Choices! I hate choices! I so dislike making choices on behalf of a group, that when I was in High School, I would willingly forego shotgun just so I wouldn’t have to pick the music for a car ride. Alas, this week begins a long season of choices in the Lectionary. The assumption of the RCL folk is that one would choose a track for the lessons during Pentecost Season and stick with it, but that doesn’t seem to apply to this Sunday. Instead, there are two, very distinct choices for the Gospel lesson this week.
Last week, as we began the process of putting this week’s bulletin together, I chose the latter, but as I looked at my homiletical resources, they were all geared toward John 14, so I caved and am going that direction instead. So, here’s what I’m not preaching this week.
“Do you want to be made well?”
For me, one of the hardest parts of this vocation is that I don’t get to see inside my parishioners’ hearts. I don’t get to see, on a day-to-day basis, how the ministry of Saint Paul’s affects them. I don’t see the difference their faith makes: in their offices making hard decisions; in their homes raising their children; in their checkbooks as they make financial decisions. I often get the 40,000 foot view, but as a type-a-cost-benefit-analysis-guy, it can be hard for me, not getting to see the smaller impacts. As I work on sermons, week-by-week, I often wonder if they make any real difference whatsoever. I wonder, through no fault of the great folks among whom I serve, if they want to be made well. Do they even know they are sick? Wondering that makes me feel guilty, which, in turn, makes me wonder, if I want to be made well.
Do I want Jesus to take the burden of my own self-inflicted pressure (see the above paragraph)? Do I really want to give up control of my own life and work? Do I really want to not be a slave to my email? Do I really want to be made well?
It is a tough question that Jesus asks of the man crippled for 38 years. It is a tough question that Jesus asks of me. Do I really want my life to be changed, or would I perhaps rather that he just bless what I’m already doing? It is probably a good thing I’m not preaching John 5 this week, I’m not sure I want to know the answer.