The man stands slowly up from his chair, comes to the front of the room.
He stands beside the pastor, is introduced.
Many of us know his story, some do not.
He founded an influential ministry to rural teens around us, has faithfully served God, followed where led. His ministry has been a lifesaver to countless teens. Now he is retired, but these years after determent haven't been easy. Today he is here to tell us the story of Joseph, and how he relates to Joseph.
He tells us in slow, halting words of Joseph's rise, his fall, his eventual triumph. Of the years in prison, the years as Pharaoh's right-hand man.
God, he tells us, never left Joseph, never stopped blessing Joseph. Though Joseph couldn't see at the time, what men intended for evil, God meant for unimaginable good. Then he begins to tell us how he relates.
"I am in a kind of prison," he says. " I am having things taken from me all the time. That prison is called Parkinson's disease. It began with the stiffness. And loosing my balance. Then the tremors started in my right hand, and would not stop." He holds out the hand that has been gesturing up to this point, and held still, we see the shaking all the more.
"Then," he tells us, "I began to loose my ability to form sentences, and to think of the right words. .......I spoke for a living." He pauses to let the weight of that statement sink in. "We, we are doing all we can to keep the disease at bay. This prison is taking a little of my life everyday. But you know, its not going to define who I am. And the hard points in you life don't hve to define who you are. Because we have a relationship with the Father."
"I'm going to tell you four things that give me the ablity to stand, and after I say each one I'd like you to repeat it back to me."
We, the congregation, nod our assent, wondering what he'll ask us to say.
"God is sovereign."
The room echos with it as we say it back.
"God is sovereign."
"God is present"
All this path he has walked, still he knows it to be true. We echo him.
"God is present."
"God is good."
This is a funny kind of liturgy to hear from someone who is slowly having everything taken from him.
But......then again, maybe it is the only kind of liturgy you can have left. Because really, these truths are the only things that hold us when all else shatters. We know they aren't going anywhere. Voices all around echo this supreme truth.
"God is good."
"And," He pauses, with a twinkle in his eye, "I know how the story ends."
There is a pause as this washes over us.
"I know how the story ends!"
.....Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
Revaluation 21:1-7 ESV