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Easter’s message at a nursing home

Updated: May 21, 2014 6:34AM

They sing. This collection of humanity: The sick. The halt. The withered.

A preacher and his wife, plainly dressed, wearing no vestments, neither bathed in pomp and circumstance, administer the Lord’s Supper. They lift the bread and cup to the mouths of some of those gathered here for a morning service.

Tears. Whispered prayers. More tears — of sadness and also joy. The preacher’s wife gently dabs eyes, mouths and noses with tissue.

“Always remember, there is power in the name of Jesus,” she intones to the group of mostly elderly, some in wheelchairs, some unable to speak.

Those who can speak lift their voices, filling the basement of this nursing home — that has become their sanctuary — with spiritual song.

“Jesus, Jesus, Jeeee-sus,” they sing a cappella. “There’s something about that name . . .”

A sweet, sweet spirit fills this place where the scent of sickness overpowers the arresting smell of antiseptics.

There is also here a palpable thirst — for hope, for comfort. The need for human touch, for love. Room for “the church.”

One by one, they ask for prayer. The preacher’s wife lays her left hand on the head of a man attached to oxygen and lying in a reclined chair. She places her right hand on his belly. She prays.

Sitting in the back of the room, I take it all in: The love of this praying couple that visits this nursing home faithfully, moved by their conviction to “be” the church; the absence of “the institutional church” in places where it is most needed: on the fringes and in society’s shadowy corners, where the poor and the forgotten dwell.

I think of how this assemblage of humanity inside this nursing home must have been how the biblical Pool of Bethesda looked: the aging and the ailing, languishing beyond the temple, looking to God rather than to man, awaiting the angelic seasonal troubling of the waters.

I thought about how we — the church — have become more fully engaged in ritual and religion. Less connected to the real work of redemption and restoration, reflective of the love of a God who gave His only begotten Son.

I thought about Easter Sunday. How there undoubtedly will be much fanfare and myriad celebrations, Easter plays and re-enactments of The Passion, but on that day few collective acts of compassion for the poor and forgotten.

And I wondered: Should, for the believer, the celebration of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ occur only once a year?

Isn’t, for us, every day Easter?

This much I have reconciled: That Easter baskets, bunnies and bonnets, Easter egg hunts and supper, and even Easter services vastly pale in comparison to Easter serving. That servanthood is a daily affair — not an hors d’oeuvre, but the main course.

That a church that fails to carry out the Christ-ordained mission to seek to restore and redeem mankind beyond the church’s walls does not embody the life and heart of Christ.

That today’s church is in need of a resurrection of love, of a heart transplant — of one more filled with compassion and caring — and desperately in need of a transfusion of fervor and fearlessness for the protection and care of even the least of these.

That couldn’t have been any clearer at that service inside a nursing home one Saturday, many weeks before Easter, where by two humble servants I witnessed the hands and heart of Christ.


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