Sunday Services at 10:00am
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During the month of June, I want to take the opportunity in the Pulse to remember some of our brothers and sisters in the faith who have gone before us into the presence of Jesus. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” In that spirit, I want to remember and honor the work of the Lord that was done by some truly special men and women and testify to how it was not in vain.
In Matthew 12, Jesus is speaking to a crowd, and someone tells him that his mother and brothers are outside, wanting to speak with him. In reply, Jesus says, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Then, pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 21:46-50).
One of the most beautiful things about the church, when it is done right, is that you gain a whole family of spiritual brothers and sisters, parents and children. Sometimes a parent is fortunate enough to play a central role in leading their child to Christ and discipling them to maturity. More often than not, however, it takes multiple spiritual parents, as well as brothers and sisters in Christ, to accomplish the task. One of my many mothers in the faith was Mary Grove. I met Mary 20 years ago, when I had recently been hired as the youth pastor and her granddaughter Natasha was a high school sophomore. I have fond memories of leading worship on my guitar back in those days, while Mary would stand in the back with her tambourine, keeping rhythm against her leg. Mary attended my wife Michele and my wedding 16 years ago. And when I returned to NewLife 12 years ago as the senior pastor, Mary was living in a nursing home with her mother. When she was transferred to Glastonbury Health Care Center, I began to go to GHCC the 2nd Wednesday of every month in order to lead a service of worship and, afterwards, to visit with Mary. And so the 2nd Wednesday became Mary’s day, the day I got to spend with my friend Mary. When she moved to a nursing home in Bristol, I continued to visit her every 2nd Wednesday, bringing along my guitar and a friend or two of Mary’s. And Mary always ended our visits together by looking me in the eyes and saying “my son.”
Mary loved Jesus, and she loved His Word. Her favorite passage was Proverbs 3:5-6, which reads “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” It isn’t easy in this world to trust in the Lord, to accept that God allows the things He does when we can’t understand why he allows them. Mary had her challenges in life, physically, relationally, financially, and otherwise. It was difficult to see her at Glastonbury Health Center, 20 years younger than most of the residents, but still unable to be out in the community on her own. It was really hard to watch her struggle to communicate the last four years of her life, after she had a trach put in her neck. But Mary lived out her favorite verse, trusting in the Lord with all her heart, and leaning not on her own understanding.
We read in Revelation 21:4 that when Jesus comes again, he will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away. And in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, Paul tells us that our old, weak, perishable body will be replaced when we are resurrected with a body that will never decay or die. As I watched Mary’s body slowly betray her, I held on to those promises, grateful that she knew Jesus and that one day she would dance before the Lord with all her might. Every time I visited her, she asked me to sing “I can only imagine,” and as she listened, I believe she was reminded again of the hope that was in front of her, that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
I miss my friend, my spiritual mother Mary. But I will see her again, tambourine in her hand, as we worship our Savior Jesus.
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