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Everybody In the Pool!

Children's sermon
Illustration
Preaching
Sermon
Worship
For May 26, 2019:
  • Everybody Into The Pool! by Dean Feldmeyer — There are all kinds of paralyses, some of which effect the body.
  • Paul’s Frequent Flyer Miles by Mary Austin — Like today’s diplomats, Paul travels many miles in pursuit of a greater cause. He has good news to offer, which we hope our diplomats can offer, too.
  • Sermon illustrations from Ron Love, Tom Willadsen and Chris Keating.
  • Worship resources by George Reed that focus on the fact that authentic healing comes from Christ; being invited to come help.
  • Children’s sermon: What is up with “The World”? by Bethany Peerbolte — Jesus talks about “the world” a lot. Sometimes it is about God loving the world, sometimes the world does not get to have Jesus revealed to it. Kids may wonder what is up with “the world” and what God thinks about it.



Dean FeldmeyerEverybody Into The Pool!
by Dean Feldmeyer
John 5:1-9

“Do you want to be made well?”

What? What kinda question is that? The guy’s been lying around that pool for nearly 40 years, hoping that, through some miracle, he might get into the water after it’s been “troubled” and get healed of his paralysis. Of course, he wants to be healed.

Right? Right?

But, wait. Listen to how he answers the question. Or rather, how he doesn’t answer the question.

Asked if he wants to be healed, the man by the Bethesda Pool responds by explaining to Jesus how complicated the healing process at this pool is and why he hasn’t yet been healed even though he’s been here for 38 years.

Is it possible that the paralysis from which he suffers is not solely the physical kind? Could it be that he is also suffering from a paralysis of the imagination, a paralysis of the mind, of the soul, of the heart?

Looks like it’s going to take more than a splash in some magic water to heal this guy.


In the News
Last Monday, at a White House dinner, President Trump cited and took credit for a remarkable drop in prescription drug prices. But a government index that had registered some declines is now showing an increase again and some experts say more increases are likely.

In his typical hyperbolic fashion, the president opined that, "Drug prices have gone down for the first time in 51 years — they've gone down. First time in 51 years."

According to the Washington Post, he appeared to be referring to recent decreases in the Labor Department's Consumer Price Index for prescription drugs. In its latest update that was released just last week, however, the CPI, which tracks a set of medications, both brand drugs and generics, showed an increase of 0.3% in April for prescription drug prices, when compared with the same month last year.

Other independent studies point to increasing prices for brand name drugs as well and more overall spending on medications.

An analysis of brand-name drug prices by the Associated Press showed 2,712 price increases in the first half of January, compared with 3,327 increases during the same period last year. However, the size of this year's increases was not as pronounced.

Both this year and last, the number of price cuts was minuscule.

An analysis by Altarum, a nonprofit research and consulting firm, found that in 2018, spending on prescription drugs was one of the main factors behind a 4.5% increase in U.S. health spending. Spending on prescription drugs grew much faster than in 2017, according to the study.

Economist Paul Hughes-Cromwick of Altarum, said he expects drug prices will continue to creep up. The government estimates the nation's health care tab hit $3.6 trillion last year, or about 18% of the economy.1

Meanwhile, on a more uplifting note:

In Cincinnati, 22-year-old Savannah Allen has battled color blindness all her life but it never stopped her from doing or becoming what she set her mind to…until now. Last year she enrolled in the University of Cincinnati’s dental hygienist program only to discover that she couldn’t see the things she needed to see to do her job.

The glasses that would correct her color blindness cost about $400 which, as a student and a young mother, she just couldn’t afford.

So, some of her classmates stepped up and created a Go-Fund-Me page for her. In no time, the money was raised and Savannah now has her glasses and is sailing through dental hygienist school.

She says that once she put on those glasses she not only saw her patients as they really were, she saw her friends as they really were as well.2

It isn’t hard to see in the kindness of those students, the image of Jesus saying to Savannah, as he said to that man at Bethesda, “Get up. Pick up your glasses and walk.”


In the Scripture
In the alternative gospel lesson for this week we are given the wonderful story of the healing of the paralytic at the Bethesda Pool. It is a story that can be as somber as a dirge or as light hearted as a Monty Python sketch. Me, I pick door number two:

There’s a pool called Bethesda (Place of Healing) near the sheep gate (read: stockyards) in the city of Jerusalem. In its heyday, it was a pretty fancy place as attested to by five porches that surrounded it. But now it is by the sheep gate and it has become the gathering place for people who are hopelessly disabled.

They gather here because word has it that from time to time an angel comes down and “troubles” the water in the pool and, when this happens, the first one into the pool after it’s been troubled is healed of their maladies.

The problem, of course, is that it’s hard to tell the difference in an angel troubling the water and just a stiff breeze troubling the water. So, one can imagine, that about three or four times a week, at the very least, a ripple occurs on the pool, someone yells “ANGEL!” and there is a mad melee as everyone scrambles, crawls, runs, dashes, and elbows their way to the edge to be the first one in.

