Reformation Lutheran Church A Congregation of the ELCA

Friday, April 7

THE PROMISE

I just renewed my driver’s license. “You can renew it again in four years,” the man said as I walked away. In four years? That hit me where it hurts: the chances of my being alive in four years are very slim indeed. I wished I had said to him, “You promise?” I can imagine his look, staring at this dead man walking.

It makes me think of another promise, one I made to a dear lady, Mary N____, a member of the congregation I served in Chicago, a quiet woman with a dour husband and two of the finest sons I’ve ever known. She was dying of cancer, slowly, painfully. She had pretty much shut herself up in a tiny room in her house, with one window (the shade drawn), a chair, a lamp, a cot and nothing else. She asked me one day, “What will it be like to die?”

“I don’t know, Mary,” I said, “but this is what I trust will happen. Someday soon, while you’re sleeping here on your cot, you’ll be awakened by a bright light. You’ll wake up and see a man, here, at the end of your bed. Your husband? A son? A doctor? Who? And then, suddenly, you’ll know him: Jesus, Child of Mary, your Savior. He will reach out his nail-scarred hand to you and say, ‘Come on, Mary. Let’s go home.’ You will take his hand, and you will go home, to God, your exceeding joy.”

Mary gave me her little smile but said nothing. Nowadays I like to imagine her saying, “You promise?”

On Easter Sunday, in the Year of Our Lord 1968, Mary died. Her son called me from the hospital, right before the last service. I told him I’d be over as soon as church was over. When I got there, he told me almost immediately, “It was the strangest thing, Pastor,” he said. “She’d been in a coma for the last few days, but suddenly this morning, she opened her eyes, sat up as though seeing someone at the end of her bed ... and then fell back and died.”

The dear Lord Jesus kept my promise.

Nowadays I repeat that promise to myself. “Jesus will reach out his hand to you and say, ‘Come on, let’s go home.’” “You promise?” I’ll say. I can hear his answer already, now spoken from his cross, “Yes, I promise.” And I will take his hand, and we will go home. Home at last.

And I am at peace.

Rev. Richard Hoyer (retired)

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