The story in the 5th Chapter of John about the lame man who has sat by the healing waters of Bethesda for years (38 years!) waiting to be healed, offers us a ready-made metaphor for the American church in the 21st Century. whole time about having no help to get into the healing waters or always getting bullied away from the help that is available right in front of it. The only thing the church won’t do after all these years waiting to experience the renewal and revival that awaits it in the healing waters is to do the one thing that it refuses to do: CHANGE!                                                                                               Try something different. Stop being the victim! Or … as Jesus so bluntly puts it to the lame man: “Pick up your mat and walk!” Read the story for yourself and see how the lame man can be such an accurate metaphor for many churches today. John 5:1-10 The Message (MSG) Soon another Feast came around and Jesus was back in Jerusalem. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. Hundreds of sick people—blind, crippled, paralyzed—were in these alcoves. One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?” The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. That day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, “It’s the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll around. It’s against the rules.” Have you noticed that Jesus has been asking our church if it wants to be made well? It’s an important question, because many churches today (most?) might answer in the affirmative but surely do not want to do anything different than what they’ve been doing for the last 38 years! Those churches still think that one day we’re all going to be transported back to the 1960’s and people will once again begin flooding into our buildings.                                                                             Folks … those days are gone and they ain’t comin’ back! What happens to churches that don’t change is probably the same thing that happened to the lame man by the pool – they become beggars. And frankly, becoming a beggar is not the end of the world. It can keep a church busy … and focused … and praying, for many years! Maybe even 38 more years! Like this lame man, the begging church has run out of options with friends and family. The man (the church) is forced to look outside itself just to get by. And so, it begs. PLEASE come to our church! PLEASE bring your children! PLEASE drop a pittance in the offering plate! Just tell us what you’d like us to do, and we will make it happen. We are willing to do anything that would appeal to you, if we can still be ourselves, and still be OUR church. And so, the time comes when someone asks the church … how’s that working for you? And usually, like a man who would sit by the waters for 38 years, the answer is … good enough for now. But the future may not be looking too good. Then, at some point, Jesus comes along and asks the church that one critical question: “Do you want to get well?”                                                                                              And most churches respond … “That depends … can we get well without changing?” Here at Vine Street, we did something different. We did just as Jesus said: 1) we got up; 2) we picked up our bedroll: and 3) we started walking. And ever since then, it’s been quite a spirit-led journey with Jesus into the 21st Century church. Keep on walkin’ – no turnin’ back, no turnin’ back,The church continues to sit and wait, whining the

Pastor <>< Bob