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Summary: The final sermon in the series, ‘The People’s Choice Sermon Series.’

This morning we come to the final sermon in our initial 2007 series, ‘The People’s Choice Sermon Series,’ that has a practical focus and message (Slide 1), ‘Caring, How Do I Do It?’ This sermon is in response to a request, as have the other sermons, about what to say and how to respond to those who are either sick or in a difficult situation.

Those are important moments in a person’s life. Many of us have spent time in a hospital bed as a patient. It is not a place that we enjoyed being in, was it? But a visit by a friend or a family member made the time more bearable didn’t it? Our spirits were lifted and we felt better.

Many of us here have had difficult moments and situations. They have been stressful moments or moments of grief. A visit or a phone call helped. We knew that others were thinking about us as well as praying for us.

Here then are a couple of things to consider this morning about caring:

(Slide 2) The first is that caring is a critical part of our faith. Randy Aly recalls Elton Trueblood quoting in one of his books a letter from a school girl who said, "I’ve been thinking much this year about the importance of caring, of the passion of life. I’ve often realized that it takes courage to care. Caring is dangerous. It leaves you open to hurt and to looking like a fool.

And perhaps it’s because they have been hurt so often that people are afraid to care. You can’t die if you’re not alive. And then who would rather be a stone? I have found many places in my own life where I keep a secret store of indifference as a sort of self-protection."

Perhaps you have seen the picture of our earth from a satellite image in a nighttime setting in which the lights of civilization are clearly seen. A comment has been made that the places where the lights shine the brightest and are the most concentrated are the places where the Christian faith has been the most effective over the centuries.

Christianity has contributed to the health, education, and care of people over the centuries. It has been the Christian church that started schools, hospitals, and service agencies to benefit the health and welfare of humanity. It has been caring, in Jesus’ name, that has been done.

But caring, as the young woman notes, is a very risky business. But, we cannot afford to quit caring because it is too vital to our mission and purpose as followers of Jesus. The command to love God and neighbor and the commission to ‘go’ and make disciples involves caring because it involves people.

(Slide 3) A second thing about caring is that it cannot be done apart from relationship.

In his book, Visiting in the Age of Mission, Kennon Callahan says, ‘Visiting is with persons. It is not to persons, where one talks and the other listens. Nor is visiting at persons. We’re not trying to pressure, hassle, or hustle.’

He continues, ‘Our visits with persons are reciprocal- two-way, inclusive, participatory. Visiting is not vertical and top down. It is horizontal and grass-roots.’

And he concludes, ‘God sends us to visit with individuals, not some impersonal grouping, not simply with the ‘unchurched.’ Now is a good time to give up any preoccupation with this impersonal category. We visit persons.’

But when we visit we often struggle with what to say. We don’t want to say the wrong thing. We want to be helpful. How do we visit, and more importantly, how do we care, well?

Now let’s turn to our main text this morning and see what it has to say to us on how to care.

(Slide 4) So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.

The first thing we need to notice is how Paul begins his statement. (Slide 5) …don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up… He focuses on the importance of perspective and attitude.

Caring is hard work, Paul says, but don’t give up doing it. Don’t get discouraged in caring and quit it altogether.

As I processed these words I was reminded of the story of Jesus and the Ten Lepers that we read in Luke 17. As Luke reports, ten lepers, who stood apart from everyone else, as they were required to do because of their disease, asked for Jesus to have mercy on them, to care for them.

He told them to go the priest, who was responsible for looking them over and determining if they were ‘clean’ or ‘cured.’ As they went they were healed. But only one of them returned to thank Jesus.

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