Health Care – Epiphany 5 (Updated 1/20/2015)


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Overview – Health Care

Focus Text: Mark 1:29-39

“And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases…”

Scripture Commentary by Kyle Carswell, Duke Divinity School Intern

“Health care is not just a political issue, but also a religious issue for those who follow the incarnate God. God cares as deeply about the bodies of the uninsured as the bodies of the insured, yet in our current health care system those without access to health insurance face greater health risks. The church’s message of health for both body and soul rings hollow when providing care for those in need is not a Christian priority. The scriptures tell us that our bodies are the temple of God’s Spirit. Failure to care for the health of all people is a failure to give reverence to the God who lives within us.”

Pastoral Reflection by Rev. Kelly P. Carpenter, Pastor of Green Street United Methodist Church, Winston-Salem

“When the compassion that Jesus demonstrates on an interpersonal level through healing and exorcism, is realized and practiced by the masses — then the world knows not only God’s compassion for the individual, but also justice for the crowd. Justice is compassion raised to the institutional level.

Oh there will still be moments of drama to come in the gospel. More dramatic, public healing, miracles of culinary flare as he feeds the 5,000 in the park, or dramatic footage of a fishing trip where he walks on water, but Jesus remains focused on the task of proclaiming God’s Kingdom come..”.

Personal Vignette by Stephanie Phillippi, Binkley Memorial Baptist Church

“When Doug’s neurologist told us he had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, “Lou Gehrig’s” disease, everything in the exam room became white. My mind sped forward while everything else lagged behind in slow motion. The room grew smaller. I couldn’t breathe. No diagnosis could have been more devastating. My best friend, my lover, my 36-year old husband and father of our three young sons – then ages 3, 7 and 11 – was going to die.”

Key Fact

North Carolina’s estimated number of uninsured as of January 2009 was about 1.75 million. This translates to about 21.2 percent of all non-elderly North Carolinians.

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Focus Text – Mark 1:29-39

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Additional Texts

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many… If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
I Corinthians 12:14, 26-27

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58:8-11

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
I Corinthians 6:19-20

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.
III John 1:2

Other Lectionary Texts

  • Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
  • Isaiah 40:21-31
  • I Corinthians 9:16-23
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Commentary on Mark 1:29-39

In this passage from the opening chapter of Mark’s gospel, we are introduced to the miraculous power of Jesus. He has just come from the synagogue, where he taught the people of Capernaum and cast a demon out of a possessed man. Clearly Jesus’ ministry involves teaching the people of Israel and facing the spiritual forces of evil, but as he comes to Simon’s house his actions demonstrate that his ministry is for the body as well as the mind and spirit. He heals Simon’s mother-in-law, and the word spreads rapidly. By evening, crowds of sick people have gathered at the door to have their bodily health restored by this man’s touch.

One of the fascinating elements about the healing stories in the gospels is how often Jesus heals by touching those who are sick. He apparently does not need to touch in order to heal, for other stories tell of Jesus healing from afar (Mark 7:24-30). Yet there is something in the physical contact between Jesus and the sick that demonstrates the importance of our bodily existence. This is what incarnation is all about. Through Christ, God became physically and tangibly present to those in need. In this first chapter of Mark, as throughout the gospels, Jesus’ teaching and healing ministries are intertwined. In fact, the Greek word for “save” can also mean “heal.” The idea that the Christian message promises a spiritual salvation without implications for bodily health has no basis in the gospel.

Health care is not just a political issue, but also a religious issue for those who follow the incarnate God. God cares as deeply about the bodies of the uninsured as the bodies of the insured, yet in our current health care system those without access to health insurance face greater health risks. The church’s message of health for both body and soul rings hollow when providing care for those in need is not a Christian priority. The scriptures tell us that our bodies are the temple of God’s Spirit. Failure to care for the health of all people is a failure to give reverence to the God who lives within us.

By Kyle Carswell, Duke Divinity School Intern

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Pastoral Reflection on Mark 1:29-39

Mark’s gospel lesson squeezes a bunch of mini-episodes together, and shows us a day in the life of our savior. In Mark’s portrayal of Jesus there is urgency, a quick rush of activity, moving Jesus from obscurity to fame with a catch phrase “immediately.”   Mark presents unscripted, dramatic and sometimes humorous situations, documenting actual events that feature ordinary people. That’s right, Mark’s portrayal is like Reality Gospel.   A day in the life of our Savior…

Following last week’s dramatic exorcism, Jesus and the disciples come home from the synagogue in the afternoon to find a family in crisis. Simon’s mother is burning up with fever, preventing her from preparing a Sabbath supper perhaps, but no doubt ruling Simon out from becoming the season’s star disciple as he will have to stay home and tend to his family.

