So, I recently admitted a 92 year old man, dying of cancer. Up until about three months ago, he was able to travel into the center of town on his motorized scooter, visiting local shops and restaurants and churches and, he says, "just spreading the love of God."
He's a retired, ordained minister in the church of the Assembly of God. He had worked for 20 years as a skilled laborer when, one day, he says, he "got the call". He retired from his job and went off to seminary and has pastored several small congregations, and, he says, "I always left the place better than I found it".
I have no doubt.
He's been failing this last month, and called for the chaplain today, "so I can get ready".
The whole entire passage. From his heart.
"There's a time for everything," he said, "Now is the season for me to prepare to take my leave. I am not yet ready to go, but I'm at peace as I begin to hear my Lord calling me home. "
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
I wish you could have seen his face as he recited scripture to me. Serene only just begins to describe it. And his energy was high. I could imagine him a fiery preacher in his youth, filled with passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, I got a bit bold. I asked him if he had a Word of knowledge - a piece of Scriptural Truth - for me. And, if he did, would he favor me with it, please?
He bowed his head in solemn prayer for a few moments and then looked at me intently and said, "John 14, beginning at the first verse. Do you know it?"
"You mean, 'In my father's house there are many rooms . . . .'?"
"From the beginning," he said, "beginning at the first verse. 'Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me'." And then, he went on to recite the entire chapter, in proper King James version, which I confess that I had never heard.
Actually, I have really only read the first few verses - about there being "many mansions" in God's house. Oh, and of course, bits and pieces. But hearing the whole chapter in it's entirety was very different and in KJV - well, I guess that's one of the downsides of the lectionary. Or, perhaps, my over dependence on it. And, my own laziness in reading beyond it's parameters.
In that context, I wasn't even disturbed as I usually am by the "no man cometh unto the Father, but by me". I was too busy listening to the presence of Thomas and Philip and Judas (not Iscariot) and their conversation with Jesus as interpreted by this amazing 92 year old man.
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?
Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.
These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.After he finished reciting the chapter to me, he leaned back in his bed, closed his eyes, and took a few deep breaths. Then, he opened his eyes, looked at me and asked, "Do you understand?"
Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.
Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.
But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.
"Yes," I said, "I believe I do."
"This is what I want you to know," he said, looking at me intently and with more energy than I thought he could muster. "You may think you are alone. But you are not. You're never alone. God was with you before your beginning. God was with you as you were beginning. God is with you even when you don't think God is with you. And, God will be with you as you begin your new life in heaven with him forever."
He leaned forward in his bed and said, "So, let not your heart be troubled. You don't do this alone. You can't do this alone. You couldn't do this alone. Not without God being with you every step of the way."
"Do you understand?" he asked again, with intensity.
"Yes," I said, "I believe I do."
"Because I'm not alone," I said softly.
He nodded his head like a teacher pleased with his student and he said, "We are not alone. Not ever. So," he said again, "Let not your heart be troubled. To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven."
He lowered his head and said, "Come, let us pray together. I'll start and then you follow."
I'm not really sure what happened next. All I know is that it was a moment of intense prayer.
And then, I said my goodbyes and I left, not knowing why, exactly, he had chosen that particular passage for me, or thought of that particular message, but I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I had just been on holy ground.
Like one of his congregations, he left me better than when he first found me.
Have I mentioned that I have the best job in the world?