Every Sunday morning, before I worship at St. Luke, I worship at Shipman Chapel.
St. Francis of Assisi could have had Shipman in mind when he wrote, "All Creatures of Our God and King." The "congregation" is eclectic. We've seen armadillos trudge toward the building during our recitation of the Apostle's Creed. We've heard roosters crow a Call To Worship from the house next door (not during Holy Week, thankfully). A skunk "rents" space under the narthex each winter, reminding us of our need to repent of our stinky sins before we enter the sanctuary. On occasion, a Chihuahua attends with her pet parent, sits on the pew, and listens so attentively to the sermon (in this pastor's opinion).
Seated on the pews with the visiting Chihuahua are bright-eyed, two-legged creatures: the people who keep the ship of Shipman afloat. I always look forward to my time with them --especially after their service, before I have to drive back into town.
The women of Shipman are all fans of Downton Abbey, and a couple of weeks ago I voiced my sadness that season 5 was over. One of them asked another, "When does Call The Midwife come back on?" Discussion shifted from the grand halls of Downton in the 1930s to the streets of east London in the 1950s. I'd heard them joyfully talk about the BBC series, Call The Midwife, in the past. I had not yet found the courage to watch a show centered around childbirth. I loved the glitzy halls of the Abbey but was unsure of the deep groans of the birthing room.
When I finally watched the first episode, I didn't want to stop watching. Call The Midwife is rich in characters, theology, history, medicine, laughter, and more. Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, the series follows a young nurse & midwife named Jenny Lee. Jenny lives with other young nurses and a group of nuns who provide healthcare to an impoverished community.
In the first episode of the second season, Jenny meets a poor, frightened, and malnourished woman known as Mrs. Jenkins. She lives in deplorable conditions but refuses to leave to receive proper healthcare. Along with Sister Evangeline, Jenny ventures day after day into Mrs. Jenkins' "home," trying to build trust so they can help her. Once Mrs. Jenkins allows them to get closer to her, the first thing they do is prepare a bath. As Sister Evangeline heats the water and Jenny removes Mrs. Jenkins' shoes, an a cappella arrangement of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" plays.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
As they wiped the dirt from Mrs. Jenkins' face and lowered her into the steaming water, the Advent hymn became a testimony of Easter. A woman deemed hopeless & homeless, "mourning in lowly exile here," was baptized into a new life. Two midwives did not deliver a physical baby for Mrs. Jenkins, but they did deliver a new life for her.
On Christmas Day, it's easy for many of us to declare that God is with us. The confession is more difficult when the first day of spring feels and looks like winter. Yet the promise of Christmas reverberates through the wilderness of Lent. Like the midwives, God brings forth new life among us everyday.
Do you see the miracles?
Can you hear the cries of new life?
Whether we're supping with Lord Grantham or sweeping with Jenny Lee, God is with us. Because God is with us, resurrection is possible. With Mrs. Jenkins, let us learn to trust the One who desires to wash us, clothe us in righteousness, and lead us out of darkness into Easter light.
all good things to each of you,