You can imagine a cut-away interview with Andrew, Simon’s brother, with the logo of The Real Messiahs of Galilee County over his shoulder.   Simon’s Mother-in-Law was sick as a dog. I mean how embarrassing was it to bring Jesus home thinking there would be some brisket in the oven, but whata ya gonna do? It didn’t look good for her either; Aunt Imogene had a fever like that once, and she never made it to my Bar Mitzvah.

But Jesus reached out a healing hand and restores her to wholeness. Even before the Sabbath was over – Jesus went to work, raised her up, and she began to serve.

Another cut-away to Andrew: Didn’t see that coming. News spread across the five boroughs like an ice-cream truck speaker in a July heat wave. People heard there was free healthcare with no co-pay, and at sundown, they were hanging off the porch, stuffed in there like Ma’s fridge for the holidays…

Jesus sets up shop in Simon/Andrew’s living room and the needy found him. Healing, exorcisms, cures. Jesus’ healing presence drew the people to him. An interesting note of detail: As Jesus cast out demons, he would not allow them to speak – why? Because they knew who he was. Jesus was not ready for the full press blitz of the media. He had other things to get done before he was ready to really go public.

When dawn arrives, the disciples stretch themselves awake to find the paparazzi camped out on the front lawn. But no Jesus. He is gone? Where is he?

Just like in some reality TV, we find Jesus doing something quite mundane and boring. He is praying. Off by himself, sitting silently. That’s it. Jesus is praying. I mean how much footage are you going to shoot of Jesus praying? It might be real, but not at all interesting. Tune in next week to see 30 minutes of the Messiah praying in a lonely place…

Like Simon, we come looking for Jesus, wanting more of those dramatic healing moments. We want it fast and quick and dramatic. The gospel writer does not say they went out to look for Jesus, no they hunted Jesus down! And when Simon finds him, now more popular than he could have ever dreamed in high school, he says to Jesus: Everybody is looking for you. Simon invites him back to the circus. But Jesus will have none of it.

He looked over the hill into the next village. He got quiet long enough to let God remind him that there was a greater purpose. Jesus knew that fame and fortune could thwart the larger message. Walter Wink once noted the need for prayer in the work of social justice: “Unprotected by prayer, our social activism runs the danger of becoming self-justifying good works, as our inner resources atrophy, the wells of love run dry, and we are slowly changed into the likeness of the Beast. (And) “prayer…is the field hospital in which the diseased spirituality that we have contracted from the Powers can most directly be diagnosed and treated.”

Let us go into the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also. That is my mission. Jesus says it’s time to leave, to go to a place where we are strangers, where no one knows us. Just when there seems to be a momentum, Jesus wants to turn his back on guaranteed success and start all over? From the midst of his quiet time, from the centering he practiced, Jesus discerned his next step. Perhaps that was the real purpose of prayer for Jesus — not telling God what he wanted, but listening for what God wants.

When the compassion that Jesus demonstrates on an interpersonal level through healing and exorcism, is realized and practiced by the masses — then the world knows not only God’s compassion for the individual, but also justice for the crowd. Justice is compassion raised to the institutional level.

Oh there will still be moments of drama to come in the gospel. More dramatic, public healing, miracles of culinary flare as he feeds the 5,000 in the park, or dramatic footage of a fishing trip where he walks on water, but Jesus remains focused on the task of proclaiming God’s Kingdom come…

By Rev. Kelly P. Carpenter, Pastor of Green Street United Methodist Church, Winston-Salem

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Worship Aids for Mark 1:29-39

Responsive Reading

We gather in the name of God, who was born among us,
the Christ who spent his earthly days healing those sick of body, mind, and spirit.
We gather in the name of the crucified and risen Christ,
Over whom death had no power and through whom there is life eternal.
We gather as a remembering and a caring community,
A community of faith and hope united by God’s love.
God calls to us:
To care for one another, to be compassionate and merciful.
We celebrate God’s goodness and grace,
In the love we give, receive and remember.
God bless those who care;
Bless and sustain those who care for the living and the dying: who search for cures, therapies and vaccines. Those who respond day and night to our tears, our desperation and our grief.
We are the creation of one Creator God;
The child who cries is every child. The woman weakened and tired is every mother, wife, sister, daughter. The man is every father, husband, son and brother.
We know Jesus identifies with all who suffer;
Through our faith in Christ, healing and wholeness take place.
We will care for one another and love one another. We will pray for God’s creation. We will be Christ’s presence in each other’s lives. We will be witnesses to God’s unconditional love.
Amen.

