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

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

Being drawn to the Bread of Life

“It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.”

In the Gospel reading this morning, we continue into John’s discourse on the Bread of Life and are once again faced with doing are very best to understand what Jesus is trying to teach us through these verses. We are, once again, faced with some rather enigmatic sayings from Jesus that make this faith of ours seem quite bizarre, and we might find ourselves echoing some of the thoughts of Jesus’ interlocutors, which up to this point has been a crowd of people. In today’s reading, the crowd suddenly becomes “the Jews” and the hostility within the reading increases as the discourse continues.

Early in the discourse today, the question of origins comes to the forefront after Jesus makes the claim that he is the bread of life and that he comes from the Father. You can almost feel the temperature rising as you read the passage from today’s Gospel. As I entered into the text, I could feel the anger that was cast towards Jesus. So, what happens when we read the Gospel with that kind of tone put into the mouths of the people that are discounting what Jesus is saying? For example, it might sound something a little like this:

“Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, `I have come down from heaven’?”

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A Journey into Death…and Life

The room is set.  The table is ready to receive its guests and to share its bounty with the few that gather around the table.  The host, Lazarus, is present to welcome friends into his home and to serve them a dinner in honor of their friend Jesus.  As the the guests arrive, the aromas of the table begin to waft through the air.  The smell of the foods fill the entire house as people prepare themselves to receive the hospitality of their host.  The dinner conversation creates a murmur as the members around the table engage in table fellowship and share in the meal offered to them.  The sounds of people taking food, cups being raised and set back down, the smell of the food, and the warmth of being together for this final supper.   Continue reading

Stepping into the Light

One of my favorite plays is written by William Shakespeare and involves the fanciful frolics of fairies in the wood, which creates havoc among the lovers in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  Towards the end of the play and after the fairies’ mischief has been mended, Puck comes on stage and says,

“And we fairies, that do run

By the triple Hecate’s team

From the presence of the sun,

Following darkness like a dream,

Now are frolic. Not a mouse

Shall disturb this hallowed house.

I am sent with broom before

To sweep the dust behind the door.

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