“Caring Costs”

Aug 21, 2022

The Scripture

1 John 3:1-3, 11-22

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
11 For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. 16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  21 Beloved, if our hearts condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

 

The Sermon

Pain and suffering are interwoven into the very fabric of our lives. In the span of a lifetime, there is a repetitive cycle of experiences. Times when things are breaking down or breaking apart, or times when we simply need to rest, and other times when some things must die. But these experiences are all mixed in with times of restoration, renewal, and revitalization. We are people of the resurrection, and we are people who follow a resurrection faith. Resurrection faith is about dying and being born again, over and over again, year after year. We ourselves die daily to what does not give life and trust in God to lead us into what is life-giving. In our life of faith, we try to embody the characteristics of the risen Lord, the one who shows us what resurrection faith is all about and who also reveals to us the true cost of caring.

This Sunday, we go to the chapter in Kate Bowler’s book titled: the cost of caring. From her own life experiences, she knows pain and suffering and also knows the cost when we reach out and care for others. This takes us to our scripture reading this morning in the book of 1 John, where we see how love is our driving force in caring for others.

Powerful words, aren’t they? I am especially drawn to verse 18, “Little children, let us, love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” Loving one another and caring for one another starts at a very young age. And even at a young age, we learn the cost of caring. Let me share a story about Hyatt, our grandson. Hyatt is quite a businessman; he always looks for ways to make money. And he is willing to work hard to make this money. Just a few weeks ago, he set up a lemonade stand, complete with a video advertisement. Now Hyatt seldom works alone. He often employs his brother and sister to help out. The lemonade stand was very successful! He was so excited that they made money that he promised Hope and Miles that he would buy them whatever they wanted when they went to the store. A generous guy, I would say! Miles and Hope were ecstatic. Off they went shopping. When they got to the store, and Hyatt saw how much the toys cost, he was starting to experience the cost of caring. Hyatt and his mom agreed that she could pay a little into the pool to cover the cost of the toys. So ever so reluctantly, Hyatt reached into his pocket and gave his mother $1. It was painful, and he tried hard to part with his money; why? Because he cared about his brother and sister.

Now we laugh at that story, and we know that as we grow older, this cost of caring comes as a much more serious cost. Kate Bowler writes about how it seems in the last decade that our values have changed. It’s about taking care of yourself, right? She says, “Our culture is so obsessed with boundaries that it pretends we can be untouched by pain and lives of profound meaning. Take a bath! Call a friend!” So, what about pain is it to be avoided at all costs? Or is there something to learn from the pain that enters our lives? This question takes me to Jacqui Lewis’s book Fierce Love: A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule-Breaking Kindness That Can Heal the World. She shares the deepening of the spirit that comes with pain and suffering. “Right where you are, in the hurt and sorrow, that’s right where the insight is, that’s where the answer is, that’s where the wisdom is. The transformation is there; the rebirth is there. And you’re not alone. Your friend, your loves, your family, your helper—someone from your posse will midwife it with you. The healing will come, and you will merge, shaped in the merciful womb of the fiercest love. The pain of birth is excruciating. But someone who loves you knows how to reach in, grab, and hold on to you until you make it through. You’ll emerge lighter, less burdened, ready for new stories, transformed by old ones.” Do you hear what she is saying here that pain brings the opportunity for transformation and rebirth? Pain brings insight and wisdom. And then, after it all, finally comes healing; healing comes with the fierce love that is present when one accompanies another through such painful experiences.

Kate talked about a friend she knew, a nurse who went back into hospital work during the pandemic. She shares that this friend was exhausted but undeterred to continue her work. This is what her friend said about the cost of caring, “the way you know you are doing your job correctly is that it costs you a part of your own soul. Caring, she said, is an occupational hazard.” I think she is right when she says caring costs you part of your soul. When we deeply care for another, we let their pain, sorrow, and grief wash over us, and for a while, we carry it along with them. But as Jacqui Lewis so eloquently said, we become like midwives helping the birthing to bring healing.

Caring for others is a hazard of being faithful for you and me. As scripture reminds us, How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods, sees a brother or sister in need, and yet refuses help? God’s love does abide in us, and in that love and in that connection to the living God, we pay the high price of caring for others by sharing in the journey of pain and suffering. We pay the high price by being present in love and being the midwife waiting just waiting for healing to be birthed. The cost is worth it because being with others who are suffering and in pain helps us cultivate hope that costs us the satisfaction of cynicism. Being with others who are suffering and in pain expands love, and love extinguishes selfishness. Being with others who are suffering and in pain prompts charity, and charity has no room for greed. Let’s face the hazard of being faithful to our call and live out our resurrection faith, for the light comes out of the darkness. Hear now this blessing from Kate Bowler. Amen