Hanging around Bethesda is like how someone has described being a police officer or an airplane pilot: hours of boredom occasionally interrupted by moments of terror and panic.

Into this rather bizarre setting, one Sabbath day, steps Jesus.

Looking around, he walks directly up to a man who has been lying there for about 38 years and he looks at the guy and then he asks this absurd question: “Do you want to be made well?”

Again, what kinda crazy question is that?

Do you ask a starving man if he wants a sandwich? Do you ask a broken-hearted lover if she wishes the return of her beloved? Do you ask old people if they wish to have returned to them the vitality of their youth? What, are you crazy? Yes, of course, he wants to be healed.

Or does he?

Listen to his answer. I’ll paraphrase:

“Well, see, sir, there’s a problem with that. You know about the angel, right? And how you have to be the first one into the water if you want to be healed? Well, that’s all fine and good, except the only people who get in to the water first are people who have someone who can stand by the pool with them and, when the water is troubled, throw them into the pool before anyone else can get in.

“In other words, the only people who get healed at this pool are people who can afford a servant or slave to throw them into the water and ya wanna guess who can afford help like that? Well, do ya?

“Don’t bother, I’ll tell ya. RICH PEOPLE! That’s who gets healed at the great Pool of Bethesda, partner. Rich people. So, don’t ask me if I wanna get healed because what I want doesn’t amount to a hill o’ beans around here.”

I kind of imagine Jesus stepping back as this man vents his spleen, then, weather out of frustration or compassion or maybe a little of both, Jesus holds up his hand, palm toward the man and says, quietly, firmly, “Brother, get up. Pick up your mat and walk.”

And lo and behold, he does.

He stands up, then he bends over and picks up his mat, puts it on his shoulder and, as everyone else looks on, he turns and walks away just as smooth as you please.

Imagine that.


In the Pulpit
Do you want to be healed?

Sounds simple at first, doesn’t it?

But when you’ve invested 38 years in lying around the pool, waiting for a miracle, it’s hard to give it up. What about all those people who told you you were nuts to take the “Bethesda Cure?” You gonna admit that they were right? Boy, talk about a red face, huh?

And who’s to say the next time won’t be your time? Maybe if you jostled around and got a place a little closer to the pool, or maybe if you could talk your nephew into coming down a couple of days a week and throwing you into the water whenever it rippled.

Or maybe healing just isn’t in the cards for you, eh? Maybe paralysis is your lot. Maybe, for some grand and mysterious reason, God wants you to be paralyzed. I mean, it could happen, right? Maybe you don’t deserve to walk. Maybe the universe is paying you back for something you did or didn’t do or thought or said.

Or maybe all of this thought and speculation is just another kind of paralysis. Maybe, as we said, it’s a paralysis of the heart or the head. Maybe it’s a paralysis of desire, of the imagination, of the mind. Maybe you’ve let despair just ease and ooze its way into your consciousness and it has paralyzed you with fear and doubt.

And then, one day this Jesus guy comes schlepping around the pool and he sees you back in the back with all the other people who have given up. He sees you lying there, under the portico in the shade, reading an Avengers comic book, not even trying to get to the water any more, and he comes up to you, stepping gingerly over all the others, he comes up to you and he says, “Hey, you. Yeah, you. Do you even wanna be healed?”

You start to respond…

You start to say something about the lousy hand you’ve been dealt…

You start to complain about how people like you, like us, never get a fair shake…

You start to whine and moan about how the system…

But you look into his eyes and you realize that he’s heard it all before. He’s heard the excuses and the complaints and the reasons and the prevarications and he ain’t buyin’ it, no not one bit.

Do you want to be healed?

Do you want your life to have meaning? Do you want to live authentically and with purpose? Do you want to know, really know these other people, your brothers and sisters? Do you want to laugh with them and cry with them and hear their stories and share your story with them?

Yes, oh, my God, yes.

Because, if you do, the water in that pool isn’t gonna help you out. If you do, you need a different kind of water than that pool has to offer.

What you need, my friend, is living water.

And all you have to do to get it is to say yes. Just say yes and hold out your hand and take it as I pour it over you.

That, my friend, is the water of life that comes from God as we know God in Jesus Christ.

That is the water that heals all paralysis.

That is the water that makes you whole.

1 Robert Farley, "Trump Misleads on High U.S. Drug Costs" FactCheck.org, Octoer 19, 2017.
2 MSN, "Colorblindness almost cost this UC student her career. But her classmates stepped up." May 15, 2019.


Mary AustinSECOND THOUGHTS
Paul’s Frequent Flyer Miles
by Mary Austin
Acts 16:9-15

Flight delays, mechanical issues and weather affect travel for everyone, but there’s another factor at work for the apostle Paul. This section of Acts gives us a glimpse of Paul’s travels around the ancient world, and his trips never go smoothly. Paul is traveling on behalf of an entity greater than himself, and the Holy Spirit is also an actor in Paul’s journeys. Just before this story, Paul intends to go one place, and the Holy Spirit keeps him from getting there.  