(adapted from Cathie Lyons and the HIV/AIDS Minisries Network (UMC), http://gbgm-umc.org/cam/memorials/goodness.html)

Prayer of Confession

Merciful God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, we confess that we have sinned against you and against one another. We name the name of Christ, but we do not make real in our lives his presence. We pay lip service to your truth, but we fear the truth about ourselves. We sing of your grace, but we cling to illusions that keep us from experiencing your healing power. We claim to live by faith, but we want to have our own way. We want to be free, but we avoid the discipline that would set us free. We lay claim to your promises in our need, but we feel no compassion for the needs of others. Forgive us and cleanse us, we pray, and give us new life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

(from the Disciple of Christ’s ‘Week of Compassion’ website, www.weekofcompassion.org/pages/resources/Gifts%20We%20Bring/Prayersofconfeesion.html)

God of Life

God of Life, we pray this day for those whose dying is hastened by lack of access to health care.

God of Love, we pray this day for the millions of people who do not have health care coverage, that their pain and anxiety will be relieved and that our hearts will be moved to help them.

God of Justice, we pray this day that our nation will work as one to see that all people have the health care they need.

God of the Weak, we pray this day for those who are too young, too sick, too ashamed, too discouraged to speak out for themselves and call for care.

God of Power, we pray that all who are in positions of leadership will work together to solve the problem of the uninsured.

God of Mercy, we pray for those whose suffering is unrelieved by care and for ourselves that we will work with others to assure care for all.

God of All, you have made us in your image. Help us to reflect your goodness. Amen.

(Written by Shannon Daley-Harris, www.CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org)

 

Collect for the Sick

“Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve your sick servants, and give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs, that those for whom our prayers are offered may be strengthened in their weakness and have confidence in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

(The Book of Common Prayer, 260)


Children’s Sermon: Jesus was a healer, and we can help heal also – Mark 1:29-39

Theme: As a healer, Jesus put love into action. It is important that every person can have good health. We should follow Jesus’ example and put our love into action to reach that goal.

Objects: Blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, pill bottles, diabetic supplies or other medical tools or supplies

Scripture: He healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases, and he threw out many demons. But he didn’t let the demons speak, because they recognized him. Mark 1:34 CEB

Show the objects you have collected. Lead the children to see the objects as things doctors or nurses or caregivers might use to help sick people.

Ask them how they are feeling today? Ask what happens if they get sick? What do they need to get better? Bring them around to having someone to care for them, going to the doctor, the emergency room, or being in the hospital. Have they ever thought about how it would be to not have any of these people and places to help them? What if they were too poor to pay a doctor, what if they didn’t have a way to get to help, or if they have no one to care for them?

Read the scripture. Explain that Jesus was a healer of every disease and every sickness. Jesus also gave his followers the gift of healing. He said that we are to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper, and cast out demons. Wow….That’s a big job.

Explain: There are many stories in the Bible where Jesus healed people who were outcasts, people who were teased or harassed, people who had given up hope, and people who did not have anyone to help them. Jesus cares about every person, no matter what their circumstances may be.

Jesus still wants his followers to put their love for Him into actions that help others. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, pastors, they may have a big role to play. But each one of us can also help to heal others. Ask children for examples of people who need things to help them heal: friends, family, homeless, hungry.

Challenge: Ask what they might do: cards, visits, prayers for those who are sick. They can give to ministries that help people get healthy food, clothes, and a place to live that is healthy and safe. They can volunteer with their parents to provide what people need to be healthy. (For instance, in one church showers, clothing, a hot meal, and foods that can be taken with them are provided for the homeless in their area).

Prayer: Thank you for our good health. Help us to know that there are people who are not healthy and that there are many ways we can help them. Amen.


