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My stewardship chairman is going to kill me when these coupons start showing up in the offering plate!

Once again, fake coupons for Costco are being shared around the internet. It’s not a new scam. People were printing and clipping them last year, too. And you can be certain someone will be sharing them again next year.

So here is my question: why does anyone even give these things the time of day? Why would anyone think this was legit? I feel badly for all those who believe and propagate these fake coupons, which as you can plainly see, are pretty easy to generate.

How many of those who recirculate fake coupons will openly question the truths of the gospel, will challenge what Jesus said, and even doubt his existence? Way too many.

One last visit

Sunset_2007-1Today would probably be my last visit. The last time I saw J. he didn’t look too bad. He had lost some weight, had lost some strength and had to use a walker. The cancer was there, but he didn’t purse treatment. He’d had ninety-one good years, fifty-five of them with an amazing wife. A life well-lived.

Today when I went to visit, I didn’t know what to expect. When I got to the door, his wife said, “He won’t know you’re here.” But when I got to his bed, he looked at me and whispered, “Hello, pastor.” A couple of weeks into hospice care, he had stopped eating and drinking, and slept most of the time. Death crept closer with each moment. But he was home, in his own bed, without pain and with his wife, continuing to live a good life.

Our conversation was brief as I prepared the sacrament, a foretaste of the feast to come. A little bread dipped in wine would be his portion. His wife would receive the rest as she sat on the other side of the bed. I silently thanked God for this moment, probably the last, to give him communion. To give them communion together. I’m no expert, but I knew he didn’t have many more conversations left in him. I knew this would be his last meal on this side of the heavenly banquet.

This family is one of the few who have been at our church longer than me. They joined about a year before I arrived, so I have known them for a long time. I thanked him for his faithfulness, and reminded him, as I had for the last twenty-one years, of God’s faithfulness. I reminded him of Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s forgiveness, and that place prepared for him by his Savior. After a prayer and the Lord’s prayer, I made the sign of the cross on his head as I spoke the benediction. A reminder of the sign of the cross made on his head and heart at his baptism ninety-one years before, in anticipation of this very moment.

I don’t quickly forget these moments. As a pastor, I get to be a part of many families’ final moments with loved ones. I get to be there in those moments when the temporal and the eternal touch, when heaven meets earth, and when loved ones leave this life for the next. I could tell that God had blessed this family with love, acceptance, hope, and strength. Rather than falling apart as death drew near, they fell into the arms of their Savior a familiar place they had been many times before,

Before I left, I saw and talked with D., his wife. I made sure she was getting the help she needed, got her to promise she would call when anything happened, and talked about J.’s memorial service. For someone as frail as she was, she had strength and composure that I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit. I guess that’s why He’s known as the Comforter and the Helper!

 

 

 

 

 

 

You need to hear it again.

silvestri-matteo-176500The call came pretty late last night, about 10:45. I was driving, and felt my phone buzz in my pocked, but didn’t listen to the message until after I got home. “She said she thinks he’s dying.” I only live about a mile away and I didn’t want them to be alone, so I headed over to the apartment.

When I arrived, it was and it wasn’t what I expected. I’ve been with many people in hospice care for the last days and hours of their lives. I’m familiar with the shallow, irregular, rattling breathing. I just didn’t think it would happen this soon. Just hours earlier, he had been awake, conversant, signing his own documents and deciding to come home from the hospital. Hospice hadn’t even been to the house yet, and it looked like he’d be gone before they even arrived. He wasn’t conscious, but he also didn’t seem uncomfortable, which was a blessing.

A few more people arrived. All we could do was wait. Wait for a call back from hospice. Wait and wonder whether it was a wise choice to come home. Wait and pray, commending him to the Lord’s care.

With her encouragement, we left about 12:30 pm. She knew who to call if anything got out of hand. When I called back this morning, I learned he had died about an hour after we all left. Her words to me on the phone were, “I know he’s with the Lord. I just hope God accepts him.”

Without hesitation, I replied, “I have no doubt! He had faith in Christ. We just talked about that the other day when I brought him communion, He was forgiven. You don’t have to worry about that at all.”

“Thank you so much. That’s just what I needed to hear.”

If you know me at all, you know I talk about that all the time. Maybe when you’re sitting there on a Sunday and life is pretty good and you don’t have too many worries, it doesn’t register. But when the breathing stops, you feel all alone, and reality kicks in, it suddenly becomes an issue. So, you need to hear it again. If I can, I’ll be there to make sure you do.

Lately it seems like I’ve been spending a lot of time with people who get hit with stuff over and over again. What do you do for someone when the cancer keeps coming back? Or the headaches? Or the strokes? Or the flooding? I’m humbled knowing I don’t have a whole lot of answers. But I get to bring Christ, and he gives more than we ask or imagine.

Back to class

This morning I was reading John 16, and towards the end of the chapter, Jesus’ disciples basically say to him, “Now we understand what you’re talking about. We believe. We trust you.” Jesus replies (my paraphrase), “Oh yeah? We haven’t even gotten to the hard part yet, when you all run away and leave me alone.” In other words, we haven’t even gotten to the main event, the cross and all that would mean. Jesus was teaching them about His departure and the arrival of the Spirit because they would need it later. “In this world, you will have tribulation,” Jesus said, “But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

What I’ve noticed is just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, just when you think you might be able to do this, to be faithful, to follow Christ, something happens and you need to learn to trust him all over again. Illness happens, financial uncertainty happens, conflict happens, disaster happens, and just about anything you can think of. What we learn is good for about a day. Tomorrow there will be another lesson. I once heard someone say that life is like algebra class: there’s always another problem.