Wanted: Caretaker. Job responsibilities caring for the needs of another person, compassion, selflessness, cleaning, cooking, experience required, household duties, running errands, dispensing medications. Sound familiar to any body. We all enter into the role of caretaker at some point in our lives. For some of us it is earlier than we may have expected and very rarely is it something we volunteered to do and very rarely are we certain about the job description before we sign on for those responsibilities.
My mother always said that if she knew what she was getting into when came to being a caretaker then she never would have done it. We all have been caretakers sometimes willingly and lovingly and sometimes a bit reluctantly. But caretaking is an important part of life and I would even venture to say that in many ways, it is important to our faith development. Every faith has rules and teachings about the importance of caretaking. Sometimes they are very specific and other times they are a bit general being left up to our own discretion. In Chinese Confucianism this comes through in the moral command to live with filial piety. In Judaism it is present in the Ten Commandments: honor thy mother and father, not committing adultery and not bearing false witness. In Christianity, it is present in several different ways. It is present in the Old Testament commandments, in the actions of God with his chosen peoples, with his prophets’ work in the world, in the stories recounted for us and it’s present in the commandments of Jesus in the New Testament to love thy neighbor as thy self and when Jesus says whatever you do for the least of these you do for me. Yet caretaking is not focused on enough in its real state.
It is generally and traditionally, taught that care-taking has a very particular look and involves a neglect of self in the care of someone else. But over the next two weeks I would like to invite you to really consider what the Bible says about care-taking. What it truly means? How God and Christ may have meant these directives to be applied to our lives. What does or should care-taking look like throughout our life journeys? I challenge you to think about what care-taking looks like for those outside of our family members and what it looks like for family members. What does it look like for yourself?
I have always been a bit of a caretaker myself from the time I was a little girl. By the age of 7, it was already becoming an important part of my personality. I loved to care for my baby dolls and for animals. One summer morning, my brother and I discovered a turtle nest on the far edge of our lawn. They were box turtles. I believe. We never saw the mother turtle lay her eggs but we watched over the nest carefully for days. One day we saw that only one egg was left in the nest. Something had gotten into the nest and eaten the others. So Jason and I took the last egg into the house for fear that it too might be eaten.
We looked in the encyclopedia, yes this was before the days of the internet, and discovered hatching times. This egg should have been hatched already. So we helped this little turtle hatch out of his egg. It was the cutest little turtle and I wanted to keep it. So I put him into the bath tub to protect him from the other animals and gave him some food and water and left him there. Next thing I know I hear my mother scream and come out of the bathroom asking, “Alright who put a turtle in the bath tub?” I wanted to keep him to keep him safe from the wild animals outside. But my mother made me release him back into the wild and I cried as I did this next to my uncle’s pond. I never saw that tiny little turtle again. My brother told me later that he was probably eaten by the water snakes in the pond. Not overly comforting for someone worried about the well being of their turtle.
This kind of love and care is what we are called to. As adults, this care we live in our lives is much more difficult and challenging upon our patience and other relationships in life. It can be difficult on our bodies, and challenges our emotional and spiritual foundation. Often we might feel guilt or as if we don’t quite understand what we are being called to do. Our scriptures this morning talk of motivation behind our works. We see that the disciples were arguing and fighting among themselves about who was a better person, who was the greatest. Their pride was their reasoning in those moments for their care of the people that they healed, taught, and performed miracles for. They did their works for praise and for the admiration of their colleagues and others.
Yet Jesus did not rebuke them. He saw this as a teachable moment. You might remember that Jesus said, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all”. He taught that to truly be first is to forget about praise, though it may make us feel good. To truly be first, our intentions behind why we care for others is not about being perfect in our attempts, its not about what we might get out of the situation. We are encouraged to live a life of care because we truly want others to feel the love of Christ through our actions and through the works of our hands.
Sometimes when we are care-taking we are faced with challenges which may make us question ourselves and sometimes we may lose our patience and have moments when our compassion seems or feels lacking. Then we feel guilt because we believe we have not lived up to those commands to love and to honor one another. We may find ourselves in moments of self pity and feelings of isolation. We are not expected to be perfect in our care for others. This is one of the most overlooked aspects of this passage in Mark. So often we think we must be flawless in self denial and putting others first. As you can see, the disciples were not flawless with this. Humanity is not flawless with this. Christ was flawless. He understood fully how to balance caring for others as well as the need for self care.
We are encouraged with this passage to look into our intentions when we care for another person because when living a life of care it will not be glorious. It will not be easy and our reward may not be in the eyes of others. We are called to care for others to live into the commands of God. We are called to be selfless this is true. But what we read in our scriptures is about being selfless with glory and honor not in self denial of our own personal needs. We are called to really contemplate how we are being called to care in this world and what challenges we might face in the process. In the next couple of weeks, we will look at the life of care. Next week we will look at the: who when we are called to care for others. This morning as we prepare for the week ahead we are called to look at the why we care for others. We are challenged to make sure our reasoning a line with the needs of others and not with recognition or glorification. If we can start here, then it doesn’t matter if we are perfect in our work and care because in the eyes of God we are truly attempting to live into his commandments even though there are mistakes, lost tempers, and tearful prayers. There is still room for those teachable moments.
 Mark 9: 35, RSV.
(based on Mark 9: 30-37)