P. O. BOX 222811


(831) 624-8595










Rev. Paul Wrightman, Pastor


Independent and United Church of Christ




February 14, 2021


Dear Friends,


Happy Valentine’s Day!


By now I think everyone is aware that we are having a Church Family Meeting on February 28th​​ at 2:30. ​​ This will be done via Zoom, and for those who are unable to Zoom, information will be sent by email and regular mail. ​​ Anyone who has a computer is able to participate. ​​ Those without webcams will​​ NOT​​ be able to see the others in the meeting, but other persons in the meeting WILL​​ be able to see them. ​​ Talking and being heard works for everyone! ​​ If you would like me to send you a Zoom link for the 28th, please let me know at​​ paulccmp@yahoo.com. ​​ Thanks.


A brand new website for our church is nearing completion. ​​ We are looking for exceptional pictures of our people and our facilities. ​​ If you have any that you would like to share, please let me know at my email address above. ​​ We need them within the next two weeks. ​​ Thanks.


Always Remember that Jesus IS Emmanuel – God WITH Us, Pastor Paul







 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ ON HEALING AND WHOLENESS


God is Himself a vast medicine for man. ​​ It is the heart of God that carries restoration, inspiration, aspiration, and final victory.  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ –Henry Ward Beecher


I find great occasion for alarm in very much of that modern practice of psychotherapy from which no doubt we are also going to gain great benefits. ​​ But in some of this practice there is a strong suggestion that all we have to do is somehow to become at peace with ourselves, to restore an internal harmony, to become, as they like to say, fully integrated. ​​ And I want to ask, about what center? – with what manner of self is my whole being to be harmonized?  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ --William Temple


‘Holy,’ ‘Healthy,’ ‘Whole’ – they all come from the same root and carry different overtones of the same meaning.  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ –Aldous Huxley


Faith is not just conformity. ​​ It is​​ life. ​​ It embraces all the realms of life, penetrating into the most mysterious and inaccessible depths not only of our unknown spiritual being but even of God’s own hidden essence and love. ​​ Faith, then, is the only way of opening up the true depths of reality, even of our own reality. ​​ Until a man yields himself to God in the consent of total belief, he must inevitably remain a stranger to himself, an exile from himself, because he is excluded from the most meaningful depths of his own being: those which remain obscure and unknown because they are too simple and too deep to be attained by reason.  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ –Thomas Merton


It is our conviction, as Christians, that man was made for ‘wholeness’ – that every part of his nature is so ordered that it cannot find fulfillment unless all is co-ordinated and integrated into a whole; this can only happen – even in a very general and imperfect way – as the whole personality is unified to serve​​ one​​ end:​​ ‘Who keeps one end in view, makes all things serve.’ ​​ In other words: we have been created for God, and we are lost, empty, and restless until we come to our senses, and come home to our Father.  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ –Olive Wyon


SUGGESTED MUSIC: We Yearn, O Christ, for Wholeness​​  ​​ ​​​​ churchofpeaceucc ​​ You Tube

(Instrumental with lyrics to add on one’s own as prayer)


OPENING PRAYER  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ Howard Thurman ​​ (1900-1981)


My ego is like a fortress.

I have built its walls stone by stone

To hold out the invasion of the love of God.


But I have stayed here long enough.

There is light over the barriers. ​​ O my God –

The darkness of my house forgive

And overtake my soul.


I relax the barriers.

I abandon all that I think I am,

All that I hope to be,

All that I believe I possess.

I let go of the past,

I withdraw my grasping hand from the future,

And in the great silence of this moment,

I alertly rest my soul.






Our Father,

who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done on earth

as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those

who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

and the power, and the glory,

for ever and ever.




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. ​​ So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.’ ​​ But he answered them, ‘The man who made me well said to me, “Take up your mat and walk.”’


They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take it up and walk?”’


Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there.


Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well! ​​ Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.’


The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.


Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.


But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.’


For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.




Rev. Paul Wrightman


(The underlining indicates what I would emphasize if delivered orally.)



