After rarely, if ever, stepping into a hospital for months, this week I have been in three, knowing five patients in those three! Two have had successful surgeries (both of whom I was able to visit). One I was able to walk the halls with while we spoke of his getting home in a day or two. One I could not visit because he has tested positive for COVID – and another I have simply messaged. Then, by the time I pulled the covers over my head last night, I was in contact with one more person having surgery today, met with one who will have a different surgery Friday, had heard of a former member who came home from the hospital, and learned that the one I could not visit is now seeing his Lord and Savior face to face.
While the devotion with each was different, the message is the same. God in Christ Jesus is with you, and he will take care of you. One received communion for the first time in a long time. My physical presence – and a little physical touch – certainly amplified the message. And I am happy to share, all of the hospitals, while displaying a healthy level of caution, warmly welcomed me.
Have you ever noticed that there are primarily three types/roles of people in hospitals? First, of course, there are sick people (the patients). Second there is staff filling multiple differing roles. And third there are visitors. The hope is that both the staff and the visitors are healthy and are there solely for the betterment of the patients, and that the patients actually are getting better.
While the Christian Church has often been called “a hospital for sinners”, the roles of those you find in the church are not so easily separated. Take me, for example, while I might be referred to as the “chief of staff” at God’s hospital named STL, at the same time I have a bed in the rehab unit. In other words I am both physician and patient at the same time. As are most of you who are reading this, though you likely are more familiar with the term “simultaneously saint and sinner” (I will let you look up the Latin version of this on your own).
And the visitors, they are around. However, it is generally impossible to separate them from the physician-patients! The visitors, you see, are those who do not yet have Christ alive in their hearts. I initially thought that I was privileged to interact with well over a half-dozen of them (none in medical hospitals) yesterday, but after the conversations (and without my doing) I surmised that most if not all of them are no longer on the “guest list” – in other words, Christ is alive and working in their hearts (How exciting this is for the Kingdom!).
So, where do you classify yourself this day? No, I am not asking if you will spend any time today at Ascension St. John or a Beaumont campus. I am asking if you are a physician/patient or if your name is still on the “guest list”? To the church in Laodicea Christ says some provocative words. “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3.20) I say provocative not in the sense of inciting anger, but stimulating action. Physician/saints “stand at the door and knock” with Jesus, praying that those on the guest list will “hear our voice and open the door”. For then, Christ will come in … and they will be united with us in the ministry of healing others while simultaneously being healed by Christ.
To the disciples on the road to Emmaus Jesus said, “Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations. … and behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.” (Luke 24.46-48) Thus he described his plan for making people like you and me physician-patients in the hospital called “earth.” And then he commissions each of us individually in our baptism, empowering every Christian to say, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4,18-19) Yes, you and I – we all need that bed in the rehab unit. We are not finished products. Yet, at the same time God has put us on his staff … we each have a vital role in bringing his healing to the nations … because God has a purpose for us living in this hospital called earth (along with his plan to call us home at just the right time).