February 2, 2020 Epiphany 4

February 2, 2020  

Epiphany 4 2020

Our Savior’s La Crosse

Matthew 5:1-12

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

 

 

My father died Monday.

His death was peaceful, but unnecessary.

His death experience speaks to the immorality of “care” many medical systems and institutions provide our elders.

It will take time for me to process and integrate what happened to him, and to our family.

Until then, today I want to tell you about someone I met while visiting my dad in the hospital.

First, I need to ground my story in scripture.

St. Paul wrote in his first letter to the church in Corinth that “God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God” (I Cor. 1:28).

St. Paul’s language is iffy (at best). Speaking of what is high and what is low, what is despised (and thus what is not) reeks of power and privilege. Which is his back-handed point. We are all equal in the eyes of God. In or out of religious communities, morally speaking every person has ultimate value. And yet our cultures, our societies, our businesses, our families, our churches seem to manifest themselves in hierarchies. Those with more power, those with more wealth are given, structurally and practically, more esteem.

Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3).

Jesus said “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

Jesus said “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

Jesus said “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

My mom met Julie before I did.

My dad was in the hospital over a week by the time I went to be with him and my mom. My brothers and sisters were all there at one time or another so my parents weren’t without support. They had their church family. They had friends.

And they had Julie.

Julie worked at the hospital. Her job was to clean the rooms on my father’s floor. She pushed her cart from room to room, mopping and wiping things down.

As she cleaned my dad’s room she spoke to my parents. They talked about our family and about my dad’s health and life, and about God.

Julie wore a silver necklace with a cross suspended from it.

By the end of my dad’s first week in the hospital, my mom and Julie were hugging.

My mom had told Julie about me, her pastor daughter. So when I arrived at the hospital for the first time, Julie knew all about me. She stood in the doorway of my father’s room and looked at my twin sister, me, and my nephew as we lined up against the wall. “Which one is the pastor?” she asked. I raised my hand like a child in school. “I am” I said.

Julie went down the line, hugging us all. Then she went to work, cleaning the room as we waited outside.

When she finished, as we entered the room I looked at her and said “My Mama loves you.” She said “I love her.”

My dad was discharged a few hours later.

We returned to the hospital the next night—dad rushed there by ambulance. Once he was stabilized they returned him to the same floor he had been on before. Julie’s floor.

I saw her the next morning. “He back?” she asked. “Did they let him go to soon?”

“Yes” I said.

She hugged me.

I asked “Do you pray for people as you mop their rooms?” She said “Yes. And I talk to them, too.” Whether they could hear her or not, she talked to them.

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Consider your own call…” (1 Cor. 1:26).

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31).

St. Paul asked the Corinthians in his letter to them: “Where is the one who is wise?” (1 Cor. 1:20).

Where is the one who is wise? She was and is mopping the floor of my father’s hospital room, that room now no longer his but being used by someone else, someone else for whom Julie is praying.

Julie’s call is to clean—cleaning is her vocation. Julie lives out her vocation praying and tending to those in her care.

That, my friends, is what God calls us each to do with our lives.

God calls us to be merciful.

God calls to us, we who hope to be pure in heart. And, if we are looking, we see God.

We see God in those who have been called to care for us.

Hopefully, others see God in our caring. In our caring for them.

In our caring for the world.

Amen.