Suggested Hymns for Mark 1:29-39

O Christ, the Healer
Presbyterian Hymnal 380
New Century Hymnal (United Church of Christ ) 175
United Methodist Hymnal 265

We Yearn, O Christ, for Wholeness
New Century Hymnal (United Church of Christ ) 179

Have Thine Own Way, Lord
Baptist Hymnal 544
Chalice Hymnal (Disciples of Christ) 588
United Methodist Hymnal 382

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Baptist Hymnal 82
Evangelical Lutheran Worship 618
Presbyterian Hymnal 281
Hymnal 1982 (Episcopal Church) 127

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Quotes about Health Care

So many people spend their health gaining wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health.
A.J. Reb Materi

In the future we’ll all have 15 minutes of fame and 15 minutes of healthcare.
Nicole Hollander

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Vignette about Health Care

Think Your Health Insurance Will Protect You?

When Doug’s neurologist told us he had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, “Lou Gehrig’s” disease, everything in the exam room became white. My mind sped forward while everything else lagged behind in slow motion. The room grew smaller. I couldn’t breathe. No diagnosis could have been more devastating. My best friend, my lover, my 36-year old husband and father of our three young sons – then ages 3, 7 and 11 – was going to die.

Of all the losses this cruel disease would mean for us, few were more unexpected than the barriers to health care. Though still a medical mystery, the course of ALS was well charted from Lou Gehrig’s biography. What was uncharted for us, and many other families faced with health crises, was the maze of bureaucratic obstacles that made health insurance superfluous. It became clear that health care is a privilege – available to few who really need it. At age 36, Doug had just hit his stride. In a job he’d spent 20 years refining, Doug had done the “right things” by popular definition. Promoted to a professional position he excelled in and enjoyed, he earned enough for me to be a “stay-at-home” mom until the boys were old enough for school. He bought a good health insurance policy as well as dental and eye-care insurance. He bought life insurance and invested in retirement funds, including his company’s 401K. Beyond that he’d had the wherewithal to purchase both long- and short-term disability policies. With the exception of our mortgage, we were debt free. By all accounts, we were fortunate and had all we needed, or so we thought.

What we discovered was that health insurance is available only when it isn’t really necessary. Once Doug was disabled, he was unemployed and unemployable. Without a job, the clock was ticking on access to health insurance. The first six months of his disability, Doug received short-term disability benefits that helped us stay afloat while we awaited approval of his Social Security claim. Still, with the new expense of insurance deductibles and 20% co-payments, we were rapidly depleting our resources. The single ALS-specific medicine cost $1,300 per month. Combined with other medicines prescribed for symptoms of ALS, the cost quickly reached $2000 – more than our mortgage payment! At the seventh month of disability, Social Security began making payments which, when combined with private disability insurance payments, matched Doug’s income when he became disabled. Unfortunately, he would not be eligible for Medicare for another 18 months. The only available insurance was through Doug’s COBRA extension of his former employer’s group coverage, but that would be at full premium rate which we simply could not afford. Our church and extended family made that coverage possible until we reached the 29-month limit on that extension.

At 29 months, Doug was uninsured and uninsurable. What do you do when your body is dying but you are still intellectually alive and active, yet not allowed to work or pay for your own health care? What happens to the three children for whom you are still a hero, still a needed and meaningful presence? Does it become incumbent on the sick to die when they can no longer work? Although Medicare would ultimately cover durable medical equipment and doctor appointments, it would not cover his 14 prescriptions or private duty nursing necessitated by complete flaccid paralysis and ventilator-assisted breathing. Medicaid was, and is, the only available option; and its availability is contingent on financial destitution. We were not yet financially destitute. To meet that criterion, all of the resources Doug had so carefully set in place would have to be spent first. Having disability benefits meant we made too much money. In order to qualify for Medicaid coverage, we would be responsible for health expenses “spend down” payments until we had little enough to qualify for help. In our case, this means we have to “spend down” approximately $32,000 per year, leaving $645 a year after medical expenses for a family of five to live on. Only then would we be eligible for Medicaid coverage.

For all the moral outrage expressed by public policy makers, far too little has been said about the right to health care. Our story is not unique. People who have lost jobs for reasons having nothing to do with their own health are nevertheless uninsured and – with any “pre-existing conditions” (diabetes for example) – uninsurable. With cuts in benefits in all sectors of employment, it is particularly poignant that the very people who are our health caregivers are themselves likely to be uninsured. As a modern democracy, we are charged with protecting our most vulnerable citizens. Communities thrive only where everyone contributes what they are able. Taxation is supposed to be the community chest that provides for needs no one can meet alone. We owe each other this much because there is no “one” without another. There is no “life, liberty or pursuit of happiness” where there is no right to health care.

