Being sick is miserable.
But I have to tell you, some of the moments I’ve felt the most loved are when I’ve been laid up in bed with a fever. When you’re sick, people are just nicer to you overall. They help you out in ways they never think of doing when you’re feeling normal. For instance, in our house, I’m the cook. Cooking is fun for me. Cleaning not so much, but cooking? I’m all over it. So generally, when there’s cooking to be done, I’m the one to do it. But when I’m sick, Cassie ALWAYS cooks for me and often brings me a nice big bowl of hot soup. Now granted it’s usually the kind you heat up out of a can, but I don’t care. She takes care of me, and I feel loved. She gets me water. She gets me warm Sprite. She makes sure I get some rest. And a hundred other little things to maximize my recovery. I have to tell you, except for the downside, being sick isn’t so bad…in normal times. In COVID times, I think we would all hope for everyone to be safe and healthy.
Caring for others is an amazing opportunity to show love.
And it doesn’t have to be with people who are physically sick. We can be drained mentally, emotionally, even spiritually. Just having someone there to help you through it is not something you are likely to forget. Can you think of a time when you were feeling awful or anxious or depressed and someone helped you? Maybe you were physically ill or maybe you were going through addiction problems and someone was there to help. Maybe you were diagnosed with depression, and you only found out because someone noticed and took the time to bring you to a counselor. Maybe you were suffering from a broken heart and needed someone to lean on. We are more than just these physical bodies. And when any of that is thrown out of kilter, life becomes that much harder.
As Christians, though, we have a moral imperative to heal the sick.
We’re going to be reading today from Matthew 10:1-8. Now, when this passage takes place, it is still in the early stages of Jesus’ ministry, but already he was doing the miraculous and everywhere he went he did two things – share the Gospel, heal the sick. Share the Gospel and heal the sick. In Matthew 4, soon after he gathers the first of his disciples, the Bible tells us in verse 23, “23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” In Matthew, we see a real focus on Jesus as healer. From that point in his ministry to the part we’re going to be reading about this morning, Jesus goes on a healing spree. He heals a man with leprosy, a centurion’s servant, a paralyzed man, a dead girl and her mother, two blind men, and a man made mute by demon-possession. He even healed Peter’s mother-in-law! Funny thing, I never pictured Peter being married. But there it is. Anyway, that’s where we pick up in our reading for this morning. Jesus is gathering the twelve disciples together for the first time and sending them out into the world. From Matthew 10:1-8, hear now the Word of God.
1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
What amazes me about Jesus’ call to heal is that it’s more than just physical healing.
It’s also a way to provide spiritual healing at the same time. Listen again to verses 6-8, “Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, PROCLAIM THE MESSAGE: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near (meaning Jesus).’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons….” Proclaim the message and heal the sick. We heard that same theme in Matthew 4 earlier when Matthew tells us that Jesus proclaimed the good news and healed every disease and sickness among the people. And again in chapter 9 where it says in verse 35, “35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” Healing of both body and spirit went hand-in-hand. Healing alone can be a powerful witness to God’s power, but when Jesus healed, he did more than just cure them of their physical ailments. He also shared with them the good news about who he was and why he was sent. He did that because the REASON for healing is more important than the healing itself. It’s like that old proverb. You know the one. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Healing people (giving them a fish) would cure their ills for the moment, but the next time they were sick how would they handle it if Jesus wasn’t around? Sharing with them the message of hope that is in Christ (in essence TEACHING them to fish) is something that will help them now and in the future. It’s a kind of healing that goes beyond the surface and reaches our soul. Because now there’s a place for them to go to in their pain, a hope they can lean on no matter what the circumstance. Healing is more than just taking away our aches and pains, sometimes it’s not even that. Sometimes healing is offering hope when there is little hope left. Sometimes it’s a healing of our souls that is most in need.
We have a duty to help those in need.
