For those who are confused by the idea of a "Liturgical Calendar" you may think it funny that I reference to Easter "Six" but it makes great sense as the tradition helps retain the context of the first followers of Jesus.
You see, after his death, and resurrection, the first followers almost all of them being Jews, returned to the patterns of their ancestors, including the feasts instituted under the leadership of Moses and Inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Shavuot followed fifty days after the feast of Passover. Our liturgical calendar, and consequently the lectionary readings, take this historical fact into account as we re-member each major event in the life of Jesus of Nazareth and the early church which God called into existence following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
Easter season is almost to the end...well at least in the "Western Church". Eastern Orthodox Christianity is just now celebrating Holy Week.
Easter which is the Resurrection Feast is past. The Ascension feast is just within reach to be followed ever so quickly by the great feast of Pentecost (a word that means literally 50th) .. Pentecost will conclude the "week of weeks".
In the Episcopal Church as in the Church of England we use the Book of Common Prayer which contains a Collect (a short prayer) that sets the intention for the worship of the community gathered throughout the world. The sense of belonging to the united Body of Christ, not simply one person alone and wavering through this world, wandering for no particular purpose or end is part of what holds me within the Episcopal Church.
You can find all the readings, including the Collect for the week on the link immediately below. Notice that this Sunday offers options for the Gospel Reading.
The Texts This Week
Could you pray this prayer in the company of other people and say AMEN?
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This isn't an idle question.
Could you pray this prayer in the company of other people and say AMEN?
If you embrace the idea that God is the source of all good material things as well as the ultimate source incomprehensible good the "Amen" comes with ease.
However, if you are in place of doubt, still skeptical about the nature of God, this may not be such an easy prayer to enter into and conclude with a strong acclamation of ascent to the requests.
Worship is about coming together to join "as one Voice" to offer praise, adoration and thanksgiving to God as well as to ask for outcomes from God (supplication and intercession). This prayer rests on the foundational principle that God is able to provide greater good for each of us than any of us could ever imagine.
In this prayer we have an assumed relationship that works both Vertically and Horizontally. Love flows from God ("you"), the source, so that we can extend that love toward others but most importantly to keep God as the highest priority as the object of our affection.
It also sets up something of a conditional relationship which describe mysteries of the Christian life but is described in two ways: "such good things" and "promises"
"Surpass our understanding" and "which exceed all that we can desire".
As I meditate on this relationship which was established in the prayer, I note that there is nothing outside of love that is required. The only transaction required is a transaction of the exchange of Love.
- Receive love ("pour into our hearts')
- Love God in all things
- Love God above all things
- Receive "promises".
Since this is a prayer for the entire church to focus their worship for Sunday and to carry into the coming week, the deeper question which remains is to put into more detail what the promises are which we can anchor our hope upon. To fully comprehend the content of the "promises" I find a lifetime of study of Scripture may never completely answer. But that is where the answers are most readily found. Not very many women or men of God have been graced with visions that contain the answer.
What I find most delightful in these steps is #2. Love God in all things. Big questions pop into mind. Whatever I see, or know about, whomever I come into contact with in some way carries God within them. In yoga practice, the divine embedded in each person is acknowledged at the close of each session with a simple one word greeting ,"Namaste". Namaste is translated as "the divine in me acknowledges the divine in you".
As you read the lessons from the Gospel of John I hope that you will begin to see this pattern of acknowledging the divine being recognized in many ways.
It also magnifies an important point as we read the Gospel Lesson found in Chapter 5 of the Gospel of John.
We have a healing story in chapter 5, which serves to reveal the nature of God through the ministry of Jesus which also serve as a model for healing ministry of the church in the present age.
A man was there at the pool of the sheep gate when Jesus walked by...did you catch that the day was the Sabbath?
Archeologists tell us that the pools at the sheep gate was a religious shrine area of the god Aesclepios. It was an Aesclepion, a Greek "hospital" based partly on miraculous healing by divine intervention.
Jesus, walks into the middle of the hospital, disrupting and exposing a failed cult.
Jesus asks a simple question. "Do you want to be made well?"
The reply the man gives sounds like a bit of blaming, self-pity or excuse making. In truth, presumably it was a real catch 22. He apparently lacked social support. No one cared enough about his well-being any longer to assist him into the pool at the right moment. Perhaps he was a malingerer... but I doubt that. I believe he truly did have desire enough to see his condition relieved.
I wonder how often today do people go to the doctor with a complaint; they receive instructions from the doctor which contain relatively easy lifestyle changes, but they disregard the instructions to their own detriment.
I know this happens. Too often. Clinicians know first hand that it happens and lament their efforts to establish a change of behavior.
In the healing ministry in our parish we always recommend that people consult doctors and others from the field of medicine. If they "want to be made well", they must seek proper diagnosis and treatment.They also need to follow the advice and treatments with a recognition that God has called into being a vast array of healing ministers, which carry special titles (doctor, nurse, therapist, etc) with expertise to bring comfort, relief, sometimes cure, and more often management of chronic condition. The healing ministry team reminds them in the anointing and prayer spoken of the ultimate promises of our faith.
Jesus had access to the Father and to the Holy Spirit in his earthly ministry, which in turn allowed him to speak with the greatest authority imaginable.
Simple prescription: Pick up your mat.
ok, perhaps not so simple...
the man did have to trust ...