Just this week I stood in a hospital room crowded with loving family members of one who, without a single word, had summoned them all together. She was ready, after almost 94 years, to leave this life for one that is promised to be more. So that is exactly what she did. She took the corridor that leads from here to there. She left a hushed silence hardly able to muffle the emotion of time spent, joys remembered, and sorrows borne.
Hospitals are places of healing. For those who work there it must be wonderful to take part in someone’s healing and, I’m sure, equally devastating when healing does not occur. Sometimes I wish I were a physician—or at least, had a more practical job. Sometimes I think that if I could do something more productive, I’d be better off. After all, I’m a preacher. I talk. I craft and deliver sermons on a weekly basis. Sometimes I wonder about what possible difference words can make. To be truthful, I can hardly remember myself what I preached a couple of weeks ago.
But I was reminded this week about this gospel that I proclaim. We know Jesus as the Great Physician, one who healed the sick, made the lame to walk, and gave sight to the blind. He was a doer, no doubt. I remembered though that his ministry with the poor, the prisoners, the broken and ill was first a ministry of words. Jesus had been anointed to preach, to proclaim the good news of release and recovery. His were words of healing and wholeness.
Did I say how quiet the room was? Not a sound. Until one by one, from young to old, stories were sounded and applied straight to our hearts. It was like medicine. Straight to the soul, soothing salve.
The heaviness in the room began to lift. Don’t get me wrong, there were still tears, but it was different somehow—a smile, a fresh remembrance, and a twinkle in our eyes. Where once we were standing stiff, now we began to relax and touch one another. A hand, a shoulder, then an embrace. Our bodies began to speak with lighter inflection. You could feel it.
Before I left I offered a word. I knew this family. I understood. I recited the 23rd Psalm and we prayed together. Those words—theirs, mine, and the psalmist’s—were good news to every one of us that day even in the face of death.
That’s the wonderful thing about the work I do. For that matter, the work we do. The gospel “medicine” works straight away; no sooner than it is said, it is done. The good news accomplishes what it proclaims, no matter how things may turn out.