At the end of a grey and rainy winter, I feel very grateful for the breaks of sunlight and sweet spring melodies of the songbirds that have returned to nest in the woods and brush that surround our home. To support the birds and squirrels that are making nests at this time of the year, I have put out special containers containing the carefully saved lint from our dryer at home for the animals to use in nest building.
As I watch the animals in the spring and experience my own desire to assist them, it seems to me that nurturing is an instinctive quality among most species – even older trees share nourishment through their root systems to help support saplings and trees that are unwell. Nurturing is sacred work, and it is work in which all the earth appears engaged.
For human beings, Nurturing draws on our fullest capacity for physical, emotional and spiritual labor. When we nurture, we become deeply connected to the recipient of our care, even as we become deeply connected to those who care for us in our vulnerabilities. Christ models the impulse to nurture as spiritual response to the need he sees around him. His response is grounded in compassion and love, which is the essential work of God and reflects the summary of the Law as the commandment that Jesus gave to his followers to love one another.
In the last days of his life – when deep appreciation for his life and the love he felt for his friends welled up in him like the sweet nectar of a ripe grapes or the yeasty impulse of rising bread – Jesus nurtured those around him with all that he had to give; he bathed them, he fed them, he taught them, he comforted them, he forgave them, he encouraged them and he loved them. Jesus nurtured all who came to him.
In the late 14th century, the English anchoress and mystic, St. Julian of Norwich, wrote:
It is a characteristic of God to overcome evil with good. Jesus Christ therefore, who himself overcame evil with good, is our true Mother. We received our ‘Being’ from Him and this is where His Maternity starts And with it comes the gentle Protection and Guard of Love which will never ceases to surround us. Just as God is our Father, so God is also our Mother. And He showed me this truth in all things, but especially in those sweet words when He says: ‘It is I.’ As if to say, I am the power and the Goodness of the Father, I am the Wisdom of the Mother, I am the Light and the Grace which is blessed love, I am the Trinity, I am the Unity, I am the supreme Goodness of all kind of things, I am the One who makes you love, I am the One who makes you desire, I am the never-ending fulfillment of all true desires…
The nurturing quality of God is in us as part of the image of God in which we are made. In each of us resides the essential trait of mother/father nurture, even as this aspect was essential to the nature of Christ. At this time in history, in the life of our world, nurture is a radical force that utterly unhinges the swinging door of hate that can shut away and separate parts of the human family, one from another.
Nurture is a force for unity, for profound relationship and connection across national boundaries, across belief systems and cultures, across ages, economic disparities and even across species – as we see in so many unique and beautiful animal friendships in nature. Surely, God is at work in all of Creation as the loving force of nurture, and we are meant to be part of that force.
This Easter, for you, for our Church and for our world, I pray that we may all know the deep nurture of God through our relationships with one another and with God’s Creation. Through the sacred labor of nurture, let us live from Christ’s selfless love that has been instilled in our hearts. Let us serve Christ by giving our hearts freely away to the world that Christ lived and died and rose again to save.
This Good Earth, like a Pearl of Great Price, spinning amidst the awesome wonders of the universe, is Beloved by the God who called it good and which has been given into our care. Let us be a force of nurture in our world. All the lives on our dear planet deeply long for and deeply need the cultivating touch of genuine care. In every heart there is a seed, you see, that needs the water and sun in us that we must provide. Every life with which we share God’s Creation desperately needs the gifting impulses of our Baptism, the fruit of the covenant that we have made with the Son of God. For, the Water and the Son in us is enough to nurture all the world, if only we believe.