July Reverend Reflections

“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”
-Philippians 1:6

I am writing this first installment of “Reverend Reflections” having just returned from Jan Goring’s funeral service and from having visited Barbara Joliff in the hospital. Jan is finally at rest with Jesus after battling MS for several decades before dying of metastatic cancer on June 21st at 91 years of age. If you did not know Jan, she was a wonderful person—dignified, inquisitive, thoughtful. Being with Jesus she blessedly no longer requires our prayers, but Barbara Joliff could sure use them. At almost 90 years of age Barbara is experiencing the after effects of her own battle with cancer that have landed her in the hospital. She too is a wonderful person—attentive, intelligent, humorous. Please be praying for her as she endures this confusing and trying season of life.

Thinking of these two women made me think of the ways the church can benefit from the witness of the elderly who are members with us, but are often hidden from our sight due to the restrictions they experience as their health declines. Children grow up before our very eyes and in them we can watch how God “begins a good work” by planting a seed of faith that eventually grows into a life of joyful obedience. We mark the work of God in their lives in visible ways like baptism, first communion, and various acknowledgements of their growth through the years. Seeing the work of God in them fills us with hope for the future of the church.

But rarely do we get to see God bring that good work to completion as he sustains the faith of those who are sick and dying. That unfortunately happens out of our sight. It is unfortunate because witnessing their perseverance fills us with hope for ourselves. I spent time praying with Jan about a week before her death and even though she could barely talk, she used her precious, sparing words to praise God. Barbara did the same today. Even after I said the “Amen” to my prayer, Barbara kept going. Despite her exhaustion, discomfort, and disorientation she uttered several words of praise to God on her own. God is keeping her. He is being faithful to her. He is completing in her the good work that he began when she was a child, just as he did for Jan. And this should give us hope for ourselves. God grants perseverance to the saints so that even as our bodies fade our faith does not. Dying in the faith that he preserves in us, our souls will enter into the promised rest we crave. Jan is resting now and by God’s grace one day we will join her.

We often see the work that God begins, but rarely do we get to see God complete that work. Having spent time with Jan Goring and Barbara Joliff, I am reminded, and want to remind you, that God never leaves us. He never left Jan. He is present at this moment with Barbara. And he will attend to you as well. The good work he begins, he brings to completion. To him be the glory and the praise for our lives.

Grace and peace,

Jonathan +