(In The Life Of The Church)
The Economy of the Kingdom
I have all and … am full. Philippians 4:18
This last Sunday I preached on vulnerability. It wasn’t in my manuscript, but I finished the sermon by sharing a story that I was/am in the middle of. A story about my own vulnerability. My children are currently between health insurance carriers and wouldn’t you know it, my son broke his leg on Friday. When I got that phone call from my wife on last Friday, something in my soul died. Forget the lack of diagnosis and potential crushing medical bills, I felt like I had failed my child. That is a hard place to be.
I wanted to follow up and tell you what has happened since then. On Monday we took my son to a local clinic where my friend serves as a doctor. We weren’t on the schedule, but he got us on the schedule and saw us anyway. I could tell that he was incredibly busy and that despite his busyness he was bending over backwards to get us the best care possible. He handed us off to another doctor who is in charge of the sports medicine program for that clinic. He looked at the x-ray and told my wife and I that if you are going to have a broken tibia, which Roy does, it was the best possible break. All Roy needed was a cast and the next six weeks for his body to do what it will.
After we were done seeing two of the clinics best doctors, my friend handed us the paperwork to check out. I noticed the only two things on the whole chart were the pair of x-rays that were done. I don’t understand health care or the medical world and Roy has a few more follow up appointments, but I’m pretty sure my doctor friend coded as much of what happened as he could to keep our cost to a minimum, included the work done by both doctors.
In case you are beginning to see a thread in this story let me name it for you, it is the grace of God. Now let me back up to Sunday after church. The compassion that came pouring in was humbling. One friend handed me what I knew was a few dollar bills.. He told me, “it’s not much but we’d like to help you.” His not much was a huge blessing. It was more than enough to buy us lunch that day. I’ve fought people enough times in these moments to know when I’m robbing them of an opportunity to be a blessing. Refusing the money would be an act of selfishness on my part. I told him thank you.
Then another friend came up to me. A graduate student who is working part time at Pizza Hut to pay for school. He told me I could use his information to get a discount on pizza and that he’d love to treat our family. Because I hadn’t texted him by that evening he went ahead and sent me all his credit card information and instructions on how to get the pizza. I was deeply touched.
Another friend came up to me and explained that he had grown up in similar circumstances that I had described in his sermon. In case you weren’t there, that is circumstances that sometimes felt fiscally insecure. He then proceeded to tell me that him and his family were in a very secure place and that they’d like to help me in whatever we needed.
People brought Roy toys and treats and on Monday when Lindsay I took Roy the doctor we made one phone call and we had someone lined up to watch our kids. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been in a position receive help, but I can tell you it is wonderful.
On Monday another friend emailed to see how I was doing. I gave a quick update and expressed my gratitude for God. She wrote something that caught my eye. “I've done the insurance gap before and it's humiliating. The whole system is quite something. One of the definitions of poverty has to do not with finances available but also outside support systems. You certainly have a wealth of people on your side.”
Having just come off of the Christmas season my mind immediately went to the concluding moments of It’s A Wonderful Life. George Bailey is suspended above a pit of financial disaster that could land him jail. But he is rescued--not by a formal loan or a bank or a wealthy benefactor, but by his friendships.
When all is said and done I may end with expenses that are less than the value of the deductible I would have had to pay had Roy had insurance. In that case I won’t need any of the generosity that has been extended to me, but that won’t discount the grace that I experienced in those offers. I was saved by my friendships. George Bailey’s angel leaves him a note that says, “no man is a failure who has many friends.” That’s me, I’m George Bailey, the richest man in Bedford Falls.
When I was wrapping up my experience at Truett I read Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution. In it he has a chapter on Kingdom economics that I was quite taken by. It’s a dream really, of a different kind of world. I’d like to include a paragraph here.
A family very dear to our hearts owns the Jose-fina minimart across the street from our house. Over the years, we have become inseparable. Their kids come over for homework, to do our theatre camp, and to beat us at Uno (though they cheat sometimes). We helped rehab their house, and they helped teach us Spanish. Oftentimes they need transportation to restock the store or pick up the kids. We found that we could insure them (and actually at no extra cost) under our policy. So we share cares, and they never take our money for groceries. We are not Good Samaritans, nor are we an efficient nonprofit provider. We are family with them, and money has lost its relevance. Not long ago, we had to take our car in to the mechanic, and after it was repaired, it was returned without a bill. When I asked about it, our mechanic told me we were taking care of a family he cared deeply for, so the repairs were a gift to us, since we all have to take care of each other. Funny how money loses its power. As one of the early Christians said, “Starve Mammon with your love.” I hope Mammon goes hungry around here.
I used this in the very first sermon I preached at UBC. Now 9 years later, I find myself living in the middle of it. What sticks out to these many years later is the suggestion that money can lose its power. I experienced that. Money had me held over a pit of fear, but the community around me loved that fear back to hell where it came from.
What if we could all live like that?
In Family News ...
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