Twenty-Fourth Day of Lent   17 comments

The Ruins of the Bethsaida (a.k.a. Bethesda or Bethzatha) Pool

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Ezekiel 47:1-12 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

He [the Lord GOD] led me back to the entrance of the Temple, and I found that water was issuing from below the platform of the Temple–eastward, since the Temple faced east–but the water was running at the south of the altar, under the south wall of the Temple.  Then he led me out by way of the south wall of the Temple.  Then he led me out by way of the northern gate and led me around to the outside of the outer gate that faces in the direction of the east; and I found that water was gushing from [under] the south wall.  As the man went on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and led me across the water; the water was ankle deep.  Then he measured off another thousand and led me across the water; the water was knee deep.  He measured off a further thousand and led me across the water; the water was up to the waist.  When he measured yet another thousand, it was a stream I could not cross; for the water had swollen into a stream that could not be crossed except by swimming.

Do you see, O mortal?

he said to me; and he had led me back to the bank of the stream.

As I came back, I saw trees in great profusion on both banks of the stream.

This water,

he told me,

runs out to the eastern region, and flows into the Arabah; and when it comes into the sea, into the sea of foul waters, the water will become wholesome.  Every living creature that swarms will be able to live wherever this stream goes; the fish will be very abundant once these waters have reached there.  It will be wholesome, and everything will live wherever this stream goes.  Fishermen shall stand beside it all the way from En-eglaim; it shall be a place for drying nets; and the fish will be of various kinds [and] most plentiful, like the fish of the Great Sea.  But its swamps and marshes shall not become wholesome; they will serve to [supply] salt.  All kinds of trees leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail; they will yield new fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the Temple.  Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.

Psalm 46:2-8 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

God is our refuge and stronghold,

a help in trouble, very near.

Therefore we are not afraid

though the earth reels,

though mountains topple into the sea–

its waters rage and foam;

in its swell mountains quake.

There is a river whose streams gladden God’s city,

the holy dwelling-place of the Most High.

God is in its midst, it will not be toppled;

by daybreak God will come to its aid.

Nations rage, kingdoms topple;

at the sound of His thunder the earth dissolves.

The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our haven.

John 5:1-18 (The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition):

Some time later came one of the Jewish feast-days and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  There in in Jerusalem near the sheep-pens a pool surrounded by five arches, which has the Hebrew name of Bethzatha.  Under these arches a great many sick people were in the habit of lying; some of them were blind, some lame, an some had withered limbs.  (They used to wait there for the “moving of the water,” for a certain times an angel used to come down into the pool and disturb the water, and then the first person who stepped into the water after the disturbance would be healed of whatever he was suffering from.)  One particular man had been there ill for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there on his back–knowing that he had been like that for a long time, he said to him,

Do you want to get well again?

The sick man replied,

Sir, I haven’t got anybody to put me into the pool when the water is all stirred up.  While I’m trying to get there somebody else gets into it first.

Jesus said,

Get up, pick up your bed and walk!

At once the man recovered, picked up his bed and began to walk.

This happened on a Sabbath day, which made the Jews keep on telling the man who had been healed,

It’s the Sabbath; it is not right for you to carry your bed.

He replied,

The man who made me well was the one who told me, “Pick up your bed and walk.”

Then they asked him,

And who is the man who told you to do that?

But the one who had been healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away in the dense crowd.  Later Jesus found him in the Temple and said to him,

Look: you are a fit man now.  Do not sin again or something worse might happen to you!

Then the man went off and informed the Jews that the one who had made him well was Jesus.  It was because Jesus did such things on the Sabbath day that the Jews persecuted him.  But Jesus’ answer to them was this,

My Father is still at work and therefore I work as well.

This remark made the Jews all the more determined to kill him, because not only did he break the Sabbath but he referred to God as his own Father, so putting himself on equal terms with God.

The Collect:

O God, with you is the well of life, and in your light we see light: Quench our thirst with living water, and flood our darkened minds with heavenly light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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This day’s readings concern restoration.

The lesson from Ezekiel tells of a vision of an ideal future.  In the refurbished Holy Land a stream from beneath the Temple will flow from Jerusalem, become a mighty river, and restore life in the desert.  People will even be able to fish from the Dead Sea.  I perceive echoes of the mythic waters of creation from Genesis.  Only this time we have waters of new creation.

This is not “Jesus-and-Meism,” in the style of overly individualistic and narcissistic, the world may go to Hell in a hand basket but I don’t’ care because I will go to Heaven, Fundamentalism.  No, this is a vision of society-wide restoration.  Echoes of this theme are evident in the psalm.

(Note:  Just in case anyone thinks nobody believes in the style of Fundamentalism I have described, I point to conversations I have had in which people have embraced that style of religion.  It seems to make them feel good, but it does nothing for anybody else.)

In the reading from the Johannine Gospel Jesus heals a who has been in a desperate physical, emotional, and spiritual state for many years.  He does this on the Sabbath.  Jesus restores the man to wholeness in every way, especially spiritual, hence the caution against sin.

In Jewish law of the time people with certain physical disabilities and deformities were forbidden from entering parts of the Jerusalem Temple complex.  So Jesus restored the man to dignity in his society.

In the context of the new healing, the complaint about the man carrying his pallet on the Sabbath is petty.  It reveals the spiritual brokenness of those who uttered that statement.

Some words about the use of “the Jews” in the Gospel of John are necessary.  In other Gospels Jesus confronts scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Temple lawyers.  In John, however, he is at odds with “the Jews.”  These are not all Jews, just the individuals at odds with Jesus at the time.  The Johannine Gospel dates to a time when Jewish-Christian relations had become vitriolic.  So, once again, I caution against anti-Semitism.

Very few people live in true isolation.  So restoration of an individual affects others–friends and family members, at least.  Therefore to restore one man or woman is to create a ripple effect, as when one throws a stone into water.  When the ripples cross our path, may we be sufficiently sensitive not to complain about trivia.

KRT

Written on March 1, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/restoration-2/

Posted October 28, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2020, Episcopal Church Lectionary, March 24

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17 responses to “Twenty-Fourth Day of Lent

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