Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Need? Come.

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. - Isaiah 55:1

Jesus stood with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. - Luke 6:17-18

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 24; 2 Chronicles 20:20-21:17; Acts 22:3-16

Sometimes I have a hard time relating to the Bible's stories of healing and miraculous cures. Before I really took Christian faith and scripture seriously, I was a science student, a believer in the powers of observation and creativity and reason. My first career was in computer science, where logic and predictability were the foundation (although anybody who's spent much time with computers knows that logic and predictability aren't always what they seem).

Today I'd say I'm a believer in both Jesus and science/reason. Faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God explains a lot that would be otherwise incomprehensible to me. And I've experienced enough of the Holy Spirit's mysterious ways that I'm convinced that the Bible's witness about God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - is true.

So in my own life, when I have a need, I turn to both the healing of my faith and the remedies available in our world of science and reason. I pray for health and wholeness for myself and others I know, and I take Mucinex or antibiotics when I'm sick. When I had prostate cancer, I gladly received the prayers of family and friends, and found them enormously helpful, and I did my research and picked the best doctor, hospital, and medical procedures I could find.

Those of us who live in the Western world at a certain level of affluence have the privilege of taking this both-and combination for granted. We have some of the best medical care in the world easily available and (if we have insurance) reasonably affordable. So of course we use that. And sure, we'll take all the prayers we can get along the way. There's a lot of evidence that when we reach this level of prosperity, we start to feel that we don't need spiritual faith of any kind, let alone the very specific faith in Jesus, a particular guy who lived in a particular place thousands of years ago, and the very specific stories of his ministry of healing.

But this same world that tempts us to think we've "outgrown" Christian faith highlights the very need for it. For those who are not so prosperous, our society has shown a sickening, short-sighted greed. We who are wealthy don't ever seem to find satisfaction with "enough," but, just because we can, we seek more and more wealth, comfort, affluence. We're poisoning the earth and sentencing most of the rest of the world to be held down in poverty so that we can have more, more, more - and we want to put up walls to keep our affluence to ourselves without sharing. And we lose sight of the toll this disparity takes on our own souls. Why do we spend so much money on meds for depression and anxiety? Why do we so easily fall into addictions that numb us or distract us from this life that's supposed to be so wonderful? Why so many guns? Why the suicides of people of all ages?

The truth is that we can hunger and thirst without even being aware of it. We can be sick, dis-eased, and "troubled with unclean spirits," but believe that we have everything under control, not even admitting our need, let alone knowing what to do about it. For all our accumulation and efforts, we're in much the same position as the common poor people of Bible times.

So when I read in the Bible about God's call for all who thirst to "come to the waters," I know that it means both physical thirst and H₂O, and much more. When Jesus' words and deeds attract people from all over the world for healing and cleanness and connection with God and others, I believe that there is both the opportunity for physical health, and a cure for our spiritual illness. I reject the lazy "prosperity gospel" that says we can unfailingly "name it and claim it" and that if our faith is strong enough, God will magically erase all of our problems. Yes, the Bible calls for faith and persistence as we pray, but Jesus also speaks about needs that went unmet. For us who are privileged to have the cures and comforts of science and reason, they are gifts from God, and we'd be insulting God not to use them (and, of course, to try to make them available to as many others as possible). But there are people who don't have access to these options. And there are times when the best medicine and science and other resources aren't enough, for those of us who do have them.

In those times, for all people, poor and rich, with whatever kind of need, God's call still stands. Come to the waters that satisfy your thirst. Come with your diseases and demons and be restored to health and community. Thank you, God, for your promise that when we have any need, we can come to you.

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