Let’s not cheat ourselves. Encountering Jesus. 3/5

The gates of Jerusalem are busy places. There are so many people coming and going – whether for religious festivals, or for trade and commerce, or for administrative purposes. The flow of people is almost nonstop at these gates – through these portals into the city.

There is a pool near one particular gate of the city – and that pool near the sheep gate – is also a busy place. But this pool is busy not so much on account of the religious festivals, or on account of those traveling for trade and commerce, or on account or the administrative needs of the city or of that Roman colony more widely.

The area around that pool is busy because there is a tradition of healing associated with it. There is a tradition that when the waters are stirred – when there is some movement in the waters, as if stirred by an angel – the waters have healing or medicinal properties.

And so the area around that pool – the five porticos or porches that encircle the pool – they are filled with those looking for healing. This space is a kind of ancient hospice or hospital. By definition this is a group of those who are broken in some way; their bodies in need of healing in some respect. According to John’s gospel, those gathered around the pool are the blind and the lame and the paralyzed. And of course we know that in that culture, on top of their particular physical challenges, each of these individuals would also have faced a high degree of social isolation. So they seek healing in this pool – they seek healing in the stirred waters – they seek healing of their bodies and souls – a healing in their physical being and in their social identity. Continue reading

advent, hope, judgment, hell

My sermon from this past Sunday. I have in many ways followed the interpretation laid out by James Kay, and have quoted him directly toward the end of this sermon. See his article at: http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=677


In the Gospel of Luke we find the words “good news” on lips of many.

The angel Gabriel says to Zechariah, who would become the Father of John the Baptist: “I have been sent to bring you good news.”

An angel appears to the shepherds out in the field and says: “Behold I bring you good news of great joy.

Later on in Luke’s gospel, we will find Jesus in the synagogue, quoting from Isaiah the prophet: “The Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”

Good news.  These words are everywhere in Luke’s Gospel – they are at the centre of Luke’s history of Jesus and the early church.

In our passage for today – the narrative of John the Baptist – Luke again gives us this language of good news. At the conclusion of this passage in chapter 3, Luke says: “So, with many other exhortations John proclaimed the good news to the people.” Continue reading