Rossi Shares Christ with the Dying

Rossi_09232014Melody Rossi. 2007.  Sharing Christ with the Dying:  Bringing Hope to Those Near the End of Life.  Minneapolis:  Bethany House Publishers.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Death is never convenient.  It is sometimes unexpected.  It is usually awkward.  What do you say to someone when both of you know that it may be your last conversation?

Invariably, the subject of Christ comes up.  Why?  Christianity has the distinction to be the only religion that began in a graveyard.  Only Christ has conquered death.  In her book, Sharing Christ with the Dying, Melody Rossi ventures into this awkward, inconvenient but important space.

Rossi writes:  The purpose of this book is to help you become an instrument through with God can minister to the spiritual needs of a dying person who does not yet know him (19).  Rossi writes from her experience in witnessing to her father, mother, and step-mother none of whom had embraced Christ in life but all of whom came to Him in their final days (18).

Because of her close, intimate relationship with each of them, she had access to them in their dying days in a manner that is frequently not available to anyone else. Even pastors and chaplains are frequently denied such access, in part, because close relatives and attending staff shelter the dying from people outside the immediate family circle.  In secular circles, the needs of the dying for spiritual guidance and care are often treated as sentimental attachments and the spiritual void is filled with sentimental substitutes—flowers, poetry, happy music, and words of comfort—rather than the hope of resurrection.  For this reason, Christians often find themselves the only ones with access to the dying who are able to offer spiritual guidance within their family circles.

Still, the needs for spiritual guidance are real.

In Rossi’s case, her father was a workaholic who owned a chain of nightclubs (50-52).  He divorced her mother to marry one of the topless waitresses from one of his clubs (54-56).  Her mother responded with bitterness (52-54).  Consequently, none of the three were in life practicing Christians and their conversion as they approached death came as a surprise.

Rossi advises us to look for landmarks that indicate an interest in talking about spiritual matters.  Among these landmarks are: mention of God, fear of death, church, desire to talk to clergy, faith of others, and so on (63-64). The key comes in responding to these landmarks, not with answers, but with interest in learning more about what the person is thinking.  Keep the conversation flowing (64-65).

Rossi reports that 3 simple questions come up most frequently:

  • Is there really an afterlife?
  • What is God like?
  • How can I have peace with God?

The answer (as we learned as kids to any question posed by a pastor) is Jesus! (67)  The ticket to being permitted to hear the questions, according to Rossi, is to be willing to serve the needs of the person dying (72) and to develop a support team to permit you to hang in there for the long haul (91).  Rossi’s insights are critical, in my experience, because cancer patients and others with a chronic illness often find themselves isolated from friends and family who are unable to cope with their own demons let allow be available to someone with problems.

Years ago before I attended seminary I went to visit an uncle dying of pancreatic cancer.  He was a very sensitive person and during our visit he arranged so we could put puzzles together.  This allowed us to spend hours at a time together without the awkward need to speak. Still, he did have questions about his faith.  Because his brother is a pastor, I was surprised to hear such questions addressed to me—an economist at the time.  His key need, however, was to say goodbye to close friends and family—which he did most graciously.

Rossi’s book is most helpful. While many people will find her outline of physical signs of the approach of death helpful, what is most helpful is just to talk through the process of walking alongside someone as they approach death.  Fear of death is primarily the fear of the unknown.  Having a roadmap reduces such fear.

Rossi Shares Christ with the Dying

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Water Cooler Observations, July 22, 2020


By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Christianity is the only major religion that began in a cemetary. When Jesus rose from the dead, death changed from an endpoint to transition point. This is why Christians grieve less loudly at funerals than nonbelievers for whom death is an endpoint. The Apostle Paul summarized:

 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:55-57 ESV)

Those who do not have faith in Christ remain under the law and have a different relationship with salvation and eternal life.

Too many families this year are dealing with end-of-life issues on account of the corona virus. For some, family members have contracted the virus and have found themselves confronting death in isolation. For others corona virus has kept them or their family members from getting regular care and they have found themselves confronting a life-threatening illness that might otherwise have been treatable. For many, these are sad times.

The following prayer from Everyday Prayers for Everyday People (Centreville: T2Pneuma Publishers LLC, 2018) has been especially popular:


Almighty Father,


We praise you 

for your love in creating us in your image and

confess that we are unworthy of this high honor.


Thank you 

for the faith to endure suffering—

knowing that until you return in glory

“suffering produces endurance, and endurance 

produces character, and character produces hope.” (Rom 5:3-4)


Knowing also 

that for those whose faith is weak

you are ever-present and 

have granted to us dominion

over every creeping thing. (Gen 1:28)


We claim this promise 

in the strong name of Jesus Christ,

who died on the cross and 

was raised from the dead.


In Jesus’ name—

we bind every dark shadow,

break the power of every curse, 

every abuse, and every evil thought.

We cast every spirit of self-destruction and 

resignation into the fiery pit.

We raise up the cross and declare: 

no more, be gone.


Fill every heart with your Holy Spirit, 

that lives might echo your light and joy. 