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also busy traveling around the world, advancing the interests of a larger cause, in his case, the United States of America. Some trips are planned, and others come up as international developments demand that he go some places. A few weeks ago he “made a surprise visit to Baghdad…to show support for the Iraqi government as the Trump administration intensified its pressure campaign against Iran. The lightning-quick trip began and ended after nightfall and under heavy security following the abrupt cancellation of a scheduled visit to Germany by Pompeo. Journalists accompanying Pompeo were not told of his new destination until his plane left for Baghdad and were not allowed to report on his whereabouts until after his plane had taken off for London.”

After his recent trip to Russia, The Moscow Times reported that Pompeo highlighted three shared interests between the U.S. and Russia. “The United States shares counterterrorism, North Korean denuclearization and Afghan reconciliation interests with Russia, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after his visit to Russia.” Pompeo also said that he talked with Russia about their interference in the 2016 election in the U.S. “Pompeo’s trip marked the first high-profile U.S. visit to Russia since allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and an investigation rankled bilateral relations.” The Russian foreign minister, however, was less willing to talk about election interference, labeling it fake news.

The Secretary has also recently traveled to Brussels, Belgium to “meet with European allies to discuss recent threatening actions and statements by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Secretary Pompeo will continue to coordinate closely with our allies and partners to ensure the security of our mutual interests in the Middle East and around the world.” Behind the scenes, Pompeo’s staff is also crossing the globe on other diplomatic missions. On any given day, diplomats are traveling to Mexico, countries in Africa, and Europe, to name a few.

Not all of Secretary Pompeo's travels are abroad.   He recently stopped for lunch at a Hy-Vee grocery store, where he ran into members of the National Guard. The fact that the grocery store is in Iowa made people wonder if he has domestic political ambitions. Nothing in Iowa goes without scrutiny! “There were no news camera crews and no photos tweeted out by the Secretary or the State Department. But the pit stop, in an important state to presidential politics, had the hallmarks of a political event.” Pompeo also had plans to visit Texas and Kansas, “notable for a secretary of state whose mission it is to represent the US abroad — are raising speculation within the administration about Pompeo's future ambitions in 2020 and beyond.”

I wonder what Secretary Pompeo’s counterparts think when he shows up “…oh, good, here’s a chance to work together.” Or, perhaps, “more diplomatic theater that won’t accomplish anything.” I also wonder what Lydia first thinks, when Paul comes up and interrupts her day. She’s obviously a woman of consequence, the head of her own household and involved in a profitable business. She and the other women are working when Paul shows up, but something about his message is compelling enough that they listen. Lydia invites – compels – Paul and his traveling companions to come and stay with her.

When the story starts, as Dr. Mitzi Smith of Working Preacher notes, Paul is the person of privilege as a Roman citizen. Lydia, as a woman, has less status, but she ends up being the other actor with an influence on Paul’s travels, as she prevails on him to change his travel plans. Dr. Smith observes, “The absence of any mention of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit may also be an acknowledgment that the Spirit was already operative in Lydia’s life and ministry. In Acts God’s Spirit moves as it choose, inhabits whom it will, and is not confined to a particular routine or pattern. Sometimes the Spirit falls on Gentiles before they are baptized as with Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:44-45). God’s Spirit precedes us; God is omnipresent. God looks upon and hears all people; his attention, power, and compassion are not limited to those who call themselves Israelites or Christians.”    

Lydia and Paul share the stage in this story, and we see the power of Paul’s travels as Lydia’s life changes. Paul lets the Holy Spirit shape his travels, and Lydia allows the Spirit to move her toward a different kind of discipleship, as she takes Paul into her home. The Lord opens her heart, the story says, and she and all of her household are baptized. Lydia, too, is a person of influence, it turns out. Both Paul and Lydia are people who bring God’s grace to others.

Pompeo is a member of an Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Before he became Secretary of State, he reportedly taught fifth grade Sunday School. We can only imagine how the balance of knowledge shifted between him and the ten-year-olds in his class. We can learn from people across the ocean, and in a classroom close to home. We can learn by the side of the river, from cloth dealers and in a classroom from ten-year-olds. We can learn from traveling teachers and diplomats, and they learn from us, too. The Holy Spirit take us where it will, and not every trip involves geography. Far from home, or close by, we are touched by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.


ILLUSTRATIONS
Ron Love
From team member Ron Love:

John 14:23
“Those who love me…”
Pennsylvania has just declared May 23 to be “1-4-3 Day.” On this day Pennsylvanians are too share good deeds and kind gestures. This day is in honor of Fred Rogers who lived and is buried in Latrobe and filmed his television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in Pittsburgh. The numbers 143 were Rogers favorite numbers for they say “I love you.” “I” has one number. “Love” has four numbers. “You” has three numbers. May 23 is the 143rd day of the year.

