Made Well

Made Well


Rev. Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer serves as an organizer with the Greater Hartford Interfaith Action Alliance and the Center for Leadership and Justice.

Scripture: John 5:1-9 (NRSV)

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids--blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.

Reflection: Made Well


The man had been ill for 38 years. We don’t know much of his story before this encounter—where he was from, how his family had (or had not) supported him, which doctors and healers he had visited, what resources he had expended trying every conceivable treatment. Somehow made his way to the pool of Beth-zatha, whose waters were said to offer healing when they were stirred up by the presence of the Holy. But other seekers of healing elbowed past him when the opportune moment came. No one would lend him a hand to move his aching body into those waters of life. Perhaps there was no ramp; perhaps there was no railing; perhaps the signs were written in a language he could not read. Clearly there was no system to ensure that a person like him could reach the pool. Structural barriers prevented him from accessing the healing he so deeply needed.
Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be made well?”
The man said, “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”
The woman said, “I skipped my mammograms because I was scared to go in during Covid, and now I’m two years overdue, but my primary care doctor left the practice and was not replaced, and the new one I found won’t give me a referral until my physical, and the first appointment they had available is five months from now.”
The parent said, “My baby had a high fever over the weekend, but I can’t get to the nearest urgent care center on the bus, so I had to take him to the ER, and now I’m stuck with a huge bill I can’t afford to pay.”
The pregnant person said, “I need an abortion, but the Supreme Court says my right to choose what happens with my body is not constitutionally protected, and my state legislature agrees.”
The pastor said, “I finally found a therapist who could treat my PTSD, and then my insurance changed and he’s out of network, so now instead of a $25 copay, it’s $180 every session.”
The pediatrician said, “I know how to help my trans patients thrive, but I might get investigated for child abuse if I provide gender-affirming care.”
The teacher said, “My school hired more security guards instead of social workers, and when my students are struggling, I have nowhere to send them.”
The psychiatrist said, “I’m seeing teenagers who have spent days waiting in ER hallways after suicide attempts because there are not enough beds for youth mental health treatment.”
Now as then, healing is inaccessible to so many of God’s children. Jesus showed a better way, a way that burst open the paradigm in which there was only so much care to go around, so I’d better get mine before you get yours. He exposed the violence of the systems in which those of us who are barred from what we need by structural barriers are just plain out of luck. He revealed the lie inherent in the notion that we are not responsible for one another’s wellbeing.
Now as then, Jesus points to another way. He calls us to build structures of justice, systems that respond to the needs of people at the margins as well as those in the center, societies rooted in the radical idea that all children of God deserve the care and healing they need.
Now as then, Jesus asks, “Do you want to be made well?”


Holy One, bring your healing to all people, all places, all institutions and systems that need it. Great Physician, make us well.  Amen.

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war
  • For those grieving as the Covid death toll in the U.S. approaches 1 million people
  • For those grieving or suffering due to mass shootings, now over 200 for the year, including a racially motivated shooting in Buffalo that left 10 dead

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

  • For those who reach out to help their neighbor and speak up to defend their neighbor

 This Week in History:

May 17, 2004 (18 years ago) A Massachusetts couple, Marica Kadish and Tanya McCloskey, become the first same-sex partners to be legally married in the United States. On the same day, 77 other couple were married across the state and hundreds more filed for marriage licenses. It took eleven more years for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage for all 50 states.

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer

The Rev. Jocelyn Gardner Spencer is the President of the Southern New England Conference and the Senior Minister of United Church on the Green, New Haven CT.

May 16, 2022
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