatments were supposed to save my life; and instead it has caused me to focus on the dreariness of life. I certainly do not feel “vindication”, have not felt “shiny”, nor do I feel there is justice for me. I hold out hope that will change.

“Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret–it leads only to evil. For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.” (Verses 7 – 9)

I have not been still and patient. I have been fretting – not over the wicked fortunately. But fretting nonetheless. And, to my shame, I have been doubting that those who oversee my treatment have been keeping my best good in mind. If I envision the tumor that necessitated this treatment as “the wicked [who] shall be cut off” – that would be a good and positive image.

“Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” (Verses 10 -11)

Actually, I could wish that I had that image in my mind during treatment. But it is not to let to let that image be my rallying thought. Part of the reason I am still “suffering” from these ill effects is because the radiation treatment, while actively over, is still working on killing off the tumor. So I need to hold these thought from the psalmist in my mind.

What things do you have in your mind and in your life that is warping your outlook and stealing your joy, beloved reader? Does the psalmist perhaps speak for you as well?

“The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their refuge in the time of trouble. The LORD helps them and rescues them; he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him.” (Verses 39 – 40)

What I have been doing is taking refuge in the Lord. At times pleading to the Lord to help and deliver me. At other times to heal me. And at other times to help me endure. One of the things I have learned to value from the psalms is to allow them to speak to my fears and disheartening times. There was a book that I came across, must have been a year ago, that spoke about using the psalms to lament and weep. I worked my way through it slowly, absorbing the lessons. I think that might be part of the reason that at times I grew impatient with the “cheery” psalms. I was not at that part of my life at the time. But with God’s grace I came through to the point I am now.

Where are you, beloved reader, in your journey? Are there things, people, events, and issues that are causing you to fret? I cannot promise you that they will be resolved. But I can recommend you to bring those frets to the Lord. To allow these words of the psalmist to ease your times. And to rely on the Divine to see you through! Selah!

Sixth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Gospel Passage – Kudos to Jesus for teaching hard lessons concerning the Christian life

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.
And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.” (Luke 6:17 – 19)

Everyone loves a good performance and performer. And Jesus delivered. But . . . . . Jesus was more than a miracle. More than a “flash in the pan” of power. He came just to do miracles, but to change people and the life they lived.

“Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.” (Verses 20 – 23)

Additionally, Jesus was more than “good news”, more than kudos for enduring tough times. Jesus was out to turn upside expectations and assumptions.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” (Verses 24 – 26)

I am not sure if all of this was directed to his disciples or to those who were gathered – those who had benefited from the power and healing. Living a Christian life is more than an “easy ride” through this world. I have learned that many times over, and learned it at a very young age.

That is not to say there is no blessing and comfort in living a correct authentic Christian life. But those blessings and comforts are not necessarily what the “earthly” world would call benefits.

At this writing I have completed the last of my radiation treatments. Now I turn my thoughts and attentions to healing and regaining what was lost to me because of the treatments. But, beloved reader, I have gained more during this time than I have lost. Once again I learned my strength and endurance does not come through human flesh and sinew. My strength and endurance comes from the Lord. And whatever my future health may hold, because of the Lord God strengthening me and guiding me, I am blessed beyond measure! Selah!

Fifth Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Psalm Passage – Saying thank you to the Lord God

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.” (Psalm 138:1 – 2)

On the day you read this, beloved reader, I will have completed all of my radiation therapy, and will be focusing on healing and waiting to find out if the radiation therapy worked. Through this time I have depended on the Lord for a great deal, and I give thanks to the Divine for seeing me throughout. Much of my strength has come from writing these commentaries, wrestling with the themes and messages, and yes, wrestling with praising the Lord God when I have been under great strain, stress, and illness.

“On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul. All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth. They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.” (Verses 3 – 6)

It occurred to me some time back (maybe I have said this before) that I did not use imaging that many cancer patients do, imaging and imaging that the treatment is targeting the cancer cells and destroying them. But what I did do was focusing on doing self care – using creams that would heal my skin and prescriptions that would heal my mouth. I was gentle with myself, as gentle as I imaged and imagined the Lord God would be with me. And I prayed – oh how I prayed! And the Divine heard me! At each step one I did not feel I could go on, the Lord provided encouragement through the people around me, through encounters with music and scripture, and through medications that eased my pain and helped to heal my body. I will be forever grateful that the Lord blessed me in these ways.

After treatment is completed will come a time of waiting to see if the treatment was successful. And during that time I will continue praying and placing my faith in the Lord God the Divine.

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.” (Verse 7)

On of the ironies of this disease, this cancer, is that it is my own body that has grown these cancerous cells that have endangered my life. They must be killed off, at the risk of also killing off healthy cells which has caused radiation burns both on my outer skin and in my mouth. Such a paradox to kill off part of myself in order to save myself. And yet isn’t that what we do when we embark on the Christian life? Kill off our misguided and sinful human impulses to save our life?

“The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” (Verse 8)

We, humanity, were made in the image of the Lord God. But we are flawed and imperfect. That flaw and imperfection must be taken out, irradiated if you will, so that I better selves under the Divine can grow and flourish. The teaching and guidance of the Lord have been spoken of as a refinery’s fire. Radiation, then, is not such an unusual metaphor.

Whether or not this treatment works, I do know that through the course of this past month and a half I have learned a great deal about myself; and I have come to see even more clearly that the Lord has not ever forsaken me. Praise the Lord! Selah!