AUGUST 24, 2018
We Just Never Know
“Miss Jackie is sick,” Bram said as he sat on my lap sitting next to Jackie Rietveld’s hospice bed. “Can the doctor make her feel better?” he asked me. “No,” I said. “Miss Jackie is resting until she gets to go to heaven and see Jesus.” “Ohhhhh. That’s good,” he said. “Dad…” “Yes, Bram.” “Pigs can’t talk.” “No, Bram, they can’t,” I told him.
My three-year old son Bram, Bill Rietveld and I placed our hands over Jackie’s and we prayed. She didn’t say anything and seemed very restless. Her mouth was half open and her eyes looked glazed over. It was hard to see Jackie like this. She was always a proud, well-dressed woman whose hair was neatly done and who always kept up on the latest fashion trends. It had been two weeks since I had seen Jackie. Her health has significantly declined in those two weeks. I was kind of surprised when I got a call over the weekend from her son, Ron, letting me know that they had placed Jackie in hospice care. But, I thought being placed in hospice care could mean a lot of different things and people can be in hospice care for quite some time. I was shocked when I went into her room and saw her lying in her hospice bed.
As Bill, Bram and I held her hands we prayed for peace. We gave thanks for her life. We gave thanks for Jesus. I’ve been in these settings many times over the years and I’ve always wondered if these saints lying in these beds can hear the words of our prayers. We really have no way of knowing. Sometimes I’ve asked an individual to squeeze my hand if they can hear me. Sometimes I’ve had situations, as I read from the Bible and come to a familiar line or comforting promise, an individual will blink or try to get out a few sounds that are more like heavy breathes. I’m not really sure if Jackie could hear us or not. We all talked to her like she could. I’d like to think she could. I’d like to think that our prayers made their way up to the ear of the Father and into the heart of our friend, Jackie. I’d like to think that she could feel our hands holding her hands. I’d like to think she could see us and recognize us as friends and family.
I thought a lot about that throughout the week. And while I hope and pray that Jackie could sense our presence and feel the love of Christ through our visit, the reality is that we’ll never really know. And that’s not the point. We never really know how our words, our actions, our gestures of grace, or loving acts of kindness will be met or received. This Sunday I’m preaching a sermon on Jesus’ famous parable of the sower in Mark’s gospel. Maybe it’s because I had that parable on my mind as we visited with Jackie, but I think in a lot of ways Jesus is calling us to be recklessly generous in our spreading of seeds. We don’t know which seeds will take root and which seeds will whither and die. We don’t know which seeds will eventually yield a large harvest and which seeds will be choked away by thorns and weeds. Maybe that’s not the point. Maybe Jesus is simply calling us to be lavish and loose with our spreading of gospel seeds.
Just take a moment and think about all the times throughout a single day each of us have the opportunity to sow seeds for Jesus. We can brush these off, but if we truly get out of our own way, maybe we can see chances to be the very hands and feet of Jesus. A smile to the teller at the bank. Opening the door for the senior citizen behind you. Saying the prayer for a person who pops in your head. The tone in which we speak to co-workers. The way we greet family at the end of the day. The extra few sentences of kindness to the receptionist. All these and so many more are ways we can sow gospel seeds for Jesus. We don’t know how or when or even if they will take root. That’s not the point. Just keep sowing.
Grace & Peace,