Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14, NRSV)
A couple of weeks ago I was visiting one of our homebound members in a nursing facility that is not very high on my list of “good” homes.” We have had members who have been residents there for as long as I have been at St. Peter’s. I have rarely felt that residents there got even good care, let alone exceptional care. And I have typically been saddened to see members become residents there, either permanently or temporarily. Such was the spirit that accompanied me on the visit I referenced in my opening sentence.
Upon my arrival, nothing changed my assessment of the place … the same dinginess and the same sullen spirit pervading the hallways. I arrived in our member’s room to both visit and to offer the sacrament of the altar to him. We had some small talk and then my first surprise occurred. He informed me that he was receiving three to four therapy sessions a day. His doctor told him that this facility was one of the best in Lancaster in terms of stroke recovery. And I have come across few places that offer three to four PT/OT sessions a day. I was impressed and also forced to reconsider my assessment of the home.
Then my second and greater surprise arrived. Just as we started communion a nurse’s aide arrived to take our church member to his therapy appointment. I had barely started getting the elements ready, so I simply told our member that I would come back in a couple of days to offer communion. With that the nurses’ aide piped up, “Oh no. Go ahead and have communion first. I’ll wait out here in the hall. Communion is as important as anything we do here.” I was shocked and humbled. It was the very last thing I expected to hear from this nurse’s aide. But she waited patiently in the hallway while we took communion, and then I headed off to the hospital for some visits there.
Does God not have a marvelous way of humbling us? Do not angels who speak those humbling words walk among us unawares? Are we not occasionally surprised my moments of grace which present themselves to us unexpectedly? As you can see by the title to the devotion, “humble pie” was the phrase that came to mind. Lutherans would officially call this a word of “law” spoken to us for the purpose of calling out the sin within us. We also know that God couples moments of “law” with moments of “gospel” … words of grace that forgive us. I experienced both during that morning visit a couple of weeks ago. I pray that you will have moments such as these where God both identifies your brokenness and then heals it with a word of love. I pray that God with invite you into healthy “law and gospel” moments … brought by his angels of grace … which renew and redeem you, and surprise you as words of blessing and renewal.