In the Gospel Story for the Feast of the Ascension, Jesus tells his followers to “teach people to observe all that I have commanded you, and I am with you always, until the end of the age.” In other words, he is telling his disciples to show others how to live as they learned from him, basically to be there for each other, and he would be with them in new ways to help them understand what that would mean in in their given circumstances at any time.
Recently I had an experience that let me know this myself. While visiting friends in Florida I had a cardiac episode that ended up with my host taking me to the Adventist Hospital ER, where I was admitted, and ended up having an invasive procedure. From the time I walked into the hospital I experienced the most amazing care. Good folks of many traditions and no tradition, of many lifestyles and persuasions, gave me the most amazing care. These wonderful young people (at my age I can say that without meaning any kind of disrespect) led me to feeling cared for, respected, appreciated, something I am not used to. This includes ward nursing and patient care people, housekeeping, food service, patient affairs, pastoral services, techs. The doctor and team in the procedure room made the whole experience a good one, even enjoyable. It was clear that they were doing their best to help it what seemed to be a difficult and challenging procedure. Their enthusiasm and competence were very uplifting, as was their humor.
I did not hear any religious words or terminology, yet experienced what Jesus referred to as the kingdom of God happening all around me. These wonderful people cared, and it was clear that they enjoyed caring. They did everything with an amazing attitude of cheerfulness. I know the effect all this had on me, and I can only hope that the other patients experienced the same during their stay.
Kindness and gentleness do not mean niceness. In several cases the care they provided was the last thing I wanted at the time, but they, with their experience, felt it was necessary, and it was. I learned that, as nice and kind as they might be, I didn’t dare cross them, because I would not fare well. They knew what they were doing, and my convenience did not factor in, just their care for me. It was wonderful. Somehow they found out I was called Frog, and that became a key part of a very enjoyable relationship and experience. I wouldn’t change a thing. It was clear to me that the Kingdom of God was happening even without “religious terminology”, which in itself can be quite divisive.
Then there was what took place outside the hospital. When it began to look like my stay in Florida might have to be extended, my host, without batting an eyelash, changed his plans and told me to stay as long as it was necessary, which I did, and he was a most gracious host. The Kingdom was happening there too, always without religious terminology. The neighbors where I was staying, were wonderful. Mary, of Mary’s Kountry Kitchen, where I like their grits, but whom I’ve never met, even sent some pie to me in the hospital. Some neighbors, whom I did not know all that well, came by to visit me which really lifted me up. After I was discharged other neighbors stopped by, as did the dog across the street, who seemed to be trying to tell me things. We had several invitations to dinner from folks I did not know all that well, but who cared a lot, and whom I really enjoyed and appreciated. Some even brought supplies for the flight back home. Then there were Army friends whom I had not seen for several years. They made several trips just so we could be together. Nothing like it. The Kingdom was happening, again without religious terminology, just enthusiastic caring put into action without talk.
The first few days were frightening, and the wonderful folks surrounding me made dealing with it much easier, for which I am very thankful. To me this whole experience points out that Jesus tried to teach us how to live in a way that reflects the dignity in which we are created. The Gospel happens in life as it is, among real people as they/we are, not as we wish it were or somebody tells us it ought to be, and it happens in us as as we let ourselves be led to learn to deal with the different folks in our lives at any given time. We have the power to bring caring and healing to others, even without religious terminology. I was not ready for all this that happened. It was quite a surprise. Also, I’m not used to being on the receiving end of such care. It was a humbling experience, but also very much appreciated, and hopefully an occasion of growth. Just sayin . . .