May 5, 2002
First Congregational Church, 36 Main Street, New Milford, Ct  06776
Rev. Michael Moran
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Scripture Readings

John 14:15-21
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will
ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you
forever.  This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive,
because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides
with you, and he will be in you.

"I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.  In a little while the
world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also
will live.  On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me,
and I in you.

They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those
who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal
myself to them."

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Sermon: Our Mutual Friend

This really isn't the Sunday for a long sermon, but I would like to take a
moment to thank the confirmation class and their sponsors for a very
interesting year.  It's great fun for me to teach this mix of students and
adults because together they bring such different perspectives to each topic
we study.  Our topics are basic - prayer, reading the Bible, worship, what
we believe, who we are, what we offer each other - and yet because of some
very difficult challenges our students and sponsors have faced in their
lives, every topic can offer great depth of insight if only we have the
courage to share and the willingness to speak our mind - and that courage
and willingness was very evident in this class.

I think of religious life as a creative life - the creative use of stories,
symbols, and a rich heritage of learning and tradition to keep us in touch
with wonder, kindness, and hope.  Too often the institutional expressions of
religion seem more concerned with doctrine, authority, and fear.  I hope we
have been creative and true to the spirit of Christ in our confirmation

Christ promised a spiritual presence in our lives - a presence that links us
to a spirit of truth and to the eternal God who is our creator and our final
destination.  To teach the kind of relationship we could have with God and
one another Christ invited his disciples to sit at a table and share a meal.
He didn't sit at the head of the table like some big shot, but he sat among
them as a friend and served them.

In a minute we will remember that meal and receive it as a gift from our
mutual friend - but before we do I would like to share with you a brief
reading from a wonderful book.  Some of you have heard this before -
especially on confirmation Sunday.  To me it sums up what we hope to nurture
in our confirmation process - the gift we hope to give to our confirmation
class and ourselves as we walk this journey of faith together.

The book is the Open Door, by Helen Keller, and in one section she writes:

A simple, childlike faith in a Divine Friend solves all the problems that
come to us by land or sea.  Difficulties meet us at every turn.  They are
the accompaniment of life.  They result from combinations of character and
individual idiosyncrasies.  The surest way to meet them is to assume that we
are immortal and that we have a friend who "slumbers not, nor sleeps," and
who watches over us and guides - if we but let Him.  With this thought
strongly entrenched in our inmost being, we can do almost anything we wish
and need not limit the things we think.  We may help ourselves to all the
beauty of the universe that we can hold.  For every hurt there is recompense
of tender sympathy.  Out of pain grow the violets of patience and sweetness,
the vision of the Holy Fire That touched the lips of Isaiah and kindled his
life into spirit, and the contentment that comes with the evening star.  The
marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy
if there were not limitations to overcome.  The hilltop hour would not be
half so wonderful if there was no dark valley to traverse.

If you were unfamiliar with all the obstacles that Helen Keller overcame,
then this passage might sound like na´ve optimism.  But those who know her
story know that she validated the truth and power of these words with her
life.  And the same might be said of our Lord.  If you did not know the
sacrifice he was preparing to make, the invitation to remember him in the
breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup might seem insignificant
and without consequence in the life of those accepting the invitation.  But
those who know the story know the power of the invitation, the life it calls
us to live, the hope it offers us to embrace.

On behalf of our mutual friend we invite you to share in this meal of
remembrance, communion, and hope.  We celebrate an open communion.  This
sacrament is for all who wish to know the presence of Christ and to share in
the community of God's people. Christ welcomes you.  Christ recognizes you.
Christ invites you into the circle of fellowship in his name.  Amen

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