Full Text for Pastoral Theology and Practice- Volume 39 - Counseling at Death's Door (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY LUTHERAN PASTORAL THEOLOGY & PRACTICE LPTP-39 Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 www.captionfirst.com *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *** >> DAVID: Thank you for asking these questions, Josh. I've been struggling with my own ministry this month. I've had to try to counsel and comfort a person who knows he's dying of pancreatic cancer. What does a pastor say to a Christian who is at death's door? How can he, or I in this case, best be of service? >> DR. WARNECK: David, when a Christian is nearing the end of his or her days here on earth, it's a prime opportunity for the power of the Gospel to show forth. And the Gospel never disappoints us in this ministry. And I hope to make that clear to you in our conversation about your question. Occasionally, the pastor can really get uptight when he is called to minister to a person suffering a terminal illness and particularly when the medical community has indicated that the time is short. The pastor has these feelings: He says to himself, "Well, this is the day and this is the time. I better be effective now, if I ever was. Because I owe the dying Christian my very best. It's the last inning. There are two outs, and only a home run will do." So the pastor gets a little uptight, as I said, about this very urgent ministry. Our word to you is "Relax, Pastor." Just relax. Come with the power of the Gospel and let the plain word of God speak for itself. We should have confidence in that word. With a word Jesus held Satan at bay. Death is the last enemy, an instrument of Satan, and the Gospel of the crucified Lord who by death overcame him who had the power of death, even Satan. And by his rising from the grave brought life and immortality to light. By that good news, by that Gospel, we bring support for the dying Christian. And, by the way, it's support for the pastor himself as he ministers in what he perceives is a very difficult time, as indeed it is. But do not be anxious but believing. That's good counsel. We have confidence in the power of the word at such times. I have an example in my notes�-- I'm going to share it with you briefly here�-- where a Christian physician found himself in a situation to minister to one of his patients, a 27-year-old young mother of two children who was dying of cancer. And he reports that, when he was making his hospital rounds, he observed that this young woman was very frightened. And he delayed his rounds. He sat down at her bedside. And he simply cited for her scriptures which he could bring to the fore from his memory. By the way, this accents the importance of committing some of the scriptures to memory that we talked about in confirmation class a while back in a previous presentation. But the physician recited the scriptures. And he went on for as long as he could, almost 45 minutes. And then he observed that this young woman manifested a sense of calm. And she even reported�-- she even said to the doctor, "Thanks. That's just what I needed. I have just taken Christ as my Savior. Now I am ready to die." Now, that little story suggests to us that what's really important in this ministry is to bring the strong words of God and His great love for us and what He has done for us in Jesus Christ and what our future can be through trust and hope and belief in our Savior. We have a conviction in the pastoral ministry that every Christian at death's door is entitled to hear the saving name of Jesus. I hope that's your conviction as well, David. This suggests to me that we function much more effectively with the dying when we bring some of the unvarnished Jesus conversation about Jesus as our Savior. I much prefer so-called Jesus talk over some of the very formal prepared sentences and collects and the like that are in the printed rites. We have those rites available to us in our resources for ministry for the dying. What do we want to convey to the dying person? Perhaps there are just three things here. First of all, we want to convey that Jesus loves you and died for you. Romans 5, verse 8. John 3:16. Secondly, that Jesus bear in his body on the tree of the cross all of our sins. They're gone. And, thirdly, that Jesus rose again to be our living Savior. He is our Savior now. And He will be in eternity. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He will welcome you when God calls you to his heaven. I suggest, David, that our ministry kind of follow those lines. I believe we're saying the essential things that are supportive and helpful to the dying Christian in his or her faith and hope at a very difficult time. I might model this ministry just a bit with an illustration from my own parish service as a pastor. A Christian woman in her 50s was diagnosed with a malignancy in the brain and given 4 to 6 months to live. During that time we brought her Holy Communion regularly for her and her husband in their home. Her condition worsened. And on the day that she died, we had visited her in the morning and again in the afternoon. And she was at her home. And that evening, attending a meeting at the church, the night custodian approached the door of our boardroom about 10:30�p.m. and indicated there was a phone call waiting in the office. And, leaving the meeting and coming to that phone, the plea from this home of this lady was that she was something in a state of hysteria. And she was crying out, "I'm sick. I'm so sick. I don't want to die. Help me. Help me. Someone please help me." Immediately, we went to her home in the near neighborhood. And arriving there three grown children and several grandchildren moving about in the house, all in stages of grief and helplessness. And "Come with me to your mother's room." We gathered in the bedroom, sat down next to this lady. Her name was Betty. By now she was blind. The advancing malignancy had robbed her of her sight. I patted the lady on her arm and said, "Betty, I'm Pastor Warneck. And we are all here with you�-- Gus and Carol, John and Bill. And Jesus is here too. Listen. Jesus has some good things to say to us. He says, 'I am the good shepherd. I lay down my life for the sheep. And I give unto them eternal life.' "Betty, one of your favorite verses is 'The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.' Jesus, our good shepherd, died on the cross, took away all of our sins. And he said, 'I go to heaven to prepare a place for you.' Surely these words help us now. "And, remember another favorite passage, 'God so loved the world, He gave his only son. Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.' Betty, we know Jesus. We believe on Him. And His gift of eternal life and peace is ours. Shall we pray." This dying lady became calm. And I attribute that to the power of the Gospel, the word of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. A few hours later that night the Lord took her to himself in heaven. And what I want to emphasize here is the plain Jesus talk, if you will, the talk that conveys clearly and plainly Jesus and all that He's done for us as our Savior. With the plea to believe on Him, that is a sound preparation of the Christian for their last moments here on earth. Now, there's a related concern that we might address here. And perhaps it has come up in your experience, David, with persons who are diagnosed with a terminal illness. Some of the anxiety that they're dealing with goes something like this: "Oh, my goodness. The doctor's only given me a few months. How am I going to stand up when those months are at an end? Things are going to get real tough, and am I going to keep my faith to the end?" Conscientious Christian thinks about those things. The question can come up in another setting when relatives reflect on a member of their family who went through a terminal illness and finally died. The question is: Did she�-- did Mother, when she died, having gone through all of that pain and all of that difficulty, did she keep the faith? Did she believe? These anxious questions the Lord takes care of, David. And we need to assure our people of this. We suggest to them the bold promises of God. In I Peter 1:5 the apostle exclaims, "Who are kept through the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time!" Note, the Christian is kept, not by his or her own strength or that of others, but by the power of God. That's a firm promise from our Lord through his apostle. And you know how St.�Paul put it: "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1, verse 6. So, again, it is He, not us, who will perform that work which He has begun. And He will keep us in the faith and bring that faith to fruition in glory at the day of the Lord's appearing. And then, you know, you only have to add these strong words, the confidence of the apostle Paul, when he was nearing death. Probably martyrdom in Rome. Remember what he said. "The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen." That's how St.�Paul put it. And, David, we're going to leave it right there. Sound preparation for those who are anxious over our end time whenever it comes. *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***