• Lex McDonald

The Doctor Will See You Now

Mark 2: 15-17

And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

The Doctor Will See You Now

In both his teachings and his actions, Jesus continually made it clear that he came to reach “not the righteous, but sinners.” Of course, he also made it clear from the beginning that to him the term “sinners” includes everybody. Jesus found that often it was the acknowledged sinners who were more receptive to him, while the religious establishment and the “good” people turned away.

Comparing Jesus to a physician for those who are sick leads to another analogy, that of the church as a hospital. We know the old saying that goes, “The church is not a country club for saints. It is a hospital for sinners.”

Last week there was a news report about a church that nearly became an actual hospital. St. John the Divine Church in New York City, an Episcopal congregation, with one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the U.S., took steps to turn their church into a hospital for covid19 patients. Beds were placed in the worship areas. After the city decided that the space was not needed for a hospital, the effort was discontinued.

However, in the process, a type of unity developed. The temporary development of a hospital within St. John was assisted by Samaritan’s Purse. Samaritan’s Purse and St. John Church set aside their theological differences and worked together to turn the church building into a place of healing.

We have seen where another church, this one a local congregation, has placed a checklist on their website and invited their members to indicate how they are doing during this time of separation and, for some, isolation.

Some of the statements read “I’m doing great,” “I am okay,” “I’m struggling,” and “I’m in a bad place right now.” Included on the website was a way for people to request that someone contact them.

Both of these churches demonstrate one of the lessons of the season of the virus – that we need each other and we need God.

And we are also reminded, sinners that we are, that we are all God’s children. In God’s eyes all are valued infinitely. Young and old, rich and poor, black, white, gay, straight, etc. – all are included. There is no division of God’s love. And, as Scripture says, when one suffers we all suffer, and when one prospers we all prosper.

When the pandemic comes to an end, we will return to some of the activities that have been put on hold for now. For the church that will include figuring out how to live together with our differing interpretations, and whether or not we keep the denominational structure that we have now.

For us, we pray that as we go forward we will carry certain lessons with us. We pray that any love and understanding for one another developed during this time will continue. We pray that we will continue to put aside differences and work together to meet the needs of those who suffer.

And, perhaps most of all, we pray that we will recognize that we need one another and we need God; that we are all sinners and stand in need of God’s mercy and grace.

The hymn “In Christ There Is No East or West” includes these words:

In Christ there is no east or west, in him no south or north; but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.

In Christ is neither Jew nor Greek, and neither slave nor free; both male and female heirs are made, and all are kin to me.

Jesus is the great physician, and the church, when it is faithful to its calling, is a hospital for God’s people. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Hospital beds inside St. John the Divine Church in New York City.

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