"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” -- Matthew 18:20
“Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!” -- Psalm 50:5
Our church is studying a book by Adam Hamilton, Final Words, this Lenten season. Today, because I had a vacation day, I took extra time to read, study, contemplate and let it all seep into my heart.
This books teaches us and encourages us to look at the final few statements that Jesus said at the end of his life on the cross. As our pastor discussed this last Sunday, when hanging on the cross, speaking would have been very difficult for Jesus. So, why did He do this? Why did he voluntarily endure even more pain? I believe He did it to gather us together.
This thought brought back my own painful memory. My dad was dying. All the family were called home that weekend. We knew it was a matter of only hours, so we were all with him in that living room in his last hours. We were all trying to sleep, on couches, in chairs, on the floor, all the while enduring our own little worlds of despair. At a little before 3:00 am, my dad called out that he had to pee. Since he was so weak, it took several of us to help him with this simple bodily function. My brother and my uncle held him up, my mom helped him and I also gathered there in support. At the stroke of three, his hand dropped and he was gone. As I think back on this memory that ALWAYS brings me to tears, I think about my dad's final words. They weren't words of comfort. They weren't saying goodbye. They weren't elegant words we could treasure always. However, I believe he said those specific words to gather us all together. He knew that it took several people to help him with this simple task, so gathering us all together to help him allowed us all to be around him when he slipped away from this world. He was surrounded by the people who loved him most and whom he loved most. As we all realized he was gone, we clung onto one another. We were surrounded by the people we loved the most. We all supported each other in that moment and in all the difficult moments to come.
This memory is as fresh in my mind and heart as if it happened yesterday instead of 23 years ago. Even though it is a painful moment in my life, I will treasure it always. I believe that was my dad's final gift to the people he loved.
I believe Jesus endured the pain of speaking while hanging that cross as HIS final gift to us. He gathered the people who loved him the most and they listened to his words. The writers of the Gospels interviewed those around the cross and recorded those last few precious statements from Jesus so we could treasure them generations later.
In the coming weeks of Lent, as I study those gifted statements from my Savior, I will look at them in a different way. I will think of the gift my earthly father gave me and be honored by the gift my Heavenly father gave me on the cross.
Dear Gracious Father,
Thank you so much for the gift you gave the world through Jesus. In this world of division and frustration, gather people together and let us all feel your love through the gifts you have given us. Let us lean on the people around us. Help us to come together and work on bringing peace to a hurting world. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.