Vessels of the Spirit

“Jesus said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’”

To be made well.  It is something that everyone wishes for when they fall ill or suffer from a longterm illness or condition for which there is no cure.  The desire to be made well is a desire that springs from within the deepest parts of our being; we want to be made whole as a human being, to have the ability to move freely and to exercise our free will through the movement of our bodies.  The desire to be made well is often thought of in the most immediate terms – in the wellness of the body.  The desire is to appear strong, to have the appearance of being a person that is complete and able to do the things that everyone is able to do.  But, the first reading of this desire leaves much unattended that is equally important to the well-being of humanity.  The desire for wellness can also be thought of as a desire for wholeness throughout the human person.  It is a desire to have wholeness not only in body but also wholeness in spirit and in mind.  We desire to be complete and to have our dignity restored as a person created in the image of God.

The question that Jesus asks of the man is a question that we might think we should take as our own.  It is a question that reflects our need to feel helpful, needed, wanted by others.  As we survey the landscape of creation, it does not take long to see the truth of what living in a tragic, fallen creation means.  With just a cursory glance of our surroundings, we can identify people that are struggling with the affliction of poverty, disease, malnutrition, physical disabilities, mental disabilities, infectious diseases, terminal illness….

scaldatoarea-vitezda-ierusalim-12In this scene, Jesus witnesses the same tragic reality of creation.  Jesus sees a man that is struggling with a physical affliction.  The man sits by a pool intended for healing and wants to move into the waters “when they are stirred up” to find the healing that he desires so deeply.  Jesus enters into the scene, witnesses the tragic condition of the man, and extends the grace of God flowing through the power of the Spirit to the man that is in front of him.  Jesus enters into the tragic reality of creation in an effort to reconcile humanity to God through that same Spirit that abides in us, adopted children of God.  It is the same Spirit that enables us to cry out, “Abba! Father!” that moves through Christ and empowers Jesus to achieve the mission the Father sent him on – to restore the dignity of humanity by walking a life of servanthood that we are able to witness.   Continue reading

The Action of Words

“Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

In this short quote from the end of John’s gospel text, Jesus is asking us to become like Christ in the way that we move in this life, and Jesus gives to us the gift of understanding that words are meaningful only when those words are embodied in our lives.  Words, in this sense, have a physicality to them that break the boundaries of the spoken word or of the written word, both of which seem to be locked into a medium of their own – advancing only so far.  The wall, this boundary of physicality, seems to keep the thoughts, the words, the imaginings of humanity bound into a limited sphere in which the word is one thing while action is another.  And then, we encounter Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the Word made flesh.

In the person of Jesus we encounter not just word or just action but the combination of the two into a single entity that is completely divine.  Christ enters into our reality in the Word incarnate and brings with him everything that is God.  Jesus’ entire being is the Divine being that exists outside of our sphere of understanding, yet God is made known within our sphere through the person of Jesus – the divine Word that comes among us and walks along side us.  In Christ, we discover that God’s word is God’s action, and God’s action is God’s Word.  The two things that seem separated by this boundary – word and action – are made a single reality in the person of Jesus.  The second person of the Trinity, then, invites us into that same reality to the extent that we are able to participate in the divine being – to the extent that we are able to match our words to our actions, our faith to our embodiment of it. Continue reading

A Hope-filled End

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”  Revelation 1:8 NRSV

Communion windoA few nights ago, I attended a small group discussion of Plato’s Meno in an effort to explore the depths of virtue and what Plato’s text had to teach us about it.  The beginning of the text begins with Meno asking Socrates if virtue can be taught or is a result of practice or if it is possessed by men by nature or some other way.  As the text goes, the reader is left wondering what the overarching nature of virtue is and if there is a single way of defining virtue that would also be true of all things which we would label as virtuous.  The text itself provides the reader no direct answer but leads the reader to think about the nature of virtue itself.  The exercise of reading the text can be a frustrating one because it does not take you from point A to point B in a way that you are able to point back to the text for an operating definition of virtue.  Instead, you finish the text without any clear answers and many more questions about the nature of virtue than perhaps you thought you had in the beginning.

The exercise of discussing the text with a small group is also  a circuitous route as you attempt to define virtue by way of the dialogue between Meno and Socrates.  Just as the text left you with no concrete answers, the discussion between friends may not leave you with any concrete answers; indeed, it may only bring additional questions to the surface that deserve their own explorations in order to come back to the original question of the nature of virtue.

The circuitous route of the conversation – and the diversions presented within the conversation – can also become an exercise of frustration if you lack the patience to make the journey.  It is a journey that starts with a claim that you seek to prove by way of logic and knowledge, and you might hope that the journey is of a linear nature by which you proceed from point A to point B to point C and so forth.  Yet, a journey seldom plays itself out so neatly.  Journeys are embedded with surprises and turns and break downs that cannot be predicted at the beginning.  A journey does not have the helpful voice of Google Maps telling you where to turn right and where to turn left.  The journey may take you far from home before depositing you right back where you began in your search for truth. Continue reading

Sermon at Trinity Episcopal Church, The First Sunday after Christmas

On Christmas Eve and again this morning, we read from the Gospel of John about the mystery of the incarnation.  We do not get the pleasure of hearing the tale that is so often counted upon during the Christmas season.  The appointed readings do not include the story from Luke that recounts Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, the words of the innkeeper directing them to a stable for the evening, or of the angel that visits the shepherds cowering in a field while receiving the news of the birth of Christ.  We are left without the ability to wonder what thoughts may have gone through Mary’s mind at the birth of her son; we do not get the story that leads us into the human aspects of the beginning. Continue reading