Summary: I preached this sermon for the 11th Sunday After Pentecost, Proper 14, following an few weeks off with disability due to a medical procedure.

11th Sunday after Pentecost [Pr. 14] August 12, 2007 “Series C”

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

Let us pray: Blessed are you, O Lord our God, Creator of the Universe. You have made every orb of creation and have cast them spinning into eternity. You have delighted to give us this planet as a home to cherish and care for. Yet you take pleasure in giving us another gift, a more lasting destination, the kingdom of heaven. While we are yet stewards of this world, show us the work that we must do, and give us the tools we need to do the small things that will accomplish your great enterprise of love. And give us a hint of the joy to come, that we might be sustained in our hope of the world to come. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen. [1]

It really feels good to be back in this pulpit! One never knows when you check in for a “routine” medical procedure, what will happen. From my point of view, I think the word “routine” needs to be stricken as an adjective describing any medical procedure. But I’m back, even though it is going to take me a couple of more months to regain all of my strength.

But before I go any further, I would like to again thank everyone for your prayers and expressions of concern. It is hard to put into words what your support and understanding has meant to me. Thank you!

But there is one person whom I feel a need to thank in a special way.

And that is Pastor Blair. Not only did he come and visit me while I was in the hospital, offering prayers of healing, he also stepped into this pulpit in my absence for three weeks, with little advance notice. This was not easy for Ralph to do. At this point in his life, Ralph has fully retired. He is no longer available for supply preaching, due to health concerns and the time and energy required to prepare sermons.

However, Ralph agreed to fill in during my absence, and to do so without pay. He made some excuse about not being able to mow grass or paint or do other things that many in the congregation do on a volunteer basis, but that he could pull himself together for a few weeks of supply. And then he added that by his taking the services, I might get paid.

Then, when I called him this past Friday to thank him for his ministry, he told me that he had this recurring nightmare, that as I stepped into the pulpit to preach this morning, I would run out of gas, and he had to step up and bail me out again. Of course, being that Ralph described his dream as a nightmare, one could assume that this was in reference to the idea that he might have to finish preaching my sermon.

Nevertheless, not every congregation is blessed to have a retired pastor who can so ably answer the call in such a situation, especially in light of the difficulties posed by “Mr. Arthritis.” And so I would like to break for a moment and invite Ralph to come up and receive one of the hand-carved crosses that Pastor Hart made, with his blessing, as a token of thanks.

This brings me to the point of my sermon this morning. In our Gospel lesson, Jesus tells us, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” But then Jesus goes on to tell us that as a result of God’s gift of the kingdom, we should live our lives in gratitude, by being responsible disciples. It is as if Jesus is saying that with every gift, there comes a level of responsibility.

Sometimes, a “thank you,” is a sufficient response to a gift. Thus, I thank you, for your gift of prayer and concern. And I thank Ralph for his gift of filling in for me during my disability. But sometimes a gift brings with it a lot more responsibility.

As Clayton J. Schmit put it in his commentary on our text, “The moment of birth is one of unspeakable joy. Yet, if parents stopped to count the cost of taking a child home (which, fortunately, they never do) they might be tempted to turn the gift down.

The cost of baby food and diapers, sleepless nights and worrisome days, braces for the teeth, clothes and school supplies and college tuition, and repairs to the fenders of the family car, heartaches and disappointments, and weddings; it would not be surprising for a young parent to say, “No thanks. I think I’ll pass on the gift.” [2] Clearly, the gift of a child brings responsibilities. But it also brings tremendous joy to every loving parent.

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