Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Notes From a Nursing Home

They sang with a tired gusto. Some notes were scratchy while others were out-of-tune. Occasionally a few words were missed, but the chorus rang out with recollections from the past. It was as if they were all children again, sitting by their parents and singing with the congregation. The memories were there; you could feel them in the air. They sang the hymns with remembrance from their hearts, and I know it pleased the Lord. 

The nursing home residents and visitors together sang, “Come home! come home! Ye who are weary, come home! Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home!” It’s a classic hymn entitled “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling.” (for the text and tune, go to: )  

When they weren’t singing, the evidence of weariness appeared in the faces of many of the residents. The bodies sitting or lying in wheelchairs expressed weakness and exhaustion. No longer did life’s hustle and bustle exist. Time had passed by and now they all faced time eternal. Were they weary? Yes. Were they ready to come home? Probably. Was Jesus calling them? Softly and tenderly, most definitely He called. And when the pastor began to preach, the prepared hearts were ready with a resounding “yes” when he began with the words, “Are you ready to hear the gospel for today?”

The preacher began with words from Psalm 121.

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.

By now most of the elderly residents with active minds have understood where their help comes from. Throughout their lives, they’ve probably searched for help from many different sources such as people, work, religion, drugs, and/or alcohol. Just as we all eventually discover, we come up empty-handed when we place our faith in those things. Now nearing the end of life, those elderly residents who willingly attended the church service knew where their help came from. Even though life looked less than stellar, they had not given up. Their faith kept them seeking God; possibly old age and wisdom assisted in their decision.

And so as the service proceeded, the preacher preached about a parable on prayer as told by Jesus (Luke 18:1-8). Jesus spoke of a widow who persevered in asking for legal protection from an unrighteous judge until he gave it to her. He used this parable to tell His listeners that they should pray all the time and never lose heart. He said if the unrighteous judge would finally relent and give in to her persistence, wouldn’t God also bring about justice for His people? He said that God would bring justice quickly for those who cry out to Him day and night. Hopefully all who sat in that room at the nursing home, listening to God’s Word, had cried out to God and experienced His justice at some point in their lives. 

The pastor then continued reading from the eighteenth chapter of Luke. He read Jesus’ words from verse eight. Jesus asked a very pointed question to His audience saying, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” 

I feel sure that Jesus will find faith at that nursing home; after all they were at a church service still seeking God and praising His name. They are senior citizens who have most likely lived full lives, understanding that even though they are worn out, they serve a tireless God who will be waiting for them when they come home. 

But what about those of us who are younger, living in this fast-paced society that promises nothing but headaches and heartaches? Are we seeking God with persistence, persevering though the storms of life? Are we trusting in God’s promises of mercy and grace? Will God find faith on earth when He returns? Or will He find that many people have given up? We are not promised tomorrow; we don't know when we will face time eternal. Will we persevere in believing in a tireless God, hanging onto our faith throughout our time on earth? Will we share our faith with others so that when Christ returns, He will find faith on earth?

I was blessed to worship with my mom and the senior citizens at a nursing home last Sunday. My mom played the piano for the service, giving rise to memories in my heart and the hearts of the residents. We ended with a Lutheran hymn (below) entitled “The Church of Christ, in Every Age” and it speaks to the work of Christ’s church throughout the ages. If lived, instead of just sung, faith in Christ will arise and Jesus will be pleased when He returns to take us home. 

The church of Christ in every age,
beset by change but Spirit-led,
must claim and test its heritage
and keep on rising from the dead.

Across the world, across the street,
the victims of injustice cry
for shelter and for bread to eat,
and never live until they die.

Then let the servant church arise,
a caring church that longs to be
a partner in Christ's sacrifice,
and clothed in Christ's humanity.

For he alone, whose blood was shed,
can cure the fever in our blood,
and teach us how to share our bread
and feed the starving multitude.

We have no mission but to serve
in full obedience to our Lord:
to care for all, without reserve,
and spread his liberating word.

Words: Fred Pratt Green
Words © 1971 by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188

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