* * *

John 14:26
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit…”
Octavius Winslow was an evangelical preacher who served churches in both Great Britain and the United States. In 1858 he published a daily devotional that was titled Evening Thoughts. His devotion for May 9 was based on Romans 8:16 which reads,The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Winslow began his devotion with these words, “Three important things are involved in these words – first, the Witness – then that with which he witnesses – and lastly, the great truth to which he witnesses.” He then goes on to explain the meaning and importance of each of the three words. For the first he wrote, “The great business of making known to a poor sinner his acquittal in the high court of heaven, and his adoption into the King’s family, is entrusted to no inferior agent. No angel is commissioned to bear the tidings, no mortal man may disclose the secret.…” For the second the pastor wrote, “It is a personal testimony – not borne to others, but to ourselves – ‘with our spirit.’ The adoption of the believer into the family of God is so great a privilege, involving blessings so immense…” For the third he wrote, “The Spirit is emphatically spoken of as a Spirit of adoption.”

* * *

John 14:26
“will teach you everything”

When Alfred became king of Wessex and Kent in 1871, England was constantly under siege by the Danish. Alfred, a great military leader, was able to defeat the Danes on May 6, 1878 securing the freedom and safety of his country. For this magnificent battlefield achievement he became known as “Alfred the Great.” By establishing a series of fortresses Alfred was able to keep the country militarily secure. Yet, Alfred was more than a mighty military leader. He was also a devout Christian. After defeating the Danish king Guthrum in May, he forced the king and his earls to remain in the country for twelve days in order to teach them Christianity. Alfred was more noted as an educator and scholar than he was as a king. The country needed more than fortresses; the populace needed to be literate. He established an educational system and brought in scholars from other countries.

* * *

John 14:26
“will teach you everything”
Matthew Henry was born into a devout home. His father, Philip, was a non-conformist minister in England. Each day he led his family in devotions and Bible study. Young Henry, at the age of three, learned to take Bible notes that followed his father’s method. When Henry was twenty-two he began to study law, but found himself conducting regular Bible studies rather than reading law books. He went on to become a Presbyterian pastor in the village of Chester. For twenty-four years he pastored the same village church.

Henry was forty-one in 1704 when he committed to writing a commentary on the entire Old Testament. Having already preached through it twice at Chester and besides reading it through many times for his own instruction, he felt qualified to write. Every two years after that, he issued another volume. By his death ten years later, he had completed the Old Testament and was halfway through the New Testament. 

The popularity of his commentaries was due to his unique devotional style of writing, aimed not at impressing readers with his scholarship, but at inspiring his readers and drawing out the spiritual implications of the text. To this day Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary is still popular for both pastors and laity alike.

* * *

Revelation21:23
“for the glory of God is its light”
Sir Thomas More was an English humanist and statesman. He was also the chancellor of England from 1529 to 1532. He was once a close associate of King Henry VIII, but lost the respect of the monarch when he refused to accept the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. His real problem with the king came when he refused to recognize Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England. At his trial on May 7, 1535 he said before the tribunal, “The King our sovereign lord is not supreme head on earth of the Church of England.”

More was sentenced to the traitor’s death – to be drawn, hanged, and quartered – which the king changed to beheading. During five days before his execution, More prepared his soul to meet “the great spouse.” He walked to the scaffold on Tower Hill. Upon mounting the scaffold he said, “See me safe up, and for my coming down let me shift for myself.” He told the onlookers to witness that he was dying “in the faith and for the faith of the Catholic Church, the king’s good servant and God’s first.” He altered the ritual by blindfolding himself, playing a part of his own even on this awful stage.

* * *

John 14:27
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
William Mason was an English poet and also noted as being a distinguished gardener. Many of his gardens were sketched or painted and put on display. Manson also wrote a devotional titled A Spiritual Treasury for the Children of God, that was published in 1803. In a devotion written for May 9 he discussed that God’s promises for us will never fail, always giving us hope. He wrote, “Happy souls, who have fled to Jesus for refuge, and have laid hold of this hope.” Further in his devotional he expanded on this idea of hope when he wrote, “This hope is ever to be held fast, even though appearances wear a gloomy aspect, sense of comfort declines, feelings of joy seem dead, and all hope from ourselves forsakes us. But, Father, your mercies never die; your counsel shall stand, your oath cannot fail. Hope in these is an anchor to the soul.”

* * *

John 14:27
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
Doris Day recently died on May 13 from complications from pneumonia. She was 97. Fans believed that the bright and shinning Day lived a blissful life, yet unknown were the many troubles she did endure. There was a terrible car accident in her teens that prevented her from walking for three years and ended her hope of having a dancing career. She had four miscarriages and four marriages. One of her husbands, who also acted as her manager, had squandered more than $20 million of her money, leaving her $500 thousand in debt. Her only child, Terry, died of cancer when he was sixty-two.

