Originally posted Jan. 6, 2011, at ELCA Southeastern Synod Blog. Republished with permission of the author.
I have a gut reaction to hearing the term “stem cells,” 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.
In this post I have very little to say about the controversy and very much to say about what stem cells actually do, and how that applies to this church that we love.
The scientist being interviewed, Doris Taylor, is a pioneer in the field of stem cells.
She explained that the stem cells being used and studied come from donated fertilized eggs, the products 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 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.
Doris postulated 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 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. Doris said she had never seen such a dramatic increase of stem cells as was seen in the blood taken after 15 minutes of meditation.
She specifically mentioned 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, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
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 as a blueprint for what we can do as a church to make more of these literally life-giving cells.
First thing — 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 easily but disturb our stomachs later.
Second thing — 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, the third thing — prayer. We are a church that 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. How can our bodies, both the physical and the churchly, 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!
Find a link to Beth Birkholz’s entry on ELCA Southeastern Synod Blog at Lutheran Blogs.