By Greg Schmidt, hospice chaplain

Earlier this month, our Heart & Soul Hospice team hosted a “Celebration of Hope: Celebrate, Honor & Remember” service at Wichita Presbyterian Manor. It was an opportunity for our team to bring together the families of those we’ve served over the course of the past several months for a time of reflection, praise and thanksgiving as we continue to both mourn and comfort one another on life’s journey.

In addition to having two readers theatre teams share scripture lessons and poems, and sharing a devotional, we released Monarch butterflies. Each participating family had a butterfly to set free. Prior to the release event – within my own thoughts and then also shared with the event participants – I said, “Wouldn’t it be really cool if a released butterfly would land on one of us prior to fluttering away?”

Well, it happened! And it landed … on me! I felt so blessed. Following a prayer, the man who set free the butterfly honoring his father walked over to me, bent down and gently nudged the butterfly to fly again while chuckling, “Come on, dad, it’s time to fly.” It was a Kodak moment.

In the Old Testament/Psalms, David knew what it was like to want to be set free, to no longer be “trapped” or “imprisoned” by the constraints associated with our world. He was hiding in a cave, trying to avoid being entrapped by those in pursuit of him, and cried out to God, “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise Your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.” (Psalm 142:6-7)

From the moment we are born, I think death pursues us. Its strength is something we cannot overcome. And, not to be negative, but at many points along life’s journey, our body becomes our prison.

But the truly “Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” is that we don’t have to be forever imprisoned. We can choose to be set free. We can shout to death that it will not win this battle for our lives. How? By choosing to listen to Jesus’ call to follow Him and then pursuing that style of life which demonstrates we do believe all that Jesus taught.

And because Heart & Soul Hospice is a faith-based hospice, we have to chance to give away to our patients the freedom and hope and forgiveness and promise that God through Christ has already given to us. David’s cry to God was purely about being “saved” or “set free” from everyday problems, challenges and trials. That reality is evidenced by the fact he clearly states that his fellow cave-dwellers (i.e., those also scared, hiding, and imprisoned) would become those who would one day soon gather about him (i.e., listen to what he had to say) because they’d witnessed that he’d been blessed — and freed from all that “entangled” or “imprisoned” him — on earth.

So, that’s what we do. Our team lives today to give away the peace, joy and love we’ve already received from God, and do it in such a way that we inspire hope for each new day we share together. For today. Jesus came to set people free … today! Let’s all enjoy doing the same.