Recently one of our church members was moved from the second floor of Northside Hospital to the fourth floor. I wish they’d consulted me before the move. Because I have a policy of avoiding hospital elevators in favor of using the stairs. It dates back to my seminary days when my chaplaincy supervisor required us to use the stairs. “In your profession, many weeks this will be the only exercise you get. So take advantage of the opportunity and develop the habit.”
If you’re a patient in a room on the seventh floor of any hospital and notice that I’m rather quiet when I visit you there, now you know. My quiet demeanor has nothing to do with my listening skills or my serenity in the midst of crisis. I’m desperately gasping for air.
Beginning with the third floor, each landing in the Northside Hospital stairwell has a small sign: “Caution. Please use handrail. Do not run.” Do not run? By the third floor, I can barely crawl! It’s nice to find a rule I can easily comply with.
So, so many rules. And many of them unnecessary. “Love God and sin boldly,” said Martin Luther. That’s a bit of an urban legend. Luther actually wrote, “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger…” But quoting people with exact accuracy may be an unnecessary rule.
Years ago I offered an impromptu benediction at the close of a worship service and was amazed at how many people asked for a copy. I used it again last Sunday:
“The time has come to go into the world. Go out there…and lose your religion. Lose the religion that is imposed upon you by others: the excessive demands, the impossible obligations, the lofty expectations. Lose your religion; and live with God. Show that love and God are not strangers; that truth and God are not enemies; that life and God are one. Go and live in the presence of Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”*
And when you’re climbing more than three flights of stairs, run if you want to!
*I don’t remember now if that’s original or a paraphrase of something I read. If it’s stolen, I hope the author applies the principle of the benediction to plagiarism.