Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hospice Ministry

Many of you may not realize that I also do a limited amount of per diem work as a local hospice chaplain. I just completed my first year of such ministry to hurting individuals and families in our community. Over the past year, I was privileged to care for more than 15 patients and their families. More than providing a small amount of additional income, my work as a hospice chaplain has helped me build relationships with families in our church's community who find themselves needing spiritual and emotional support in the face of losing a cherished family member.

Dealing with the death of a loved one is something that all of us struggle with. I know that I still struggle significantly with the mystery of death and human emotion. I have seen both serenity and sheer panic in the face of the dying. I've comforted sorrowful family members and have stood silently by others who seem to express little or no emotional at all. While death is an inevitable reality of life in a fallen world, it is still viewed as an unwelcome stranger by most of us.

I'm obviously "limited" in what I can or cannot share about the ultimate solution to death when I have my hospice chaplain badge on. A professional chaplain, in any field, is compelled to respect the traditions and "views" of anyone they serve. However, the Lord has given me several opportunities to clearly point to Jesus as the only hope for sorrowful tears to be wiped away and for someone to find abiding peace and hope. Just last week a family called me late one night to share "last rites" for their family member. I read from God's Word and prayed boldly for all to look to Christ alone for eternal salvation and true healing.

I doubt if I'll ever become "comfortable" with death. (In my line of work as a pastor and chaplain I'll have plenty of opportunities to find out.) But, I am already convinced and persuaded that I know the remedy for death. Death is a defeated foe. Jesus has conquered sin and death. Paul writes, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:56-58). Because Jesus has faced death and was gloriously vindicated through his own resurrection, all who look to him for salvation and believe can be assured that they too will overcome the sting of death.

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