Sermon ~ What Paralyzes You?

me speakingI recently took up horseback riding.  That’s right, your truly gets on a horse and rises around.  I know that right now you are picturing a John Wayne type sitting high upon his majestic beast and riding off into the sunset. Well, you can get that image right out of your head.  I am more like one of the three stooges, hanging on for life, as the horse does what it wants.  But, like anything else, you need perseverance to make it all work.

I have not been riding long, in fact I have only ridden once, but it was an experience I will not soon forget.  I serve as Chaplain for the National Lancers.  The Lancers are the oldest military unit still in existence in Massachusetts and they are the mounted honor guard of the Governor.  Their role now is ceremonial but the work is still hard and demanding.

So there I was, in the stable a few weeks ago.  Standing beside a very large horse, not the largest of horses mind you but a large horse none the less.  I put the blanket on, then the saddle, adjusted the stirrups and walked the horse out to the field where we would ride.  The name of the horse was Taps and I was not sure if that was a good thing or not.  Since I am bound to the earth by the force of gravity I could not mount the horse in the usual way, I needed to use the steps that are set aside for rookies.  Keep in mind that this entire experience brought much joy to my fellow riders.  But I got on the noble beast and prepared to ride.

That is when it happened, I was paralyzed with fear!

I have done many things in my life and I have been placed in some pretty harrowing situations but I have never been so scared in my life.  Here I was, sitting on a horse, wondering what in the name of all that is Holy ever possessed me to get on this animal.  Perhaps possession is the right word, but I was literally paralyzed.  I could not move, the horse was willing, but the flesh was weak.  All I wanted to do was to get off of this thing and back on the ground, standing up of course, but that was not going to happen.  Everyone was telling me it was going to be okay and to just relax.

This may come as a surprise to many of you but I like to be in control.  Being in control of a situation is important to me and is part of my personality, I have learned to let go of a lot of things in my life and continue to work on this daily, so to be so out of control was way over the limit for me and it was not comfortable.  Well relaxation did not come until I was on my way home, but I did settle in and it turned out to be a rather joyous ride.  I do plan on doing this again by the way.

Today we heard the story of another man who was paralyzed, although I doubt it was because he was riding on a horse.  We do not really know why he is in this condition but we do know it has been a long time that he has been afflicted.  Scripture tells us he had been waiting 38 years to be healed, waiting by the pool for just the right moment, but that moment never came.  He would just sit there, day in and day out, and wait.  Wait for someone to carry him into the water so he might be healed.

This water, that he was waiting to enter, would be moved by an angel and the first person to enter the water after this happened would be healed.  He sat and watched person after person, enter the water and come out healed from whatever it was that ailed them.  But it was to never happen to him.

Jesus comes and sees the man sitting there.  He walks over to him and asks him if he wished to be made whole.  The man replies to Jesus that he has no man to put him in the pool and that another come before he has a chance to get in.  In other words he does not answer the question that Jesus had asked him.  Nevertheless, Jesus tells him that he is healed and to take his bed and go.

St. John Chrysostom tells us that Jesus singled out this man, who had suffered for 38 years, to teach us about perseverance.  Imagine having the patience to wait 38 years for something.  To lie within reach of it, but not being able to grasp it.  In our world today we want everything right away.  We want fast food, we want instant savings, we go through the express line, and we get agitated if we have to wait in traffic.  We are not a citizenry that likes to wait.  Our attention span only last about 10 minutes, imagine waiting 38 years.

But this is what our spiritual life is all about.  We are called to persevere each and every day on the spiritual walk.  There will be good days and there will be bad days but we must keep on going.  Regardless of what is going on in the world we have to keep on track with our spiritual life.  We need to spend time in prayer and reading each and every day not just on Sunday.

The other part of the story that needs to be pointed out is what happens at the end.  Where did the man go after this miracle had been given to him, did he run and tell his family?  Did he go out to eat and celebrate this victory over sin?  Did he head to the local bar and hoist one?  No, Scripture tells us that Jesus found the man in the Temple, after his healing he went to Church and there he thanked God for what had happened to him.

Far too many only come to church, or even think of God when the going gets difficult.  We are quick to blame Him when things go wrong, but many people think that if things go well it is all them that made it happen.  Sure we are the “masters of our own destiny” but the gifts that we have, the skills that we use to make things happen, have come from God and we need to thank God for all of the graces that have been given to us.

When I climbed down off that horse, by the way, getting off the horse is easier than getting on, I thanked God that I was able to stay on the beast in the first place.  I thanked God for the people who were there to watch over me and to make sure that I was safe.  And I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to reach beyond my fears and to do something that I thought I would never do.

How much time do we spend thanking God?  Do we turn to God only in the bad times or do we turn to Him at all times, in season and out of season, and thank Him for the many blessings, and yes there are many, that He bestows upon us.

As we continue our celebration of all that He has done for us, take time to thank God and really mean it.

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