I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. Isaiah 46:4 NLT
As we were singing “How great Thou art!” at the nursing home last week; it occurred to me that some of my friends could no longer remember where they were or how they had come to live there. A few had forgotten their children’s names and one or two, even their own. But as we sang that familiar chorus; most had no trouble at all remembering the words as we lifted up our voices in praise.
As the last notes faded away I remembered that what really mattered was not how smart we were, how much money we had in the bank or where we lived; but in how much we mattered to God. He has given us His promise to carry us not only during our years of beauty and youth but on through white hair and failing memory. His love is an eternal and unchanging commitment. Even when everyone else forgets, Jesus will still take care of us. He has promised to carry us for a lifetime: and no matter where we live we can still sing to Him today!
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:26 NIV
Welcome to New Beginnings in 2020. This year we will begin by revisiting the subject of serving communion at long term care facilities. Parts of today’s post were published last year but I wanted to begin again on that subject for those who are just now starting to get involved in nursing home outreach. Most of us on the outside have the choice of receiving communion whenever we want. But for a nursing home resident the opportunity is limited to someone being willing to bring it in. So why is it any less vital to serve communion at a nursing home than it is at church?
My personal acquaintance with nursing home ministry goes back thirty years and spans five different facilities where I have served. My first attempt at bringing in the communion ended in near disaster when the cork from the bottle of naturally carbonated grape juice popped off and whizzed across the room! Back then I had a team member from our church who helped me pass out the elements to the 6 or 8 people gathered in our small meeting. But over the years our attendance grew but my fellow volunteer had scheduling issues that left me to serve alone. At first I begged an occasional helper from church to come help; but sadly for a long time I simply gave up on the practice.
“I just wish I had someone to help me pass out communion.” I complained one day to Erin the activities director at Allied Services. “Why can’t we help you pass out the cups and the bread, Pastor Pete?” Erin asked with surprise.
“Oh no it’s okay. I’ll find somebody.” I said. But what I really wanted was for people from my own church to serve communion. A couple of months passed after Erin’s first offer till I went back to her office. “Would your people really be willing to help me pass out the communion today?” I asked humbly.
“No problem Pastor Pete!” she said smiling. Why was it such a big issue for me to ask for such a small favor? Maybe it was just a matter of pride, or just a general lack of awareness of the needs of our group. By that time the meeting had grown to over twenty people. What a blessing it was to have workers who knew them by name and could know if they had physical issues which could prevent them from safely receiving the bread or the cup. From then, on at least once a month, any resident who wished to receive communion was given the opportunity.
So if you are involved in nursing home ministry and would like to begin bringing in the Lord’s Supper next week we’ll look at a few practical steps that can help you get started.
The original purpose of initiating New Beginnings was to offer a place for those interested in or touched by Long Term care. I hit the pause button for a while due to the lack of response however in light of new interest some people have shown I will be relaunching in 2020. Our overall purpose is to support, encourage and provide resources for those who are interested in nursing home ministry or whose life has been touched by long term care. I pray this short vireo will give you some encouragement and I wish you each a Merry Christmas as we pause to remember our Savior’s birth who came to be the Shepherd and chief Care Giver for us all!
So if God is calling us to care ministry then we need to ask how Jesus demonstrated it while He was here on earth. When Jesus went around from village to village there were no nursing homes for Him to visit but in His day, the pool of Bethesda was similar to a long term care facility in some ways. Let’s just peek in to a scene from His visit there.
One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” John 5:5-6
As Jesus entered Jerusalem to attend one of the religious holidays, he chose to pay a visit to someone in need. You might compare this to making a detour on the way to a Thanksgiving dinner to see someone in the nursing home. You see that day almost everyone was headed out to sit down to a special dinner with friends or family, everyone that is except for the crowd at the Bethesda pool. There people waited in hope of a miracle.
Nursing homes are filled with people just like those folks. The man that Jesus came to see had been waiting and dreaming of a miracle for 38 years. In fact this man didn’t even know who Jesus was. Jesus didn’t show up to see a show, or to bring a reward for good behavior. Jesus came because He knew how long this man had waited. He came to show mercy. Nursing home ministry is about showing God’s mercy to people just like that man. When we show God’s mercy to people Jesus comes. Care ministry is simply taking the time to show someone that God still cares, The best question to ask is not if we show go but rather; where can I go to be a care minister today?