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Country Pastor: Take the risk, take the responsibility, follow Jesus

The kind and well-meaning nurse sighed and folded his arms. He looked my mother in the eye and said, "You know it's probably a good idea not to look on the internet."

Recently my stepfather Tom fainted and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. It was the third time in a month that it had happened and my mother, understandably, was worried. Of course my sister and I sprang into action. My sister drove to the hospital to be with my mom and stepfather, while I, living out of state, searched for information online. There was certainly a lot to research, but we are curious people in my family and we all wanted to know as much as possible. So my mother would call me with a question and I would quickly Google and read the various published papers and give her what I had. My sister and mother were then armed with questions for the hospital staff. These questions were, how shall we put this? Not welcome.

As the granddaughter of two doctors and schooled by friends who are doctors and scientists, I think I understand the point of view of the medical community. Patients researching their own conditions signal that they don't trust the staff. Patients and their families, googling online, seeking to diagnose their own condition can muck everything up. They can harm themselves. The professionals are the ones in the know. According to their lights, they and only they are qualified, and thus the nurse whom we admired and liked so much delivered his rebuke to my mother. But the real reason for his remark goes much deeper.

Before the Bible was translated into various languages and as those translations began to appear and be distributed, the priests grew increasingly alarmed and then began to actively inveigh against the people reading the Bible on their own. It would, according to the Church, cause too much confusion, cause the people to distrust the religious authorities and even harm themselves. Sound familiar? And of course the priests were, in their way, quite correct.

Think of the destruction that has come from the heresies that have sprung up over the years! And yet we know now that not only was it necessary, it is necessary for people to read the Bible on their own, to be a check on the professionals, the people in the pews ever vigilant, weighing and criticizing the view from the pulpit.

As the prophet Jeremiah tells us, it is no longer the time for an authority figure to explain the Bible, the time of the new covenant is the time when the empowered people explain to one another (Jeremiah 31:34). I stand in the pulpit and preach each Sunday but as my teachers in seminary taught me, it's my goal to work myself out of a job; to empower the people themselves to be the preachers. This is not only the goal in our various congregations, this is our goal in a democracy, and yes, this should our goal as patients too, but the remark of Tom's nurse shows us the obvious: we have lost sight of this goal, lost the vision. We are content to let others do the hard work for us. Content to "leave it to the professionals." But this is not the way, instead God teaches us not to be afraid, to risk confusion and disaster and to be the adults that through the Lord Jesus He is giving us to be.