Over here, at Covenant Living, we think a lot about dying. The news, announced in chapel, is often about who is in hospital, or hospice, or who has died.
But part of the real news about death coming, is the heroics of living, which we see all around us. The aging couples who are helping each other live. The witness of the husbands or wives who are left behind. The amazing good cheer with which they carry on, and bear their grief. Or the courage of men who are alone, although their wives have not died. Their wives have gone “across the street” to live in the “memory care” unit because of the encroaching dementia or Alzheimer’s. The life they have lived together has now become more than the husbands could cope with. How bravely, and usually how faithfully those men manage to live, “crossing the street” to be there at visiting hours but not sure that their wives will even recognize them.
These brothers send me to my knees, to hold them up in prayer, and to ask God to help me be “strong and of a good courage” for whatever will come my way.
And here, I must say, is where the church seems most heroic itself, as over the years, time and again, I have watched the people who are the church, who are the body of Christ, come rallying around, first in a hundred unseen ways, of going off to hospitals to hold the hands of the sick and dying, to sing to them, to pray for them.
These friends in Christ, trained in the seminary, operate out of loving instinct, and into hospital rooms without fear, and bring the love of Jesus. And if death comes they know what to do. They stand by the family. They deal with undertakers. They are there at the funeral. They pray with the gathered family, and lead them to reserved seats in church. They help the pallbearers to line up to carry the casket.
But, the church’s ministers have also gone to the hospital, prayed at the bedside, met with the family, praying with them, and then prepared profound messages to bring healing and comfort.
When the friend comes as minister – though now in his Senior Minister role, has been on the church’s staff now 38 years. He is an instinctive and consummate pastor. You know that as soon as the service begins. His call to worship is a welcome in the faith, here, in the company of Jesus. He helps the people know what they can do, and their importance to the family. And when he preaches, and prays, you know that he knows the man who has died. He’s been to hospital. He’s talked and prayed out the one who has now crossed over into death. He is speaking of a friend.
It is all deeply personal. It is no reading of a formal rite. It is the word of the beloved pastor about his friend in faith, and to the family he has come to know, and care for.
This man of God knows and loves the brother or sister he is sending across to heaven’s side. This pastor has listened with his whole heart. And watched. And in confidence and joyful faith, has the words of hope these families need to hear.
In the life and death times he brings THE WORD OF GOD. He brings Jesus into the center of the whole drama of this deepest service in the church’s life. It is dignified. It is loving. It is redemptive.
It becomes a time when the church shines, and the light of God is everywhere. It is what the church is called to do, and be. It is the touch of love that sick and dying people need. And what the sorrowing families need. It is what the whole community needs. Here, if anywhere, the church of Jesus is profoundly and beautifully alive.
Do we not want it so?
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
|Arthur Rouner Ministries||
ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES
All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. . ."