Very truly I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. - John 6:47
I was driving to Pr. Linstrom’s house this past Thursday, dog-tired from our mission trip (which included a lot of physical labor and not a small amount of sleep deprivation), contemplating the work that was ahead of me. I was going of course, to be with the family and pray with Bob, knowing that this might be the last time I ever saw him.
What words could possibly live up to the legacy of someone who had celebrated more years of ministry than I had been alive? As if to reinforce the point, a framed 65th Ordination Anniversary letter (which had been dropped off by the Synod a day earlier) was proudly displayed on Pr. Linstrom’s bedside, as if to say “What do YOU have to offer here?”
Sitting down next to the bed, I started to offer some words, which were interrupted as Bob was caught in a fit of coughing. Letting him finish, I decided to try another tact. I pulled out my trusty red pastoral care handbook, figuring my words really weren’t all that important after all.
It was God’s promise of hope and the prayers of his loved ones that he needed right then. So I opened my little red book, and we read.
We prayed the familiar prayers of the church, and I read to him from Isaiah 43
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.
And John 10,
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish. No one will take them out of my hand.”
These were words of hope, declared in the face of death; words that Pr. Linstrom had passed on to so many before him. Hope Rising.
You see, the funny thing about our Christian proclamation, is that it is filled with paradoxes like this. We declare words of ultimate hope and salvation in the most hopeless of situations. Life through death on a cross? How absurd! And yet that is exactly where we find our greatest hope.
As I left, I told him that the prayers of his Bethany family were with him. These weren’t my words of hope, after all. It was hope passed down from one generation to the next, spoken countless times in the face of death.
With a peaceful look on his face, he simply said, “I know.”