Preparing for Pentecost 1- Open your heart

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Preparing for Pentecost- Open your heart

John 5:1-9

Acts 16:9-15

 

Prayer

In the story in Acts, Paul going to Macedonia to proclaim the message of Christ.

There he would share the gospel of Jesus Christ with some women who gathered by the river outside the gate of the city. A woman named Lydia, who was a worshiper of God, among the crowd, listened to Paul. The text described her as a dealer in purple cloth, which tells us that she was among the wealthy.

The scripture tells us that her heart was opened as she listened to what Paul proclaimed and that resulted in her transformation – she was so touched by what she had heard, that she not only gave her life to Christ and was baptized, she made it her duty to extend this to her household, she was sufficiently convincing that her household was also transformed by the good news and were baptized.

Then in the story of read from St. John 5, we hear of Jesus going to Jerusalem to proclaim his message.

We are told that he finds himself by a gate, the Sheep Gate. Just for information, the Sheep Gate still stands today. It was called the Sheep Gate because shepherds would drive their sheep into Jerusalem through this gate and on over to the Pool of Bethesda to the right, where they would be washed before being taken to the temple for sacrifice. The pool of Bethesda was separated by a dividing wall in the middle, creating two bodies of water. The sheep were washed at one end of the pool, and people bathed at the other end.

At the side where people bathe, one will find many persons, blind, lame and paralyzed. Among them there was a man who had been ill for 38 years.

Jesus asks him a life transforming and simple question – “Do you want to be well?”

In his response we can see that unlike Lydia, this man’s heart was at a different place. He was so accustomed to doing things the same way for 38 years that he did not realize that there now a new option being presented to him. It was as if he was trapped in a cycle of dormancy where he realized that his efforts were in vain, but just could not figure out how to stop and find another way. So he languished in a state of despair, disenchantment and disillusionment. His heart was so wrapped up in disappointment, so filled with frustration, so overcome with his inadequacies that he did not realize the opportunity that was being presented to him. 

What can we learn from these stories as we prepare for Pentecost?

  1. To become well, to be renewed, we should be open to doing and experiencing things differently.

Doing things the same way all the time may be the factor that reduces the chances of renewal.  Too often we simply repeat misinformation, rehearse old prejudices, practice tired patterns of behavior and replay thoughts and opinions formed years ago without first checking to see if they're still valid and, more importantly, if they serve the cause of a healthy faith and good relationships.

For every new marriage a divorced person, has, every new relationship, for every new job,  it is important that one self-evaluates the past relationships or job to ensure one do not make the same mistakes and at the same time, he/she must be open to learning new ways of being in a relationship.

For every child you raise, it is abundantly clear that the same reward system, same disciplinary methods, same clothes cannot be applied. To try to apply the same approach to different children often results in significant failures.

If you're one, say, to blurt out what you think at the first drop of a hat and this has often cost you relationships and opportunities, you might need to try holding back. On the other hand, if you're one who never says a word, you are just short of an area rug, then you might need to speak out more. Let your voice be heard. The point is, be open to doing things differently. Dare to alter your routine. Change your diet. Cultivate new friendships.  Learn new techniques for relating to others more effectively. This can be an important first step toward experiencing a new and more abundant life.

  1. To become well, to be renewed, we should be open to not just trying new things but also be open to giving up our old way of life.  

Lying in the portico by the pool of Bethesda became this man’s way of life. Just as selling the purple cloth was Lydia’s way of life. To give in to this feeling she was feeling could have implications for her life and lifestyle, but she was open.

To answer Jesus’ question honestly will have implications for his life and lifestyle – no more lying at this spot, no more complaining about the heat or the pain or his struggles or how much of a bad card he was dealt and how selfish people were and how abandoned he felt. By gosh, he was looking at the possibility of working!! He may have to give up all the handouts and care he was currently given. This was a major decision.

Every individual has to answer this question for themselves:

Do you want to be well?

You can start by asking yourself, what do I need to be healed of?

  1. What's my impediment? Is it self-imposed?
  2. What's standing in your way?
  3. What sort of things do you need to change about your life in order to be whole?
  4. Are there things you need to let go of?

For example, are you holding on to anger, nursing some injustice or hurt from years back? Are you holding on to grief, looking back to something or someone you once held dear? Perhaps you're holding on to a destructive habit, wanting to be healthy and whole, but not willing to stop smoking or drinking or eating your troubles away.

The story ends and the paralyzed man does not give an answer, but Jesus has read his heart. As this sermon ends, you may not have spoken your answer out loud but Jesus can read your hear too.

Jesus said to the man "Arise, take up your mat, and walk." That is what the paralyzed man needed to do to be well.

What do you feel that Jesus is instructing you to do to be well?

  1. For one thing – arise! You can’t stay where you are.
  2. Second – take up your mat – face your fear head on, confront the problem, deal with the issue, develop a plan of action
  3. Third – walk – do what you need to do or what needs to be done and take that 1st, 2nd, 3rd to whatever step in faith.

The preparation for Pentecost invites us open ourselves to the renewal of the Holy Spirit, open ourselves to the transforming power of God promised by Jesus. Open ourselves.

To prepare, we should be open to hear the gospel and let it touch us, encourage us and change us.

To prepare we should also be open to sharing this good news we hear with our household. And this is the Good News: Jesus came into the world that we may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

In the words of a song "There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole; there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul."

The preparation needed is not one external decoration or physical enhancement, it requires a heart open to hear and to respond.

Let it be our prayer that the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Truth, love, power and peace may descend upon us and acting on the Word of God, stir our spirits and give us a new insight and a better outlook.

Amen