August 28, 2009

The easiest, hardest thing

Matt. 26:38b

Then he said to them, “….Stay here and keep watch with me.”

My friend Sue Ann works as a chaplain with SpiritCare Ministry to Seniors. She conducts lovely, gentle worship services at long-term care centers, plus she does visitation and pastoral counseling. SpiritCare recruits volunteers to do things like play the piano, help with communion, and spend time with residents.

Finch on the bird bathI’ve helped Sue Ann at three homes now, and helping turned out to be simpler and less scary than I’d feared. I can help just by singing loudly, or just by slowing down to really look at and see the beauty of the person I am speaking to. These things don’t cost me much—in fact, they bring me joy. I’m grateful for the structure that Sue Ann’s ministry provides, because it makes it easy and possible for me to do what would otherwise be too much for me.

I’ve been praying through the story of Gethsemene in Matt. 26. In this scene, Jesus tells the disciples that for the moment, their task is to stay where they are:

+ Sit here while I go over there and pray. (v. 36)
+ Stay here and keep watch with me. (v. 38)

During these hours in the garden, Jesus is preparing for his own death. He asks his friends to help him by doing what sounds easy but is often painful and difficult for us to carry out: to stay awake, to stay present to what’s really happening, to keep vigil with those who suffer.

SpiritCare’s ministry is a taste of just such presence.