Life and Death Stuff 3/7
Pastor Jonathan Arnpriester, Chandler United Methodist Church
October 1st, 2017
We have known our dentist for about ten years. We met her late in the evening in the fall of 2008. Two of our kids had gone in the backyard to play catch with a baseball and one of them tried to use their mouth to catch the ball and broke a tooth. We looked in our line for emergency dental care in Chandler and this dentist came up. By the time we got there it was about 10:30 at night. She had come back into her office, opened up, did what was necessary and she has been our dentist ever since. She is phenomenal. That is the kind of dentist I want; somebody who is that good and goes that far above to handle your pain because pain in your mouth is debilitating at low levels.
We been going to see her and for a while… The family is really good; they go every year like they should. I put it off and then I have to reschedule and then I forget to reschedule. I love going to her office because I’m pretty sure I’m going to see someone there from another part of the world or maybe two or three people there from different parts of the world and I enjoy by their dress, guessing where folks are from. Sometimes I’ll be able to strike up a conversation and I’ll hear a story about where they’re from; or how their life is; or what’s happening for them; or whatever the conversation leads to. I like that, it makes me smile. I also have a hang up; I will tell you what it is. I hate being late. I’m going to confess my parent’s sin. It’s always better to confess other people sins, not your own. When I was growing up we were late getting everywhere we went. So when I became what I am as an adult; if you call me an adult; post-pubescent we will just go with that. When I became something of an adult, I said I don’t want to be late anywhere that’s my hang up. So I try to be at least a few minutes early and maybe even a lot early just in case something’s going to happen.
So I like to arrive early and I’ll wait in our dentist’s waiting room and another thing that has made me smile and it’s been a very pleasant surprise; several times I’ve been in the waiting room and I have heard — a patient has come out and is standing and tries to: can I make a little bit of the payment now? Can I pay a little bit later? Can we work out some kind of arrangement? And our dentist is such that she will say, and I’ve heard her say this a couple times in a couple of different ways. We all have rough patches and you don’t always have to pay to get what you need. In other words, don’t worry about the bill; this one’s on me. Then she’ll say: you’ll get through this rough patch and you’ll be able to pay and it will be fine later. And the person will say: no, I’ll pay you for this when I can. Don’t worry about it. That’s the kind of dentist we have. It makes me smile.
Well I got a little bit behind in my dental care and I got to go to the dentist. It had been three years, three years, and so of course you have to have the deep cleaning. It is a form of punishment for waiting that long; that is how they design it. That means they’re going to go in there with electric tools and they are going to get you. We discovered I had a cracked molar, probably from chewing ice. Let that be a lesson to you. It’s hard not to chew ice. I do not chew ice anymore. Please don’t ever come up to me and be sympathetic for this. It is my own fault and I don’t want your sympathy. That’s not where this story is going. I found out that they didn’t need to pull the tooth just grind it down and put a crown on it. So that’s what they did. If you’ve ever been through the grinding down of the tooth; we also discovered Novocain doesn’t work on me. So they have to get out the big guns, she does it and my whole face goes wa-wu-wa. I can’t swallow very well; it is not a great sight. If you have ever been thru the crown process you know there is grinding and then they put a temporary crown on and then you come back a couple weeks later and they put the crown on. So I had done that and I thought everything was good to go.
Have you met anybody that you kind of see Jesus in them? It is sort of cool sometimes but you are kind of afraid to be around them because you see Jesus in them because Jesus is not always kind. The word of the word of the Lord does not always come to you in ways that you want. Sometimes the word of the Lord comes to you and insights you to stand up when you’d prefer to be seated. Or to sit down when everybody else is standing?
Neil Leftwich is one of those people for me. Neil Leftwich is a colleague of mine; we’ve known each other for a long time. Neil Leftwich is now the West District Superintendent. I don’t see him very often, which is okay because I see Jesus in Neal. Yesterday we had a memorial service for our longtime friend and my colleague, Jackie Somerville. Red is the liturgical color for the burial of an ordained person; it exemplifies movement of the spirit. Neal was here yesterday and we had the service and afterwards we were talking and I see Jesus in Neil. Neil said to me, did you see that article in the paper this morning about the thousands of children in Arizona who are going to lose all of their healthcare coverage? I said I haven’t seen that yet; I’ve been a little busy. He said: can you even imagine what it’s like to be a parent who has a child and you lose healthcare coverage? How do you parent in that moment? Do you just wrap your kid in bubble wrap and put them in the closet and say: be still? Neil said that. What would that be like? Because Neil and I are both United Methodist Clergy and one of the perks that come with the job is full medical coverage.
So yesterday after the memorial was over… This has been hurting, WoW, there seems to be a lump; what is going on? So I peeled back my cheek and there’s this protrusion, this yellow thing sticking out of my gum. I went: oh dear Lord, I know where I have to go. So I called and they said yes that is noteworthy. You should probably come in and so I drove to my dentist’s office and they fit me in and had emergency visit and yes it was true. There was infection and so there was draining and there was cleaning and there was removal of the crown and there was more grinding and there was a root canal start and there were sutures and now there are antibiotics and pain medication. Whoooo! I was getting up out of the chair and my dentist began to speak apologetically and say: I think I’m going to have to charge for at least part of the root canal. And I turned to her as I got out of the chair and I said: Doctor I expect you to charge me full price for everything that you’ve done here. She said no I can’t do that. I said: I expect you to. I expect to pay my co-pay. Sometimes she doesn’t charge the co-pay. She’s looking at me and I said: I know what you do for other people. I know how you let other people not pay the bill sometimes. My task here, I’m the rich guy; I have the resources and the insurance. I need to pay full price so that you can continue to do what you do for the people of our community.
She said: you are sweet and I said: no I’m not. All I want to be is decent; let me be decent. I want to be really clear here. I do not tell stories where I am the hero of the story and I am not the hero of this story. I’m just a decent person, maybe, who tried to do what I could to help the hero get the job done. We will come back and talk about the Scriptures another day. I tell you this today on World Communion Sunday because there are a lot of forces in our community and our world who want to divide us up and split us up and make us self-focused, so that our first response to any demand from someone not like us is: get away from me. I want to challenge you to continue to be decent, decent. Go out of your way. Find ways to do a little extra. Find ways to pay full price for somebody else doesn’t have to. Find a way to extend yourself and change this world and maybe, maybe, someone will look at you and say I see Jesus.