Preached by Carol Kidd on 5 July 2020: Fourth Sunday after Trinity
Psalm 145:8-15 / Matthew 11:16-19;25-end
May I speak in the name of God, whose kingdom is everlasting: Amen
Today’s psalm reminds us that the kingdom of God endures throughout all ages – a fact truly worthy of praise – and in our intercessions we will be giving thanks for the NHS which has endured and has proved invaluable in this generation especially during this current crisis. For this week it is the 72nd birthday of the National Health Service: the institution that has served every single one of us and for many, myself included, has provided a journey of vocation and service.
Now, when the demand on the NHS is high, is surely the right time to celebrate the diversity of its inclusive teams, the amazing spectrum of expertise, and the deep desire to provide holistic care that matches the founding principles to:
- meet the needs of everyone
- be free at the point of delivery
- and based on clinical need, not the ability to pay
Thursday evenings are no longer marked by applause and praise yet everywhere you go rainbows remain visible – the banner in the churchyard continues to express love for the NHS.
As lockdown is eased it is even more important than ever that we pray for the staff who, day by day, night shift by night shift, enclosed in claustrophobic PPE, continue to be active in serving, compassionate in caring and dedicated in distributing a sense of hope in the midst of the ongoing pandemic for which, as yet, there is no vaccine, no definitive end.
The ability to communicate a sense of hope, to be alongside sharing and supporting in situations of joy and thanksgiving, as well in times of despair and conflict, take its toll. Yet staff, weary from carrying the heavy burdens of life and death situations and decisions, are often seen paying respect, offering encouragement, lovingly applauding, as a survivor of Covid leaves the hospital where, for many weeks, the nurses and doctors have been their closest comfort in times of real fear and danger. Importantly, within the inclusive team, hospital chaplains provide a source of hope and solace, supporting staff as much as they are alongside patients and families, following Jesus’ example, they are there for people of all faiths and none.
Surely, they mirror God’s characteristics by being ever available, non-judgmental, and gracious in their generosity of spiritual care and prayer.
For we know that: ‘The Lord is gracious and merciful – the Lord is loving to everyone.’
Even more amazingly: ‘the Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all those who are bowed down.’
In the New International Version of the Bible the word ‘merciful’ is translated as ‘compassionate’: ‘the Lord is gracious and compassionate – he has compassion for all he has made.’
Having worked for the National Health Service for 40yrs [from 1976-2016], firstly as a Registered Nurse and then for 35 years as a midwife, I particularly remember the ‘6 C’s – the benchmarks of excellence: ‘competence, care, compassion, communication, courage & commitment.’ As a Christian, these attributes play an essential part of growing in faith and recognizing Kingdom values – they are a part of my past and are woven into my present as I strive to take them forward in my Lay Ministry.
I would like to suggest that – even if you have never worked in the NHS – the 6 C’s can provide expressions of wholeness that enrich the relationship Jesus invites us to share – for if anyone is competent in judgement and leadership it is Jesus who is full of care and compassion, communicates with us in a myriad of ways and we know from the gospels how his commitment and love for us led him even to the Cross where his courage knew no bounds.
Our past is part of our present and we bring with us attributes learned through our life experiences – during lock-down the experiences people have faced – even that of their own mortality – have in many cases resulted in increased care and compassion for others; has brought the discovery of new and better ways to communicate and it has taken courage to cope with days fraught with anxiety and loss.
Yet sadly while a commitment to care for others has been a priority for many, the competence of some decisions has been questioned.
Now restrictions are being eased what will our response be? Will the goodwill and thankyous continue? Will we speak out for the vulnerable when we see flaunting of guidelines and question inappropriate decisions? Or will we prefer to spend time joining in the grumbling we hear around us without attempting to make a difference?
Jesus warned against being churlish and childish like those in the market square – instead we need to be open to new understandings – as children are when they are loved and encouraged to learn by discovering new wonders that are all around. It is in being open to the wondrous signs of God’s Kingdom [that was and is and is to come] and how we respond to Jesus’ call, that we will come to know more truly God’s will for our lives and be encouraged to follow where he leads for: ‘the Lord is sure in all his ways, and faithful in all his deeds.’
Jesus promises that when we take up the yoke of discipleship he will share the load during the difficult times – so let us echo his care and compassion – let us communicate his love to others by sharing the wonderful promise he gives to all of us to strengthen our resolve even when our courage falters and trust him to remain faithful when our commitment is wavering: Jesus says: ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’
May that precious rest be with all NHS workers as they continue to serve the sick and suffering – and when we are brought low with the tiredness of trying to find a way out of this confusion and crisis let us always remember that it is in resting in Christ and sharing our burdens with him that strength can found – then restored and renewed let us dedicate ourselves to his service, following his example of serving others, and like the psalmist tell of the glory of his enduring kingdom never forgetting to make known to the next generation the wonders of his mighty acts.