And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
Among my favorite images for Christ is as "the Great Physician," as this works so well for his role as a healer in his ministry and spiritual healer to each of us. I especially like it because it works with my favorite image of the Church as a hospital. And not just any hospital. If you've seen the film Patch Adams or read about the real-life doctor it's based upon, you'll know what kind of hospital I mean. In the film, Patch Adams, a second-career medical student and genius has built a facility and diverted medical supplies to it. His professors at the school try to kick him out for his unorthodox approach to personal relationships with his patients and "excessive happiness." Professional detachment is what they advocate.
Patch Adams finds himself on trial defending his version of a hospital, one where unlicensed folks are practicing medicine and treating patients, a clear violation of the law. He explains that's not quite true. The prosecutor asks if those who come to his facility are patients. Patch says, "everyone who comes is a patient... and everyone is a physician." He explains that each patient is also given another patient to care for, whether changing their bandages or helping them walk or listening to them. Everyone a doctor, and everyone a patient... just like the church.
There are times in our life when we seek a hospital out because we are in need of care. But there are other times when we seek a hospital out to offer our own resources and skills for the care of others. Patch Adams does both in his life and story, in that order actually. For many of us, receiving care inspires us to a life of giving it. The charge above reminds us of two things... one is that most of us are blessed enough that we need a weekly challenge to be the ones offering care, to be a physician. The second is that being a patient and a physician are not exclusive; we can be both. Like Christ in his ministry and in his death on the cross, we can be wounded healers, as renowned author Henry Nouwen says. So whether you are in need of healing or offering healing to another... or both... I hope you'll join me this Sunday at our busy hospital that we call church.