As we walked in he reached up and shut off his small wall mounted television. I am almost sure he had just chosen the show he wanted to watch, but we were more interesting. We introduced ourselves as chaplains* here to chat with him. We just wanted to check in. At first his words were a stream of unconnected phrases that I could not decipher, then he jerked his chair back and using all the agility he could muster, which was not much, he was able to reach for his Bible.
The chaplain with me knelt down, asking if he wanted us to read to him. With perfect clarity he asked for the beginning of the second letter of Peter. He explained to me that he intended for me to read the letter, not the other information printed above the letter in the NIV I was holding. Listening intently for a moment he interrupted me to inform me that he liked to pray the Bible, as I read I saw him bow his head in prayer, sincere prayer. After reading for a bit he took the Bible away and said that the next time I returned he wanted me to have found the passage that speaks of the armor of God. By grace alone I instantly remembered that passage as Ephesians 6. I asked if he would like me to read for him now. He was pleased I knew the passage. We alternated reading, and the power of the words in his life rung truer than I could ever know. The expression on his face revealing that in these words he found his strength.
After a bit of reading, when he appeared tired, we left. He handed me a flower as I left and the other chaplain a coin with a blessing engraved on it. He insisted that we both take our gifts.
I don't know what my meeting with him meant to him today, but I can tell you the Word of God was powerful. It was if in hearing the Word read, this man could feel God there with him. I do not often expound on my love for scripture. In fact I will admit that often mine is a love affair that requires that I have access to commentaries and language studies to fully appreciate it. I realize that the text I have is the best tool available to me to know God, and for that I am grateful. Honesty compels me to confess that despite my love for the text I take it for granted.
Today I saw the power of the Word. This man who is barely present in life, sick and alone in the hospital, was present in the reading of the Word. In it he found peace. He reminded me of how beautiful the words are, and hearing him read them I can tell you they are breathtaking.
*I am a volunteer chaplain at SF General. It is one of my favorite things I do with my time here in SF.