Can the Church Be a Hospital on the Move?
This website is primarily used for the Broken and Mended ministry, but I am creating a separate page for those who are connected to the Woodward Church of Christ, where I am the preacher. We are not meeting in person currently, and we are doing a full bulletin during these weeks. I usually write a 250 word article for the bulletin, and I thought I would move that online, like everything else these days. And during this time, I especially want to focus on messages of hope in the midst of this horrible Pandemic.
I’ve never been fond of the metaphor that claimed the church was a hospital for sinners. I don’t mind underscoring our common sinfulness or our need to be made well in the body of Christ. It’s just that a hospital is not a place we generally like to spend time at. Also, a church is not a place like a hospital is. The church is a gathered people, the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the bride of Christ. Even the temple metaphor from Scripture does not emphasize a place, but people being built into one spiritual building (Eph. 2:19-22).
With that caveat offered, I couldn’t help but think about the mission of the church when I heard the story of the sidelined Carnival offering to make its cruise ships into hospitals. Apparently, there are some concerns about the idea, but a transformed pleasure ship into a mission of mercy and healing is an inspirational idea.
I probably could get on board (no pun intended!) with the idea of the church as a hospital if it could be viewed more in terms of going on a mission than simply a place that sick people are compelled by bad circumstances to come to. And I do think many churches fall into a cruise ship mentality instead of missionary vessel to save others.
This crisis then becomes an opportunity for the church to be the people of God in the way she was intended to be. There are people sick and dying out there. Our healthcare workers our at wits end. People are losing their jobs and businesses. Nonprofits are struggling to keep their doors open. No single church can take on all that, but ever church could pick some affected area in their community and determine to make an impact.
Our congregation has taken small steps to help some of our affected nonprofits in our community. These are organizations that serve the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society. The temptation in times of crisis is to turn your attention to yourself. The church cannot afford to do this. An inwardly focused church is a dying church.
Some might protest that we will run out of money with the congregation not meeting or contribution sagging due to lack of regular giving times and/or people losing incomes who regularly contribute. So, we should look after ourselves. However, Jesus has not called us to worry about the future. He has made it very clear, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).
Still worried about tomorrow? That next verse is just as important. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34).
I’m still a little iffy on the whole the church is a hospital for sinners idea, but it is sure a lot better than a cruise ship, especially if we are the ones on the move in this critical time!
Our Common Humanity (1st Message)
The virus is bad, and we all certainly want it to go away as soon as possible. It has affected almost every person in significant ways. Some might see it as a work of the devil or a byproduct of the fall. Even if God had an original purpose for viruses in creation, it certainly did not include infecting and killing humans.
The evil nature of this virus doesn’t mean that we can’t learn anything positive from the virus. One of the most basic reminders we get from this pandemic is our common humanity. COVID-19 does not care about your race, your gender, your age, your income level, your job, or your nationality. Your only qualification for getting it is that you have to be human.
We are often in strife with others who are different than us. We don’t trust people simply because they are from a different country or maybe have a different tone of skin color. We may stereotype and belittle people who have different political views than we do.
We forget the very basic humanity we all share together, the “Imago Dei” (image of God). It’s a shame that it takes a virus to remind us, but God often teaches best through suffering. Or maybe it is better to say that we learn best through suffering.
It is an incredible privilege to be a human. We are the crowing jewel of God’s creation. Psalm 8 says we were made a little lower than God (8:5 in some English translations says “angels” but the Hebrew is “God”). Obviously, God is infinitely greater than us, but to be a little lower than God means we are second only to him in rank over creation. But recalling the dignity of your humanity compels you to honor that same dignity in others.
In a few weeks, or a few months, or–well, only God knows–this virus will lose its hold on us it now has. Will we remember what it has taught us? I pray we will.