But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ 1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV
For residents in a nursing home life can sometimes feel like a place of total defeat. You can see it in the stooped shoulders or hear it in the angry reactions to small annoyances. In our own home as we are passing through my wife’s battle with cancer I am finding myself facing the same struggles. I feel like a rowboat caught in the tidal wave of serious illness and family turmoil. That is exactly the situation which the disciples faced as the accompanied Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had asked them to pray with him for one hour; but the Bible tells us that
And when He rose from prayer He came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow. Luke 22:45
They were overcome by sorrow, but not their master. Jesus had prayed till His sweat fell like drops of blood. Jesus had continued interceding even when they felt defeated. In the same way He is interceding in heaven for you and I today. Neither our sorrow nor our despair will cause Him to abandon us. He will come and awaken us. He will carry our burdens. He chose in that dark garden to pay the full price for our sin to give us hope. It is that hope which lies behind the cry:
O Grave where is your victory? Death where is your sting? 1 Corinthians 15:55
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy Matthew 8:1-3
When our friend Ken was sick this year we went to visit him, to pray for him and yes, to put our arms around him. Jesus often is found touching others. When the disciples were ready to send the children away it says that”…He took them in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them.”
There is something about touch that transmits the love of God. In nursing home ministry we need to remember that people are often longing to feel the touch of another person besides their nurse, or their physical therapist. A while back I can remember bringing one of our grandchildren along for my weekly visit to the nursing home. At that time he was about six years old and feeling a little nervous about going with Poppy. When we came in, I began to introduce him. I thought that maybe if he could shake hands and say hello it would help him to feel at ease. No sooner did I start but one of the ladies in the circle put her arms out to him and when he came up for a hug she swept him off his feet and put him on her lap!
I worried at first, but after a few nervous seconds he settled down and sat with her for the first ten minutes of our meeting. He was finding out that our “ministry” had as much to do with snuggling on someone’s lap as it did with singing the hymns. While I was leading in prayer, he was giving a touch that said, “You are important. I trust you. I am happy to spend time right here with you.”
But you might say, “Oh Pastor Pete that’s okay for you because it’s your ministry.” But if you know one person among your neighbors who is a shut in, or in nursing care; if you have a family member of if you know someone from your church in long term care, it can be your ministry too! You do not need to go every week, or to join a group that sings in your local nursing home. Maybe you can just go to one person this week and give to them the gift of touch. God has called us to be the arms of Jesus touching someone and giving His blessing today!
“It Takes a Village to raise a child” African proverb
When I think of the many years that I struggled on my own trying to lovingly and effectively minister at the nursing home, I am amazed it didn’t come to me sooner. The work of the church is to share the good news about Jesus Christ. Though there are times when we stand alone to do this, the bigger picture has always been that we do this best together.
Nothing showed this more clearly than our Christmas program at Allied this year. From the littlest angel to the oldest wise man we worked together. From the staff who brought the many people to and from the event to the ladies who spent hours washing and putting together the crowns, halos, robes and shawls we all worked together. None of us could have presented the story of Christmas alone. During practices sometimes we were short on shepherds or wise men, but for the main event everyone showed up! We discovered that when God gets to work with the whole village He can do more than we could ever imagine!
1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one and hath many members and all of that one body being many are one body : so also is Christ
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If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. KJV