Part Two

Heritage Presbyterian Church

April 18, 2021
Third Sunday of Easter
Scripture readings: Luke 24: 36b-48 (Jesus appears to the disciples)
Acts 3: 12-19 (Peter speaks in Solomon’s Portico)

The following story took place in Florida at a memory care unit; these places are the ones that care for patients who have long-term memory issues such as traumatic brain injuries, strokes, dementia, and of course – Alzheimer’s disease.  The woman went there every single day to care for her husband.  She was devoted to him and, with the help of the staff, she established a confortable routine with him that involved her staying with him during the day, tending to the needs that she could handle, and spending whatever time they had left together with her husband.

Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and Florida was especially devastated by this horrible disease.  Across the state – and across the country – nursing homes, hospitals, and long-term care facilities were forced to eliminate all visitors for reasons of safety and public health.  While the wife certainly understood these precautions, it meant that she could no longer help her husband or even see him.

She was only 57 years old; her husband was 66 years old.  She knew that he could survive for many good years, but as she feared – he began to decline rapidly without her daily presence in his life.  She waited and waited for the pandemic to fade, for public health officials to find a treatment or a cure, for the restrictions to be eased if things got better. 

We all know what happened last year; many of us did exactly the same things: waiting for the restrictions to ease, waiting for a treatment or a vaccine or SOMETHING that would enable us to move around as we did before.  For 114 days in 2020, nothing changed – except for the reports of the continuing decline of her husband.  They tried “window-visits” but that only upset her husband because he couldn’t hear what she said; they tried Zoom but that just frustrated him.

What could she do?

She came up with an idea: could she get some sort of job at the memory care facility?  That way, she could get to see her husband every day.  Unfortunately, the only job open was for a part-time dishwasher.  She jumped at the opportunity; in fact, she declared to anyone who would listen, “I’m gonna be the best dishwasher you’ve ever had, because I want to be here, because I need to be with him.”  

On her first day of work, her husband recognized her – even though she was wearing a mask.  Both embraced and wept joyfully.  Now she cheerfully goes to work every day and gets lots of extra time to again be a part of her husband’s daily routine – and his life.  Her husband recognizes her every time he sees her and seems much more relaxed.  How long this period of good times will last is anyone’s guess.  But this good woman loved her husband enough to take a menial job – and do it well – so that her love for him could continue in a meaningful way.  []

And that is what I call “Part Two” – the title and subject of today’s message.

We have just finished the season of Lent, a time in the life of any Christian church, in which we examine the life, work, and ministry of Jesus Christ.  This season concluded with the empty tomb on Easter morning, and Part One ends.

What is meant by the phrase Part One?

It means all the work, all the lessons, all the examples, all the sacrifices, and especially all the love that Jesus Christ exhibited for humankind during his time on Earth.  

After Jesus did all these things, the actions of the Apostles and the disciples, the actions of the early Christian leaders, in fact – the lives and actions of every single believer in the last 2000 years – is Part Two.  When we take the words and examples and lessons that Jesus gave us and put them to work, we are doing Part Two.

The good woman in the story I shared with you is a perfect example of Part Two.  What did she do?  

Even though Alzheimer’s disease was slowly robbing her beloved husband of his ability to live with her, she still went to see him and established a routine with him every single day, making his life as good as she could.  When she could no longer do that due to Covid-19, she humbled herself to take the lowest level job at the facility just so she could be with him again.  And she didn’t just go through the motions of the job, she didn’t just punch in and punch out so she could somehow “con” the system; she became a valuable employee who took her small paychecks from that job to “do something nice for the staff” that worked in that facility.

Remember what Jesus did for his Apostles on the night of the Last Supper?  The first thing he did was to wash their feet – a lowly job fit only for a slave.  Jesus used that to plant the idea in the minds of his followers that he was the slave of all – and they should be also. 

  • He humbled himself… the wife in the story did too. 
  • He put others first…and the wife in the story did too.
  • He loved completely…and the wife in the story did too.

So what about us, Christians?  What is our Part Two?

Do we only accept that the Apostles were Part Two?  Or can we also accept that we have the same responsibility that they had?

I say it is on us, and I also say that some folks are up to the task because they love so much – they love their Savior, they love the ones in their lives, and they try to love one another as Jesus Christ commanded.  They are working, living, and loving as Part Two.

What does this look like in our own lives?

There are lots and lots of stories in our own lives and in the life of our church that are not finished or even written just yet.

What about the children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews in your own lives who need the love, guidance, and especially the guidance of you?  That might be your Part Two.

What about problems in our society that trouble you, bother you, enough to even make you angry?  Are you doing anything about it other than yelling at your television during the news or throwing your hands in the air and saying, “It’s in your hands, Lord; I can’t do anything about it.”  In fact, you can, Citizen!  Have you done anything about those problems…I mean besides posting your opinions on social media?  Have you called your elected representatives – even if you didn’t vote for them?  Have you made your own position crystal clear to them?  Have you written letters – I mean paper letters that get mailed, not emails that can be quickly deleted and forgotten?  Have you gone to Austin, Washington D.C., or even City Hall in Tomball, Katy, Cypress, or Houston to meet with your city or county officials?  Did you know that you could do that, especially if you go in a group of larger than one?  Perhaps this could be your Part Two.

When you see something in your community, your neighborhood, your church, are you doing anything besides telling others you think they should do something?  Are you hoping local leaders will be inspired by your comments and will get busy solving that problem, changing that situation, or implementing that solution instead of doing it yourself?  Good ideas are GOOD IDEAS.  They need to be shared and implemented – but they also need to be done with the assistance of those who create the ideas.  Very early in my time here at Heritage, this church had an elder who never seemed to lift a finger to help or implement any of the hundreds of ideas that he generated; instead, his pattern was to email me the latest idea and then get angry and frustrated when I didn’t jump on it immediately.  (By the way, that’s not Part Two…that’s just being lazy.)  I seriously doubt Jesus meant for Peter, John, and the other Apostles to just stand around brainstorming ways to spread the Good News and then saying, “Okay, Christians…now go and DO THAT.”  They did spread the Holy Spirit, the most powerful way of Part Two working.

But note how often they did work themselves.  Note how they challenged false teachers.  Note how they walked and spoke bravely and bluntly to all who needed to hear it.  Note how they embodied exactly what their Savior told them when he said, “I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.”

First, Jesus came.  That was Part One.

Then his Apostles and disciples followed.  That was Part Two.

Nowhere in Scripture does it say or assume or indicate that Part Two ended with those Apostles.

It continues to this day.  We are Part Two.