Healing Plan for All, Pastor Fred Kinsey
[God] gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless, says the prophet Isaiah,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.\
Our God is an awesome God – don’t ya think!?! Empowering us to fly like an eagle, even when we are weary. Jesus comes to us as God’s anointed, to enact this kingdom and realm of God more fully. In the public square and in people’s homes, Jesus liberates us from evil powers and cures the sick.
I just wish we had a health care plan that reflected that!
Just how important public health care can be, started to dawn on me some years ago, when it got personal, and my mother-in-law, on a limited income – having been divorced just as her fifth, and last child, had turned 18 – was now living with us. And, before she was eligible for Medicare, but was working 2 part time jobs, neither of which offered health care, had to be hospitalized with a broken ankle. The doctors and nurses were great, but the bills were astronomical, sort of like a cosmic joke. They could sue her if they wanted, she concluded, but she didn’t have anything near valuable enough to cover that one simple request: payment due! Thankfully, they accepted a small, monthly, token of a payment. Much later I discovered there was a law, part of COBRA, requiring that people not be turned away in an emergency, regardless of insurance or ability to pay, whether at the time of the emergency, or in the future. But not everyone is as lucky as my mother-in-law. The COBRA rider is applied in different ways, in different communities, and not always fairly, or timely. The ability to pay was an often repeated story though, when we lived in rural Upper Michigan, amongst a very impoverished community.
But, it was always an honor to be asked into so many different hospital rooms in those days, young and old, facing a slew of various ailments, and to be the shaman-pastor of healing, for patient, and family alike. Many were lifted up, by the power of God, and returned to normal or renewed lives. Some we prayed out, into death and resurrection.
I remember Bill Koppenen, our Council President, and, a former Mining Union President, in and out of the hospital so many times in the final years of his life, as he slowly lost his breath, to black lung disease. Little Travis – now in college – who in his preteen years contracted Blasto-mycosis, a rare fungal infection, most likely from rotting trees out in the woods where he played. He went undiagnosed for weeks and was so sickly, it nearly took him from us. But finally, transferred to the UW-Madison hospital, specialists were able to figure it out, and treat him. I remember Gladys, also in and out of the hospital, as long as we knew her, for undiagnosed illnesses, but that all her relatives told us, was for a well-deserved respite from her unbearable husband!
Jesus leaves the public space of the synagogue, in today’s gospel story – where he has exorcised an evil spirit and freed a man to live a new life – only to walk into Peter’s mother-in-law’s house, looking for a little respite himself. But, as Jesus is settling into Peter’s Lazy-boy, Peter discovers his mother-in -law is sick in bed with a fever. Which might not sound like much to us, but, pre-antibiotics, and pre-measles medication, it was a life threatening illness. At once, Jesus is pressed into action again. And taking her by the hand, Jesus lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she is made well.
And still, “at sundown,” when the Sabbath day had ended, “they brought more, all who were sick or possessed with demons,” to Jesus. “And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many …” This is an oft repeated formula for the way Jesus heals in the gospel of Mark. And always, it’s the people in some way or fashion who come to Jesus. Jesus never appears to go out in search of people that need curing; they find him.
Why is it that Jesus is a magnet for the people? If there were, many healers in those days – as scholars of all stripes agree – what is the universal appeal of Jesus? Even in neighboring towns where people hadn’t yet met him, why did they come to him? Did he appear to them as a doctor carrying a black bag and stethoscope? In our compartmentalized world, it’s hard to get out of this medical box, and think bigger.
But remember last week’s story – when Jesus exorcised the evil spirit and saved the man – how the people praised Jesus for teaching with authority, how he was different from the teachers they had known? Jesus, was much more than a healer. He was a teacher, and preacher, and exorcist, and prophet, and a liberator, and ultimately, he was a savior.
If we remember the story of the Exodus, for example, as a story of the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea, we homogenize God’s power and action in the world. Exodus, is the story of liberation from slavery, and the gracious gift of a Promised Land. In other words, why are we so enamored with miracle stories that betray our own understanding of the natural world, and yet are so quick to forget the deeper transformational meaning of God’s actions in our social and cultural lives we live together? How is our faith affected by this constricted interpretation?
Raising the mother-in-law of Simon Peter, is not just an act of healing, like getting over the flu, but it is a powerful action of God’s love for all people in need of healing and wholeness. And that is faith building and faith forming! For Peter and the families of Capernaum, a fever meant a disability that leads to unemployment and impoverishment, changing the fate of families and community. Disease and sickness were an inseparable part of the cycle of poverty, for the vast majority of working people.
So, how’s your health care plan working today? Even with the good intentions of Obama’s Affordable Care Act – and almost 10 million more have health care because of it – still not everyone is covered, and wouldn’t be, even if political opposition to it, ended tomorrow. America, the richest nation in the world, is way down the list of countries in providing adequate health care. We’re not even in the top ten! Not in the top 20; not in the top 30! We’re 38, according to the U.N., behind pretty much every industrialized economy, and a few poor ones too. Who pays the price? The middle class and working poor, while an unnecessary corporate-middleman Health Care Industry, is getting rich.
Jesus offers a universal plan, of whole health, well-being, and salvation care, a prevention plan as a human right. He doesn’t just talk the talk, but he walks the walk. And so, after an evening of curing many who were sick with various diseases, and casting out many demons, Jesus rises very early in the morning, while it was still very dark, to go to a deserted place. And there he prayed, to restore his strength, and his soul, for the journey ahead. The disciples had to hunt him down to find him, desperate, because many more were searching for him. But Jesus did not come to be the local doctor, honorable as that is, but Jesus came to announce to the whole world the good news: that God had come very near, to inaugurate a new age of healing, wholeness, and peace, for all people – not just the rich, like the Herodians and leaders at the top of the hill in Jerusalem’s Temple – but to the whole creation that God made for us.
Jesus, walking the walk, gets going down the road, with his growing band of followers, on to the neighboring towns, in order to lift us up on eagle’s wings, to give power to the faint-hearted, and to strengthen the powerless.
We shall run and not be weary. We shall walk and not faint!