Bishop Michael Rinehart


July 2012

Religious Leaders Institute Breakfast

For those not attending the Lombard Peace Center’s Mediation Training at Kinsmen, please consider this:
RLI Jeannie Opdyke Smith Invitation.pdf


We have great health care in the U.S. It is also unbelievably expensive. I think I know why.

This is the only industry I know of where you don’t find out the price of things until after services have already been rendered. After having a couple of bones fused and screwed together and a ligament sutured, I am on the mend. Beforehand, I asked my very competent doctor what it would cost. He said he didn’t know. “It depends on your insurance. Have you met your deductible? He has a fee. He doesn’t know what it is. The anesthesiologist has a fee. The surgery center has a fee. They don’t tell you what it is beforehand, but they make you sign a document that says you will pay it, no matter what it turns put to be.

This is an amazing thing. I try to imagine buying a car like this. A similar cost, actually. Me: “How much is the car?”
Dealer: “I don’t know.”
Me: “Huh?”
Dealer: “Well, the tire company has a charge, there’s the title, Uncle Sam gets his cut. It depends on how much you put down. We’ll send you a bill.”

You can get this information in advance of course, but it’s really hard. And people aren’t nice about it. I once had a test done.

Me: “So, how much does this cost?”
Receptionist: “I don’t know.”
Me: (Apologetically) “Okay, but I’m kind of curious. How do I find out?” Receptionist: “They’ll send you a bill.”
Me: “I know, but I’d like to know beforehand. So we can plan our finances.” Receptionist: “It depends on your insurance.”
Me: “What is the typical charge for this procedure?”
Receptionist: (Exasperated) “I really don’t know sir. I’d have to go find out.” Me: “I’m okay with that.”
Receptionist: (After 30 minutes of sitting in the waiting room.) “$80.” Me: “The test costs $80?”
Receptionist: “No, that’s your copay. Have you met your deductible?” Me: “So, you’re not going to tell me what this costs are you?”
Receptionist: (Openly hostile now.) “Why do you care? Your insurance will pay for it.” Me: Sigh.

The idea is, since it’s on your insurance you don’t need to know. You shouldn’t care and you certainly shouldn’t ask. And you certainly shouldn’t shop around. You’ll discover the charges for the same thing can vary dramatically from place to place.

This system drives costs up of course. And it leaves the 30 million people who have no health insurance up a creek.

This week my doctor says, “You’re doing good. You should get therapy for that ankle. It’s not necessary, but it will speed up the healing process.” Me: “What does that cost?”
Doc: “I don’t know.”

So I go to the physical therapist today. He’s bright, helpful and competent. He spent over 60 minutes with me. I know this is going to cost a bunch. While he’s shocking my ankle, I ask,

Me: “So how often should I be coming?”
PT: “Three times a week for two weeks, then twice a week until you’re better.” Me: “Just out of curiosity, what does this cost?”
PT: “I don’t know.”
Me: “You don’t know?”
PT: “I don’t do my own billing.”
Me: “Well give me a ballpark. What’s the going rate for a PR session?” PT: “It depends on your insurance.”
Me: “Does it?”
PT: “Have you met your deductible?”
Me: “I’m just curious what it actually costs.”
PT: “$150, or $200 maybe.”
Me: (Hallelujah! An answer.) So if I have a 20% copay, maybe $40 a session times ten sessions this month. $400? An the insurance company pays $1,600?” PT: “Yeah, probably, only this is your first session so it will cost more.”

It’s all worth it, but how do you budget for things when you don’t know the costs? And perhaps most people have gobs of money laying around, but in the universe where I live, an extra $400 in any give month really matters. And I’m not poor.

All of this leaves me wondering: How do the poor do it? What if you work for Wal-Mart at $8/hour and have no insurance? Or what if you’re like a Houston janitor, making $9,000/year, and you need mystery therapy at an undisclosed rate, what do you do? Let’s say you have have full health benefits in that janitorial job, but still have the 20% copay that will cost $400 this month, what will you do when you make only $750/month?

But we shouldn’t worry about all that. It would be socialist. So many say, “Not my problem.” “They should get a better job.” “Let them eat cake.”

People can ignore the poor, look the other way. As followers of Christ, we cannot. The one who multiplied the loaves and fish did not send the masses away. He who offered free health care to the poor could not take such a view. “Blessed are the poor.” We follow one who called his followers to care for the sick. Have we forgotten this, are we ignoring 2,000 passages in the Bible dealing with poverty, do we pretend it’s not right there in the gospels, or is it just an inconvenient message?

What would it look like if the middle-class church actually stood up or the poor?

The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. Psalm 145:15-16

8-5-12 is Pentecost 10 B – Soul

2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a – The prophet Nathan comes to David to declare God’s judgment on him for killing Uriah: “You are the man.”
Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15– Manna from heaven.
Psalm 51:1-12– Create in me a clean heart O God…
Psalm 78:23-29 – The LORD rained down manna upon them to eat. (Ps. 78:24)
Ephesians 4:1-16 – Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are to equip the saints for ministry until we all arrive at unity of faith and spiritual maturity.
John 6:24-35 – I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry.

