Be Well

Jesus said, “I came that they might have life in all its fullness.” -John 10.10

Sometimes people understand churches to be rescue missions or healing stations.  True, God’s grace and love have amazing powers to heal our wounded hearts and minds.  I see it all the time and I’m thankful.  Alongside that I’m equally fascinated with the recent slow shift in Western medicine.  For the longest time the emphasis has been on healing sick people.  They’re getting better at it all the time and I’m thankful.  But in recent decades there’s been more attention paid to what makes people well in the first place: how to promote physical wellbeing and perhaps ward off disease; how to promote mental health; how to be well spiritually.

Roman Spa, Bath, England

In this picture I’m standing by the Roman bath in Bath, England, a wellness center constructed about the time the first Gospel was written down.  The hot springs at Bath had been a sacred place of healing waters for millennia before the Romans came.

I love the image of church as a sacred place of healing waters, the church as spa restoring us in body, mind and spirit.  The church should be a place where people learn a healthy life-style that honors the temple of body, mind and spirit as God intended.  We should be in the wellness promotion business.  It’s a major theme all through the Bible.  Like the scene in Psalm 23: “God leads me beside still waters; God restores my soul.”  Standing there in Bath I was reminded of the time Jesus offered “living water” to a woman at a well (John 4). The Divine has much to teach us about physical, mental and spiritual well-being, deep wisdom to share about healthy work and play, life-giving relationships, wholeness in the midst of pain and loss, and the importance of maintaining the health of our homes—my house, your house, the church house, and planet Earth.

This spring at Faith United Methodist Church, Austin, we’re sharing a sermon series called “The Good Life: Seven Keys to a Healthy Christian Lifestyle.”  This week and next we’ll be looking at well-being at work and play, then the key to a healthy body.  April 1st and 8th we’ll pause the series to celebrate Palm Sunday and then Easter Sunday.  I hope you enjoy it and receive it as an invitation to your own renewal, your own new life, in whatever ways you most need.  God wants you to be well and, as Jesus said, have life in all its fullness.  You can do it; God can help.

All good thins to you in Christ,

david gilliam, pastor, faith united methodist church, austin.  for more about faith church, click here.

Tuesday, March 13, Free Concert During SxSW

Faith Church on South Lamar

Tuesday, March 13, 5-11:30pm, in the parking lot of Faith UMC, 2701 S Lamar.  Seven live bands, food trailer favorite East Side King (famously associated with Top Chef contestant Paul Qui), fair trade shopping, a resource center, crafts and temporary tattoos, emcees Chet Garner of the PBS show The Day Tripper and Greg Bargo, who has devoted much of his life to fighting malaria, plus stories from those intimately involved in Imagine No Malaria, the United Methodist campaign to end deaths by malaria in Africa.  Free.  Parking at Matt’s El Rancho and the grass lot next to Far Out Home Furnishings on Manchaca.  Invite your friends – blog it, post it, share it, like it, check it out and check in. Bring a lawn chair, camp stool, or blanket.  We can stop the clock on malaria.  You can help.

A Change the World Event During SxSW

The weather guys say that if we get spring rains in Austin this year—can you imagine?—we could see swarms of mosquitos.  Yikes.  Growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast I can imagine that; and I can say, with easy confidence, I’ve had enough of that.  They suck your blood and then you itch.  You can’t slap them fast enough.  They follow you inside and torment your sleep.

An artist's rendering by Jim Roberts

Okay, I’m being a baby.  A few mosquito bites aren’t going to kill me.  But in much of the world, it only takes one.  Every 60 seconds a child dies from malaria, a disease transmitted via mosquito.  One bite and bang! your dead.  Or your Dad gets bit; and while he doesn’t die—thank heaven—he can’t work for months so your Mom and your brothers and sisters die of starvation, if the mosquitoes don’t get them first.  That not bad enough?  After children, pregnant women are the next largest population to die from malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.

I’ll never forget a day 7 years ago when I was with a group of students on a pleasure boat cruising the scenic waterways of Kerala in southern India.  Late in the day our boat’s propeller got tangled up in water plants and came to a stop.  From our watery perch we observed families washing clothes along the river bank, stoking fires and cooking supper, burning incense and chanting evening prayers.  I was enchanted.  Then it got dark.  Then the mosquitos came out to feed.  Interesting term, eh?  Feed.  On me.  I happened to be taking the best anti-malarial medication money can buy; but I had no DEET.  I went from feeling creeped-out to becoming a tiny bit terrified.  The boat driver was under water freeing the propeller.  I stared into the abyss.

Obviously, I lived to tell this tale.  I’ve since learned that malaria is preventable and treatable.  It’s within our expertise to end deaths by malaria and I think we ought to make that happen.  That’s why I’ve been part of the Imagine No Malaria movement since it started.

Two years ago right here in Austin the United Methodist Church launched Imagine No Malaria in partnership with the Gates Foundation and the United Nations Foundation.  Together we’re trying to end deaths from malaria by 2015.  A tall order, but of course we have to try.  Since 2010 in those African countries where the full multi-faceted campaign has been implemented, remarkable progress has already been made.  A whole lot of children and Moms and Dads are alive today because of it.

Tuesday, March 13, during SxSW, Methodists are once again flying the Imagine No Malaria banner up our steeple, inviting everyone to come to the parking lot at Faith United Methodist Church, 2701 South Lamar in Austin, and learn about this global movement of saving lives.  From 5:00—11:30pm we’ll hear live bands and see a short award winning documentary Killer in the Dark, all emceed by Chet Garner of PBS’s The Daytripper.  AND, the East Side King food trailer will be there.  I’m totally down for that, too.

If you’d like to help save lives and have fun on March 13th, you’re invited.  Bring your friends.  Share this event, even if you can’t attend.  Help us help people get the tools and meds they need to live.  To save a life this very moment—talk about an awesome instant message—Text: “Malaria” to 27722 to give $10.  I can imagine a world where no one dies from a mosquito bite.  You?