Easter VI – May 10, 2015
A Circle Unbroken
A sermon preached by The Rev. Dianne Andrew at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Port Townsend, WA.
Jesus said: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you: abide in my love…. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…”
At the end of a funeral service these words are said:
Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.
In prayers of thanksgiving for a child are the words:
O God, you have taught us through your blessed Son that whoever receives a little child in the name of Christ receives Christ himself: We give you thanks for the blessing you have bestowed upon this family in giving them a child.
And a blessing for a child already baptized:
Into your hands, O God, we place your child N. Support him in his successes and in his failures, in his joys and in his sorrows. As he grows in age, may he grow in grace, and in the knowledge of his Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It was Mother’s Day 18 years ago. It was the day we were bringing three-day old Cameron home from the hospital. We had heard, just weeks earlier, that a baby was going to be born in northern New Hampshire. His 21-year-old birth mother already had two children and was unable to care for a third. Through mutual acquaintances a match had been made. I phoned Linda to introduce myself and, thankfully, our chemistry was good. The ball was rolling. In three weeks we needed to get a home study done and prepare to welcome a baby.
Simon and I drove up to Berlin New Hampshire where, in early May, spring was just starting to peak through the dreariness of winter’s thaw. The occasional moose sighting was exhilarating. We drove directly to the small community hospital and headed to the maternity ward to meet Linda who was in the early stages of labor.
Before we met her, Linda asked a friend to poke her head into the waiting room to get a peek at Mr. and Mrs. Andrews and to report back. The time came for us to meet. We talked. We napped. We sat together in silence as Linda’s labor progressed. A little after seven in the morning we witnessed Cameron’s birth amidst Linda’s utter exhaustion… and life was forever changed…
Because this was an adoption situation, New Hampshire law required that Cameron stay in the hospital for 72 hours before he could be released to his new parents. During those three days Linda showed me how to diaper a newborn, she introduced us to her relatives, and she shared the special new parents steak dinner with Simon and I.
On Sunday morning, Mother’s Day 1997, the time came for Linda to say good-bye to baby Cameron. As per legal requirements she could not hand him directly to me. So five of us stood in a circle. Linda handed Cameron to the nurse, who handed him to our lawyer’s representative, who handed him to Simon and I. Cameron was handed from caring arms, to caring arms in a circle of love and nurture that contained a full mix of emotions… the grief of release and letting-go. There were waves of joy… and welcome, …and hope for the future. I will be forever grateful to Linda for her gift of surrender that gave me a son.
Nurturing and motherhood come in many forms. There are:
- mothers who give birth, mothers who raise a child, often it is both, but not always.
- grandmothers, friends, extended family who nurture children… there are fathers who raise children on their own, two mother families, two father families
- sometimes mothers are ill, like my mother was – ideally, in those cases, there are other family and friends around to help out
- there are those nurture and help raise up others within communities of caring….
Here is a story of another special family…
A married couple, in their early fifties, had been unable to have children. One day they were strolling through their urban neighborhood when they met a homeless woman who was six months pregnant. They said to her “ My gosh, you can’t be out on the streets.” …and so they brought her back to their home and said, to her, that they would like to help her and that they would “figure it out” as they go. The couple thought about it and said to the young woman, “You know, if you want to stay here while you have your child, we would love to be part of that process. We have always wanted to have a child.” So the young woman stayed… and the couple felt abundantly blessed.
They all continued to live under one roof and to raise the child together. One day the couple asked the young mother: “What are your dreams. We are living out one of ours. What are yours?”
She said, “I’ve always wanted to go to nursing school.” The couple responded: “We will take care of your daughter, and help you out financially while you go to school.” and they did.
Ten years passed and the formerly homeless woman had become a nurse. Her daughter had become a teenager… and the woman who had helped raise the girl was now suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and was in the process of dying. Now the woman who had opened her home and her heart to care for a young pregnant woman… had a trained nurse living in her home taking care of her… and nurturing her… as she was dying.
The love of Christ was being lived out in a big way, in a circle of love.
Where were the arms of love in this story? …. they were on the street, in the meeting of strangers who were not to be strangers for long… as hospitality was extended and trust was nurtured. Arms of love were extended in the delivery room to welcome a child into the world…. arms of love that extended beyond bloodlines… Arms of caring support helped a young mother realize her dream to become a nurse. Arms of love tenderly cared for and nurtured a woman out of this life and into the next. In all of these moments the movement, the circle of love… was being made ever more complete.
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete… This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
And so, we who are gathered here today in Christ’s name… continue the sacred movement in a community of caring and sharing that is the circle of great love… in Christ’s name…
1 John 5:1-6