What’s the Message?

When I pick up my phone in the morning, the first thing I check is if there are any messages. Sadly about 90% of what comes in is spam. Those not only get deleted, but I also block that person from sending any more. Those messages are “spam” because of one major detail: I have no relationship to that person. Wherever, our calling is, whether at church, at the prison or at nursing home, it is important to remember that our most important message is not delivered by the words we say (or sing). What matters to the people we are called to serve is the relationship that we have built with them. How much of ourselves have we personally invested in the individuals in the places where we go? This was made crystal clear to me when I was able to return to nursing home ministry after three weeks recovering from Covid. When I stepped into the room at memory care yesterday morning, the most precious thing was to see the faces of my friends again. Of course, I sang their favorite songs and shared a few short encouraging words, but what mattered most was that we were together again singing for Jesus. We were connected, not only to Him but to each other. When Jesus was getting ready to finish His earthly ministry, His disciples were understandably confused, sad and curious all at the same time. They wanted to know where He was going, what He expected them to do and where they should go next. Jesus answered with a deceivingly simple sentence –

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6 NKJV

His entire message about God’s kingdom, eternal life, forgiveness of sins and the love of God was summed up in the relationship He had built with His disciples. That is why at the table He had given them the cup saying, “This is the New Covenant in my blood.” A new covenant is a new relationship. At the time the disciples had been so busy arguing about which of them was the most important, that they missed the message. Jesus was about to give His life for them, and He called them friends. Our Christianity, our calling and God’s expectations for us are all focused on one thing and one thing only: our relationship to Jesus Christ. Wherever God calls us, the people we serve receive the most important message from us when we call them friends, because of Jesus. He is what connects us to each other and the only way we can ever be truly connected to God. That is why, saying or singing everything perfectly isn’t what matters most. What counts is if we are doing it for friends. Where are we called to serve? Why are we there? If the first reason that we give is our friendship with Jesus, then building a genuine loving friendship with those we serve will be the most natural thing on earth.

There's not a friend like the lowly Jesus
No not one
No not one
None else could heal all our soul's diseases
No not one - No not one!

The Value of a Song

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.

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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!

 

Serving Communion at Nursing Home

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?

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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.

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“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.

Relaunch of New Beginnings

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!