“On Visiting the Sick,” is a sermon delivered by John Wesley over three centuries ago. The purpose of the following lines is to reflect on this sermon, he based on Matthew 25:36, and see how relevant his voice may be in our today’s society. Using the same message, how would Wesley share it with people in the twenty-first century and especially here in the United States?
Let us begin by summarizing the sermon before delving into what this could mean for you and I today. The main points Wesley addressed in his sermon, On Visiting the Sick, are as follows:
1. “What is implied in visiting the sick.” This phrase could be translated as what does, visiting the sick, mean and require?
2. “How is it to be performed.”
3. “By whom.” In other words, who should do this task?
Wesley, in his sermon, clarifies that the sick is not just the person with a physical illness. It is also someone who is in any state of affliction: mind or body. He goes on to say that doctors and nurses help only with the physical needs. As of the greater needs, which are of the soul and spirit, they cannot help.
A sick person is anyone who is in a state of affliction. Have you notice how many people are sick just a house away from where you live? Or mouse click (a phone call) away from you? Have you also realized that even the person you see on social media, on the street or in your neighborhood, showing a big smile may also be sick?
A general instruction Wesley gave out to those visiting the sick included:
- to instruct the people visited (if one needs it) – in our today’s society, this would be really taking people so far away out of their comfort zone, and eventually we would leave the job to the professionals: chaplain, pastor or someone with some seminary experience.
- to show the people being visited the dangerous state they are in – this would sound today as being judgmental.
- to point them to the “Lamb of God,” who takes away the sins of the world – one would ask: “how should I do this?”
How this is to be done should begin with an attitude Wesley would like those visiting to have. This is to be convinced that:
1. by means he or she is sufficient for the task,
2. he or she has neither sufficient grace, and
3. nor has he or she sufficient understanding.
This attitude is necessary because of two things, as Wesley points out in his sermon:
- the necessity “of applying to the Strong (God) for strength,”
- the necessity “of flying to the Father of light, and to the Giver of every good gift.”
I know one would say: “well, I have no experience… I have no skills…. this is the Pastor’s job.”
What Wesley presents here is that we do not have to rely on what we can do, but on God’s grace and gift of wisdom. He goes on to say that everyone is called to this task because God can give grace and wisdom to anyone, not just the Pastor or the professional servant. He argues that all that desire to “inherit the Kingdom of their Father, which was ‘prepared forth from the foundation of the world.'” What he is trying to say here is that everyone – “old, young, men or women” – is called to do these works that God has prepared for us to do.
So, how do we “visit the sick?”
Well, I do not think that we literally all have to leave our couches and visit someone. The reality of our time is that our society is characterized with easy mobility and virtual connections. Since we are all sufficient for the task and trust God to guide us, how about using our personal relationships and networking groups we all have? It may be one person we know, two, or a thousand.
Here below could be ways you and I could use for visiting the sick in today’s society:
- Pray asking God for wisdom and grace to be His instrument for the task of “visiting the sick.”Also, pray for the people you know and those you do not know. Someone said once: “how would you talk to people about God if you do not begin talking to God about these people?”
- Use your social media (Facebook, Twitter, Hangouts, etc.) to occasionally share a word of encouragement with at least a person a day or so.
- In case you are not on social media, how about the people in your phone book? There may be a sick person (someone in a state of affliction) just near you. Give somebody a call to pray and encourage him or her.
- Write a note with a scripture to a neighbor or a family member whenever you can to remind them of whose they are no matter what’s going on in their lives.
- How connected are you with your church members? Perhaps, once in a while you could take a fruit basket, a card or anything else to the elderly from your neighborhood or your community of faith.
Of course, we do not need to use Wesley’s general instruction to instruct or convince of sin. What we need is scripture ( a verse or two) to inspire someone. This is God’s Word and the only thing that can heal our spiritual and emotional states.
Can you imagine what it would be like when everyone in the church and in the community would be daily visiting the sick or someone else in need? What would the church look like? And that is exactly what Wesley would love to see happen in the twenty-first century church!
So, let us visit the sick as often as we can!