461

A Litany for the Sick or Dying

Scripture References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

No hope is stronger than that expressed in Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 1: we “…belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ…because I belong to him, Christ by His Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life...”
 
The basic perspective of hope is expressed in Belgic Confession, Article 37 “…the Lord will make them (us) possess a glory such as the human heart could never imagine. So we look forward to that day (of Christ’s return) with longing in order to enjoy fully the promises of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
 
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 15, Question and Answer 42 clarifies what may be misunderstood when it says that even though Christ died for us, we still have to die, but “our death does not pay the debt of our sins. Rather it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life.” Additionally, Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 17, Question and Answer 45 explains that Christ’s resurrection “is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.”
 
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 22, Questions and Answers 57 and 58 speak reassurances about the actual event of dying: “Not only will my soul be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head, but also my very flesh will be raised by the power of Christ, reunited with my soul, and made like Christ’s glorious body,” and “even as I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God forever” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 22, Question and Answer 58).
 

Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 56 summarizes our hope by testifying, “We long for that day when our bodies are raised, the Lord wipes away our tears, and we dwell forever in the presence of God. We will take our place in the new creation, where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, and the Lord will be our light. Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

461

A Litany for the Sick or Dying

Musical Suggestion

Although there is no lack of prayer for the dying in our worship, rarely do we find prayers of the dying as part of our liturgies. The litany can be used in either congregational or pastoral care settings. In a congregational setting a member of the congregation would be asked to speak voice 2 on behalf of the sufferer. The litany offers the opportunity for the dying person to be present as voice 2, as congregation members symbolically take their place at the bedside and enter into the prayers in a direct and personal way. Subsequently, the pastor and elders could bring the litany to the bedside of the sufferer. Voice 1 would be read by an elder, pastor, or other representative of the church. Voice 2 might be prayed by the sufferer or, when that is not possible, could be spoken by a family representative, preferably while making some kind of physical contact with the sufferer. There is a part of the psalm that relates to circumstances of an untimely serious illness. If this is the case, include the boxed portion of the litany. A litany such as this has the capacity to frame the setting of a deathbed and to respect its significance. By bringing in the soaring and searing language of the psalms, we avoid being banal in a situation that cries out for depth of meaning.
 
 
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