Living Waters

Living Waters at Good Shepherd Hayesville, NC

Today’s Lenten readings are about living, healing waters and Jesus’ power to heal a man who had been ill for 38 years. Lenten scriptures and Lenten practice promote healing.
When I read Ezekiel and the graphic description of the healing waters which flow from the Temple, my mind’s eye goes to the Healing Waters fountain that flows forth in front of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Hayesville, NC. Our Order of St. Luke chapter is named the River of Healing Chapter and aptly so as healing waters flow forth in and from the church community.
Stay with the graphic description. The Son of Man—Ezekiel–returns to the Temple to led by the Spirit to the east gate where the water is shallow and is flowing gently with a faint bubbling sound. In the heat of the day the water smells so fresh. The cool water caresses  and soothes the tired legs of the prophet. As Ezekiel is led further downstream, the water comes above his ankles to his knees. We can imagine that now the water is gurgling and rushing forth as it glides over rocks. The fine mist effervescing from the stream cools the face. Then, with the next measurement, the water is too deep to cross without swimming. By now the water is roaring loudly and the foam that comes from water crashing into rocks fills the air. The surging water massages the legs of the prophet. I think of the waters of justice now roaring like a mighty stream.
Picture the green, towering, healthy fruit trees which line the banks. The living waters nurture the trees into life as water rises through the roots and goes to the very top branches. The rising mists give more nourishment to the leaves making them waxy deep green.The fragrant smell of fruit fills the air and whets the taste buds. The fruit nourishes the body and medicine from the bark and leaves heal. Healing water, healing trees—nature created by the Living One nurturing us into life. Sit on the bank of the river with the prophet and the guiding Spirit and see the greenery and the fruit. Pluck a juicy pear  or pomegranate from a bough and taste the sweet, juicy pulpy flesh. Chew the fruit slowly and savor the taste. Listen to the roaring waters. Rest healed in the presence of the prophet and the Spirit.
Maybe the water flowing forth comes from what was called in Jesus’ day the Pool of Bethesda. Jesus could have carried the sick man to the pool the next time the water bubbled but he did not. John’s community wants us to realize something else. Jesus the Christ, the Son of Man, has within his very person the healing power of the Living One. He simply commands the man to get up and walk—healing, encouraging words of life. This reflects the Johannine community’s faith experience of the Risen Christ. Jesus had to die so that the Christ could arise. Jesus then, Christ now.
By this time the Jesus Movement has parted company with the Judeans and the community wants to engage in polemic. The “Jews” want to take Jesus out because he healed on the Sabbath. Remember, if you could get your ox out of a ditch on the Sabbath, why could you not heal someone? This is pure polemic which fueled centuries of violent antisemitism. As such it would  not survive a critical examination on Scopes. The Romans crucified Jesus because he did far more than heal people on the Sabbath. He challenged the oppressive structures—structures which extracted everything from the 99% to support the bloated lifestyles of the 1%. The 1% would include some religious leader who were also overtaxing the common folks with onerous tithes; however, many of the Jews/Judeans found themselves in the 99%. Read on in John because the intrigue among the religious leaders, the healed man, the parents of the man, and Jesus is quite a scenario. Who wants to be identifies with the troublemaker from the boondocks of Galilee? [Note that scholars are divided over whether the Second Testament should read Jews or Judeans. There are cogent arguments for both translations which we need not go into here.]
The Enlightenment and much of modern science pooh poos miraculous or unexplained healing. Yet people still report their experiences of being healed by the Living One. God’s care for the sick and miserable surely did not stop in 33CE. Scientists have to let God be God. While we cannot subscribe to the old cosmology which has God dwelling above the dome of the sky and occasionally coming down to intervene, we can experience the power that is at work in the cosmos since creation flared forth from the Living One. The power is a Presence that helps us to be more than what we are. The response of surrender unleashes immense power in out lives.
Why should we be uncomfortable with things we cannot explain? We have moved away from religion as an explanation about how things work to an understanding of religion as it gives meaning to our lives. What is the meaning of God and how does it affect the way I try to live an authentic life of faith? Yes, God as defined by ontological dogma from on high is dead. Today, fortunately, we encounter the Living One who breathes meaning and purpose into our lives. Authentic life—religious or otherwise—is lived in community. We do have the power to send forth healing and to invoke healing for others. If it works for us, if it has meaning for us, then it works. It is. Healing is real.
All we have to do is rest individually and corporately in the Living One. When we are present to the Living One, we are resting in life flowing like a river from the care and compassion of the Living God who is ever nurturing us into fuller life—I have come that you might have life and have life in abundance. I have come that you might have everything you need including healing.

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