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  • Writer's pictureMarcus C. Lambright

Empowering Care

Scripture text: Revelation 7:9-17 and Matthew 5:1-12

“Make sure they don’t run into the street. Heat up some leftovers for dinner tonight. Don’t let them get into something dangerous.” If any of you has a younger sibling or someone you care for, you might be familiar with instructions like these. You were made responsible for someone else and given instructions to care for them. I am the youngest of three so I was one cared for. I remember my brother driving me to elementary school and my upperclassman sister keeping tabs on me in high school. Even though I didn’t have someone younger to look after, I do remember the last years of my grandmother’s life spent in my mother and my care. There were many challenges but social services and coordinated efforts helped us lay some burdens down. Many of us care for those who aren’t even in our families and that is a special gift that I want to appreciate. This is the type of blended family care that Jesus directs to his mother and his beloved disciple while he was dying on the cross. Woman here is your son; man here is your mother. The interesting thing about us caring for others in our giving, volunteering, organizing, driving, or other forms is that it all hinges on a level of trust. God, who created all things, trusts us to care for so much with help.

Even though we’ve been charged to care for our neighbor, I think Jesus calls us to go beyond the role of caretaker into something more empowering. Many times we read of Jesus restoring sight to the blind, giving mobility to the paralyzed, and affirming the livelihood of those who live in the margins of society not to act as their custodian but to allow those who can the ability to speak for themselves, to act with agency, to live with dignity. We offer the cup of water to the thirsty so they can speak on their own behalf. Those who mourn, who are broken in spirit, who hunger, and who are persecuted aren’t meant to be that way forever. “They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

With this revelation in mind, we are aware that our efforts to care for one another should be uplifting, not simply sustaining. As the metaphor goes which Pastor Molly often cites, we seek to help those who’ve fallen in the river—those in immediate need—but also to address the issues upstream, to prevent others from falling in in the first place. Many people in this city need help in several ways and we help address those immediate needs. Social services, donations, volunteering, teaching, these are all ways we’ve helped and imagined helping those in need. But how do we elevate God’s mission to wipe away every tear and restore creation in a way that empowers others?

Last week we talked about relationship building as a way to witness to the gospel and encounter God’s people. Perhaps one next step is to build trust with those whom we’re building relationships, as Christ did with his disciples. One person took on the burdens of creation yet taught us to share our burdens with others. This calls us to be vulnerable when we want to project strength; to be open when we want to close ourselves off. We take on several opportunities to care for the people of Trenton and beyond but we must also take on opportunities to trust those around us who also care for others.

Revelation was written in the first century CE by a man named John of Patmos in response to events of Christian persecution. This book describes visions and conversations with humanity and divine beings with Hollywood level imagery. The book of Revelation was written to seven churches in the Asia minor region and refers to a word used early on in the writing apokolypsis, the apocalypse, which means revealing. God was revealing a great clash between forces of good and evil occurring in heaven that would at some point take place on earth. Back to the theme of trust, God revealed this information to the seven churches through John to take action because of their lukewarm attitude to current events on earth. From chapter 3 “So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

In revelation, God called the churches through John to speak and love and pray and act in love in Jesus’s name. Scholars note how closely tied the political world was to the late first century writings. For example, Babylon was code name for Rome. There was a great deal of political turmoil happening on account of Rome, the Jewish leadership, people of different or no faith, and splintering Christian communities. In short, John was aware of politics and he pleaded with his fellow believers to act in the ways that they were able. If you haven’t already, I would encourage everyone who is able to vote in the general election coming up in 2 days. Make a plan and participate. We have been entrusted a great deal. In many ways we have a responsibility to care for those who can’t participate or care for themselves. We vote guided by the words, teachings, love, and grace that God has given us and the traditions that we have adopted.

Today is All Saints’ Day which in several traditions is a day to pray to those who have departed and attained sainthood. Yesterday was the day of the dead which reminds me of the wonderful animated film, Coco. I respect reverence for those we’ve lost. In our tradition we don’t pray to persons other than the triune God. For us, we may uplift All Saint’s Day differently. Perhaps we want to write a prayer out at home in a journal or in a letter thanking God for those who have given us hope. Or a prayer to protect those who are vulnerable and exposed to harm in this difficult time. In communion we remember the one dearest to us whom we lost who lives on to give us hope until that vision of revelation is realized. We share with one another our sorrows and joys and become one in Christ. Thanks be to God.


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