And he 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.” Luke 22:19 ESV
Last time we talked about how much people need for us to serve communion at their nursing home. This week we are going to look a little deeper into what exactly God has in His heart for nursing home ministry as a whole. When Jesus first gave us the sacrament of communion He summed it up with the phrase; “Do this in remembrance of me.” The act of communion which is blessed and holy; is still only an avenue by which we are remembering our connection with Jesus. What really matters is not the ritual; but the relationship which the ritual is meant to remind us of.
In that same way; it is important to not only serve communion; but to remember that everything we do in ministry is to bring people into relationship with Jesus Christ. The bread and the wine are regular reminders the of the cross; our forgiveness and salvation in Christ. As one part of the body of Christ our job is to also act as reminders of God’s grace. We should use whatever means; opportunities and talents that we have; including bringing in the communion meal; to build relationships that help people connect to Jesus Christ.
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.
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 our voices lifted up in praise.
That experience made me remember that what matters most is not how smart we are, how much money we have in the bank or where we live; but in how much we trust in God. He has given a promise to carry us not only during the decades of our youth and strength but on through white hair and failing eyesight. His love for us is an eternal and unchanging commitment. Even if everyone else forgets, He will still take care of us. He has promised to carry us for a lifetime: and His promise is forever!
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:2-4 NKJV
As we face the prospect of entering a New Year filled with opportunities; challenges and unseen difficulties; I am tempted to sit down, draw up plans and set some personal goals. The weakness of plunging into this line of thinking is that it offers a temporary sense of peace while leaving the most important thing of all to side; which is prayer.
Prayer is like the patience and hope that the runner feels as he or she waits to hear the starting gun. In prayer we set our mind, not on the ticking of the clock but on the plans and purposes of our God, who has designed the course for us to run. He holds in His hands Heaven’ s stop-watch, which will mark off the seconds of our laps and record our finishing time at the finish line. He will be the judge of what matters because He is He is our Life! So let us commit to listen to His voice and wait eagerly for Him.
So what does that mean for us in Nursing Home Ministry? Why not begin by remembering that everything we do, say or give begins with Him? We are go to Nursing Home, not just to make us feel better about ourselves, but to carry the message of the Hope of Jesus Christ. He cares about the people who push their walkers or wheel through the halls and He is simply sending us to be their neighbors. We each have different abilities, personalities and weaknesses that God wants to use. He has better plans for how to reach people than we do. He has new and more creative ideas than we could ever come up with on our own. What we need to do is to wait for Him and listen for His starting gun. It is almost time for the race to begin. He promises is that we will run with out becoming weary if we wait for Him. He assures us that He will show us the path ahead if we will look up to see the heart of Jesus Christ.