Original Posting At http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com/2020/01/called-to-repent.html
Lectionary Reading: Matthew 4:12-23 (NRSV)
Last week, we saw John’s version of how Jesus called Andrew and Peter to be disciples. This Sunday, we’ll look at Matthew’s. While they seem very different, a Gospel harmony might suggest that John’s story came first and then was followed by Matthew’s.
This would make sense for why they immediately left their nets and followed Jesus. This was not their first encounter.
As Matthew tells it, Jesus was already preaching and teaching that the Kingdom of Heaven had come near. It was a message of repentance. I like to think that these disciples had heard him preach. Andrew had already spent a day with Jesus according to John.
So they had evidently heard enough. They dropped everything and followed him.
Jesus continues to preach and teach throughout Galilee. He proclaims the good news of the kingdom and cures every disease and sickness among the people. In an era where medical assistance was hard to come by, this would have put quite the exclamation point on his proclamation!
What is interesting is that the call to repentance precedes the call of the disciples and the healing of the multitudes. When we tie repentance with healing today, we can get into rough waters theologically. For instance, I knew of a woman who was dying of cancer. Her pastor told her to repent of her sins and she would be healed. This was not helpful for her final days.
But is there a tie between repentance and healing?
To repent is to change one’s mind. It is to change one’s heart. It is to change one’s behavior to match the new way of thinking and being.
|I’ve been on both sides of this bed
many times in my life but much more
often looking down on the patient.
When I was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 2016, I had to repent of certain things according to my doctor. Americans like their meat and I am a good American! And while I still eat more meat than I actually need, I mostly keep it to fish and fowl these days. I try to get regular exercise before going to the church. I also now use a CPAP machine for my sleep apnea so that I will get more quality rest at night.
Are there other things concerning healing of which we need to repent or change our ways of doing things?
As a pastor, the largest number of anxieties faced in our congregation are health-related. Even those who have insurance tell me anecdotes of being unable to receive the care they need. They may have to wait for prescribed tests in order for the red tape to clear. They may be released from the hospital too soon and relapse. They may need medications that are not covered in their prescription plan.
When I first got my CPAP machine, I found that wrestling between insurance and what the company was trying to charge me was likely doing the opposite of what was needed for my high blood pressure!
As I hear people stress about their medical care, and as I pray for their healing, I wonder to myself, “Is this the best we can do?”
What I do believe is that as Jesus proclaims good news for the kingdom of heaven, it is coupled with him curing every sickness and disease among the people. It may be that wholeness and health are what we would equate with the kingdom of heaven. I certainly don’t imagine any need for hospitals in heaven, do you?
If this is the case, how do we help God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven?
We all may need to repent or change our thinking about our current practice regarding wellness in our country today. What would it take for both sides of the aisle politically to work together on medical reform? One thing I’m sure of is that illness is not partisan. We’ll continue to explore this scripture as we examine the call to repent on Sunday!
Photo by Jim Sorenson via flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.