I’ve been to a couple of Texas Rangers games this Spring. It’s been a long time since I’ve attended a game in person. Now that the stadium is covered and air conditioned, you can watch the game without a river of perspiration flowing down your back.
At the first game I attended, the visiting team scored 3 runs in the top of the first inning. Our pitcher had a hard time throwing strikes and we had fielding error. It was a perfect storm of good fortune for the visitors.
When the Rangers came to bat, I looked at the scoreboard to see the batting averages of our players: I don’t recall the exact numbers, but it looked like .165, .195, .210, and the list went on with similar numbers. If you’re not familiar with baseball batting averages, there is usually one, maybe two, batters in a line-up with those kinds of numbers. But it’s not typically the whole line-up.
I thought to myself, it’s going to be a long night.
The Church of St. Anne in Jerusalem sits at the place where the paralyzed man was healed. Pilgrims to the Holy Land visit St. Anne’s, read this story from John’s Gospel, and reflect on the meaning of this particular healing.
In Jesus’ day, people believed that when an angel stirred the waters of the pool, the first person to enter the whirlpool was healed. The paralyzed man has been coming to the pool for a long time. But his infirmity meant that others were always able to get into the pool before him. Yet for 38 years, he comes to this pool, believing that today will be the day.
On the surface, it seems a little crazy. Why would today be any different? There’s only one healing in the water each time it is stirred—others, who are more able, will compete to get that one healing.
Yet, today is different. Jesus encounters the paralyzed man; he knows that the man has been here many times. Most people just walk around the paralyzed man…as if he was invisible.
But Jesus stops. He sees something more. He sees a person of faith…a person who possesses hope –even when the empirical evidence of his life suggests that today will not be his day.
Jesus asks: Do you want to be well?
Paralyzed man responds: Well….Yes, but….I’m never able to get into the water quickly enough. All of his belief and hope for healing reside in that pool of water. He does not know who Jesus is…yet.
Jesus commands him: Take up your mat and walk.
In the bottom of the first inning, the first Ranger got on base. And then he stole second base. The second batter hit a sacrifice fly ball that resulted in an unforced error. It wasn’t pretty, but the batters just kept putting the ball in play and good things were happening. Before the first inning ended, the Rangers were leading the game. They eventually won the game.
Statistically, it’s crazy that the Rangers would score 7 runs against a decent pitching staff. Imagine the tapes running in the batters’ minds as they come to the plate. They’re in a slump. And yet, like the paralyzed man, they show up at the plate as if it’s the first swing of the season. As if today will be their day.
Today, we are honoring 3 high school graduates. They are on the cusp of adulthood… Their families, teachers, and St. Martin’s have invested deeply in them. And all that they have learned is now inside them.
You have gathered knowledge, wisdom, and skills…You’ve learned to be an acolyte, you demonstrated hospitality by choosing to offer your musical talents in the choir loft, you learned to accept and love people as they are. Our graduates take these gifts with them when they leave.
But, they are not your gifts to keep.
They are your gifts to give to the community that surrounds you…wherever and whatever you call “home”.
You have been nurtured spiritually in this place. As you shared your St. Martin’s experience, we heard the gentle influences of this Body of Christ.
One of my favorite Taize songs begins with these words, “Ubi Caritas et amor, Deus ibi est”. It means, where this is charity and love, there is God.
It is what all of us experience at St. Martin-in-the-Fields…the intangible quality of this community that is so hard for people to name. God is in this place…in us and through us.
This is the particular soil into which your parents chose to plant your spiritual lives. Your roots are deep. You are ready for the world…but, this does not imply that the every day will be easy.
The world tries to label us and fit us into the boxes where the world believes we belong: Paralyzed and stuck at the side of a healing pool, a slumping baseball team with no hope of winning, a carpenter from the backwoods of Galilea.
The paralyzed man anticipates being well for 38 years. He’s still coming to the pool. He’s batting 0 for 38 years…yet he still comes to the plate…expecting to hit a home run…to be healed. To do that, he has to let go of every previous outcome…and believe that Today is the Day.
He dreams big. And he does it with faith that flies in the face of odds.
Take up your mat and walk. This is your day.