Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Word for Fall

Now, this blog title might make it sound like I'm going to banter about the "fall of humanity" or some other highly theological topic, but no, I'm going to comment on the season. Fall is a beautiful time of the year in Western Pennsylvania, especially here in Warren, PA. The leaves on the trees begin to change and a blue-skied, breezy Sunday afternoon drive through the woods surrounding this place can be a taste of heaven, indeed. Fall is also the time when our kids get busy with school and extra-curricular activities, forcing parents to become chauffeurs and tour guides. Grandparents succumb to being mobile spectators, chasing the grandchildren around from auditorium to soccer field.

In the church, where I work, Fall is the start-up time for programming and Christian education events. This Fall, I'm teaching a Sunday School class on the subject, "The Bible Jesus Read," using material from a book by that name by Philip Yancey. Most of us don't stop to think that Jesus' "bible" was what we Christians call the "Old Testament," or more appropriately, the Hebrew Scriptures. Parts of it can be tough sledding, especially when Israel is at battle or God is hacked at some lame-brained thing "the Chosen People" have done (or not done). Along with Yancy, I like the "realism" of the Hebrew Scriptures. It reminds us that God gets "down and dirty" with humanity and relates to the creation at a highly interactive--and at times almost sensuous--level. This is not the "unmoved, mover" or "far removed" model of divine perfection imagined by the Greeks. The God of the Hebrew Scriptures gets happy, angry, and at times even appears confused over the affairs of people here on Mother Earth. I especially like the parts where God and Moses argue, Moses wins, and the text says, "God changed his mind." I guess if we didn't believe this to be possible, why would we pray?

Fall is a time for watching others who like Fall. My wife is a Fall person, and it delights me just to watch her take it all in. I like Fall too, but honestly, it is more out of the joy of watching HER enjoy it. Really, I like all of the seasons here in Western PA; I think I really mean that, and that it is not just a rationalization of the fact that I must LIVE here to ply my calling. But, of course, I could be wrong. When the snow flies--and it DOES fly here--I have been heard to be less than enthusiastic. Do you have a Fall person in your household?

On a completely different note: something HAS to be done with our health care system in the good ol' U.S.A. As a pastor, I have heard countless horror stories about its crushing machinations and confusing paradoxes. Quite a number of my parishioners over the years have been denied coverage for stupid reasons. One colleague moved from PA to Ohio and was told by her company--Blue Cross/Blue Shield--that she would have no problem transferring her coverage to BC/BS in Ohio. After giving the go-ahead for this to happen, the PA branch cancelled her coverage, and then Ohio's denied her insurance because she had a pre-existing condition! She went months without coverage and wound up with a "boilerplate" plan that, basically, provides a broom and a dustpan if you get hit by a bus. I have BC/BS coverage myself, and after having required procedure back in February of this year, thought I had paid all of my co-pays and deductibles. A couple of weeks ago I received a bill for over $600 from a Pittsburgh hospital involved in the procedure. Instead of calling them, I called BC/BS, and their case manager put me on hold and called the hospital. When she rejoined our conversation, she told me the bill was a "computer error" and that I did not owe the money. I wonder how many others might have just paid that "bill"? These are just two of hundreds of examples I could give to show that, in our current system, the "left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing," as they say.

I don't have a solution for health care, but somehow I believe the answer will not come until there is a single payer system. I'm not excited about that being "the government," but am intrigued at the suggestion posited by some that a non-profit coalition of some sort be employed. I have to also say that I do NOT believe medicine should be a profit-driven field. There are just some things that capitalism doesn't enhance, and health care is one of them.

Well, after several weeks off of posting for vacation and Fall "start up" activities, this turned out to be a long rant. Now that it is off my chest, let me wish you all grace and peace. Enjoy this great season, people! Shalom.

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