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“God’s Heavenly Health Plan”
Revelation 21:4


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Fifth Sunday of Easter—May 2, 2010

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

For the past several months we have been barraged with debate, data, and discussion about health care, and this focus on health care in our nation will probably continue for many years.  In today’s Epistle Reading from Revelation, God himself describes for us “God’s Heavenly Health Plan”: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

One of the big issues in our national debate about health care is pre-existing conditions.  The Bible says that, spiritually, we all have a fatal pre-existing condition, which we were actually all born with.  As Psalm 51 says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”  “All have sinned,” Paul says in Romans, “and fall short of the glory of God . . .  There is no one righteous, not even one. . . For the wages of sin is death.”

Spiritually, we all have the fatal pre-existing condition of sin, which results in death, and, if left untreated, eternal damnation in hell.  But, the Good News is, under God’s plan, this pre-existing condition is covered.  In fact, providing a remedy for this pre-existing condition is the whole reason for “God’s Heavenly Health Plan”: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

The opening verses of Revelation beautifully describe God’s remedy for our pre-existing condition of sin: “[He] loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.”  In modern medicine countless people every day are treated and cured and given new life by someone else’s blood.  God’s Son, Jesus Christ, treated and cured your sin, and gave you new life, not through a physical blood transfusion, but a spiritual blood purification.

“The blood of Jesus [God’s] Son,” John says, “cleanses us from every sin. . .  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”  “You were redeemed,” Peter says, “. . . with the precious blood of Christ.”  Paul says in Romans, “God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . .  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. . .  therefore we have now been justified by his blood.” 

Just as in modern medicine people are treated and cured and given new life by someone else’s blood, God’s Son, Jesus Christ, treated and cured your sin, and gave you new life, not through a physical blood transfusion, but a spiritual blood purification. 

Psalm 32 says, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”  Under “God’s Heavenly Health Plan” the pre-existing condition of your sin is literally covered, covered over with the holiness of Christ, all forgiven because of his atoning sacrifice.  “[He] loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.”

“There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Under our nation’s latest health plan, for some the premiums for health care will be subsidized.  Under “God’s Heavenly Health Plan,” the premium isn’t just subsidized. A full 100% of the premium has already been paid, for you.  As Paul says in Titus, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”

In a discussion on television it was mentioned that government workers in a certain state pay nothing for their health plan, no premium, co-pay, or co-insurance.  The moderator was astonished: “No one has coverage like that anymore!”

But, spiritually, that is your coverage under “God’s Heavenly Health Plan”: no premium, co-pay, or co-insurance, nothing which you have to contribute in order to be healed of your sin.  For, the Bible describes salvation as a gift of God’s grace, something you haven’t earned or deserved.  Paul puts it this way in Ephesians, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

So, not just a subsidy, but 100% of your premium for “God’s Heavenly Health Plan” has been paid for you, by God’s own Son.  And there’s no co-pay or co-insurance for you in God’s plan for your salvation.  “It is the gift of God.”

“There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Many health plans have a life-time limit.  Once you reach that, you’re no longer covered.  Jesus told The Parable of the Prodigal Son to assure us that with “God’s Heavenly Health Plan” there is no life-time limit.  Just as the father in the parable welcomed and forgave his wayward son, your heavenly Father always welcomes and forgives you.

Psalm 130 puts it this way, “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness.”  In the famous “love chapter” in 1st Corinthians, Paul is describing not only our love for one another as Christ’s disciples, but also God’s never-failing love toward us: “Love is patient, love is kind. . . it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. . .  [It] endures all things. Love never ends.”  There is no life-time limit on the forgiveness of your sins in “God’s Heavenly Health Plan.”

“There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  For many people, the most important aspect of their health plan is which physicians they have access too.  In the past, when changing plans, our family had to change physicians, because our old physician wasn’t included on the new plan, and you’ve probably had the same experience.

With “God’s Heavenly Health Plan” you always have access to the best Physician possible!  “Those who are well have no need of a physician,” Jesus says, “but the sick.  I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. . .  Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. . .  you will find rest for your souls.”  With “God’s Heavenly Health Plan” you always have access to the Great Physician himself! 

“There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Finally, what prescriptions, what medicines are provided in “God’s Heavenly Health Plan”? 

At the first Pentecost, Peter proclaimed to the crowd, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children.”  And Paul says in Acts, “Be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” 

So, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism is the first medicine prescribed under “God’s Heavenly Health Plan.”  As Martin Luther says in the Large Catechism, “Suppose there were a physician who had such skill that people would not die . . .  here in Baptism there is . . . just such a priceless medicine.”

“Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you. . . Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  The ancients called Holy Communion “the medicine of immortality,” because the Great Physician promises that in this Sacrament we receive his body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. As the early church father Ignatius said in about 110 A.D., “Come together . . . and break the one Bread which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death, enabling us to live forever.”

Under “God’s Heavenly Health Plan” the Great Physician himself prescribes the Sacrament of Holy Communion, as medicine for your soul, to strengthen you in the true faith unto life everlasting.  As Luther says about Holy Communion, again in the Large Catechism, “Those who feel their [spiritual] weakness, who are anxious to be rid of it and desire help, should regard and use this Sacrament as a precious antidote against the poison in their systems. . . go and make use of this healing medicine.”

This morning we rejoice as Myron publicly affirms the faith of his Baptism, and receives his First Communion.

And there is one more miracle medicine in “God’s Heavenly Health Plan.”  The book of Revelation describes a vision of the heavenly city, with a grand boulevard like in front of our church, that has the river of life flowing down the middle, and is lined on either side with the tree of life.  And then it says, “The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”  The ancients also had a unique interpretation of the “leaves” of the tree of life in Revelation’s vision, which are like a medicine to bring us healing.  Perhaps because they were made of papyrus, the pages of ancient books were called “leaves.”  And so the ancient church interpreted the “leaves” of the tree of life to symbolize the “leaves” or pages of Scripture, God’s Word, which is prescribed by him “for the healing of the nations.”  As Psalm 107 says, “They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.  He sent forth his word and healed them.”

Take your daily dose of “the leaves of the tree [of life],” God’s Word, the Bible.  As Luther says, again in the Large Catechism, “God solemnly commands that we should always meditate upon his precepts . . . because he knows our danger and need, as well as the constant and furious assaults and temptations of the devil.  So he wishes to warn, equip, and protect us against them . . . with a good medicine against their evil infection and poison.”

So, “God’s Heavenly Health Plan” includes the most miraculous medicines: his Word and Sacraments, to heal your soul.

Well, how does this sound for a health plan:

Pre-existing conditions? Covered!

Premium? Already paid!

Co-pay or co-insurance? None!

Life-time limit? No!

Physician included?  The greatest Physician of all!

Prescription benefits?  Miracle medicines dispensed freely!

That is “God’s Heavenly Health Plan”—for you!  “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Amen.

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