I recently received a phone call that I had been expecting for well over a year. Though the message was long expected, the sorrow was not diminished in the slightest. One of my dearest friends from the only Lutheran parish I had ever called my home parish—besides the wonderful congregation that I presently serve as pastor—had been placed on hospice.
This dearly beloved saint of God had been instrumental in shaping and forming me into the cruciform image of Christ. The Holy Spirit delighted to work through Glenn in various capacities; many of which I will never know. But for me, he taught me much about how it is with the heart of God, the love that He has for His people. Glenn’s life of love to his neighbors—myself included—has been a constant model of having a faith which is busy and active. His confident faith in Jesus and his joy of living a life of receiving the gifts of Christ were means by which the Lord strengthened my faith. God be praised for such marvelous saints!
After I received the phone call about Glenn being placed in hospice care, I jumped in my car and began the drive back to my hometown, thinking at first that I was going because of my duties as a pastor. However, as I drove, it struck me that such thinking was not the case. I may be a pastor, but I’m not Glenn’s pastor. I realized that I was driving to go and sit at this man’s soon-to-be deathbed, to read the Scriptures with him, to pray, to sing hymns, to cry, and to rejoice in the work and promises of the Lord because that is simply a piece of what it looks like to be the Body of Christ.
Similar to how a greatly cherished seminary professor at Concordia St. Louis often declares that Christians have an obligation and duty towards their neighbor to gather for the Divine Service to confess the faith to one another, pray together, and sing the faith into each other’s ears, so too do we have an obligation towards the dear saints we are particularly close with as the last enemy approaches.
I think that this is a key aspect in recovering the vocation of friend. I hopped into my car to drive back to my hometown because my friend, Glenn, was on his deathbed. I made the trip, not because of the obligations I have as a pastor, but because of the duties that I have as a brother in Christ and as a friend. For years, Glenn had borne witness to me what it looked like to live a life of seeking to live in accordance with God’s will. He had spoken the Lord’s promises to me. He had shown me the joy of clinging to the work of Christ even while suffering. He had strengthened my faith by his continual pointing to the Lord.
And now, it was time for the rolls to be reversed. It was my turn to come into his room, to kneel before his bed, and to take his weak and dying hands in my own. It was my turn to point to Jesus and His work of uniting Glenn to His death and resurrection. It was my turn to serve him in love and compassion. It was my turn to sing to him that death cannot end his gladness, that even in his grave he will sleep secure, and that his flesh will most certainly await its raising because of God’s work through Baptism. It was my turn to weep with him even while we rejoiced in Christ.
The Body of Christ—the Church, is a beautiful and marvelous gift. God be praised that He has gathered us into fellowship with Himself and with all our brothers and sisters.
May the Lord grant us a confident faith in the face of death such as Glenn’s. Who, on his deathbed softly whispered, “The resurrection of the dead. Can you imagine? Wowee!”
Wowee indeed, dear friend. Wowee indeed.