Matthew 25:40 And the King will answer them and say; “Truly I say to you, as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.”
One night recently one of the reporters on the news said we shouldn’t panic about the Corona virus in China because it seems to only kill the old and weak. I confess that I was only half listening and didn’t give it much thought at the time. But the next day as I was singing for people at the nursing home and watching the faces of my precious friends it hit me those old and weak folks that the reporter mentioned are our moms, dads, older brothers and friends.
Though we as believers shouldn’t be fearfully hiding at home we need to recall what Jesus had to say about people considered helpless and less valued in this world. Instead of running in fear we should first pray. Ask God for His grace to help and then ask what we can do to put our arms around all of His family all over the world!
So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me please.” And he said to them, “I am Joseph whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Genesis 45:4-5 ESV
Too often the unknown stories of residents in long term care are the wounds left behind by unresolved family differences. But the good news is that God isn’t finished with any of us yet. Remember that as a young boy, Joseph had a dream which got him into trouble with his brothers. Some of us probably think of Joseph’s life as a blueprint for success. We figure that if we can just stick it out like Joseph did, then one day we will get the great job, the big home or the perfect marriage that we always dreamed of. But the story behind Joseph’s problem was his father’s favoritism and because of it the hatred that his brothers had towards him. But then God intervened.
God’s dream for Joseph was not about his becoming rich powerful or successful. God’s intention was for Joseph and his family to discover that the greatest treasure of all was forgiveness and reconciliation. Though we can never undo our past, we can find a way forward by learning to forgive, accept and allow God to restore us. The separation of anger, distance or even death can be bridged because on the cross Jesus gave his life so that ours could be restored. This morning’s news is that no matter our memories of past hurts or sorrows; God can heal and through forgiveness discover His greatest purpose is love.
I coined the term care worker to indicate that long term care ministry encompasses as wide a field as being a care giver. Whether we are making a hospital visit, spending time with a shut-in or singing for a special needs child we all share something in common. We are providing a shepherd’s care.
Am I my brother’s keeper? Genesis 4:9
Cain’s 6,000 year old question reflects in a strange way his brother Abel’s vocation as a keeper of sheep. His bitter rejection of any responsibility as a care giver is still being asked in our society today. When does God expect us to provide shepherd’s care for someone else? The answer is “Any time we can”. God has given us opportunities in our community to serve as care workers. We do not need to wait till by necessity we are “care givers” for a friend or family member. Any day is a good day to be a shepherd. There is no experience required and free training is always available!
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?