Day is remembered for her 39 films and for the hundred of songs she recorded. She may be best remembered for the song Que Sera, Sera which she introduced in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Man Who Knew Too Much. After singing the song, which at first she did not like, she said, “That’s the last time you’ll ever hear that tune.” As the years went by Day realized the song defined her attitude towards life. The refrain reads:

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be


* * *

Memorial Day
On Memorial Day 2016 President Obama solemnly laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arrington National Cemetery. This ceremony came during the revelation of how veterans were being mistreated at Veteran’s facilities and hospitals. There were countless reports of inadequate treatment, the need to travel long distances for treatment, and waiting lists than stretched to months. This is why in his speech he said we must support the families of the fallen and still injured “not just with words but with our actions.” The President noted that over one million Americans had died in battle and that we have a responsibility not only to honor them, but care for their loved ones. Obama said, “The Americans who rest here, and their families – the best of us, those from whom we asked everything – ask of us today only one thing in return: that we remember them.”

* * *

Memorial Day
It was 71 years after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and President Obama became the first siting president to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in May 2016. A visit to this historic but tragic site was on Obama’s agenda since he first took office. Mr. Obama’s visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park had all the pomp, ceremony and planned choreography of a state visit or a leader’s funeral. With thousands in attendance and much of Japan watching on TV, President Obama walked forward alone at the park and laid a wreath on a white pyramid. He paused before the memorial with his head bowed. Before travelling to Japan, Obama visited Vietnam as a sign of healing past wounds. In a speech that was delivered in a slow and deliberate cadence Obama said, “Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-far past.” He went on to say of those who perished, “Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.”

* * *

Memorial Day
The “100 deadliest days.” Memorial Day to Labor Day. School is out and teenagers are driving more. Vacationers are taking long road trips. And more people will die from traffic deaths during this period than any other time during the year. There are many reasons for this, but the overriding cause is driver distraction. Driver distractions, such as texting and using a cellphone, contribute to 58.5% of the fatal accidents. In a cautionary statement, Jennifer Ryan the AAA director of state realties, said in June 2016, “It’s no secret that teens are extremely connected to their cellphones.”

* * * * * * * * *

Tom WilladsenFrom team member Tom Willadsen:

John 5:1-3(4???)-9
John 5:4 appears in the NRSV, but only in a footnote.  The text reads after “paralyzed” in 5:3 “waiting for the stirring of the water.”  Then v. 4 “for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water, whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made well from whatever disease that person had.”

There are a lot of parenthetical clarifications in John’s gospel.  It is very unlikely that the missing words of v. 3 and all of v. 4 were in the original text.  Older, more reliable manuscripts lack those words and four of the last five words in Greek do not appear anywhere else in John’s gospel. (See “Who Took Verse 4 out of My Bible” by Michael S. Heiser.)

It would be wise, preacher, to read a little past v. 9.  Jesus is not in trouble with the Jewish authorities because he healed on the Sabbath. (He couldn’t wait another day after 38 years?!)  He got in trouble because he told the formerly paralyzed man to carry his mat.  It would have been permissible for the man to have been carried on a couch, but his carrying his mat crossed the “No Work on the Sabbath” line.

* * *

Acts 16:9-15
Lydia, oh, Lydia
Lydia is the first person to convert to Christianity in Europe.  It appears that she was wealthy, perhaps a travelling saleswoman.  Purple cloth was a luxury — cloth of that color was worn by royalty.  We see the significance of purple when we observe Lent and Advent.  Purple dye was derived from a certain kind of mollusk that grew along the Mediterranean coast of what is now Syria and Lebanon.  There was not much dye in each shell and the mollusks’ habitat was small, so purple dye was very expensive.

It appears that Lydia was not Jewish, but had something like “associate member” status.  There probably was not a large enough Jewish community in Philippi for there to be a synagogue, so Paul went looking for a place where he might find people open to the message of the gospel.  He found Lydia — and her whole household ­— and they were baptized. 

This text is one that Christians have used to argue for the validity of infant baptism. Lydia’s whole household was baptized, presumably that included some children. 

Lydia was probably fairly wealthy; she dealt in purple cloth; and she had a large enough house to accommodate Paul and Silas.  She could afford to entertain them.  If you read Philippians the joy leaps off the page.  Paul has such warm affection for the Christians there.  There’s a good chance that they met for worship at Lydia’s house.

* * *

John 14:23-29
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Advocate;” let’s unpack that word.  In many countries “advocate” is a term that denotes a specific kind of legal training and expertise.  We use the word in English as both a noun and a verb.  Clearly in this case Jesus is using “advocate” to someone who speaks on behalf of someone else. 

In my community there are “health care advocates” who help people navigate the bureaucracy of the health care system, as well as help the patient understand various treatment options available to them.  An advocate is someone who is always on your side.

The Greek term is παρακλητος.  It only appears five times in the New Testament.  Here and three more times in Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples, and once in 1 John. 

