Television is huge on hospitals lately, have you noticed?
Television is huge on hospitals lately, have you noticed? “Three Rivers,” “House,” “Trauma,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and of course the ubiquitous “ER” reruns—the entertainment industry is in the health care business, it seems. Why? Because everybody loves a healing. Third millennial life on the edge (the real thing) can get as messy as an emergency room, can’t it? So what’s not to like about a fifty-eight minute show that ends (more often than not) with a fractured life put back together, a broken body (or heart) healed just before the final credits roll? Do you suppose that’s why people go to church, too? Hoping against hope for a healing, a mending, a broken life reset, a heartsick spirit rejuvenated and cleansed? Having spent a few nights with my mother-in-law in an emergency room, I’ve learned—though I don’t have a medical bone in me—that ER’s can be messy places, sort of the soiled and stained “living room” of the hospital. It isn’t hard to figure out why. Because people who come to emergency rooms are in the grip of a crisis. That’s why you can experience the coagulating odors of vomit and urine and blood and Lysol-like antibacterial agents wafting in the frenetic air of that saving place. Gurneys and beds once wrapped in sterile white sheets are now splattered and contaminated. But that’s OK, because everybody that works and lives in a hospital knows: “This is why we exist—why we’re here—to get dirtied and stained and exposed, while we scramble to save another life.” Isn’t that true about the church, too? The well-worn yarn about it being a hospital for sinners more than a haven for saints still rings true, worn or not, doesn’t it? Because the community of faith is also a community of love. Radical believing is matched by a radical and sometimes countercultural kind of loving that doesn’t insist on political correctness, but rather embraces the broken life and the fractured soul for who he, for who she is—another earth child of the Father in desperate need of healing and wholeness. So of course we or they come to this community in the grip of crisis—that’s what an ER is for. Who defines crisis by esthetic beauty? The non-virtual reality of human life is defined by its urgent need for urgent care. Which was Jesus’ point: “‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12, 13). Heterosexual sinners, homosexual sinners, all of us in the grip of life’s survival crisis are the very ones for whom Christ raised up this healing community we call church. That we come as we are but do not stay as we are is simply a shining tribute to the transforming power of the Physician who drew us to him and to each other in the first place. Which still makes this the best place for the Doctor in the House to practice his healing work, doesn’t it?