Chapter Three

Earl and Joyce arrived back at the nursing home early the next Saturday morning, where they observed Cathy’s waking, dressing, eating breakfast, and attending a class of modest objectives where she was taught the basics of self-sufficiency and a somewhat superficial level of reading. Handwriting was out of the question, of course, but a variety of new communications devices had come onto the market in the last decade, and Cathy had access to one that had buttons she could press to spell letters, words and even some phrases that would appear on a screen. Earl watched her at work with the device, and soon was going beyond observation to active participation, showing her pictures of objects and helping her spell out the representations in English. He backed off when it came time for the bathroom functions, letting Joyce do the observing there as they had agreed earlier.

The day passed quickly and Earl was relieved at the end to note that Laurie had returned to a full acceptance of Joyce and him. Beyond that, Joyce had not been put off by her observation of the less desirable chores associated with maintaining Cathy’s well-being. Despite the encouragement this offered, Earl reserved his congratulations to her for when she would actually perform the tasks herself.

That evening at home Joyce had a surprise phone call. “Hi, Joyce,” the feminine voice said. “It’s me.”

“Mom!” Joyce replied happily. “It’s been weeks since we’ve talked. How are you, and why haven’t you called?”

“I’ve been busy,” she said cryptically. “But we – I – will see you in Church tomorrow morning. I have something to show you.”

“Tell me now.”

“No. I want it to be a surprise. See you tomorrow, and let’s have lunch together downtown.”

“Sure.” When they hung up, Joyce called to Earl. “Earl, that was mom on the phone. She’s going to Church tomorrow. She sounded strange, like she has a secret.”

“Oh?” he replied. “Well, it’ll be good to see her again. It’s been a while.”

The next morning Earl and Joyce arrived at Church early and waited in the parking lot for Janet. They both laughed to see her tool up in her bright green Mazda Miata convertible, sporting shades. There was a large gap between her age and the appropriate age for the car, but it was also good to see her enjoying life so thoroughly in her sunset years. What was more surprising was that she wasn’t alone. A very tall male sat in the passenger seat of the tiny vehicle, giving the appearance that he was playing with a toy. When they parked he struggled like a long-legged spider to extricate himself from the car, and finally stood up to his full height of 6 feet 6 inches. Janet was all smiles as she came up to Earl and Joyce and presented Henry to them.

“Henry’s my insurance agent,” she said after they’d introduced themselves. “His wife died three years ago. Now he’s my friend, too. My good friend.”

“Nothing like getting right to the point, mom,” Joyce said, but she was grinning along with Janet. She took an instant liking to Henry. Perhaps it was the kindness in his eyes, but she was very happy for her mother. They went into the Church together and sat toward the front in deference to Henry’s deteriorating hearing.

In his sermon, Pastor George presented a brief overview of the Book of Revelation before beginning to read the Scripture. “The Book of Revelation has some definite arrangements of topics,” he began. “The first three chapters deal with the Church throughout its history. The Church is not mentioned once in the remaining chapters of the book, which has led many to believe that the Rapture and consequent end of the Church age on earth takes place in Chapter 4. In the first chapter Jesus approaches John and demonstrates the intimacy of His connection to His Church. He commands him to write the things that he has seen, the things that are, and the things yet to happen. The ‘things he has seen’ are Jesus as He shall appear in His second coming, the seven representative Churches to whom He has messages and His commandment to write His messages to seven churches. The ‘things which are’ are the messages to the seven Churches, which occupy Chapters 2 and 3. The ‘things yet to happen’ are the events that take place beginning in Chapter 4 and continue through the remainder of the book.

“Chapters 4 and 5 are visions of heaven and Jesus’ taking of the scrolls to unseal them to begin the judgment of God upon the earth. This judgment is a woeful series of plagues upon the earth and mankind that runs from Chapter 6 through Chapter 20. These devastating miseries are arranged into three groups of seven: seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls. There’s a wide range of opinions about the time periods each of these three sets occupy. To some, they all occur within a final seven-year period called the Tribulation or the Time of Jacob’s Trouble spoken of in Chapter 30 of Jeremiah. To many others, only the final set occurs within the Tribulation period, the other two having taken place earlier. At least one well-known Bible scholar considers most of the seal judgments to have begun shortly after the beginning of the twentieth century. Regardless of that, the judgments get more intense as time progresses; the last three and a half years are called by many the Great Tribulation, which sees the awesome violence of God’s wrath. It’s an awful time that I, for one, would prefer not to go through. There will be Christians throughout this time, but we think, and hope, that the Rapture will take us up before we get to that point.

“Chapters 20 through 22 are occupied by the judgment of God on those who rejected Jesus, the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth, otherwise known as either the Millenium or the Seventh Day of God, the new heaven and earth, and the new paradise. But before we get there, and even before we get into Chapter 6, we’ll have to cover some prerequisites. The Book of Revelation, you see, is closely connected to the imagery in the Book of Daniel and in Jesus’ Olivet and Temple Discourses, in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 17 and 21. But for today we’ll start with a reading of Revelation Chapter 1.” He read the chapter to them and the service closed with a hymn.

“Let’s go to lunch, Janet said when they emerged into the parking lot. “We’re buying. You can follow us.”

“Mom, this place is pretty spendy,” Joyce said as they were seated. “Let us at least pay our own way.”

