The Anglican Churches in the Monmouth Area

The Anglican Churches in the Monmouth Area

The Pool at Bethesda

Given by Rev Janet Bromley, Sunday 26th May 2019  St Thomas

 

The pool at Bethesda – not a particularly attractive place when I saw it in Jerusalem – attracted multitudes in Jesus’ day because the waters were famous for their curative powers.  The site that I visited was discovered in the 20thcentury and excavated – it may or may not be the actual pool mentioned in today’s gospel.  It is about 200feet wide and 315 feet long and consists of a twin basin (one side for men and one for women)  Herod had added five elaborate porticos surrounding its four sides and dividing the two basins. There were stairways in the corners, which allowed descent into the pool.

There the pilgrims and sick waited for the moment when an angel descended to disturb the waters – when that happened the first to enter the pool came to a new state of health – restored from whatever disease had stricken them.  This was what brought the crowds – waiting for what was presumably an intermittent spring, which caused the periodic bubbling of the water – or maybe it was Herod who had designed the first jacousi!

This is what the paralysed man was hoping for – a chance to be first in the pool – but someone else always beat him to it – and this had been going on for 38 years ….. not much hope then that he could ever be cured – made new……..

 

But is this telling us the truth about God’s healing power – is it intermittent – only there for those who can beat the queue? That is not the truth about the God that I have grown to love ………. for I believe in the constant presence of our powerful, loving and healing God – so what is really going on when Jesus comes to this man at the pool?

 

This pool where hundreds of men and women – sick in mind and body came to seek healing presents us with a pictorial image of our own lives and experience:  what happens is that the water not only cleanses those who come – leading them to a new healing and wholeness – but first of all it reveals to them truths about themselves which sometimes they find difficult to acknowledge – sometimes we find things that we don’t particularly like: ugliness, violence – deep seated anger – things in our past and our present which we have hidden deep down in our sub consciousness – and coming to the pool may reveal those things which we have suppressed so that we can harness them and integrate them into our new life ………. the man who came to the pool was not only afflicted by paralysis but also by self pity – I can’t help the way I am – I can’t jump in by myself – I need someone to help – the others are to blame that I have been here so long – they always push ahead of me …………..

Jesus helps the man to realise that the answer to his problem lay within himself – and Jesus is the constant presence and power of God in this healing – he was more powerful than the waters of the Bethesda pool.

 

Jesus asks the man: DO YOU WANT TO BE WHOLE? – he awakens in the man the desire and will to be alive – before the man had been seemingly impotent – unable to make a free decision – now he was empowered and strengthened so when Jesus commands the impossible

STAND UP TAKE UP YOUR BED AND WALK – the man does just that.

Jesus potent words have given new life to the man who had been spiritually and physically dead – he had been restored to new life and wholeness.

So what are the things which afflict our lives the deep down hidden thoughts – feelings – think for a moment of an adult disclosing child abuse and the anger – hurt – guilt and shame that they need to discover and deal with …. our need for wholeness may not be so dramatic – it could arise from broken relationships – past failures – even a feeling that God is no longer present in our lives…

The good news from this story today is that we don’t have to wait our turn – wait on the moment when God is present in the angel – in the troubled waters – because we can practise the presence of God each and every day of our lives – we can listen for Jesus asking us:

Do you want to be whole? Do you want to trust me?  Do you want to receive my Spirit?

We can ask for a vision of his constant presence in our lives and in the world – this is what Paul did when he went to find a place of prayer, outside the city gate – he was seeking somewhere to practise the presence of God – so that he could reveal that presence to those who came to listen – and when they came God’s power released in them the freedom to choose – to choose to follow and to become part of the story of salvation —  and that is what happened for Lydia – from that day she was included in the story and changed totally because of God’s power working through Paul.

 

A vision had led Paul to Macedonia and it was the vision of a man named John that we read about from the Book of Revelation:

A vision of the new Jerusalem – a place of encounter with God – a place where in worship and prayer we can consciously meet with God and sometimes catch a glimpse of his reality. Practising the presence of God here in our worship – in our private bible reading and prayer – and day by day in the people we meet and speak and work and play with and in the glory of his creation …God is constantly here with us – we just need to open our eyes and hearts and minds and surrender all those barriers which we sub consciously build up to hide away from him …

God wants us to want to be healed … and isn’t that the very first part of the healing process:  to want to forgive someone …to want to deal with our resentments, anger and shame…

 

The new Jerusalem restores the glory that was lost in the Garden of Eden and rebuilds a community centred on the presence of God; and God transforms our pain into joy and the world’s pain into the world’s joy just as he brought the man out of paralysis into new life.

John’s revelation is about the whole story of salvation from creation to eternity:  the story of the people of God –  and we are as much a part of that story as the paralysed man or any other character in the scriptures – and we are being called to take our place in that story…..

 

There is a choice – not everybody includes themselves – it took the paralysed man 38 years – for Lydia it happened on that day when Paul spoke to the people in a place of prayer outside the city gate….

It happens for us every time we are invited to receive the bread and wine – for as we come  – we are saying yes Lord Jesus, I want to be a part of this story – I want to be healed and made whole again by your power………

 

So as you come this morning for communion – know this – that the bread in your hand and the wine that you sip is bringing you close to the healing power of God:  so now is the time to ask God to release you from all that separates you from his creation – from the love of neighbour and from his love………….

Now is the time to say: Yes Lord I want to be healed

And then in the bread and the wine KNOW the presence of God and know that it will never leave you at this moment and every day of your life until you stand before him face to face – lost in wonder – love and praise for all eternity.

Amen

 

 

 

Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Given by Archdeacon Ambrose Mason, at St Thomas Overmonnow, 16th June 2019.