Have you ever wondered about the difference between healing and wholeness? ​​ This reading from​​ the Gospel of John wrestles with that very question.


The first thing that needs to be clarified regarding today’s Scripture text is John’s use of the term “Jews.”


The Gospel of John was written during a time of active hostility between the synagogue and the early church. ​​ At times – given his antagonism toward those who refuse to accept Jesus as Messiah – it seems as if John has​​ forgotten​​ the fact that Jesus​​ himself​​ was​​ Jewish, and that he had no intention of starting a​​ new​​ religion, but simply wanted to​​ reform​​ an​​ old​​ one.


Basically, John is railing against those in the Jewish​​ religious​​ establishment​​ of the time who rejected Jesus.


But given the fact that the Gospel of John has all-too-often been used by the Christian church as a means of promoting anti-Semitism, I​​ strongly believe that contemporary translations of the Christian Scriptures have a​​ moral​​ obligation​​ to​​ stop​​ using the word “Jews” in this general pejorative way. ​​ Instead, they should use something to the effect of “hostile​​ Jewish​​ religious​​ leaders.”


This is a matter of no small importance since many Jewish lives have been taken as a result of Christian anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism which has often been biblically​​ proof-texted​​ by reference to texts like the one we are considering today.



How one​​ chooses​​ to​​ translate​​ can sometimes be a life-or-death matter, and I consider the NRSV, the New Revised Standard Version, the translation most in use by mainline Protestants, and which is considered to be the “best” translation for purposes of scholarship, to be greatly​​ lacking​​ in this regard.


Moving on now to considering today’s text in general, we need to bear in mind that by the time the Gospel of John was edited into its final form, the city of Jerusalem had long-since been destroyed by the Romans. ​​ John is​​ remembering​​ the particular location where this healing took place.


As usual, John is probably hidden somewhere in the background of this scene, having situated himself in a strategic spot so as to be able to overhear Jesus’ conversation with​​ the paralyzed man in today’s story. ​​ Interestingly, archaeologists have unearthed this very place – the Pool with Five Porticoes – in Jerusalem, thus lending weight to the eyewitness nature of the account.


Today’s Scripture has enough substance in it to inspire​​ several​​ sermons. ​​ For example, we could look at​​ why​​ Jesus was so adamant about breaking the law against healing on the Sabbath. ​​ And a​​ close look at verse 17, “My​​ Father​​ is still working, and​​ I​​ also​​ am working. . .” would be a sermon in itself.


But instead of getting​​ theological​​ this morning, I would like to get​​ personal​​ , and take a close look at how Jesus​​ connects​​ with the broken person whom he heals. ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 


What fascinates me most about our text is that in it Jesus takes the initiative with the person in need of healing not just​​ once, but​​ twice.


Today’s Scripture gives us no indication why Jesus was in this particular place at this particular time, but we know from all four Gospels that​​ the​​ most​​ likely​​ place to find Jesus was where there were​​ people​​ who​​ were​​ hurting.


Picture in your mind’s eye Jesus walking right up to the person in this place of both hope and desperation who had been there the longest – some thirty-eight years – and asking him point-blank “Do you want to be made well?”, or better, “Are you​​ willing​​ to become​​ healthy?”


Many of us – from our own experience with prolonged illness – recognize this as the profound question which it is. ​​ Ironically, it is easy to become so comfortable with the routines and rituals connected with our illness that we​​ dont​​ really want to be made well.


Being well, becoming healthy, might force us into new, uncharted territory, territory that very likely would challenge us to become​​ active​​ participants​​ in life, instead of life’s​​ passive​​ victims.


It’s significant that when Jesus asks the paralyzed man if he wants to be made well, if he is willing to become healthy, the guy immediately replies with what appears to be a well-rehearsed​​ whine: ​​ “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.”


Have you ever sounded like that? ​​ I know I have. ​​ Obviously not the same exact words, but nonetheless the same attitude of being a​​ victim​​ and feeling​​ hopeless. ​​ Or I say something to the effect that “I’m not​​ ready​​ yet,” and when someone asks me what it would take for me to get ready, I offer a mile-long list of excuses.


