“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for there is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth… Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5.3, 5, 10)
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15.12-13)
When I think of vocations that involve carrying a cross—a laying down of one’s life and own interests for the sake of another—that of the caregiver is foremost in my mind… especially in our current context. Many among our community are serving as caregivers within medical and emergency response fields, such as nurses, doctors, EMTs, etc. And we recognize the sacrifice they make in going into their workplace each day, potentially exposing themselves and their families, to offer care for those who are ill and in immense need. Perhaps, in today’s time, we might even expand our understanding of those who are providing “care” to our community to include our grocery store employees, and public utility providers and community leaders, to name a few.
The call or vocation of being a caregiver is one that visits all of us, in some capacity or another, throughout our lives. In this time of social distancing, some are called to be caregivers by going into their workplaces each day and others by staying at home to look after their children. And many struggle with what it means to try to provide care to ailing parents or siblings from afar, worrying that your very presence may cause more harm than good.
So I wonder, in what capacity are you offering care, either to family or to neighbors or to the greater community? In what ways have you been called to this role given the needs of the world at this moment?
Caregiving is the often unexpected, unchosen and deeply demanding call to care for loved ones (or neighbors), often in the midst of health crises or declining health. It seems that today, we are facing a communal call to caregiving. And there are many in our congregation who can offer great insight into the demands and challenges of being a caregiver—those who have taken on roles of providing care for spouses, parents and/or siblings, and have experienced the personal strain and toll such a call tends to take. It is exhausting work: physically, mentally, emotionally, and certainly spiritually. It tries our patience… often with people we deeply love. There can be many sources of anger… of which we later may wrestle with forgiveness for. And the timeline of such a call is always unknowable and the specific demands almost always unforeseen.
Caregiving is a call to which we all respond, in various times and ways. As Jesus says in John 15.16, “You did not choose me but I chose you.” In some way, you have been chosen for this work of providing care, which at times demands great personal sacrifice and stress. Know that the Spirit empowers you for this work, because in it, you offer up your life in service of your friends.
So today, I invite you to proclaim with me: Blessed are the caregivers, for they will receive the care of God.
We pray together: Compassionate God, you provide care and shelter to all who call on your name. Bless and empower those who have been called to serve as caregivers. Offer us the daily strength to continue in service. Fill us with a spirit of confession and pardon for when patience is lost. Sustain us when we grow weary and when hope is needed. May the peace of Christ shelter us, today and always, Amen.