To Care & To Be Cared For
The Rev. Laurel Hart, Deacon
This past week had its challenges –there were the usual pressures of daily life - those tasks which are required to keep the flow of family life smooth, attempting to maintain a mostly orderly house, seeing to clean laundry, trips to purchase groceries, meals to be prepared and served - mainly on time. Then there were some extra tasks related to other commitments which had to be completed during this week as deadlines were looming. But in the mist of those moments of self-imposed pressure there was a hug from a friend, a warm and friendly exchange with a stranger in a grocery checkout line, a thoughtful greeting card received in the mail. Those were the times when I felt cared for by others - giving me that little boost of energy I needed to continue moving ahead. I felt hopeful that I could accomplish the tasks that I needed to complete.
As I read, thought, and prayed about today’s lessons there seemed to be a couple of themes that ran through them all and those are the of topics of care and hope. From the reading in Samuel, we hear of Elkanah's care for Hannah which reveals his deep and genuine love for her and his recognition of her feelings of sadness. She gathered her courage and shared her deepest desires and hopes with God. Hannah's care for and trust in God led to a powerful prayer that God listened to. And she received her deepest desire when she conceived and bore a son.
In the letter to the Hebrews Paul teaches the community of God's care for human beings which is revealed in God showing us the futility of trying to do things by ourselves. This week we are admonished to “provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together.” That’s the inconvenient thing about being part of a religious community like St. Luke’s: it asks you to do stuff – like worship with other people, love other people, do good to and for other people both here and in the world. And to do it all regardless of how you feel about any of it. To join together to share our “Hope and Abundance.” When a group of people join together and release their supposed human power by handing themselves over to God and recognizing who God is and what that means to all of us as human beings - a good deal of love rises up in the mist of them. And care for and about others breeds hope in the hearts of people.
The words of Mark gospel show Jesus’ cared for the world by offering himself as a sacrifice for all of us. And as Jesus teaches and walks with the disciples, Jesus reveals his care for them by taking time, being present and explaining the complexities of life now and the hope in the life to come.
Care is central to the work of being human beings. I was reminded in my readings this week that in the second account of creation in Genesis 2, God tells Adam to care and tend for the world. Care then is a primal responsibility given to human beings by God from the beginning of time. But there is something else hidden in this command to care. Part of being human and living obediently before God is to care. But the flip side of that observation is that being cared for whether physically or emotionally by other people is part of what it means to be in the community of humankind. Our God’s desire for us is an attitude of acceptance for our deeply human need to feel cared about and to feel cared for. This is important – because when we feel cared for the feeling of hope rises up within and helps to strengthen us to overcome whatever hardships or frustrations we might be facing. Many people struggle with acceptance of care both physically and emotionally because they may well have been taught that it is better to give to others than to receive themselves. We sometimes hear people say that those who are for whatever reason unable to care for themselves are somehow lacking in value and dignity. Just look around us - everywhere in the area are individuals and families who are struggling without homes – life in a tent beside a freeway doesn’t hold much space for dignity or being valued as people and hope might be hard to muster. To be cared by our family, our friends and neighbors is part of what it means to be human. So, when we come to times in our lives which due to circumstances, age, or infirmity - when all we can do is to be cared for by other people, we need to believe that this is part of God plan. There is no reason for us to lose our dignity or to feel that we somehow are of less value than other people. Quite the opposite! We discover something important about what it means to be human: to be human is to care and to be cared for and to receive with an open heart whatever “gifts” are being offered.
As we move into what will hopefully be a post-Covid era, perhaps one of the vital lessons we will have learned (should we choose to listen), is that we are all deeply interconnected. If we don't care for one another all of us will suffer. Today's passages begin to inform us how we might understand this call to care and begins to point us towards ways in which we can care for one another more faithfully. So that is our challenge: Who will you show care to today? Amen.