I find it almost humorous that Jesus totally​​ ignores​​ this guy’s complaining.


Instead, he issues a​​ challenge​​ – “Stand up, take your mat, and walk” – which requires the person’s active​​ participation​​ and​​ co-operation.


The guy’s healing takes place simultaneously with his summoning the​​ faith​​ and​​ courage​​ to actually​​ make​​ the​​ attempt​​ to stand.


As with the great majority of Jesus’ healings in the Gospels, Jesus takes the tiny​​ mustard-seed​​ of faith on the part of the person to be healed and​​ multiplies​​ that tiny seed to the point of health and wholeness.


This person’s​​ health​​ has been​​ restored, but apparently not his​​ wholeness. ​​ We know this because Jesus takes the initiative a​​ second​​ time, and seeks him out in the temple. ​​​​ There Jesus adds a​​ spiritual​​ dimension to the man’s healing by warning him against further sinning.


As we saw last week, the word for “sin” which Jesus uses is a term taken from the world of​​ archery​​ and literally means “to miss the mark,” to miss the mark on the​​ target​​ that one is aiming to hit.


In the context of this man’s healing, Jesus is admonishing him to stop missing the​​ point​​ of his​​ life, which he has apparently done by playing the role of the victim for so long. ​​ If it was​​ bad​​ to play the victim in the midst of one’s​​ illness, how much​​ worse​​ would it be to​​ continue​​ to play the role​​ of the victim in the midst of one’s​​ health?!


It would be like someone finally getting up from their sickbed, leaving their illness behind, but bringing with them the same old​​ complaining, the same old​​ demanding​​ attitude that they had while they were ill.


They may be​​ well, but they are not​​ whole.


And Jesus want not​​ just​​ wellness for us, but wholeness too.


I’m amazed at the in-depth knowledge that Jesus has of this person. ​​ He knows that​​ physical​​ healing is​​ important, but not​​ enough. ​​ He knows that this person also needs​​ spiritual​​ healing. ​​ That’s why Jesus searches him out in the temple.


And we know that the man​​ is, indeed, healed,​​ both​​ physically​​ and​​ spiritually, because later on in the story we find this person seeking out the hostile religious authorities and​​ proclaiming​​ to them (the “told” in verse 15 of the NRSV is far too weak) that it was Jesus who had healed him.


I stand in amazement at how well Jesus knows the man in this healing story, and I stand amazed at how well Jesus knows you and me, often​​ in​​ spite​​ of​​ the​​ masks​​ that we wear, and the​​ hiding​​ from him that we try to accomplish.


In her book​​ My Grandfather’s Blessings, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen tells the following autobiographical story. ​​ She writes:


“Almost fifty-eight years ago, I attended pre-school in the little park around the corner from our apartment in upper Manhattan.


As the shy and timid only child of older parents it had taken me a long time to feel safe in the company of other children, and my mother or my nana often sat on a bench within eyesight to give me the courage to remain in the group. ​​ Eventually I was able to stay there alone.


One day close to Halloween, my nana left me at the park, and I spent the morning with the other four-year-olds making masks. ​​ Close to noon the teachers threaded string through our creations and helped us to put them on. ​​ I had never worn a mask and I was entranced.


About this time mothers began arriving to pick up their children, and as soon as I saw my own mother walking toward the class I stood and waved to her. ​​ She did not respond in any way. ​​ She stopped just inside the door, her eyes searching the room.


Suddenly I realized that she did not know who I was and I began to cry, terrified. ​​ All her efforts to soothe me and explain why she had not recognized me failed to comfort me. ​​ I simply could not understand why she had not known me. ​​ 


I​​ knew who I was with my mask on. ​​ Why didn’t​​ she?”


The good news is that even if other people don’t recognize us with our masks on, Jesus does.


Just as he saw through the mask of the paralyzed man’s attitude of helplessness and victimization, Jesus sees through our masks as well, whether they be masks of bad attitudes, or masks of resentment, anger, excuses, fear, or addiction.