Stephanie Phillippi, member of Binkley Memorial Baptist Church, August 2004 (from NC Committee to Defend Health Care)

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Contacts and Resources for Health Care

www.ncchurches.org/1997/01/a-policy-statement-on-health-care/
Statement adopted supporting the establishment of universal health care coverage as the only way to ensure access to basic health care for everyone.

www.nccouncilofchurches.org/programs/health-care-reform/
The NCCC has a decades-long history of working for universal health care. In policy statements dating back to the 1980s, the Council has expressed concern about the large number of North Carolinians without adequate health care and the high and increasing cost of health care. Many in the faith community believe reform that provides health care for all is a basic social justice issue. Substantial progress was made in 2010, but continued advocacy and vigilance are needed to continue the forward trend and protect against backsliding.

www.hschange.org
Center for Studying Health System Change is a nonpartisan policy research organization located in Washington, D.C. that designs and conducts studies focused on the U.S. health care system to inform the thinking and decisions of policy makers in government and private industry.

www.ncjustice.org/?q=node/25
The Justice Center’s North Carolina Health Access Coalition (NCHAC) works to “put people first” in an increasingly profit-driven health care system. We advocate for the expansion of publicly funded health services for low- and moderate-income families, and we provide research and analysis on the state’s health care system. In addition, NCHAC offers assistance to individuals trying to access public health programs, educates community groups about health care options, and empowers people to advocate for increased access to affordable care

www.nchica.org
North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance, Inc. is a nonprofit consortium of over 235 organizations dedicated to improving healthcare by accelerating the adoption of information technology.

www.healthcareforallnc.org
Health Care for All North Carolina works to educate about and advocate for the “Right to Health Care”, so that access to appropriate health care on a regular basis is assured for all North Carolinians regardless of age, sex, race/ethnicity, marital or employment status, pre-existing medical condition or geography.

www.citizensforhealthcarefreedom.org
Citizens for Healthcare Freedom is a “grassroots organization dedicated to educating the public about health care issues.” Their mission statement is “to improve the health and well-being of our North Carolina community by empowering individuals and families to make freer and more fully informed health care decisions.”

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Key Facts about Health Care

  1. North Carolina’s estimated number of uninsured as of January 2009 was about 1.75 million. This translates to about 21.2 percent of all non-elderly North Carolinians. (http://www.ncmedicaljournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/DS_2009-01_UninUnemp.pdf)
  2. There are currently 187,000 uninsured children in North Carolina. That’s about 8% of all North Carolina children. (http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/children-0-18/?state=NC#)
  3. In North Carolina, 43% of the non-elderly (ages 19-64) Hispanic population is uninsured, compared to 15% of non-elderly whites, 18% of non-elderly African-Americans, and 21% of those who identify with other ethnic groups. (http://kff.org/uninsured/state-indicator/rate-by-raceethnicity/?state=NC)
  4. 58% of white North Carolinians are insured through their employer, compared to 38% of African-Americans and 20% of Hispanics. (http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/rate-by-raceethnicity-2/)
  5. Of North Carolinians, 83.1% either strongly agree or agree that “the State Legislature should make a plan so that all North Carolina residents can get decent health care on a regular basis.” This includes 73% of Republicans, 81% of Democrats, and 86% of those not identifying with either party. (http://www.healthcareforallnc.org/legislation/index.cfm?temp_id=99999)
  6. Being uninsured increases a person’s chance of premature death by 25 percent. Nationally, this results in 18,000 avoidable deaths annually amongst uninsured nonelderly people. (http://www.bcbsnc.com/assets/common/pdfs/BCBSNC_Uninsured_Minibook.pdf)
  7. Uninsured women suffering from breast cancer have a 30-50 percent greater risk of death than those who are insured. (http://www.bcbsnc.com/assets/common/pdfs/BCBSNC_Uninsured_Minibook.pdf)
  8. In October 2014, 9 of every 10 uninsured people were unaware of the upcoming open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act. (http://kff.org/health-reform/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-october-2014/)

 

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