For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God.Job 19:25-26
I’m making a communion visit yesterday with one of our church members under hospice care. She has led a beautiful life, but in recent years she has faced significant health issues. As such she struggles to stay connected to the world around her and the people around her. Her amazing husband can always draw her out. But lately when the three of us have sat together in conversation, this beautiful woman slips into the quietness of her own spirit.
I begin the brief liturgy that surrounds the celebration of Holy Communion and arrive at the heart of the celebration … the Words of Institution. This wonderful saint is sitting in her chair with her eyes closed, looking so peaceful. Then I speak the words … “In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread …” I look into the husband’s face as I recite this holy reminder of God’s gift of life and faith in the Sacrament of the Altar, then glance to his wife. I almost lose my place as look to her face. For her eyes are wide open, and bright with life … and focused intently on the communion wafer in my fingers. The same is true of the words spoken over the cup of wine. As I administer the elements to her, in quite small amounts, since her strokes have compromised her swallowing, her eyes continue to sparkle with life. The words “The Body of Christ given for you” catch in my throat just a bit. It is a compelling moment, in spite of its brevity.
We all commune, I have a blessing and prayer and benediction, and we are done. This incredible woman in whose eyes I saw the power and love of God, has dozed off again. But the rest of the day I find my thoughts drifting back to her, and especially to the intensity of her eyes in that short sacramental moment. We Lutherans talk a lot about the “real presence” of Jesus in our sacraments of Baptism and Communion. We know what we mean by that … God is in control of what happens when water and bread and wine are surrounded by holy words from God. God is in control and present to us in some miraculous way in our sacraments. Yesterday afternoon, I saw that presence through the eyes of this beloved saint of God. I have no question in my mind that God revealed his own presence through her. And I have no doubt that she did not see me in front of her, but a vision of her Savior in his heavenly kingdom. And some people say the sacrament of the altar is just an old story we re-enact … what kind of silly talk is that?