PRAYING FOR THE HEALERS IN OUR COMMUNITIES
There is much to be praying for right now. I urge you to do so. This message is in response to an email I received last week that is fixed in my heart. While it is from someone in a particular hospital, it could be from any hospital. Here is a portion of it:
“Please pray for us in the hospitals. Especially at Thomas in Fairhope. The situation is beyond desperate. I’m out of beds, ventilators, our oxygen capacity is overloaded and we have multiple people dying every day. My nurses are stretched to breaking and the public still does not seem to understand that we are in a COVID apocalypse right now. I know God is here with us. But it’s hard to feel him with all the pain, fear and death swirling around us.”
While in seminary, I worked for a time as a hospital chaplain. One night I was called to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to baptize a newborn baby who was dying. My legs went limp and my stomach knotted up as I made my way to the unit. I did get through the baptism, but I only did so because of the grace and strength of God enfleshed in a nurse. A nurse greeted me, guided me, stood with me, and even knew to have a cup of water in order for the baptism to happen. I may have said the words, but that nurse was the real minister.
Another quick story. My best friend is a doctor. Over the last 20 years, my friend has given me valuable advice, cured me of a few illnesses, and talked me off the ledge of fear about a few medical terms said about me that I didn’t understand. He also stood by me on the day my Dad died. He stood with me for over an hour, and never said a word. It was one of the most powerful witnesses of kindness I have ever felt. He is one of the smartest men I know. And yet, in his silence, I realized how much more a doctor does than cure people.
Nurses, doctors and everyone else who works in hospitals, clinics and medical offices, are living in a time of great calamity, tremendous stress and immense sacrifice. Jesus told us that the greatest act of love is to sacrifice one’s life for the sake of the life of another. Only God knows how much that sacrifice is happening every day in our hospitals. Just when we thought the pandemic wave was subsiding, we are now nearly drowning in a tsunami of sickness that in the counties that comprise the Central Gulf Coast, is as great a storm like any other time in the last 18 months.
We hear about all that health professionals and hospital staff are going through. But for all we hear, we are not living in it. So I want to ask the rest of us to do our best in the next days and weeks to reach out in palpable practical sacramental ways to those we know and even those we don’t know who serve in the medical profession. Make a call. Send a note. Post a message. Take some time to listen to them. Cook a meal for them. Pray for them. Be like my best friend, and simply stand by their side. Let them know they are not alone. Let’s shine a light into the darkness they are feeling. Let’s be instruments of joy, hope, and grace.
And as the Body of Christ, next Sunday, August 15th, I ask that every Eucharist celebrated in our diocese include an acknowledgment of praise and thanksgiving for those in the medical profession who are ministers of healing in our communities.
Finally, to those who are on the front lines, in the ICUs, labs and ERs, those by the bedsides fighting this enemy of a virus, thank you. All of you: doctors, nurses, staff, technicians, therapists, counselors, social workers, administrators, those who clean the rooms and those who serve the meals, all of you who serve the rest of us. You are ministers. Thank you. And thanks be to God for you.
Remember to lean on the people whom you love, and lean on God, who is love. Remember that no feeling is ever final. So it’s OK to feel what you feel. And remember that in God nothing and no one is ever lost. May the Peace of God [which in the original Hebrew of shalom can mean wholeness and healing] be with you.
Let us pray,
God of love, we bless your Holy Name for all who are called to mediate your grace to those who are sick. Sustain them in their work by your Holy Spirit, that they may bring your loving-kindness and healing to those in pain, fear, sickness, and confusion.
In their acts of compassion, care, and cure, may they never forget that they are holy instruments of healing. In their concerns and fears may they know your peace. Comfort them when they are alone; strengthen them when they are weak; uphold them in their fatigue; banish their despair; give them quiet times for rest and refreshment. And may they always remember the sacred value of their chosen ministry.
And, in those hectic and traumatic times, keep them ever prepared for the work you have called them to do. Grant them holy wisdom, quick minds, skillful hands, and compassionate hearts, that through their work the health of our communities may be restored through your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.