"A Pre-Existing Condition" Matthew9:35-10:15     June 15, 2008

If there are three words which can strike fear into someone's heart, it's probably these: "pre-existing medical condition." Have one, and you might not get health insurance, or your next job.

Despite federal laws prohibiting the use of "pre-existing" medical conditions as a bar to insurance coverage, problems still exist. Listen to the words of
RobertFrazier of Elkhart, Texas, who wrote a letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News:

"My wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ... she makes too much ... to qualify for Medicare .... It makes it difficult to make a living, especially one that has insurance, [since] my wife would have to wait a year to qualify for coverage, due to her pre-existing medical condition."

Or consider the plight of
WilliamCowie, who applied for a manufacturing job at a Rockwell International plant in Centralia, Illinois, in 1993. He was tested for the "likelihood" of developing a repetitive stress injury, and was denied employment. Mr.Cowie is one of several people suing over this.

Today, these kinds of issues aren't uncommon, and in fact, cases involving such "pre-existing" conditions may likely increase in the future with the advent of today's genetic testing and research focusing on so-called "predictive" testing.
Whatever we think of health insurance, HMOs and all of these complex issues, there's one thing that is clear. If you need help, and someone says you can't get it because of a pre-existing condition or that your insurance won't pick up the tab, you're in a bind. Up a creek w/o the proverbial paddle.

Of course, you can always find some insurance companies who will cover pre-existing conditions, but you will have to pay an arm and a leg; and that's not true acceptance.

The good news is that God's love covers all pre-existing conditions:

No small print.
No exclusions.
No problems.

Human agencies will screen you out, cut you out, delete your file, reject your application, won't give you the time of day. Or make you wait.

They go by the numbers (the bottom line); God goes by the Book: "While we were yet suffering from a pre-existing condition (sinners),
Christ died for us" (cf. Romans 5:8).

The Westminster Confession of Faith in the PCUSA Book of Confessions, presents
the theology of God's acceptance and of our pre-existing condition clearly. The language may be dated, but the message is eternal.
"Our first parents, being seduced by the subility and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. …. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body." (Westminster Confession of Faith 6.031, 6.032)[1]
And if you think that's not bad enough, the WCF continues,
"Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal." (WCF 6.036)
Our pre-existing condition is so severe, that we would be denied any insurance—ever! No chance of coverage outside of Jesus. No way, no how.
Jesus not only died for our pre-existing conditions; he lived with compassion in the presence of our suffering. The text today points to "The Great Physician" who feels only compassion for those who are experiencing medical challenges, and does something about it.
Jesus experienced our suffering when he saw those bowed down under disease and sickness and disability. He felt it in the pained expression of that young woman's relatives, who wept and wailed at his arrival, saying the girl was already dead (as we saw last week).

And what was his response to all this? Was it to leave all this to the lawyers and judges? No.
Doctor Jesus takes one look at the charts and delivers his imperative to the newly appointed disciple-doctors: "Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment" (Matthew 10:8).

God does not expect us to clean up our act before we can be worthy to approach him and receive his love, grace and forgiveness. If that were the way it worked, then what's the point?

-You have a grief-broken heart because of the loss of a loved one? It's covered.
-You're a respectable, though chemically dependent, citizen? It's covered.
-You're discouraged with your lot in life and trying to make ends meet? It's covered.
-You have a gambling or alcohol addiction? It's covered.
-You're in an unhealthy relationship with someone you love? It's covered.
-Perhaps you don't have major issues like these to deal with, but your life feels empty and w/o purpose. It, too, is covered.

"We cannot, by our best works, merit pardon of sin, or eternal life, at the hand of God, because of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come, and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom by them we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins;" (WCF 6.091)[2]
"The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto him. (WCF 6.047)[3]
You say: "Are you telling me that if I come to God, God will solve all my problems?"

Well - yeah, sort of. God will work in partnership with you for healing and change; it may require some work on your part. But the work and effort come after receiving God's love and forgiveness. God does not reward us with his love because of our work.

Cleaning up our act is not a precondition for the love of God. God does not say to us, "If you would just do this or do that, then I could love you." All preexisting conditions are covered. Period.
We cannot earn acceptance with God, but we can repent and receive his love and acceptance. One way to do that is through our baptism:

"Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church (accepted into God's life saving plan). but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life:" (WCF 6.154)[4]

We had a pre-existing condition but God accepted us and give us eternal assurance of his acceptance.
Why is this important? Because we all know that being loved and accepted is half the battle.
The good news is that God''s love covers all pre-existing conditions:
No small print.
No exclusions.
No problems.
"Is your calendar a little full this morning?  Have you checked it to see if it meshes with God’s agenda for your day?  In between, writing letters, making phone calls and stopping at the store—did you also put in; 'Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons?'"[5]
Our pre-exisitng condition has been covered. In fact, we are covered on all accounts. We can't earn our way to heaven, but we can and should respond to God's love by sharing God's love with those God brings into our lives—whatever shape that may take: hospitality, prayer, visitation, practical help; fix things, share things, and so on.
These may seem like minor things compared to raising the dead, but they are nonetheless a powerful witness to God's goodness, acceptance, and mercy toward humankind. Not "I'm OK, you're OK" but God's endless mercy and grace toward us who would otherwise not be covered in God's eternal plan of salvation.
The good news: God''s love covers all pre-existing conditions: No questions asked. No exclusions. No problems.
As God has done for us, so should we do for others.
The success of God’s mission in the world depends on those to whom it has been entrusted. According to the first chapter of Acts, at the time of Jesus’ ascension, the entire band of disciples — that is, all of the active followers of Jesus — numbered about 120 (Acts 1:15). That included the Eleven who remained after Judas’ betrayal and death, the women who joined the entourage during his ministry, and other men and women who had been persuaded by his words or moved by his actions to believe.

About 120 people.

There is an old story that when Jesus arrived in heaven after the Ascension, a member of the heavenly host asked him who he had left in charge and what mechanisms and institutions he had put in place to carry on his work now that he was no longer walking the earth himself.

Jesus replied, “Well, I have left about 120 followers.”

The heavenly host member looked at who those 120 were and said, “That’s it? They aren’t a very impressive band. Their leaders are just fishermen, tax collectors and the like. What if they fail? What’s Plan B?”

And Jesus responded, “If they fail, there is no Plan B. I have no other plan.”

About 120 people. A little more than the size of an average congregation today.

Yet look what that little entourage, empowered by the Holy Spirit, accomplished. Look how they spread the Word. Look how they took what they had learned and blessed the world with it. It was their energy as a band of believers, their praise of God, their glad and generous hearts, that drew the additional people to consider the Lord’s call to become disciples.

The good news, once again: God's love covers all pre-existing conditions: No questions asked. No exclusions. Accepted by God, we are forgiven, get a second chance. As a result, we are free to share that good news with others.
Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Rev. RosemaryStelz

[1] (CHAPTER VI - Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment Thereof,)
[3] (CHAPTER VIII - Of Christ the Mediator)
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