If you’ve not been following the story in our daily readings for Morning and Evening Prayer, King Saul and his son Jonathan, David’s bestie, have both been killed. David is made King of Judah (the southern country centered around Jerusalem) while another son of King Saul is made King of Israel, the northern kingdom. Saul was killed on the field of battle as was Jonathan where many died. The people of Jabesh-Gilead quietly did what was right. In solemn ceremony, they took the body of the King and his son and performed the ritual burial. They could well have left the bodies with the rest of the fallen.
Not required, but necessary – at least to them – quietly, with no fanfare. Just simple ministry.
A chaplain and his wife were driving an Infirmary patient up the mountain to re-join his Crew. The road was questionable, the weather even more so. And the Suburban slid and rested at a 45̊ angle in a ditch with no way to right it. The driver and passengers were obviously shaken. How do you excise yourself from a vehicle in such a position! Thanks to a vehicle that came to the rescue, the lad was delivered to his camp, the chaplain and wife were delivered safely, though still shaken, back to their cabin at Base Camp. And all were safe. (It took two tow trucks today – one on the front and one on the rear to pull the Suburban up onto the road. As I went to wash my own from two days of mud, I saw it at the garage to be checked out.)
Another chaplain became involved as he was offering a worship service at back-country camp midway between there and there. He could see something was wrong when the older chaplain came a quietly sat on a bench at the chapel. But no questions were asked, and a simple request, “After the service could you take our lad up to his camp?” It was a long drive, a late night. But all was well.
But was it? At breakfast, the driver chaplain tried to shrug the off his emotions to one of what we call the Single Digits (the high muckety-mucks). “It is more that I’m embarrassed than anything.” At a meeting shortly thereafter, this usually jovial fellow was quite silent. And it was left at that.
The other chaplain after the meeting passed by the former chaplain’s cabin and saw his wife cleaning inside. As the Jabesh-Gilead folk could have walked past the bodies of Saul and Jonathan, this chaplain could have gone past unnoticed and unnoticing. But we are chaplains to each other, too. A knock, a conversation, a coming out onto the porch, a sitting down and tears came to the eyes at the sharing.
A gentle rubbing of a shoulder at that early morning meeting was not required. The stopping to knock on the screen door was not required. But both sure were necessary. For one of them, for two. Maybe even for all three.