The beautiful thing is that Jesus wants to heal us too. ​​ And he wants to heal us not only​​ in​​ spite​​ of​​ our masks, but​​ because​​ of​​ our masks.


The masks that we wear keep us separated from our deepest selves, from those whom we love, and from God.


Jesus wants to find us and heal us from inside out, so that our masks fall off and we are left face-to-face with others and with God in healthy and creative relationships.


Like many of us, Henri Nouwen, one of the major writers on the topic of spirituality, spent most of his life thinking that it was​​ his​​ task to find God. ​​ Let’s listen to Nouwen’s own words. ​​ He writes in​​ The Return of the Prodigal Son:


“For most of my life I have struggled to​​ find​​ God, to​​ know​​ God, to​​ love​​ God.


I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life – pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures – and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. ​​ I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.


Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time​​ God​​ has been trying to find​​ me, to know​​ me, to love​​ me.


The question is not “How am​​ I​​ to find God?” but “How am I to​​ let​​ myself be found​​ by​​ God?”


The question is not “How am​​ I​​ to know God?” but “How am I to let myself​​ be​​ known​​ by God?”


And, finally, the question is not “How am​​ I​​ to love God?” but “How am I to let myself​​ be​​ loved​​ by God?”


God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.


[Concerning the parables of the lost sheep, coin, and sons in Luke, chapter 15]: In all three parables which Jesus tells in response to the question of why he eats with sinners, he puts the emphasis on​​ Gods​​ initiative. ​​ 


God​​ is the​​ shepherd​​ who goes looking for his lost sheep.


God​​ is the​​ woman​​ who lights a lamp, sweeps out the house, and searches everywhere for her lost coin until she has found it.


God​​ is the​​ father​​ who watches and waits for his children, runs out to meet them, embraces them, pleads with them, begs and urges them to come home. . .


God is​​ not​​ the patriarch who stays home, doesn’t move, and expects his children to come to him, apologize for their aberrant behavior, beg for forgiveness, and promise to do better.


To the contrary, he leaves the house, ignoring his dignity by running toward them, pays no heed to apologies and promises of change, and brings them to the table richly prepared for them.”


Just as Jesus sought out the paralyzed man in today’s story of healing and wholeness, Jesus comes looking for each of us – not to​​ find​​ us​​ out, not to​​ judge​​ us, but to​​ heal​​ us and make us​​ whole, to invite us​​ home.


Many people have questions about who Jesus really is. ​​ They have trouble with theological abstractions and labels such as “Son of God,” “true God and true man,” or “second person of the Trinity.”


A​​ simple​​ but nevertheless​​ profound​​ way of understanding Jesus is simply to see him as the​​ embodiment​​ of God’s​​ love, God’s love made​​ visible​​ and​​ tangible.


What would God look and act like if God were to assume human form?


God would look and act like Jesus! ​​​​ Amen.




  • Based on your own experience, how would you describe the difference between healing and wholeness/








  • What strikes you most about this encounter between Jesus and the paralyzed man?








  • Do you think/feel that Jesus has ever taken the initiative with you? ​​ When and how?







  • What is the closest Jesus has come to saying to you, “Get up! ​​ Pick up your mat and walk?”







  • Write a letter to Jesus asking for help in discerning any resistance to becoming well and whole that you’re still hanging on to.







CLOSING PRAYER  ​​ ​​ ​​​​ Edwina Gately, Contemporary


Be silent.

Be still.



Before your God.

Say nothing.

Ask nothing.

Be silent.

Be still.

Let your God

Look upon you.

That is all.

God knows,


Loves you with

An enormous love.

God only wants to

Look upon you

With Love.





Let your God –

Love you.




SUGGESTED MUSIC: ​​ This Is a Day of New Beginnings

 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ Madlyderanged  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ You Tube

(Instrumental with lyrics to add on your own to make it a prayer.)




Patiently and persistently, God loves.


Relentlessly and Unconditionally, God loves.


Now and forever, God loves.




Independent and United Church of Christ