Yes, I do realize that the words “stem cells” set off a gut reaction in many of us. But please take a deep breath and bear with me. I have very little to say about the controversy and very MUCH to say about what they actually do, and how it applies to this church that we love.
I have a gut reaction to hearing “stem cells” like the rest of us, but when I heard an interview on an excellent radio program, “Speaking of Faith” (which has recently been renamed “On Being”), that first reaction gave way to a sense of wonder.
The scientist being interviewed, Doris Taylor, is a pioneer in the field of stem cells. She explained that stem cells that are being used and studied come from a donated fertilized egg, the product of in-vitro fertilization that will be thrown away if not used. A family makes this decision when they feel their family is complete but there are still fertilized eggs at the lab; rather than dispose of them, the family can choose to donate them to science. That’s the controversy part, and we’re all entitled to our own opinions about that. Here’s the wonder.
Our bodies have stem cells in them for our whole lives, not just at that fertilized egg phase. Dr. Taylor postulates that stem cells are what heal us, even when we fall down and get a cut. As we age, stem cells get fewer, but there are ways that we can actually create more stem cells for ourselves, at any age! You might already suspect what a few of these ways for our bodies to heal themselves might be, but stay tuned….this is cool.
To create more stem cells, the first thing that can create them…or that will not destroy them…is a healthy diet. No shock, right? Eating good, whole foods will preserve our stem cells and create more. The second thing, also no surprise, is exercise. What might be a surprise is that exercise creates more stem cells not just in the body but in the BRAIN. But here’s the third. A monk was studied both before and after he meditated, and blood was taken. After 15 minutes of meditation, Dr. Taylor said she had never before seen such a dramatic increase of stem cells! She specifically mentions prayer and faith healing as things that will increase stem cells, these little healers, within the body. It reminded me so much of the verse “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; behold, the old has gone, the new has come!”
And so it wasn’t a giant leap for me, a parish pastor, to apply these findings to our church. We are an aging church. These are scary times in many ways. But fear not….our stem cells remain, as well a blueprint for what we can do as a church to make more of these literally life-giving cells.
Diet…..we can be fed on the word, nourished at the table. We can dine on whole, good foods, not the junky ones that go down easy but disturb our stomachs later.
Exercise….we are a people saved by grace through faith for action in God’s world. Through our exercise of God’s justice and mercy in whatever ways our congregations are called to action, we’ll create more of those powerful cells of rebirth. And, as a runner, I’ll just parenthetically add that if I’m active physically, I’m MUCH more likely to have the energy to be active in the world through proclamation and service!
Finally, through prayer…..we are a church who I believe is being called to pray, and to pray unceasingly (Thessalonians) in these uncertain times. We pray and meditate on our call in the world, on Jesus’ love and forgiveness, on our neighbor’s plight, for justice in the world. We cover everything in prayer and we pray at all times, and how can our bodies, physical AND church, help but feel those healing benefits?
If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come! Let the church say Amen, and let us be reborn from the inside out!