A MINISTER passing through his church in the middle of the day decided to pause by the altar and see who had come to pray. Just then, the back door opened. A man walked down the aisle and the minister frowned as he saw the man hadn’t shaved in a while. His shirt was shabby, old and his coat was worn and frayed. The man knelt, he bowed his head, then rose and walked away.
In the days that followed, each day at noon came this chap. Each time he knelt just for a moment, a lunch pail in his lap. Well, the minister’s suspicions grew, with robbery a main fear. He decided to stop the man and ask him: “What are you doing here?”
The old man said he worked down the road. Lunch was half an hour. Lunchtime was his prayer time for finding strength and power. “I stay only moments because the factory is so far away. As I kneel here talking to the Lord, this is what I say: ‘I just came again to tell you, Lord, how happy I’ve been since we found each other’s friendship and you took away my sin. I don’t know much of how to pray, but I think about you every day. So, Jesus, this is Jim, checking in today’.”
The minister, feeling foolish, told Jim that was fine. He told the man he was welcome to come and pray just anytime. Time to go, Jim smiled, and said “thanks”. He sped to the door. The minister then knelt at the altar – he’d never done it before. His cold heart melted and, warmed with love, he met Jesus there. As the tears flowed in his heart, he repeated old Jim’s prayer: ‘How happy I’ve been since we found each other’s friendship and you took away my sin. I don’t know much of how to pray, but I think about you every day. So, Jesus, this is me, checking in today.’
Past noon one day, the minister noticed that old Jim hadn’t come. As more days passed without Jim, he began to worry. At the factory, he asked about him and learned that he was ill. The hospital staff were worried, but he’d given them a thrill. The week that Jim was with them brought changes in the ward. His smiles, a joy contagious … changed people were his reward. The head nurse couldn’t understand why Jim was so glad when no flowers, calls or cards came, and no-one had visited him. The minister stayed by his bed, he voiced the nurse’s concern – no friends came to show they cared.
He had nowhere to turn. Looking surprised, old Jim spoke up and, with a winning smile, said: “The nurse is wrong, she couldn’t know that in here all the while, every day at noon, he’s here, a dear friend of mine; you see, he sits right down, takes my hand, leans over and says to me: ‘I just came again to tell you, Jim, how happy I’ve been since we found this friendship and I took away your sin. I always love to hear you pray and I think about you every day. So, Jim, this is Jesus, checking in today’.”
***Lord Jesus, you overpowered the control that sickness had by curing people of their illnesses.
Those who were disabled were freed to walk again.
You calmed the sea and showed that you had control, even over nature.
You rose to a new way of living and showed that not even death had power over you.
With your power in our lives, everything that happens to us can be turned to good.
And so I ask you this day to help me to transform my difficulties and draw goodness out of what is negative in my life, knowing that there is nothing in life or in death that can ever separate me from your love. Amen.***