Sermon February 3 2019.
When I was a young Student in Aarhus, studying Theology at the beautiful University of Aarhus, reading Bultmann, Barth and Bonhoeffer, practicing Greek, Hebrew and Latin, - I did work during the summer vacations as an In-home help and caregiver. I did enjoy the significant shift from the introvert studies of Theology to the extrovert services of Home Care.
Instead of biking to the University, I would bike in the early morning hours to the Home Care Center of Brabrand and get the schedule and assignments of the day. The schedule was filled with names and addresses for me to visit during the day – some of them just for a short visit to administer pills and others for a couple of hours to clean, cook, bathe and care.
I did meet my share of cranky grumpy complaining people, who were confined to their rooms and to a very limited life, and always could and would complain about yet another summer intern, who was too young, too late, too early, too noisy or simply just not their ordinary help; but mostly I was blessed to step into homes and spaces of warm handshakes, gentle smiles, gracious gratitude and memories of lifetimes. Through these summers I was not just working as a home help who cared for others in need, - I was introduced and blessed with so many stories of faith, hope, glory, misery and love.
Love is. Love is patient, love is kind.
I clearly remember the first time I visited a new client, who lived with her husband in a beautiful house at the brinks of Brabrand Lake. It was not until I stepped into the house and greeted the couple, that the name clicked. Anne and Bernhard Baunsgaard. Bernhard Baunsgaard was an esteemed member of the Danish Parliament, the brother of a former Premier minister, Hilmar, and he was nicknamed the Terrier, because of his temper and passion.
Well, I was to be the home help for Anne Baunsgaard. A lovely tiny woman confined to her wheelchair due to progressed multiple sclerosis. Anne could not move any of her limbs, but she could still talk and express her sometimes very clever and candid opinions. I had the pleasure and privilege to become a friend of the house. I worked as a home help in their home for 3 summers – and witnessed the rapid decline – but even more: I witnessed one of the greatest love stories I have ever seen.
Anne and Bernhard met when they were young, fell madly in love, eloped and got married. And as both managed to get their college degrees in literature and politics, they also started a family and were blessed with two boys. As Anne had given birth to their second son, she started noticing some changes.
Problems with her vision, numbness in her feet and hands, vertigo, muscle spasticity, un able to coordinate her muscles and fatigue. As a 27-year-old mom she was diagnosed with progressive relapsing multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is a merciless diagnose.
But Anne and Bernhard fought and conquered through the persistent and never-ending love, respect, and affection for each other. Anne worked as a high school teacher, while Bernhard pursued his political ambitions. They had their home in Brabrand, but he had a small apartment on the second floor in Copenhagen near the parliament, for his convenience. When ever he could, Bernhard drove Anne to Copenhagen carried her up the stairs to their small apartment, so they could share time.
When I entered their home, he was on the verge to retire. He turned 70 and Anne was 74. But still he carried her. Into the car. Up the stairs to their incredible fascinating Book loft of thousands of books – out to the garden. He carried her and he loved her. She let him carry her and she loved him. She was bright and had a beautiful smile. She was candid and forthcoming – and how he loved her for her comments, her opinions and her bravery.
As I came to them through 3 summers, I saw the decline and hardship, but I also witness a love so strong and so vibrant.
Love bears al things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
After I graduated, was ordained and was called as a pastor, I did receive a kind card of congratulations, and this wonderful little book by danish author Tove Ditlevsen about her complicated marriage and love. I began a new chapter of my life, and then I lost contact.
And then one fine day after Christmas, I read that Anne Baunsgaard had passed away. On December 28th, 1995. After many years of struggling with Multiple sclerosis – and I thought with gratitude and appreciation of the many visits in their home, her gentle smiles and candid conversations – and I thought about their love. I thought about how he had carried her, and how she had carried him too.
A week went, I read in the newspaper that at the memorial service on January 5th in Brabrand Church, that as the casket with his beloved Anne was carried into the church, Bernard collapsed and died.
I was shocked and sad. And yet it all made sense. He wanted to carry her all the way. He wanted to follow her all the way.
Love never ends. And now faith, hope and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love.
Love is. February is the shortest month of the year, but it is also the month of love. We celebrate Valentine’s Day in February.
I often think about Anne and Bernhard and their amazing love story, and I do think about how we carry each other in life. We share our joys, we share the burden of our struggles, we life and we love.
In our living and our dying we become what we receive, we sing in the communion hymn.
If we are blessed, we might receive love by loving others. If we are blessed, we might experience the transformative power of love and we might receive so much more than we gave. If we are blessed we will gratefully understand that love is a gift : we might receive the blessing of a short burning love or a lifelong sustaining love.
Love is. And lover never ends. Because:
God is love.
As beautiful and profound Paul’s 1 Corinthians chapter 13 is, equally as beautifully you will find 1. John chapter 3:
God’s Love and Ours
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
Love is patient, strong, kind and greatest of all. Love is God. God is love.
As C.S. Lewis said:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
That vulnerability is met by God’s love and God’s Grace. We are not alone on this journey. We are not alone as we carry each other. We are in Gods’ hands and his hands are loving.