“No. I’m celebrating.” She waved her left hand in front of her daughter, who gasped in surprise.

“Oh!” Joyce cried. “What a beautiful ring!”

“Henry gave it to me yesterday. We’re planning our honeymoon in two months.”

“Congratulations to you both!” Earl said.

“Thanks, and now we’ll have some wine.” She signaled a waiter and ordered a carafe of merlot. On the verge of declining because of his upcoming Bible study at the nursing home that evening, Earl decided to take a sip in fellowship.

When the wine arrived and they’d placed their orders Henry did the honor with the pouring and stood up beaming to make a toast. He decided to go formal and raised a spoon for mock attention. “Ahem,” he intoned with a silly grin on his face and tapped his wine glass.

He must have been nervous, for his tap was somewhat on the hard side. “Oh!” he exclaimed as his wine glass disintegrated into shards. “Oh!” Janet exclaimed as the unrestrained liquid made a beeline over the tablecloth into her lap. “Oh No!”

Poor Henry was beside himself at what he’d done to ruin the lunch and Janet’s dress. He just couldn’t understand why Janet wasn’t crying. He was shocked, in fact, to see the three of them holding their sides laughing.

“Welcome to the family, Henry,” Earl said after he caught his breath. “You’re not the first.” Joyce told him about Earl’s first time meeting Janet and how she’d returned from the bathroom finding Earl on top of her mother after tripping on the door sill. “He’s a keeper, mom,” Joyce told her mother. “Anyone who can maintain a tradition like that can’t be all bad.” Earl grinned at prospect of passing the torch to Henry.

Sheepish at first, Henry was finally convinced to join in on the fun. Lunch wasn’t ruined at all. It was the best time they’d had together since Earl’s disaster with Janet in her foyer.

That evening at the nursing home Earl continued in Luke’s Book of Acts from where he’d left off last time. “So Peter, emboldened by the Holy Spirit inside him, did exactly what Jesus foretold in John 21: he fed Jesus’ sheep with the word of God, first saving three thousand souls, then five thousand, and after that the Gentile world through Cornelius the devout Italian. But preaching wasn’t his only gift. I’ll read to you beginning at the first verse of Acts Chapter 3:

“’Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour [or 3 o’clock in the afternoon]. And a certain man, lame from his birth, was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple, which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked an alms.’”

“In other words,” Earl interrupted the narrative, “the man was lame like us,” he waved the stump of his right arm, “and he was begging for money to live on.” He returned to the narrative:

“’And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him, with John, said, Look on us. And [the beggar] gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none, but, such as I have, give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. And [Peter] took him by the right hand, and lifted him up; and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he, leaping up, stood and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they knew that it was he who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him. And as the lame man who was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering. And when Peter saw it, he answered the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? Or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power of holiness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son, Jesus, whom ye delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired [the murderer Barabbas] to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And his name, through faith in his name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

“’And now, brethren, I know that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shown by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, who before was preached unto you, whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord, your God, raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things, whatever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul, who will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those who follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son, Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

“This passage gives us something to think about,” Earl told his audience. “The Holy Spirit not only gave Peter the power to preach the Word of God to the saving of many souls, but also the power to heal, just like Jesus did. Do we have that kind of power today? And if we do, why doesn’t every one of us get healed like that lame man? The answer is this: we don’t live for ourselves. Every one of us lives for the glory of God in one way or another. It doesn’t matter whether the Holy Spirit operates the same today as then, even though I think that the Holy Spirit doesn’t change. Even Jesus didn’t heal everyone, nor did Peter, but only those whose healing glorified God. Some people get healed for this glory; others do not, and they don’t for the same glory that others do get healed. A couple of weeks ago, the pastor of the Church that Joyce and I attend gave us a Scripture lesson out of John 18:36. I’ll read what Jesus said there to you:

“My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from here.”

“You see,” Earl continued, “God’s universe is much bigger than this little earth that we live on now. Eventually all of us will be whole, without any missing or lame parts. But for the short time that we are on the earth, God is able to show the world the love of Christ through the compassion that Christians show toward the infirm. If Joyce still had her legs, how could Jesus show His love through my compassion toward her difficulties and my loving support of her? If I still had both arms, how could Jesus show His love through Joyce’s support of my infirmity? It’s the same with you: you are the means by which God shows His love through the compassionate care that Laurie and the other staff here show you. At the same time God is developing in you the patience and endurance of saints, the strength of character to love God in the face of your difficulties. The caregivers and the caregiven complement each other in a beautiful way to develop the selfless nobility of both, a trait that He will cherish in His Bride, the Church. May it always be that way,” Earl continued under his breath, suspecting that hard times lay ahead for those dependent on bureaucratic systems.

“Next time we’ll see that Peter and John are given supernatural power along with plenty of trouble to go with it. It has always been that way with the Church. The Church is at its very best when it faces danger and persecution. It’s at its very worst when times are good. We’ll see that while some like us are stuck with bodies that don’t work like they should, other Christians are stuck with suffering and tests of faith. Remember this word from Paul in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that all things work together for them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

“Good job,” Joyce told Earl in the car.

“It wasn’t me, as you know. Just like the beauty of your voice and piano playing. We know where that came from.”

“Thanks for that. It’s great being a team at work in the fields of the Lord, isn’t it? I love you.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: