A Hospice for Sinners
One of my pastor friends posted a picture of the old sign that was in front of the church he is serving. They were getting ready to celebrate their 125th anniversary and had just got the lights on the sign working after many years. Some thoughtlessly commented on the condition of the sign. “It’s your 125th anniversary, shouldn’t you get a nicer looking sign?” they asked, somehow forgetting that they might be offending someone. Maybe this sign was the best the congregation could afford. Maybe there was sentimental value. I was more struck by the message on the sign than anything else: “A hospice for sinners.” What a wonderful motto for a church!
Oh, I know, when we think of the word “hospice” it conjures up unpleasant thoughts and emotions: sickness, death, sadness, grief, mourning, just to name a few. But what is the purpose of the hospice? It offers palliative care (comfort) to patients whose medical condition is determined to be terminal and for whom no further medical treatments offer hope for a cure or relief. It offers a time for family to gather so that they might spend the last days and hours of a loved one’s life on earth together, remembering good times, forgiving old hurts, and telling each other we love them one more time. For Christians, it is a time to reaffirm our faith in Jesus Christ and hold one another up in prayer.
Isn’t hospice care an apt picture of the Church and our work here on earth? We are all born with a terminal illness that leads to death: original sin. The wages of sin is death. None of us, unless the Lord returns before, will escape death. But as we gather with our fellow Christians, our brothers and sister in the faith, we are giving and receiving palliative care. Christ our Lord is speaking His Word, baptizing us into His death and resurrection, feeding us with His body and blood. We are encouraging one another in the faith, lifting one another in prayer. We are praying for and looking for a peaceful death, a release from this vale of tears and the shadow of death into the presence of the Lord. And we mourn and grieve, but we do not mourn and grieve as the world does. For we have a hope that goes beyond this world and life. Physical death is not the end. Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection. We have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. Just as Jesus rose again from the grave three days after giving Himself into death on the cross, we trust in Him for the resurrection of our own bodies and souls unto eternal life.
Perhaps we would each do well to think of our congregation as “A hospice for sinners.”