Posted in 2022 Lent Devotions

For you

“Mirror of the Passion” for March 7, 2022. Photo by Kostiantyn Li on Unsplash

“[Jesus] took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:19-20)

Someone returns from shopping, hands you a bag and says, “I got something for you.” Or they look at the name on the gift under the Christmas tree and say, “This one’s for you.” After paying for a meal, you hand a little extra cash to the server and say, “This is for you.”

There is something about the words “for you” that gets me every time. My heart skips a beat. I blush, just a little. “For me? What is it? Oh, wow, thank you. Hey, look what I got!” Other times I feel guilty. “You didn’t have to get me anything. I didn’t get anything for you.”

We look into this mirror a lot. We hear these words every time we kneel for holy communion.

This is for you – even if you’re a traitor, a coward, a thief, doubtful, or a deserter. (Like the disciples)

This is for you – when you worked hard, did a great job, and feel really good about yourself. (We all have good days.)

This is for you – even if you broke your promise, were caught red-handed, and then lied about it. Again. (We all have days like that, too.)

This is for you – even if you don’t know who you’ve disappointed, ignored, or hurt. (We can be oblivious.)

This is for you – even if you’re feeling disappointed, ignored, and hurt. (We know how it feels.)

This is for you – even though it didn’t make a bit of difference last time.

This is for you – even if it changed everything last time.

The words “for you” bring God’s amazing grace home to us. Grace means no conditions. No strings attached. Expecting nothing in return. Jesus’ body was broken for us. His blood was poured out for us. While we were sinners.

Listen for those words. Let the “for you” of the sacrament shock, surprise, and reassure you each and every time.

Lord, you shouldn’t have. But I am so glad you did it all for me. Amen.

Posted in aging, death, Ministry

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!