It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say I cut my ministry teeth on hospital visitation.
Whether it was Clinical Pastoral Education in seminary or a heavy dose of the “ministry of presence” during my time at Mt. Carmel UMC in Monroe and even now to a team of people who help, I have always attached great importance to what we as a church can do when folks are hospitalized.
This kind of ministry also weighs heavy on my heart — just the other week, I told someone that if it gets to Thursday in a given week and I haven’t been to the hospital or to someone’s home, I just don’t feel like I have been a pastor. That internal burden is both a blessing to and a detraction from my leadership here (for more on that, check this post).
But in this season of the church’s life, we have realized it is time to multiply that ministry of congregational care. Not only because the needs are too great for two people (primarily) to handle, but also because there are gifts of care, tenderness, and wisdom within the people of Good Shepherd, and those gifts are longing to be released in ministry.
When I attempt to empower others in the ministry of visitation, I handout a collection of Scripture passages that are most helpful for use with people who are lying in a hospital bed. Although these texts were written long before the advent of modern hospital, their words nevertheless fit that setting perfectly. Almost like God knew what he was doing ahead of time. Which he always does.
Here are five of the Scriptures selections we passed out:
1. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
(We follow that reading with a prayer that God would be revealed as the “Father of compassion and the God all comfort” in the life of the hospitalized person.)
2. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body
(Verse 7 is the source of the name for this band.)
3. Colossians 1:15-17
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
(Verse 17 is the key in the hospital: “even when you feel like you are falling apart, Christ is the glue holding you and everything else together.” )
4. Psalm 121:1-2 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
(When it comes to Psalm 121, I am KJV Only . . . 1611. What could possibly sound better than “from whence cometh my help”??)
5. Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
(Ditto on the KJV for Psalm 27!)