Easter 6C, 2007
John 5:1-3, 5-9
A Liturgy is also available
BEING SUSTAINED BY A VISION OF WHAT COULD BE
This week I was reminded that none of the world’s major religions
has as its maxim: ‘Blessed are the greedy’ (S McFague).
Sallie McFague who reminded me (and others) of that, also went on to say:
“Given the many differences among religions on doctrines and practice, it is remarkable to find such widespread agreement at the level of economics” (S McFague).
This week the Federal Treasurer of this country launched the Government's
vision for the future.
Or perhaps more accurately – their vision for the next election.
Tax cuts worth $31.5 billion over four years!
A vision which supports the accepted notions that 'greed is good'.
And national security spending instead of development aid
are the grounds for our salvation.
Interestingly, Peter Hartcher in his Sydney Morning Herald column, said:
“Thank God for elections… If not for the forthcoming election, the Government would still be snickering at the idea of global warming… David Hicks would be languishing in a Guantanamo cell with no trial… [and would be] still ignoring the funding needs of universities” (Hartcher SMH, 11/5/07. Pg:11).
So I reckon it is most appropriate and timely that our gospel story this morning,
is also centred on the importance of being sustained
by a vision of what might be.
Appropriate... for as one of my ministry colleagues has said recently:
in the absence of a vision there is nightmare;
in the absence of compassion there is cancer.
So let me offer some brief observations then, on this story,
with the Treasurer’s story as background.
Our biblical storyteller says Jesus is in the temple in Jerusalem,
by the pool or mineral spring of Bethesda.
Around the pool, in arcades, lay a variety of invalids.
Jesus picked out one particular man who'd been siting there for 38 years or so.
And the dialogue goes something like this:
What would need to happen for you to proclaim yourself well?
Hang on mate. It's not my fault.
There's no one to help me into the water at the right time.
You're right! Your sickness is not your fault.
Pick up your mat and walk.
That's our biblical story.
Those of you who may be feeling a little sceptical about my retelling style,
I invite you to ponder this proposition:
This is not a story about a so-called physical miracle.
This is a story about a political-religious situation
as well as a vision or world view on life.
Being content with, or trapped on, one's 'mat'
may seem, after 38 years or so, fairly fixed.
But it is an extremely limited and limiting world view
that one gets from that same mat.
The challenge or vision given the man by John's Jesus
was for him to want to move beyond those limits...
To want to re-imagine the world from a different perspective,
from a different experience, with a different vision.
To become whole.
And certainly that was and is a bit of a challenge!
New insight or vision is always at odds with the old way of looking at things.
Especially if those old ways leave people
physically malnourished or hysterically disabled.
I am sure each of you could name someone else for whom it might be beneficial
to either hear this sermon or receive a printed or eMail copy of it.
While that all may be very well and good,
each of us needs to be encouraged to remember
these stories are also for us - now.
Jesus' words and interaction with others bears witness to a re-imagined world.
A new vision.
A new consciousness.
A new way of being in the world.
By connection, perhaps it behooves us to examine when the structures
and dominant theology of our wider church
helps keep people 'sick' or 'stuck in their condition'
rather than offering new life, a re-imagined world.
And that may require us to risk re-imagining with Jesus
that his world will work, and be a safe place.
Faith with Jesus rather than faith in Jesus (BB Scott).
So confessing our own sharing in that sickness at times...
Let us likewise be empowered and blessed by the grace
that we belong to a wider community of faith
that is not static but dynamic;
that is not set in concrete, but ever-changing.
For such a community reflects the creative
and ever-evolving nature of God beyond our feeble church structures.
And such a God is always present in all our faith adventures.
But especially with those who, like the one we call Jesus, can re-imagine the world
in an outward embracing of all beings.
It is important to be sustained by a vision of what might be.
It is also important to check out what shapes that vision.
And if what shapes our vision tends to exclude some by benefiting others,
or erect walls rather than include all,
then maybe that 'vision' needs to be questioned.
It has also been said stories can be ‘dangerous’.
Whether this biblical story is of an actual event or the invention of the storyteller,
it is a ‘dangerous’ story, because it challenges us at the chore of our being.
And that challenge also goes for budget economics, as well as for
a just and sustainable planet, the ‘great’ work of the 21st century
to which all human endeavour is called.
Scott, B. B. 2001. Re-imagine the World. An introduction to the parables of Jesus. Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press.