May every child confess 

that Jesus is Lord until you return in glory.

In his holy name, Amen.


In this context, grief is a huge issue this year. Obviously, for those who have lost a family member, they are confronting grief. However, the corona virus has produced many losses that must be grieved. Among these losses are lost jobs, lost freedom to move about, lost peace of mind, lost sense of security. Each loss sets off a grieving process. For my podcast on grief taken from my recent book, Living in Christ, click this link.


Water Cooler Observations, July 22, 2020

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, June 24, 2020

Interview about the Corona Life in English and Spanish with Stephen W. Hiemstra, April 24, 2020

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

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Death Means Resurrection

Life_in_Tension_revision_front_20200101When Jesus saw her weeping, and

the Jews who had come with her also weeping,

he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 

And he said, Where have you laid him? …

When he had said these things, 

he cried out with a loud voice, Lazarus,

come out. (John 11:33-34,43)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The two-part form of a lament sets us on a spiritual journey. When Jesus weeps, the dead are raised  (Mark 5:38–41). When Jesus dies, our lives are redeemed and we find hope (1 Pet 1:3), as the Apostle Paul writes:

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:10-11)

Paul advises us to imitate Christ and to place our emotions in God’s service (e.g. Rom 12:14–15) so that the physical world might itself be redeemed (Rom 8:22).

Christian hope redeems our mourning. The hope of resurrection permits us to look beyond the grief in this life to our future in Christ, as the Prophet Jeremiah wrote so eloquently:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer 29:11)

We hear an echo of Jeremiah in the Sermon on the Mount, when he writes about anxiety:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matt 6:25)

Anxiety is a form of grieving over life’s daily challenges—what to eat or what to wear—in a kind of despair over present circumstances.

As Christians, we know that present circumstances give way to a future in Christ—death does not have the final word (1 Thess 4:13). Because our future is in Christ, we are like children who can delight in hearing scary stories knowing that the stories have a happy ending. The Apostle Paul writes: 

For godly grief [θεὸν λύπη; “theo lupe”] produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Cor 7:10) 

The word for grief that Paul uses means: “pain of mind or spirit, grief, sorrow, affliction” (BDAG 4625). We grieve over our sin; we lament over our brokenness; and once we have poured it all out, we turn to God and repent, as the Psalmist writes:

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. (Ps 126:5–6)

This sounds similar to Luke’s version of the Second Beatitude: “Honored are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:21) 

Through godly grief and repentance God gently leads us to salvation

Death Means Resurrection

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Preface to a Life in Tension

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Permanence. Monday Monologues, April 15, 2019 (podcast)

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I offer an eternal prayer and reflect on Permanence.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

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Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Permanence. Monday Monologues, April 15, 2019 (podcast)

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Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

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Grief Prayer

Frank and Gertrude Hiemstra, GraveBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

God of all Mercy and Compassion:

You are the alpha and omega; the beginning and the end; the one who is, who was, and who is to come (Revelation 1:9). For you created heaven and earth for your glory and we praise you for their beauty and our creation (Psalm 19).


Make your presence especially known among us for our eyes are heavy with tears and our ears barely hear. With heavy hearts we, your people, stand before you today confessing our sins and our doubts but confident of the love of Christ.

We thank you for sharing these days with us during our season of life. We praise you for our friend’s compassion, quiet dignity and devotion to family,  constant smile and companionship, and daily presence in our lives.

Permission to Grieve

In the power of the Holy Spirit, grant us a season of grief as life passes. Open our hearts; let us cry; help us feel and express our loss.

Place your hedge of protection around us as we grieve. Protect our persons and our spirits; guard our relationships; keep our jobs. Let us not have to choose between expressing our grief and other things.

Godly Grief

May our grief be godly grief until salvation, not worldly grief that leads to sin and death (2 Corinthians 7:10). In our grieving, let us be like Job who did not sin in spite of many afflictions (Job 1:13-22). But let us turn to you in our lament, great giver of life, to empty our hearts of the pain, the shame, the guilt, and the grief so that we might once again enter your gates with praise. For we know that you grieved over Lazarus and the widow’s son, and raised them both from the dead even though no words of faith were spoken (John 11:1-46; Luke 7:11-17).

May we know that through Jesus Christ death is not the final answer. Let us be like Him who was raised from death to new life. Remind us daily that: “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Turning to You

By the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us the strength to turn to you in our grief, following the example of Christ at Gethsemane (Matthew 26:3). Let us live life in view of the resurrection and the eternal life that is ours in Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

In the strong name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Grief Prayer

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Prayer for Father’s Day

Prayer for Moms

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

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Prayer When We are Alone

Stephen W. Hiemstra,
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father,

Reach out to me this morning and comfort me in my solitude,

lonely, missing one so dear.

I know that I should not be sad for a life well lived,

for someone strong who showed me how to live and then how to die.

Yet, I am sad, because it is my turn to be strong and I do not want to be.

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

grant me time and space and strength to grieve and to let tears flow.

For the season is at hand for such.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer When We are Alone

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