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I’m a wee bit of a contradiction when it comes to surprises. On the one hand, I rather enjoy surprising someone with a gift, particularly if I’ve been able to put a little time and energy into it. The best example I can think of, is the great fun I had planning the surprise vacation for our 25th anniversary. I put a lot of time into it. I consulted with a number of people, asking what to do, and then securing from them promises of secrecy in this matter. I shopped around for various options for travel and accommodation before making the final choice. I even arranged with her place of work, and was delighted to see how pleased her boss was to keep this secret with me.
On the other hand, I’m not very fond of being surprised myself. I dread birthdays and Christmases for that reason. They are generally embarrassing affairs that tend to draw unwanted attention to me. On top of that, there is always a fear that the gift I might receive, for which I would certainly be grateful, be nonetheless something I could not enjoy or make use of…. I hearken back to the meal I received after working in the fields for a family in Africa…the invitation was most genuinely intended to show gratitude for the work that I’d done, and carefully prepared. My hostess watched me as my own special plate was put before (everyone else ate off of a common platter). I knew she was watching as I scanned the fare. She was clearly anxious to please me. And so I began, knowing that I was being careful observed for any reactions. The textures and the flavors were a bit overwhelming, but I did my best to get through it all and did express my sincere thanks for what she had prepared. She invited me to come back anytime.
In this sermon we shall explore the surprises Jesus talks about for both the sheep and the goats!