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Nannies and Charges - Sermon, 6/7/2020
June 9, 2020, 9:49 AM

Happy Trinity Sunday, all!  The church observes Trinity Sunday ever year on the first Sunday after the Feast of Pentecost.  Love of the Trinity runs deep in Celtic spirituality.  With a name like Kristen Claire Foley, it’s pretty easy to guess that I have Celtic connections, specifically roots in the west coast of Ireland.  And I do love the Trinity; it runs deep in my spirit and my heart.  Unfortunately, my love of the Trinity has never traveled to my mind or my mouth.  So, instead of trying desperately to talk about the Holy Trinity, I want to talk about nannies.

A family who lived across the street from my mom’s parents hired a nanny when we were kids.  The nanny, whose name I cannot recall for the life of me, was from Jamaica.  She referred to Allison and James, my friends across the street, as her charges.  This never made much sense to me, I admit.  Allison and James were not charge cards, after all.  It’s not as if Allison and James were her Visa card or American Express card. 

I wish I could say that I always obeyed the nanny’s directions but, more than once, Allison, James, my sister, and I were discovered climbing out a second-floor window.  It’s a miracle that we survived childhood – even with a very attentive nanny watching over us.  I was thinking about James and Allison’s nanny earlier this week when looking at today’s readings.  In three of them – Genesis, Psalms, and Matthew – I hear images of nannies and their charges. 

In Genesis, we hear the incredibly familiar story of Creation.  We hear the outline of the seven days, including how God instituted that hard-to-oberve seventh day of rest.  We hear about the creation of human beings – both male and female – in God’s image.  We hear God’s directions to the first people – “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

God is setting up humanity to be nannies over creation.  All creatures on earth are our charges – the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves upon the earth.  God orders humans to “have dominion” – a tricky phrase that has occasionally been interpreted as “exploit to humanity’s benefit” creation.  Instead of exploitation, I believe God desires creation care. 

Similar images come through in today’s Psalm.  This ancient prayer celebrates the beauty and abundance of creation – the creation that sustains all life.  The psalmist sings about the glory of the “sheep and oxen, even the wild beasts of the field.”  We also hear about the “moon and the stars (that God has) set in their courses.”  Today’s Psalm reminds us that all of creation is a gift from God.

God doesn’t simply give creation to humanity for exploitation and abuse.  In fact, the psalmist celebrates that God elevates humans to the role of nanny.  Humans are, in the words of the psalm, “but little lower than the angels.”  God has given us an incredible responsibility but also an incredible opportunity.  God raises humans above the lives of the animals – again, not to exploit creation, but to care for creation.  The psalmist sings about the way God gives humanity “mastery over the works of (God’s) hands.”  All created things are our charges.  We are the nannies of creation.

Now, there is nothing wrong with a sermon simply about the care of creation.  Care of the earth is another deeply Celtic commitment and the Irish woman in me loves the beauty and glory of God’s creation.  I see, however, that caring for creation is not an end in itself.  Caring for creation also has to extend to caring for God’s human creations.

Yes, birds are helpful creatures.  And, yes, kittens are cute.  And, yes, the grey elephant must be saved from extinction.  But I believe that we are nannies for more than the flying birds, cute kittens, or endangered elephants.  The reading from Matthew tells us that we are also nannies for our sisters and brothers. 

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is finally departing the community he has gathered around him.  Even though, we hear, that some doubt in the face of the risen Christ, Jesus gives the eleven disciples a specific job: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”  What an incredible responsibility Jesus gives those eleven original followers!

Remember that the eleven disciples have experienced the joy of life with Jesus, the pain of his death, and the confusion of the resurrection.  Here the eleven stand, still trying to grasp the reality of Christ’s resurrection, when Jesus sets them as nannies over the rest of humanity. 

Jesus gives only one suggestion about how the eleven should care for their new charges: baptize “them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  And what better way is there to care for others than to shower the water of baptism on their heads and in their lives? 

Now, two thousand years later, Jesus gives us responsibility for our own charges.  It is up to us to go and “make disciples of all nations” – not just the nations that look like us, live like us, or love like us, but all nations.  We are nannies to a generation and nannies to a people who need to hear the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ.  Our charges need our spiritual care just as much as nannies’ charges need their physical care. 

Fortunately, we have not been left to our own devices as we figure out how to be good nannies.  Jesus assures the eleven disciples and he assures us today that he is “with (us) always, to the end of the age.” 

This assurance from the mouth of Jesus – a promise of Christ’s enduring presence – is meant to strengthen believers and make us bold.  We can keep our charges’ spirits safe and our charges’ souls fed because Jesus is with us. 

Today, on this Trinity Sunday, we give thanks for the opportunity to be nannies – to all of creation and to all nations.  I pray that God will strengthen us to be good nannies, seeking always the spiritual health and growth of all our charges.   

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