Last night I received something that I’ve never gotten in my four plus years as a pastor: a middle-of-the-night phone call. It was a nurse at our local hospital letting me know of the deteriorating situation of one of the members of my congregation. She assured me that I could wait to see him until morning unless his situation worsened, but she couldn’t let him continue without calling me.
Some people who aren’t pastors might think that I would hate this. Getting calls in the middle of the night, visiting people who are sick, dying, or both in the hospital — to many these kinds of things sound awful.
But not to me. Rather, these kinds of things truly are a privilege for me to do as a pastor. I don’t have to stand awkwardly in a hospital room not knowing what to say or being unable to help. I do know what to say. I can help. I can’t make the pain go away or change medications, but I can share the Good News that the Savior is with the person in that hospital bed. I can share with that person the forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. I can give that person Jesus’ body and blood together with the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper to build up his faith and hope. I can do these things, not because of something in me, but because God has called me and given his Word and Sacraments the power to work. It is truly a blessing and a privilege.
These are some of the words I shared with this person, from the Psalms.
2 Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me.
3 Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go;
give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
5 For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.
As a pastor, I often visit people in what would be described as troubling circumstances. I’m there in the hospital room with the sick and dying, or counseling someone hurt or angry or suffering. These situations can give the pastor stress, of course, but for the most part, it is exactly these situations where I see the blessings of my calling most clearly.
When someone is dying, it’s scary. It’s a difficult situation, certainly. But as a pastor knowing the truth of God’s Word, it’s also a situation where I have the best news possible to deliver: Christ has rescued you! He has redeemed you from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil! Even death has no sting for the Christian, because Jesus has won the victory over the grave.
I remember going to the bedside of a certain Christian woman. She was in the hospital, mostly unconscious, and many family members were there. I came to do what I was called to do: share God’s Word. I remember I was struggling with what passage to use as a devotion with the family. In flipping through my book, (it was the Christian Worship – Pastors’ Companion, I think.) I came to Psalm 61. I knew that it was hard to go wrong with the psalms in a difficult time for believers, but I was surprised just how well God used this psalm in this situation. The family really benefited from it, and — believe it or not — I benefited a lot from it, too!
The psalm still gives me a lot of comfort and takes me back to that hospital room (but in a good way.) So, if you’ve read this far, read the psalm, too. Rejoice in how God uses his Word!
1 Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
2 from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
3 for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
4 Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
5 For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
6 Prolong the life of the king;
may his years endure to all generations!
7 May he be enthroned forever before God;
appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!
8 So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day.