Two radio talks given at Halton Hospital in July 2017 by Terry Hawes
I remember a cartoon showing the 3 wise men staring at a road sign saying “Bethlehem – 500 miles”. One of them was very excited & saying “It’s a sign!!!” It certainly was a sign, but probably not the one they really wanted.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been in hospital as a patient, as a family member, & as a husband. There’s the initial suspicion something isn’t right, then the tests, the waiting around, the sitting in waiting rooms until your name is called. That’s when we all want a sign, a sign from someone – anyone, to tell us that it’s all OK after all. Sometimes you get the sign you want, & sometimes you don’t. At these times people often pray, come to faith, or reject faith wondering how there can be a God amidst pain, illness & eventually death.
The cross is the most powerful sign to all Christians. No serious historian doubts that Jesus lived on the earth – the manner of his death on a crucifixion cross is not in doubt either – the Romans were very good at that sort of thing. What we have to decide for ourselves is whether He is the Son of God. It’s also certain that His death was entirely voluntary, because if at any time He had denied who He was, He would have lived. Yet He chose torture & death, of His own free will, to demonstrate His love for us all. Here is a God who became a man, who felt every pain a human being can feel, His death & suffering was a real event – we can share ours with Him.
It is no small thing to be in hospital, to receive bad news for yourself or your loved ones. It’s no small thing to watch the atrocities committed in the name of faith we see every day in London, Manchester, Syria & other places around the world. Where is God, we might reasonably & very painfully ask. Where is a sign?
Around us at these times, we see hospital staff working around the clock to relieve suffering. We see emergency services walking into impossible situations, of their own free will. They do these things to help & save communities, human lives & health. The news isn’t always good, but while bad news makes headlines, good news lives alongside it, & in every atrocity, in every sickness, there are people working tirelessly to relieve the burdens. As long as evil & pain exist, goodness is found in the every heart of it, as good people give up their comfortable positions to go into famine, into bomb sites, into hospitals & onto the community streets. Maybe they’re not the signs we expect from God. That’s maybe not surprising – the early Christians expected to see God at the head of an army, instead they saw Jesus riding on a donkey, & it took a while before the penny dropped.
I hope you have good news today, I really do. If you do, please come & share it. But if you don’t please come & share that too. God is in both places.
In the name of the Father, & of the Son, & of the Holy Spirit, amen.
(c) Terry Hawes, 2018
Prayer Is Real
I used to work night shifts in intensive care. A young man lay in a coma for many days, & his brother said to me –
“I’m 6′ 1”, I weigh 15 stone. If you give me a shovel & enough time, I could move a mountain, but I can’t do anything for my brother.”
I think that perfectly summarises the helplessness, & the terrible feeling of depending completely on somebody else when you really want to help yourself. His mother never spoke, so I didn’t know what to say. I respected her silence & hoped for the best, but there was no happy ending. In the middle of my shift I used to go the chapel to be quiet with God, but it wasn’t until later that I read the prayer book. Only then did I find the prayers written by the mother every time she went to the chapel to pray for her son – I didn’t know she was going there.
I wish I’d known, I wish I’d spoken to her. Maybe she would have talked to me about God & her prayers, & I could have gone to pray with her, which obviously would have helped her. Her faith survived & sustained her through the most unimaginable thing – the death of her child.
So please have a fresh look around you. Are you a patient? Are you a visitor? Do you work here? Is there somebody around that you’re used to seeing, but don’t know what to say? Why not ask if you can help? Can you get a drink for them, can you sit with them in silence? Let them tell you what they’d like – & accept that there be nothing you can do, or nothing that they want from you.
But try not to let opportunities to help others pass you by, & perhaps there was something the living son could do for his brother, & certainly for his mother – he could go the chapel with her while she prayed.
In the name of the Father, & of the Son, & of the Holy Spirit, amen
(c) Terry Hawes, 2017