As is true for the ministries of many churches the community that I serve holds a weekly prayer and worship service at a home for some of the most vulnerable humans in our midst – the elderly and the chronically or terminally ill.
All church services are bold acts of faith; believers gathering (or being brought) to hear God’s good Word (despite it all) and proclaimers proclaiming sight to the blind and working legs for the lame. But celebrating the kingdom of God with people who literally are blind and lame are especially so.
Today I was lucky enough to have been assigned as the one to celebrate a service of Holy Eucharist at the Washington Home http://www.thewashingtonhome.org/. Before the service began I sat and listened to a parishioner playing the cello while I exchanged a long look with a man in a wheelchair. One of this man’s legs was elevated and covered in bandages, his foot gone. His other leg only went to his knee. Beyond him was another musician for the afternoon’s service, a volunteer, whose husband lay in bed on the third floor in his thirty-something week of hospice care. And yet, she sang for us.
For the opening hymn of our service today we sang “Amazing Grace.” (If you haven’t sung Amazing Grace in a nursing home and have a bucket list, put this on it). For the concluding hymn we had planned on singing “Seek Ye First.” But after announcing the final hymn a resident of the home started singing (with a strength of voice that defied her frame), “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” No one wondered why we were singing a song we had already sung. In short order one voice joined, then another, then another. By the end of that first verse, everyone, with or without words, was singing. We closed the service with one of the most beautiful versions of Seek Ye First I have ever been a part of, in the round, with the exiles, as they say.
In our tradition the scripture for today included a witness from the prophet Jeremiah – that even in the midst of exile we are called to build houses, to plant gardens and eat from them (Jer 29.1, 4-7), thus says the Lord. For all those who proclaim God’s favor in the midst of exile – at our church and yours – thank you. And as for today, thanks be to Liz, to Gordon, to Twyla, to Paul, to Sandra, to Zach, to that woman who sang Amazing Grace and, to God.
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”