RUBBER, MEET ROAD
It’s time to get down to brass tacks, the nitty-gritty, all the nuts and bolts. I’ve spent a lot of years wading through big books on theology. I love it. But, our faith is nothing if not timely and practical. That’s where the rubber meets the road, where love takes action, where all that theology leads. So, in today’s devotional, I’d like us to take a look at the church in action, and where better for today than in the area of our health.
God of Life! You know and care about every single moment of our lives, so lead us today by your Word and your Holy Spirit, so that in your light we might see light, and in your truth, we might find freedom, and in your will, we might truly discover joy and peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.”
After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them. As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them. Demons also came out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah. At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.
“There Is a Balm in Gilead” — African American Spiritual, performed by The Adventist Vocal Ensemble (YouTube video for in-home worship: Click here for Video)
There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul
Sometimes I feel discouraged
And deep I feel the pain
In prayers the holy spirit
Revives my soul again
If you can’t pray like Peter
If you can’t be like Paul
Just tell the love of Jesus
And say, “He died for all.”
We could spend hours today trying to figure out why Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 10 not to preach to anyone except their own people, but something else drew my attention to this passage. I was fascinated by how simple their little message sounded — “The kingdom of heaven has come near” — and how practical it was, “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” If you’re walking around town healing all the people who are sick, casting out their demons, and raising them from the dead, you’re sure to draw a lot of attention. I’m guessing nobody would doubt what they were seeing was indeed heaven on earth.
Of course, being practical and being possible aren’t the same thing. Have you ever raised someone from the dead or cast out demons? I haven’t. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. But, what about curing the sick or cleansing the lepers? I wouldn’t know where to begin there either, but I know someone who does, and that makes a world of difference.
Christians have been since our very beginning a people known for our hospitality — and literally so. Back in the 300s, a Christian named Basil started one of the very first hospitals. It was a place for rest, special dieting, and the bandaging of wounds. There is even some evidence of surgery being performed, but the point is, as one onlooker put it, Basil cared for his sick neighbors “not only in word, but also in deed.”
We believe deeply here at WBC that “the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective,” as James 5:16 says, but we also believe that all truth is God’s truth and that this includes the medical and scientific wisdom, knowledge, and skills that have become so evident this past year. We are blessed to have access to such hospitality. Just today, I learned that somebody we’ve been praying for has seen his tumor shrink remarkably. What had only a few months ago looked like a desperate situation looks today like a real possibility of healing and remission, thanks at least in part to a heavy regimen of chemotherapy. In so many ways, we truly are living in a slice of heaven on earth.
Speaking of access, though, we’ve likewise learned this past year that sometimes it’s hard to know where to go for help or even if we should seek it out in the first place. This where we, as a church, can really make a difference today, by gathering the right information and making available the right resources to help people get access to the care that they need. The world may not need us to be like Basil or start our own hospitals anymore, but we can be an indispensable resource for prayer and communication nonetheless.
For instance, for the past few months we’ve been building a relationship with the organization A Better Approach to Memory Care, which is a group based here in Cincinnati that specializes in helping people navigate the maze that is dementia and Alzheimers. Did you know that studies have shone it is increasingly common for the caregiver of a family member who has dementia to die first? Caregiving is not easy, to say the least, but neither is it always easy to gain access to the wisdom and resources needed for the job. A Better Approach to Memory Care can help with that. You can check out their website here: www.teresayoungstrom.com. Should things pan out, we’re hoping to host a free conversation with a panel of memory care professionals this May. Be on the lookout for that.
What’s on so many people’s minds today, of course, is Covid-19. Long before the vaccines began rolling out, there was significant concern about the wisdom of getting vaccinated. Is it safe? Is it effective? Is it worth the risk? I think that concern was warranted. Talk with any epidemiologist, and they’ll tell you that the vaccines we have for the virus were created and tested in record time. But was it enough time? What are the studies saying? What is the evidence for it? If you or someone you know is asking these questions, there are a number of resources available to help answer them. Here in Ohio, the Department of Health is hosting a number of online “Vaccine Town Halls” over the next few months. You can find information about those here: coronavirus.ohio.gov/townhall. I encourage you to check them out. More broadly, you might check out the website Testing.com, which is committed to helping you make smart, informed decisions about your health. If we’ve learned anything from Covid-19, it’s that getting tested — and getting tested early — can save lives. I can only imagine that’s the case for more than just the coronavirus.
Now, if you live in Hamilton County and want to know when and where to actually sign up to get a vaccine, you can get info at Hamilton County Public Health. They’ll let you know when your particular bracket can sign up. Quite a few organizations are actually scheduling vaccinations, including Cincinnati’s Department of Health and Kroger. Many of you have already been vaccinated, but as the vaccine becomes available for younger populations, they will need the same information you already have. So, let’s keep the communication flowing.
Besides sharing this information with anyone you know who might need it, what else can you do? One big area of help is simply letting us know what you know. We’re not being paid to advertise. We’re just here to help people get the healing that they need. So, please take the time to call up the Church Office and let us know the resources that you’ve found to be helpful, and together we can share the good news about how and where the kingdom of heaven has come near.
Holy God, help us to love truly and practically in every way that we can. Amen.