Jesus promises repeatedly in John 14--16 that he, and/or The Father, will send The Advocate.  In John 14:26 and 15:26, Jesus uses “Holy Spirit” and “the Spirit of truth” as appositives.

* * *

“Lourdes” is more than the name of Madonna’s daughter
A contemporary analog to the healing pool at Bethzatha is Lourdes, France, where Bernadette Sourbirous saw appearances of the Virgin Mary starting in 1858.

It is estimated that more than 200 million people have visited Lourdes in south-western France.  To date 70 miracles have been authenticated by the Roman Catholic Church. More than 7,000 miracles have been associated with visiting Lourdes, but only 70 have been confirmed.

* * *

Psalm 67
The Feast of Tabernacles/Booths
The festival mentioned at the start of chapter 5 in John’s gospel is not specified.  It probably was not Passover.  There is a good chance that it was the autumn harvest festival that modern Jews call Succoth.  Psalm 67 was probably sung at Succoth.  It is a song of thanksgiving at harvest time.  “Succoth” means “booths;” the term recalls an agrarian past when people would erect temporary booths to sleep in to be close to the grain they were harvesting.

There are some groups of modern Jews who observe the week-long Festival of Succoth by sleeping in temporary huts with branches placed on them.  Here is a photo from modern day Brooklyn, NY of the booths some observant Jews use.



* * *

Revelation and Raiders of the Lost Ark
In the classic film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” Indiana Jones survives when the ark is opened because he knows not to look at the face of God.  (Remember, he learned his lessons in Sunday school.) 

Here he is with his eyes closed.



Here’s the fate he avoided because he knew not to look.



The Holy Spirit is going right through that Nazi!

Well, when all is said and done, and the events described in today’s reading from Revelation, it will be safe to look at the face of God, 22:4, “they will see his face, and his name will be on their forehead.”

It will be safe to look directly at God’s face.

That sounds like a pretty happy ending.   

* * * * * * * * *

From team member Chris Keating:

Chris KeatingMemorial Day & Christian Faith

Remembering those who fought and died
While Americans flock to beaches and pools on Memorial Day weekend, it’s worth noting the holiday is more than the unofficial start of summer.  In April, 1866 Civil War hero Major General John A. Logan is said to have given the first Memorial Day addresses during a commemoration of fallen veterans in Carbondale, IL.  Two years later Gen. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued General Orders #11, which set aside May 30, 1868 as a day for f“or the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion." Gen. Logan indicated he hoped that the celebration would be  "kept up from year to year while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades."

* * *

The dis-ease of civil religion
Civic and national holidays often place clergy in a quagmire of mixing church and state. On the one hand, as theologian Richard Mouw notes, we tend to become a bit queasy mixing faith and civic holidays. But Mouw also wonders if sometimes we have ignored the importance civil faith might play in society, offering what sociologist Robert Bellah once named “a transcendent reference point” which could be crucial to our overall health as a nation.  Mouw describes his encounter with an essay Bellah wrote in 1967:

Bellah, a highly respected Berkeley sociologist, was no “My country right or wrong” superpatriot. He was clear about the fact that the declarations of civil religion were often used to reinforce bad things in American life. But, he insisted, there were also good expressions of American civil religion.

For Bellah, civil religion “exists along side of and (is) rather clearly differentiated from the churches,” and its intentionally generic character was its strength.

It embodied some of the basic features shared by Christianity and Judaism (and today, we must add, Islam): namely, that there is something beyond and above our human minds, wills and desires — a “transcendent reference point” — that when we acknowledge its reality we are made aware that our collective life must be guided by more than majority opinion.

Bellah was capturing a theme that also gets expressed on occasion by persons who profess no religious faith.

* * *

The conversation we refuse to have
On Memorial Day, preachers have an opportunity to assist the congregation in understanding the gifts and sacrifices made by veterans who died in war, as well as the ongoing sacrifices experienced by living veterans. A recent article by Benjamin Sledge, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, refers to conversations many Americans refuse to have. It’s worth quoting at length:

“People only want to hear the Band of Brothers stories. The one with guts and gusto! Not the one where you jam a gun in an old woman’s face or shoot a kid.” I pause then add, “Look around the room for a second…”

Andy surveys the restaurant we’re in for a moment while I lean in with a sardonic half smile.

“How many people can even relate to what we’ve been through? What would they rather hear about? How Starbucks is giving away free lattes and puppies this week? Or how a soldier feels guilty because he pulled a trigger, lost a friend, or did morally questionable things in war? Hell, I want to hear about the latte giveaway…especially if it’s pumpkin spice.”

This eases the tension and he smiles.

Andy and I feel like we don’t fit in. We met a few years ago at the church where he works, and where I volunteer. Of the thousands of people that attend, we are a handful of veterans in the congregation. It’s often few and far between that I meet other veterans, and those that I do know or have met, typically end up running in the same circles.