The Bread Texts

Pentecost 9B – July 29, 2012. John 6:1-21 – Feeding of the 5,000. Jesus walks on water.

Pentecost 10B – August 5, 2012. John 6:24-35 – I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry.

Pentecost 11B – August 12, 2012. John 6:35, 41-51 – I am the bread of life, the living bread which comes down from heaven. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise you up on the last day.

Pentecost 12B – August 19, 2012. John 6:51-58 – Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them. The one who eats this bread will live forever.

Pentecost 13B – August 26, 2012. John 6:56-69  – Eat my flesh for eternal life. This is a difficult teaching; who can accept it? Does this bother you? Do you also wish to go away? Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…

I got to thinking about the high of the ELCA Youth Gathering this past week. The enthusiasm of the youth. The engaging speakers. Serving in the community. I felt more of the hope and joy of the church than I’ve felt in a long time. It gave me great hope for the future of the church.

I realized how much I need hope. It is like soul food. It’s that visionary picture of what the kingdom of God might be like, and what a community in Christ might look like. It is like the picture of the church in Acts, where people share what they have so that no one goes hungry. I need spiritual food. They say you can live thirty days without food and three days without water, but not a minute without hope. The gathering reconnected me with the fire that drove me into the ministry.

After the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus once again take off. And once again the crowds find them on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus tells them, “You folks aren’t looking for me because you saw signs, but because you were filled up with bread.” And then he does something he does often in John’s gospel. He moves from the physical to the spiritual. “Do not work for food that perishes, but for that which shall endure for eternal life.” Jesus starts talking about being born again with Nicodemus in John 3, and Nic at Nite thinks he’s talking about a physical rebirth, but Jesus is talking about a spiritual rebirth. Jesus talks about water with the woman at the well in John 4, and she takes him literally, but soon he starts talking about quenching a spiritual thirst. Later in John Jesus heals a blind man and talks about blindness, but it soon becomes clear he is talking about the spiritual blindness of the religious leaders of his day. When Jesus talks about bread in John 6, he is talk about oh, so much more.

Luther picks up on this in the Small Catechism, when talking about the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread,” from the Lord’s prayer. What is meant by bread?

Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

Luther understands bread very broadly. Even good friends are considered bread. Good friends feed the soul.

In his book Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore says,

It is impossible to define precisely what the soul is. Definition is an intellectual enterprise anyway; the soul prefers to imagine. We know intuitively that soul has to do with genuineness and depth, as when we say certain music has soul or a remarkable person is soulful. When you look closely at the image of soulfulness, you see that it is tied to life in all its particulars – good food, satisfying conversation, genuine friends, and experiences that stay in the memory and touch the heart. Soul is revealed in attachment, love, and community, as well as in retreat on behalf of inner communing and intimacy.

Jesus invites us to consider not just the needs of the body, but the needs of the soul. I don’t want to overplay a body/spirit dualism here, but we must engage a theme that Jesus engages. Don’t work for physical food, but for spiritual food. He hits the same theme in Matthew’s very different gospel, which is drawn from different sources than John’s Semeia source. In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us not to worry about what we’re going to eat, drink or wear, physical things, but rather to seek first the kingdom of God and God’s justice/righteousness.

 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Life is more than food. The body is more than clothing. Existence is more than trudging from one day to another in the marketplace, trying to earn more and more money, to acquire stuff. I meet people everyday that are looking for more than a life of buying and selling. Perhaps that’s why our companion synod relationships with brothers and sister in Christ in Peru and Africa are so attractive – why people are becoming more and more interested. They are spiritually hungry.

Back to John. “Do not work for food that perishes, but for that which shall endure for eternal life.” Look for soul food, spiritual food. Are you working for the bread of life? What does that look like? What feeds your spirit? What fills your cup to overflowing? Are you scheduling into your life things that will feed your spirit, with the bread of life?

At the ELCA Youth Gathering we focused on seven spiritual practices: Prayer, Worship, Serving, Study, Giving, Encouraging and Inviting. Could it be that these are courses in the meal of life? Time for prayer feeds the soul. Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength… The Lord is my shepherd… who restores my soul. Corporate worship restores the soul, or it can, if there is life in those bones. Study feeds the soul, as do serving and giving. Encouraging others, visiting those who are sick, being with friends, all these restore the soul, as does inviting them into a feast for the soul.

Perhaps we are called to be soulful people, leaders to care for the soul, feed the soul. How are you tending to your soul this week?

Photo of St. Paul’s Baytown congregation at Pastor Nancy Simpson’s ordination

Opening Olympic Ceremony so emotional. It’s a sign of hope to see peaceful global interaction.

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