Summary: A sermon for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, [Proper 19]Series A

18th Sunday after Pentecost [Pr. 19] September 14, 2008 “Series A”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, your Son, Jesus the Christ, taught us to pray and to ask you to forgive our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. We admit that this is not always easy to forgive. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to see that the forgiveness you bestow upon us through Christ’s death and resurrection, is the basis for the new covenant and new life to which you call us. This we ask, in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

Years ago, I read the following illustration that has stuck with me for many years. “On a cool September morning, a father and his son were waiting in Grand Central Station. The son was about to take the train for a college in New England, and was leaving home for the first time. Just for a moment, the father stood there, wanting to say so many things, but saying only one. It was, quite enough. ‘Bill,’ he said, ‘Never forget who you are.’”

It reminded me of the first time that my father gave me the keys to our family car after passing my driver’s license test, to go out on a date. As he placed the keys in my hands, he said to me, “Ron, remember that you are a Harbaugh. What you do and how you act reflects upon all of us.” What my dad said wasn’t much, but it spoke volumes. And that sixteen-year-old moment has never been forgotten.

Worth more than a book of rules or a score of lectures on behavior, was that one challenge – “Never forget who you are.” In fact, psychologists tell us that a clear and determined estimate of who we are is one of the strongest defenses against depression and the feeling of worthlessness. We must not hold ourselves too cheaply.

Of course, as we think about how the world evaluates our worth as an individual, it is easy to become confused about our personal value, as a person. For example, I would guess that the current market value of the average laborer, is about $500,000. When I was in college, my Biology professor told us that the value of a human being was about $7.50, the cost of the chemicals that compose our bodies. Of course, due to the rise in inflation, those values have probably increased.

If we follow sports, we know that the value of some of the stars reach into the millions, based solely on their ability to play a certain game. But what does that tell us about their character and ability to care for others in a meaningful way? Financial analysts tells us that a person’s worth is their assets, less their liabilities, which could be less than zero. We can measure a person’s I.Q. and find mental genius. But what does that mean in the ability of such a person to be able to relate their intelligence to others in a meaningful way?

I share this with you, only to point out the fact that society has a different way of valuing our human worth than does our family. In our families, we may not be the most intelligent person in the world, but that does not change the fact that we are loved. We may not be able to pull down huge dollars in today’s economy, but our family still respects us. Although, I must admit that my family has often questioned why I would leave my lucrative construction business for the ordained ministry, they are still proud of what I do.

“Remember who you are.” “Don’t forget that you are a Harbaugh,” as my Dad told me. Remember that you are loved. Remember that you are a part of a family that cares for you, and uplifts you in their prayers. Know that you are a person who has roots, and that those roots have nurtured you and through their love and forgiveness, have molded you to be the person that you have become. Remember this!

Of course, some of us may not have had the kind of loving family in which I was raised. In fact, I doubt that many in today’s society have had the kind of nurture that I had, growing up with such an extended family living in the same community. And I know that sometimes, even our own family can be cruel, not support us and help mold our lives in a positive way. There have been times that I have not always felt loved, and have been hurt, by this family I dearly love.

I remember a time that I shared a secret about Santa Clause that I was told by my Grandmother on Christmas day, with my cousins, as we gathered at my other Grandma’s house, awaiting Santa to appear. That night, when Santa came, I was the only one of some fifty kids, not to receive a gift from Santa. Later, I received my gift from my Father, who told me why Santa had hidden it. My mother held that against the family, until I told her that I had long forgiven the moment, and hoped she could too.

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