Years ago, Andy fought in the siege of Fallujah. Readjusting to normal life after deployment didn’t happen for us. Instead, we found ourselves overly angry, depressed, violent, and drinking a lot. We couldn’t talk to people about war or the cost of it because, well, how do you talk about morally reprehensible things that have left a bruise on your soul? 

The guilt and moral tension many veterans feel are not necessarily being dubbed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) any longer, but Moral Injury.  Moral Injury refers to the emotional shame and psychological damage incurred when a soldier has to do things that violate their sense of right and wrong. Shooting a woman or child. Killing another human. Watching a friend die. Black humor and laughing about situations that would normally disgust them. 

Because so few in America have served, they can no longer relate to their peers, friends, and family for fear of being viewed as some type of monster, or lauded as a hero when they feel the things they did were morally ambiguous or wrong given the nature of the situations they were involved in. 

* * *

Acts 16:9-15

Lydia’s leadership
As Paul racks up the frequent traveler miles, he makes his way to the Roman colony of Philippi.  Down by the river, where he senses there might be a place of prayer, Paul encounters Lydia, a successful businesswoman who is attentive not only to the ways of the marketplace but also the ways of God.  Neither Lydia’s leadership nor her success in business should not be ignored—especially in a time when male clergy continue to earn higher salaries than their female counterparts. According to a 2014  Bureau of Labor Statistics report, women ministers earn $763 a week, compared to $1007 per week for men, or about a $12,000 a year difference.

* * *

Nevada’s Majority Female legislature
As a leader in the church, Lydia played an essential role in Paul’s ministry—a role often neglected by interpreters who use other Pauline texts to exclude women from church leadership. Lydia’s role was essential to providing logistical support to Paul’s missionary work. Recalling Lydia’s story can be an essential learning point for congregations, especially in the current political environment. Just as Lydia’s story is often overlooked, there are tendencies to ignore the bipartisan achievements women have made in politics. That is changing in Nevada, where a record number of women were elected to the state legislature in 2018.  Women from both parties now hold 52 percent of the seats in both houses.  No other legislature in the United States has ever achieved that milestone. Many of the women are also young, and have created waves of change in the state. Currently, there are more than 17 pending bills dealing with sexual assault, sex trafficking, and sexual misconduct on the Senate and House chamber dockets. There are bills to ban child marriage as well as calls to study the causes of maternal death. “I can say with 100 percent certainty that we wouldn’t have had these conversations" a few years ago, said Assembly Majority Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson (D). "None of these bills would have seen the light of day.”

* * *

The importance of women as leaders
Not only was Lydia receptive to Paul’s preaching, she responded by providing hospitality to Paul and Barnabas. By opening her home, Lydia demonstrated the importance of women to the early church movement. In a society where women often had little power, it’s clear that Lydia was able to exercise her power in a way that made a difference to advancing the gospel.  Several years ago, Alyce Nelson described the important ways women yield power, and the difference it makes in the world.

Research shows that women direct up to 90 percent of their income to community infrastructure and improvement, whereas men reinvest 30 to 40 percent of their income. The World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report finds that women with decision-making power accelerate positive development outcomes, and studies from the World Economic Forum confirm a strong correlation between an increase in gender equality and an increase in gross domestic product per capita.

It’s now universally accepted that women are proven catalysts for economic growth–they are also a leadership reserve.

Long excluded from traditional power structures, women lead differently than men. Restricted access to resources has made ingenuity a matter of survival for many; frustration with impenetrable oligarchies and inherited bureaucracies has instilled the value of transparency and creative, practical thinking in others. Women have been forced to operate from outside closed networks, which means they’ve had to adapt by creating their own worlds; they’ve learned to unite peripheral, disenfranchised communities into collectively organized and governed microcosms.

The particular qualities of women’s leadership take on a new significance and new power in today’s world. I believe that the strengths women possess and the behaviors that set them apart will lead us forward in the coming years: collaboration, conviction, inclusiveness, creativity, and mentorship.

Jesus talks about “the world” a lot. Sometimes it is about God loving the world, sometimes the world does not get to have Jesus revealed to it. Kids may wonder what is up with “the world” and what does God think about it.

* * * * * * * * *


WORSHIP
by George Reed


Call to Worship:
Leader: May God be gracious to us and bless us.
People: May God’s face shine upon us always.
Leader: Let all people praise our God.
People: Let all nations be glad and sing for joy.
Leader:    The earth has yielded its increase.
People: May God continue to bless us.

OR

Leader: God created us to be whole.
People: We celebrate the love in which God created us. 
Leader: God has blessed us with minds to understand healing.
People: We rejoice in those who use the healing arts.
Leader: God seeks to bless us and others through us.
People: We open our hearts and lives to be and share God’s blessing.

