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Hospital Gifts

Weekly Devotional for Preachers
Hospital Gifts
Image: Cyndi Monaghan / Getty

My Dear Shepherds,

The best gifts pastors get don’t come under the Christmas tree or during Pastor Appreciation Month. This season I’ll tell you some stories of great gifts I’ve received.

Forty years ago I visited Royal in the hospital because I’d heard some surprising news. He was not a Christian, but he came to church every week, sitting dutifully beside his wife. He was very hard of hearing, but he had once been a violinist in the world-renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His colleagues there had loved him for his sense of humor and Bohemian personality.

Various people, including his family, witnessed to him over the years to no avail. Then, Thanksgiving eve, hospitalized with cancer, a young nurse shared the gospel with him again. This time he responded.

I went to see him a day later. His Walkman (a small cassette player with headphones, for those who didn’t grow up with one) was cranked up so loud that I could hear the music in the hallway through his headphones! I walked in and he bellowed, “Well, did ya’ hear what happened to me?!” He had been soundly saved.

Six weeks later I officiated at his funeral. After a string quartet from the Chicago Symphony played, I said, “And now let’s listen to the music of the scriptures.” In my message I said, “Royal traveled the world as a musician but the most beautiful thing he ever heard was the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Another hospital story. I was stunned when one of the young adults in the group I pastored called to tell me she’d had herself admitted to a psychiatric hospital because she was suicidal. I knew I needed to visit her, but I was a rookie assistant pastor and I’d never faced anything like that.

When I arrived, the security precautions unnerved me—locked doors, warnings about words and sharp objects. It wasn’t like other hospitals. There was no medical equipment in the hallways, no obvious nurses’ station. Staff and patients dressed in street clothes. I sensed quiet sadness.

I would come to learn over time that my friend had been sexually abused as a girl. She had no memory of whole years of her young life. Her father, her abuser, worked for a Christian organization. It had all caught up with her.

That first visit, all I offered was my presence. I had no idea what to say and I couldn’t imagine what she was facing. She was the first abuse victim I’d ever talked to.

My visit was a few days before Holy Week, so we spoke about the upcoming services at our church. She was sad that she’d miss Good Friday and Easter, so I asked if she’d like me to bring Communion to her, an offer she eagerly accepted. Then she said, “I’ve met some other Christians here. Could I invite them, too?”

So that Good Friday afternoon I carried my new portable Communion case through the locked doors and down the somber halls to her room. Four forlorn believers waited for me, sitting on the edge of the beds. I read Scripture about Jesus’ death and resurrection and the hope the Lord gives us. Then I served them. “This is the body of Christ, given for you. … This is the new covenant in Christ’s blood. …until he comes.”

I’ve served the Lord’s Supper countless times over the years, but none has ever been such a treasure—such a gift to me—as that sacred meal with those heavy-hearted believers who were so hungry for Jesus.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
(Ps. 34:18)

Be ye glad!

Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He writes a weekly devotional for preachers on Preaching Today.

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