This past weekend, Julie Wietzke, Managing Editor for Forward in Christ, sent me an email that touched my heart. Why? An individual had requested an article that I wrote for Forward in Christ, way back in 2017. She wanted it because the article “kept my Dad’s spirits up as COVID hit and both my parents were then shut in at their nursing home residence. Going out to church was no longer an option because of lock-ins and the magazine and virtual YouTube church services kept my Dad’s spirits up especially after my Mom’s passing. So, witnessing the sharing of communion when visitors were allowed in was a true blessing”
If that FIC article could bring so much encouragement to an elderly couple—and their entire family—perhaps that same article can bring a ray or two of hope into your life on this Wednesday as well. The article follows.
Be Joyful In Hope.
The door is partially open, so I step into the room at the Omega House. There sits one of our shut-ins, picking with a fork at some late breakfast. I pause and call out, “Diane, it’s Pastor!” It takes a second or two for her to register who I am, but then her eyes sparkle, and a warm smile covers her face.
“May I visit with you and share the Lord’s Supper with you?”
“Of course!” she responds.
“Diane,” I continue, “my heart breaks over what you and your family have gone through in the past few weeks. First your husband dies. And then less than a week after his funeral, your house burns down! Now here you are in extended care at the Omega House. How are you holding up?”
Still smiling she responds, “Jesus has always taken care of me. Every day, no matter what. I know he will take care of me now, too.”
I struggle to hold back a tear at such simple, childlike trust. After a moment, I respond, “I want to reassure you that Jesus has made a promise to you, guaranteed in blood. He will be with you always.”
“Oh, I know he is! He talks to me through His Word, and I talk to him—all the time. Every day!”
Another tear fights at the corner of my eye. Then I open my communion kit and prepare the Lord’s Supper. We celebrate the Supper using the words Diane has heard countless times before. However, age strips away the inhibitions of her youth, so Diane adds commentary along the way. But I don’t mind. How could I?
“Take eat, this is my body.” “I know it is! I know he loves me.”
“Take drink, this is my blood.” “Oh, he died on the cross for me!”
“For the forgiveness of all your sins.” “I know he paid for my sins. He loves me! He has always been with me. He always will.”
After the supper is finished, we visit a bit more. Then I pack up my communion kit and leave Diane. I leave a richer man, for I have been with a child of God who is living what the Apostle Paul encouraged. “Be joyful in hope.”
Endure Trials Patiently.
It’s Sunday evening, and I’ve been puttering in the shop. I glance at the clock and notice it’s almost 7 PM. It’s time to make a communion call. As I pass through my home office, I grab my communion kit, agenda, and Bible. I head upstairs to clean up and change clothes. But I don’t go out to the garage and jump into the car. Instead, I walk to the living room and sit down in one of the recliners. The communicant, my wife Teresa, is already seated in the other recliner. She’s been patiently waiting for me.
We begin with the “short sermon” I promise all the sick and shut-ins I visit. It’s far less structured than the message I shared that same morning in church. With my wife, it’s even more so. Our devotion is more like a dialogue based on Scripture, as we discuss God’s plan for our lives and the reason he allows affliction to come into our lives.
As our devotion continues, it’s nigh onto impossible for me to rigidly control my emotions. Tears start to trickle down my cheeks, while tears stream down my wife’s. But Jesus’ words help dry those tears. “In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that you may also be where I am. You know where I am going, and you know the way.” (John 14:2-4) We know heaven waits. Our mansions have already been bought and paid for in full.
But what about the road ahead on this side of the grave? How much longer will we be pressed down by the pain? How can we hope to get through it? Again, our Savior’s gentle whispers help dry the tears.
“And surely I am with you always until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
“No testing has overtaken you except ordinary testing. But God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tested beyond your ability, but when he tests you, he will also bring about the outcome that you are able to bear it.” (1Corinthians 10:13)
Then I add, “Jesus knows all about what’s going on in our lives. The cancer, the treatments, the pain, the setbacks. And he knows all about our weaknesses, our fears, and our worries. All our sins. That’s why he came, lived, and died. And that’s why he has made us another promise, guaranteed in his blood. “If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14)
“I know,” my wife responds. “I am praying all the time. Every day.”
Then it’s time for the Supper, a final prayer, and the Benediction. I get up from my chair a humbler man, because I’ve been with a child of God who is living what the Apostle Paul encouraged. “Endure trials patiently.”
Persist In Prayer.
“I talk to him—all the time. Every day!” “I am praying all the time. Every day.”
It strikes me that both my shut-in and my wife have taken Paul’s admonition to heart: “Persist in prayer.” Or as Paul put it in another of his epistles, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Not that this means we spend the entire day with hands folded, head bowed, and eyes closed. Although sometimes--first thing in the morning or late at night--our prayers may stretch to an hour or more, as we petition our Father on behalf of friends, neighbors, family, co-workers and classmates. Sometimes our prayers last longer because we’re wrestling with our Father during a personal crisis-- whether it be work, health, family or faith. At other times our prayers are little more than a sentence or two. And at other times, our prayers may be nothing but a sigh or a groan. (Romans 8:26)
Concerning our prayer life, Dr. Martin Luther once wrote, “A Christian is always praying, whether he is sleeping or waking; for his heart is always praying, and even a little sigh is a great and mighty prayer. For so God says: “For the sighing of the needy now will I arise, saith the Lord.” (Ps. 12:5). (Luther, Martin, and Ewald Martin Plass. What Luther says: an anthology. Vol. II. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, page 1087)
We keep on praying to our “Abba, Father,” trusting that he answers every prayer in just the right way and at just the right time. We keep on praying because we know prayer is a healthy exercise for our Christian faith.
And a healthy, active faith? That will be salt for those around us, just like my shut-in’s and my wife’s faith have been for me.
Privileged to serve,
Rev. Glenn Schwanke