Hymns and Songs:

For the Fruits of This Creation
UMH: 97
H82: 424
PH: 553
NCH: 425
CH: 714
LBW: 563
ELW: 679
W&P: 723

Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee
UMH: 175
H82: 642
PH: 310
NCH: 507
CH: 102
LBW: 316
ELW: 754
W&P: 420
AMEC: 464

All My Hope Is Firmly Grounded
UMH: 132
H82: 665
NCH: 408
CH: 88
ELW: 757

Hope of the World
UMH: 178
H82: 472
PH: 360
NCH: 46
CH: 538
LBW: 493
W&P: 404

My Faith Looks Up to Thee
UMH: 452
H82: 691
PH: 383
AAHH: 456
NNBH: 273
CH: 576
LBW: 479
ELW: 759
W&P: 419
AMEC: 415

Open My Eyes, That I May See
UMH: 454
PH: 324
NNBH: 218         
CH: 586
W&P: 480
AMEC: 285

Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
UMH: 462
AAHH: 368
NNBH: 292
AMEC: 440

Holy Spirit, Truth Divine
UMH: 465
PH: 321
NCH: 63
CH: 241
LBW: 257
ELW: 398

Open Our Eyes, Lord
CCB: 77
Renew: 91

Behold, What Manner of Love
CCB: 44  

Music Resources Key:
UMH: United Methodist Hymnal
H82: The Hymnal 1982
PH: Presbyterian Hymnal
AAHH: African American Heritage Hymnal
NNBH: The New National Baptist Hymnal
NCH: The New Century Hymnal
CH: Chalice Hymnal
LBW: Lutheran Book of Worship
ELW: Evangelical Lutheran Worship
W&P: Worship & Praise
AMEC: African Methodist Episcopal Church Hymnal
STLT: Singing the Living Tradition
CCB: Cokesbury Chorus Book
Renew: Renew! Songs & Hymns for Blended Worship

Prayer for the Day/Collect
O God who is complete wholeness:
Grant us the grace to open our lives to you
so that we may know healing and wholeness;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

OR

We praise you, O God, because you are completely whole. There is nothing missing from your being. Help us to open ourselves to your Spirit that we may be healed and made whole. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
Leader: Let us confess to God and before one another our sins and especially our looking for healing where there is only death.
 
People: We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. You have set before us the way of life and wholeness and yet we blindly travel down the path of destruction and death. You give us the wisdom to bring physical healing but we are so greedy many cannot afford to be well. We are so sure of ourselves that we impose our thoughts and wills of others instead of waiting until our help is wanted. Heal us so that we can bring healing to others. Amen.
      

Leader: God desires all of us to know wholeness and wellness. Receive God’s blessings and healing and share these with you sisters and brothers.

Prayers of the People
Glory and praise are yours, O God, because you are life and you give your life to all your creation.

(The following paragraph may be used if a separate prayer of confession has not been used.)


We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. You have set before us the way of life and wholeness and yet we blindly travel down the path of destruction and death. You give us the wisdom to bring physical healing but we are so greedy many cannot afford to be well. We are so sure of ourselves that we impose our thoughts and wills of others instead of waiting until our help is wanted. Heal us so that we can bring healing to others.

We thank you for your guidance and the wholeness your bring to our lives. We thank you for those you have gifted with the healing arts.

(Other thanksgivings may be offered.)

We pray for all your children and especially those who are ill. We remember those who struggle to afford health care for themselves or their loved ones.

(Other intercessions may be offered.)

All these things we ask in the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together saying:

Our Father....Amen.

(Or if the Our Father is not used at this point in the service)

All this we ask in the Name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity. Amen.

Children’s Sermon Starter
Do you like to travel, to go to special places. Today we hear about Jesus’ disciples traveling. They are not traveling for fun but to help others. Sometimes it was a long trip and sometimes is way a short one. Some people go great distances on mission trips to help others. That is wonderful. But sometimes all we have to do is cross the room to help.



Bethany PeerbolteCHILDREN'S SERMON
What is up with “The World”?
by Bethany Peerbolte
John 14:23-29

Supplies: Bring in a globe, map, or picture of the earth

Show the kids your prop and ask them what it is. Explain that it shows us what the world looks like. Point to where you live and where the nearest wild elephant lives. Show them some other interesting features. Then tell them how the Bible talks a lot about the world. The Bible says God looked at the world after creation and thought it was good, and God loved the world so much God sent Jesus to save us from sin. There are also parts of the Bible that says the world does not get to know Jesus, only a few followers, and that can be confusing. These verses make us think God maybe doesn’t love the whole world after all. Tell the kids God does love the world, and also sees areas that need improvement. God is able to love us and help us become better people at the same time. When God sees a need God gets to work to help, we call that helper the Holy Spirit. Just because God sees an area that needs to be fixed doesn’t mean God loves us any less and it never means God stops loving us. The Bible says God’s love I so big it covers all the way from the east to the west and that nothing can make God stop loving us. When the Bible talks about the world, remember you are part of that world and that it is okay to see parts that need fixing because God loves us no matter what.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Immediate Word, May 26, 2019 issue.

Copyright 2019 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to The Immediate Word service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons and in worship and classroom settings only. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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