Whether that is physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental, if we take seriously the lessons of Christ, it is our calling to help others. We can argue all day whether or not healthcare is a “right,” but in the end it doesn’t matter because we have a duty that’s higher than that. A “right” is something we are owed, but a duty is something we are obliged to give. And as Christians, Jesus makes it very clear it is our duty to help others. Yet, there are many people who claim to be Christian who would deny access to even basic medical needs, who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act without offering a viable plan in its place. If our goal as a nation was to help people who couldn’t afford basic healthcare, this law did exactly that. From the time it went into force in 2014 up until the election of the current administration and its rollbacks, the ACA helped to decrease the percentage of uninsured people by nearly 50%! Literally, tens of millions of people who didn’t have healthcare suddenly did. But after the Trump Administration started rolling back the ACA, more and more people are again losing their health insurance. Since he took office, the percentage of uninsured people has continued to rise year after year. The worst part is not those who voluntarily opt out of the ACA, but children who are seeing the effects of these rollbacks also. The US Census Bureau’s most recent report shows that in just one year, there was an increase in 320,000 more uninsured children than the year before. Today more children are uninsured than they were just a few years ago and of course, it affects the poor much more than the wealthy.
That was the case with a little boy named Deamonte Driver who was only 12 years old.
Deamonte died in 2007, but his story is a reminder of how important this issue is for us as Christians and simply as human beings. Deamonte was a seventh-grader in Prince George’s County, Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C. He complained to his mother about a toothache. His mother, Alyce, had a difficult time finding a dentist who would accept Medicaid because of the low pay out to physicians, a problem that still exists today. As Deamonte’s pain got worse, Alyce had no choice but to finally take him to the emergency room where doctors gave him medication for headache, sinusitis, and dental abscess and sent him home. But the bacteria in Deamonte’s abscess spread to his brain and he was rushed back to the hospital. The doctors did everything they could but the infection had turned into meningitis and ultimately Deamonte died…from a toothache. He died never having finished the seventh-grade. The cost of the two operations he needed and the eight weeks of care and therapy totaled about $250,000. All of which could have been avoided for an $80 tooth extraction that Alyce simply couldn’t afford. While we think this kind of thing could never happen to us, it does. And it’s getting worse. In December of 2019 (before COVID), Gallup reported a record 25% of Americans say they or a family member put off treatment for a serious medical condition because of cost. Another 8% put off treatment for less serious conditions which put the total up at 33%, tying the high right as the ACA was enacted.
If we truly believe in the sanctity of life, we have to care for ALL life.
And as we consider this question leading up to the election, and think about who we want to lead us forward, also consider how we might do more. We shouldn’t have any more Deamonte’s, and we can do something about that in making wise choices about who we elect. But maybe we need healing of a different sort at the same time. Former VP Joe Biden called this election a “Battle for the Soul of the Nation” and maybe it is. Maybe we need a healing of the soul as much as anything else. We may not be able to heal the nation with a law or a mandate, but if we work on a personal level to heal the soul of the nation one person at a time, maybe we can make a difference. Maybe we can bring hope through healing – both body and soul. The next time a loved one is sick make them a bowl of chicken soup. Care for them and help them to feel loved. And ask if you can say a prayer for them as well. Sometimes our need for prayer is just as great as our need for repair.
 https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2020/demo/p60-271.pdf and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affordable_Care_Act (The numbers they use to calculate this were by age under 65 since most over 65 qualified for government sponsored healthcare)
 https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2020/demo/p60-271.pdf (These number are for children 0-18 from the year 2019 compared to 2018 – the most current data available)
 https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/jun/13/healthcare-gap-how-can-a-child-die-of-toothache-in-the-us and https://oneill.law.georgetown.edu/death-from-a-toothache-the-story-of-deamonte-driver-and-where-we-stand-today-in-ensuring-access-to-dental-health-care-for-children-in-the-district/ and https://www.childrensdefense.org/child-watch-columns/health/2011/deamonte-drivers-continuing-legacy/