Today is Trinity Sunday. It is one of those aspects of our faith which is very difficult indeed to understand. Theologians have spent a huge amount of time on it. It seems to be like trying to work out the pattern of a Tapestry from the back – very difficult.

Three persons in one God. It isn’t something that is spelled out to us in Scripture. It took a long time to discern it through many scriptural writings. It took even longer to begin to grasp some of the reasons why it was important to us believers. I drive a car without having much idea of what is going on under the bonnet. Why do I need to know about the way God is in himself?

But this Sunday our Readings tell us quite a lot about God and we are given some insights into him as God-who-is-three-persons.

Perhaps the challenge of Trinity Sunday is not to be dismayed that we cannot understand fully, but to be reminded to trust, and to receive, and to rejoice again in the relationship of love which God holds out to us.

So let us look to be encouraged from each of our readings – and see again the picture that together they build up for us. I think you have them on the weekly sheet so do please have them in front of you as we go through.

 

First let us look into the reading from Proverbs. We are familiar with the concept of wisdom. Some of us have longed to have some of it for a long time. Too often it is elusive!! Even more of course, we long to see more of it in others – especially in these days of political, economic and social confusion.

The reading from Proverbs is almost unique in scripture in that it seems to make wisdom into a person. Wisdom has her own voice. Wisdom is a ‘she’ crying to ‘he’s’ – and to children. (Those of us men here who are married understand this.) But then the passage goes on to describe wisdom as, a first creation of God, and as part of God’s intention and ordering of creation ‘like a master worker’ – and then –  God delightedin her. She rejoicedin the inhabited world – and delightedin the generations of human beings.

So we have a picture of an eternal heavenly accompanier of God. But importantly, one who has a particular interest and delight in human kind – a glimpse of Earth from Heaven

Is this personification of wisdom perhaps a hint of Trinity?

 

Then Psalm 8 explores the relationship between Heaven and Earth from the other perspective. It is a well known Psalm. The Psalmist has a sense of astonishment that God (‘how majestic is your name in all the earth’) should concern himself at all with human beings. And yet – God isn’t just concerned, he has raised human kind into a highly elevated position with power and oversight. The one who is ‘Majestic in all the earth’ has chosen personally to engage with humankind. God’s relationship with human kind is not remote – it isn’t boss and employee. It’s about God trusting human kind with what he has created.

So far we have a glimpse of God in eternal relationship and God in relationship with human kind; wisdom rejoiced in the inhabited world – with human beings, and mankind realised what God has entrusted to him. Two pictures; earth from heaven and heaven from earth.

 

Now, in our Gospel we have a small portion of that very densely written part of John’s Gospel. Jesus’ teaches about his relationship with God the Father, the Spirit of Truth and also human kind.  It is vital to remember that all these 3 chapters, 15, 16 and 17, begin with that well known declaration of Jesus that he is the True Vine and we, his people, are the branches of that vine. This whole section is about the closeness relationships within the Godhead and of the closeness of our relationship with God and our absolute dependence on him.

In our short Gospel reading this morning Jesus promises that the work of the Spirit of Truth is to guide believers into all truth.

Jesus declares that Truth comes from the Father – it belongs to Jesus – and it will be shared with us by the Spirit. It is one of the clearest declarations of the Trinitarian life of God in Scripture. And it describes God the Trinity as being focussed on us.

We see a further outworking of that special relationship between God and humankind that we have glimpsed already. The Psalmist wondered at it and the writer of Proverbs declared that Wisdom rejoices in it Can you see the thread? God and us.

 

Our final passage is from Paul and is an extract from the beginning of a major section of his letter. Paul has already reminded his readers of the sure foundation of their relationship with God. In the reading we had he is just beginning to describe to his believing readers what their new life in Christ is going to be like.

Remember Wisdom’s enthusiasm for human kind in the Proverbs reading we had?

Remember the Psalmist’s wonder at the status of human beings before God?

Remember Jesus declaring that the whole Trinity of God works towards the strengthening and deepening of our relationship with him?

The very first thing that Paul wants to affirm to his expectant believers is that they have Peace with God. Lets put ourselves in their place and hear what he says as to us. God is on OUR side now. There is no condemnation – no writing us off – we are not in the business of currying favour with God. We do not earn brownie points – build up a credit balance which might or might not be big enough to by us an annuity into Heaven.

None of that. We have Peace with God, declares Paul.

We can clear our minds of all doubt, all negative thoughts about our relationship with God, all uncertainty. Having entered into the life of faith, God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all on our side – all wanting us to be free from anything which would harm or distort our relationship with God.

 

Paul earths it all in human experience. He knows profoundly that life is not easy – it cannot be when we continue to be in a world where there are those who ridicule and dismiss, and where there are vested interests so opposed to the Gospel of Love.

So he can write confidently and hopefully that ‘suffering produces endurance; endurance produces character; character produces hope and hope won’t let us down because the Holy Spirit has already poured his love into us. He is saying that we have some experience now (a taster if you like) of the glory that will be fully ours when we enter completely into the life of the One who is Love – without anything in the way.

So, the message of this Trinity Sunday is this.

God is for us – he is the permanently safe place for us to be.

As branches of the vine we are indelibly linked into the very being of the God who is love. His life flows into us. Our readings today remind us that whatever the Trinity who is God is actually like in Himself – he has chosen to focus himself on us – to make us what he wants us to be.

Rejoice then, for our life of faith is unmovable and secure – not through anything we have done but because of God. Live! Rejoice! Share God’s love freely and actively – because that is the fruit of the vine – and it will survive everything else!

Be who you are in God’s life because that is what the God-who-is-three wants for you.

AMEN