On the Sunday of the Paralytic
Sermon preached by Dn. Jeff Smith on Sunday, May 23, 2021
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
My brothers and sisters, I would like to start by rereading the epistle and the gospel in the light of healing and resurrection. From Acts: In Lydda, Peter found Aeneas who had been bedridden for eight years. Peter said, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.” At Joppa, there was also a disciple named Tabitha, full of good works and charitable deeds, but it happened that she became sick and died, so they washed her body and laid her in an upper room. The disciples sent two men to fetch Peter, imploring him not to delay. So Peter arose and went with them. All the widows showed him the tunics and the garments which Tabitha had made. But Peter turned them out and he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, arise.” She opened her eyes, and when saw Peter, she sat up. Then he gave her his hand, and lifted her and presented her alive to the saints and widows.
From the Gospel of John: A multitude of the sick, blind, lame and paralyzed lay waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel stirred the water, and whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made well. One man had been waiting there for 38 years. And when Jesus saw him, he asked, “Do you want to be made well?” The man answered, “Sir I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. Someone else always steps ahead of me.” So Jesus replied, “Rise, take up your bed, and walk.” Immediately the man was made well. But the Jews said, “It is the Sabbath. It is not lawful for you to carry your bed. Who told you to take up your bed and walk?” But he didn’t know who had healed him. Later Jesus found him, and said, “See, you have been made well, sin no more, lest something worse happen to you.” So the man told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Thank you for indulging me for that re-reading; it helps give context to my message. I feel like we have all experienced such loss this last year, and that we are only now emerging from a long dark tunnel. It has been a remarkable season of death and rebirth. As many of you know, we lost our 5 month old puppy Biza when she ran out in front of a car just five weeks ago. It happened right in front of me, so I ran out into the street to retrieve her body as she exhaled her last breath. I wish I could have healed her like Peter, but I couldn’t. She was killed instantly, and I buried her warm body in the wet ground behind our home. I never felt grief like that before, the losing of someone that I dearly loved. I felt a permeability, like a veil was torn between this world and the next. I still would really like to see my little dog again. Biza brought joy into our few months of life together. I was always smiling. She gave such enthusiastic morning greetings, tail wags and kisses. I want to treat my friends and family like that. To simply be glad to see you when you arrive at my home. So even now, I carry a feeling of how precious and fragile life is. It is not easily brought back.
And now, just last week, Stephanie Colby has also gone from us. It wasn’t very long ago that she was asking me to quiet down during the Cherubic Hymn so she could share that precious moment with her friend. I wish I could reach out and say, “Stephanie, arise,” but I can’t. I am not the apostle who denied Jesus because of his fear. I am not the rock that the church was built on.
During this season, we have all witnessed the death of millions of people around the world. We have all experienced loss, and the world has become more permeable. The veil between this world and the next has been torn. And yet, we are called to heal each other; we are called to have compassion and empathy with each other. So many of you have expressed empathy for me and Natasha, and I love you for it.
Yet, in the midst of this loss, we also witnessed the wedding of my son, Theo and Alice, a pure union of two people at peace with each other. The stillness and the joy that they shared last week was a wonder to behold.
Throughout all of this, every day, Father Anthony attends to the rites and rituals of birth, and death, and resurrection, and he wrestles meaning from these events that I take comfort from and that I respect him for.
So, in this season together, we have been witnesses to death and new life. It truly has been a Paschal season. It has been a time of resurrection and hope. I hope that I get to see Biza and Stephanie again. But for now, I hope that I can carry their joy and their smiles with me. I want to share the joy that they so easily shared with others.
Jesus was able to heal a man waiting by a pool for 38 years, but now we can all reach out and offer healing love and attention to each other. This is the abundance of healing life that we share.
Jesus has risen from the dead as he foretold, and among those in the tombs he has granted life. This is our faith and our hope; it is our life. We, who live in our own tombs have been granted life, and we are called to emerge. So, let us share that life in abundance. As Peter called Tabitha back from the dead, we can all share the joy of knowing that death is not the end. This is our life; let us claim it together.
Thanks be to God.