Take Up Your Mat

John 5.14
Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

Reflection: Take Up Your Mat
By John Tillman

The paralytic at the pool is one of the more unusual miracles of Jesus. In most miracles of healing someone comes to Jesus with a request.

The Centurion sent to Jesus on behalf of his servant and the leaders of the Jewish community supported the Centurion’s request due to his kindness to them.

Bartimaeus called out to Jesus over the noise of the crowd, “Son of David, have mercy on me,” and asked directly, “Lord I want to see.”

Jairus, a synagogue leader, humbled himself to come to Jesus openly, begging for his daughter to be healed.

Along the way to Jairus’s daughter, the woman with the issue of blood braved the crushing crowd, to touch Jesus.

But in the case of the paralytic, Jesus seems to initiate everything. Jesus sees the man. He discovers how long he has been there. He singles him out. He questions him. He heals him.

Another common element of other miracles is a moment in which Jesus comments on the person’s faith. That is absent in this account as well. The paralyzed man’s faith is questionable—perhaps so weak that only Jesus could see it.

Sometimes, a miracle is the beginning of a journey of faith instead of the end. Perhaps the reason Jesus told the man to pick up his mat and walk, was so that he would not be able to come back to the same spot in which he had been lying for years.

In the case of the paralyzed man, Jesus isn’t done with him after he is healed. Jesus once more seeks him out. Jesus finds him in the Temple—a place the man was forbidden to go before being healed. There Jesus calls him to repentance and warns him that there are worse things than being paralyzed by a pool for 38 years. Jesus has more for this man then simply taking up his mat and walking. He has more for us too.

Jesus sought us out when we were paralyzed and deformed by sin. Though our faith might have been so small only he could detect it, he healed us, granting us access to God at the Temple. But he isn’t done with us after this miracle. He still seeks us out. To warn us, to call us to continued repentance, to transform our lives.

Jesus isn’t done with us after the miracle of our salvation. When we take up our mat and walk, we are just beginning to follow him in faith.

Pick up your mat and walk. Then take up your cross and follow him.

Prayer: A Reading
Then, speaking to all, he said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross everyday and follow me.” — Luke 9.23

Today’s Readings
Exodus 26 (Listen – 4:18)
John 5 (Listen – 5:42)

This Weekend’s Readings
Exodus 27 (Listen – 2:52) John 6 (Listen – 8:27)
Exodus 28 (Listen – 5:54) John 7 (Listen – 5:53)

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Read more about Not Just Miracles
Christ’s miracles weren’t entertainment for a crowd or party tricks to show he was a neat prophet. With each miracle Christ demonstrated that restoration beyond what our world is capable of producing will one day come through his reign.

Read more about C.S. Lewis on Miracles
Each miracle writes for us in small letters something that God has already written, or will write, in letters almost too large to be noticed, across the whole canvas of Nature. — C.S. Lewis

We Need a Little Christmas :: Joy of Advent

John 7.37-38
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Reflection: We Need a Little Christmas :: Joy of Advent
By John Tillman

The musical, Mame, is a classic of American theater and film. The show’s most enduring mark on our culture is probably the song “We Need a Little Christmas.”

In the show, Mame has the notion to put up the Christmas decorations early in order to lift everyone’s mood. In the original broadway cast recording her nephew can be heard objecting, “But Auntie Mame, it’s one week past Thanksgiving Day now!”

That’s right. Putting up the Christmas decorations one week past Thanksgiving was once something only an exaggerated, eccentric, bon-vivant, party girl, like crazy Auntie Mame would think of. How times have changed.

In 2018, the media has been incessantly telling us that “scientists” say putting up decorations early makes us happier and more content. All this journalistic (and consumeristic) gold has been spun out of one study that found that people were seen as more sociable if they decorated for Christmas early, and one psychologist’s statement that early decorating brought feelings of “happiness.”

As we begin this week of Advent that focuses on joy, it is helpful to distinguish joy from the happiness, whether scientifically verified or not, that is derived from putting up decor.

There’s nothing wrong with a temporary mood-booster, as long as you tell the truth about what it is—temporary and emotional. Go ahead. Decorate in October if you just can’t stand not to. Mame would be proud.

But the joy of Christ is no mood-booster—it is a life changer. And it is always accessible to us no matter what season of life we are in or what decorations are hanging on our walls.

We do need a little Christmas joy.
Joy is not dependant on a season of peace and goodwill.
Joy thrives under persecution and suffering.

Joy does not rely on tinsel, lights, and delightful surroundings.
Joy shines brightest when surrounded by hopelessness and fear.

Joy does not require us to dress the part, or deck the halls, or trim the tree.
Joy comes to criminals naked on a cross, hung like gruesome decorations on a tree of suffering.

Jesus brought joy to us not by avoiding suffering, but by seeing past it and willingly walking through it for us. We will find joy when we follow him.

What are we waiting for?
When we walk with Christ, there is joy before suffering, joy in the midst of it, and joy on the other side of it.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
On this day the Lord has acted, we will rejoice and be glad in it  — Psalm 118:24

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 4 (Listen – 1:53)
John 7 (Listen – 5:53)

Additional Reading
Read More about Finding Joy :: Readers’ Choice
If you get hung up on pleasure you’re doomed. If you pursue joy, you’ll find everlasting happiness. — George Lucas.

Read More about Love in His Name :: Love of Advent
In that Name there is hope and joy and rest
In his Name we are blest.

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