The call from the hospital came five minutes before our Easter service was to start. "Pastor, come quick," the head nurse said. "We have a baby in crisis in the ER. Doc says he may not make it!" Click — and the phone was dead.
The color must have drained from my face. My wife, Karen, asked, "What's wrong?"
I told the people around me about the call.
"What are you still doing here?" Karen asked.
"What about Easter?" I asked. That was when I realized who was standing around me.
Andy said, "God just laid a sermon on my heart."
"I'm ready to sing the liturgy," Gary added.
Karen said, "I'll make sure everything goes OK. Now just get out of here."
God had placed everyone around me that I needed. And they all sent me off, saying, "Go, we'll be praying for you!"
I noticed when I entered the ER that I still was wearing my alb, stole and sealskin cross. People were rushing. The ambulance techs were packing up their gear, shaking their heads. The head nurse greeted me, "Happy Easter ... in there now!" With a point of her finger, I knew which room the child was in.
The doctors and nurses were working feverishly on this 5-month-old. He was rubbed pink with all the work being done to him. I started to pray, "Dear God, if it is your will, let him live. ... O Risen Lord, be with me. Oh my, he is so little!"
In the corner of the room, the child's father was being held by his own father as a parent's worst fears unfolded before them.
Not long after, the doctor said, "He's gone. We've done all we can." He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "It's up to you now."
The ER, which had moments before been filled with doctors shouting orders and nurses and staff whisking here and there, turned quiet. The staff had gone. Grief set in.
I wrapped the little boy in a white blanket from the linen warmer and thought, he looks like baby Jesus. The father sank to his knees as I handed him his son. His mournful cry filled the room.
Unknown to me, one of our church council members had followed me to the hospital and was praying in the waiting room for the child, the doctors and staff, the family and me. Back at church, the congregation had started services with a prayer for all of us — before exclaiming, "Christ is risen. Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!"
After the baby died, the council member headed back to church to pass the word. They prayed for the baby and family, for the hospital staff and for me. All heads were bowed, I was told, from the youngest to the oldest. And when the Amen was said, every voice was clear.
I think now of John Donne, of his famous line of poetry that may be one of the most important spiritual teachings: Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. We are all connected.
The death of this little one diminishes us all. This was true for me last Easter. Those of us who live in faith and hope have tomorrow ... a million tomorrows.
Easter brunch was almost over when I got back to church. I was greeted with hugs and tears. Many members told me the Easter service was the most powerful they'd ever attended. And I missed it.
Or did I?
Christ is risen. Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Check out this week's articles:
The right clothes: (right) Jesus gives them to us. Will we wear them?
Wanted: Sinners dead and alive: Easter signals we're joined to Christ in baptism.
Easter stress: The kids feel it too.
From loss to forgiveness: Thief takes $400 in children's contributions.
Also: Divining right course.
This week on our blog:
Julie Sevig (right) blogs about humor.
Amber Leberman blogs about spring staf travel.
Andrea Pohlmann writes about "hope in a jar."
Tell us! Pastor goofs
For some of you it was just last Sunday, for others it was years ago. Pastors, please share with us your funniest — yes, likely embarrassing — ministry stories.
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