My mother recently died following four months of hospital and nursing home stays. During those stressful days, and especially at the time of her passing, my family and I were overwhelmed with cards, prayers, flowers at the funeral, e-mails, and other expressions of concern from our church, colleagues, and friends. All were greatly appreciated.
Additionally, my parents’ church, St. Stephens United Methodist Church of Burke, Virginia, has shown tremendous care and love to my family during this time, as well. They brought many delicious meals to my dad over the months of my mother’s struggles. The funeral service and reception afterwards were wonderful, and they continue to surround my dad with care as some of the church folks now drive him to his various doctors’ appointments. Some still even bring food! Since I live 900 miles away, this is a great source of comfort to me.
It’s such a blessing to experience the presence of God through the hands, feet, and hearts of God’s people when we face difficulties and loss in our lives. We see in their loving faces and kind actions the embodiment of the Gospel, that God does not abandon us; that God continues to bless us; that healing can occur and life is made new.
During our church's Taize’(tuh-ZAY)worship service last month, as I was meditating in the time of silence, I had the sensation that someone walked down the aisle of the chapel and stood next to me, as if having something to tell me. I actually turned and looked, but no one was there. On the drive home, my wife Mary, who was sitting in the pew behind me during the service, mentioned that she prayed for God’s presence in our lives as we were facing the numerous difficulties and crises in our family. She said that after her prayer, she had the feeling that someone came and sat next to her in the pew. When she looked, no one was there. It was striking to us both, especially when I replied, “I had the same experience.”
Upon later reflection, Mary observed that when she felt that presence next to her, and opened her eyes to look, she actually did see someone – it was the other gathered people of faith who were there in the worship service. She realized that God’s presence was found in them.
I think that’s something for all people of faith to remember, to look for, and to be – for indeed, we are God’s people. We are here for one another and for those we encounter and know elsewhere, as well!