I have found myself at my 94 year old mother’s hospital bed for the past week and have been through the gamut of emotions as we have had differing opinions on her prognosis. While not yet out of the woods, I’m glad to report she has improved.
Hospitals are not generally spots of serenity. With the constant flow of health care professionals in and out of the room and the monitors with their incessant beepings, it seems to be at best organized chaos. But this hospital, being of the Methodist tradition, has a chapel that offers some moments of solitude and serenity.
I had been in the chapel once before, exactly eight years ago, as I offered up prayers for a young woman from our church. A wife and mother of two young boys, she lost her courageous battle against leukemia that day. As I entered the chapel today, I was reminded of the roller coaster of emotions of that day and the difficulty the family had in making the inevitable decision to end lifesaving measures and saying goodbye. I know, especially after this week, that it is never an easy decision to make, no matter what the age of the loved one.
Today, a painting on the west wall of the chapel caught my eye. I immediately knew it was a depiction of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic, whose friends lowered him through the roof due to the crowds preventing access to “The Great Physician.” The painting, by that same name, is the work of Warner Sallman. His paintings, Head of Christ and Christ at Heart’s Door are modern, iconic images of the Savior.
While the painting is especially appropriate in a hospital setting as it acknowledges the role of God’s power over disease, the biblical account reminds one of Christ’s power over our most deadly spiritual malady: SIN. As the man was laid in front of him, Jesus forgave his sins. Receiving criticism from the religious leaders about his audacious and divinely presumptuous statement, he discerned their thoughts. Responding to their challenge, Jesus said that while saying one’s sins are forgiven might not be discernable from their perspective, making a lame man walk would give proof of his divine power to pardon sin.
9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He told the paralytic, 11 “I tell you: get up, pick up your mat, and go home.”
12 Immediately he got up, picked up the mat, and went out in front of everyone. As a result, they were all astounded and gave glory to God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” Mark 2:9-12*
The knowledge of Christ’s ultimate authority over the power of sin gives the follower of Jesus a serenity to face life with a peace in turmoil and the afterlife without fear.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen
(Reinhold Niebuhr – 1892-1971)
See more examples of serenity HERE.
My good friend and neighboring pastor, William Richardson, wrote about Warner Sallman’s life and art. You can find his blog HERE.
*Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.