Sermon
January 17, 1999
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
Write to Rev. Hamilton

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Scripture: John 1:29-42

John 1:29-42 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared,

"Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of

whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before

me.' 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this

reason, that he might be revealed to Israel." 32 And John testified, "I saw

the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I

myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to

me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes

with the Holy Spirit.' 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this

is the Son of God."

35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and

as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" 37

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus

turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?"

They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you

staying?" 39 He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was

staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the

afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew,

Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him,

"We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed). 42 He brought

Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You

are to be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter ). (NRSV)

Night and Day

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Sermon 

Have you ever wondered how a pastor goes about writing a sermon, week after

week, always working to bring the Gospel message closer to your hearts? I can

attest to the fact that there are times when we read the lessons for the

upcoming Sunday and feel like we are totally in the dark. While the story

might be clear enough, the message that God is calling to be preached can be

totally obscured - buried beneath layers of history and story line and the

preacher's own assumptions about the text. Now - all of the ministers I

know have tons of books that should enlighten us - and we do use them - but

the books don't usually give us a sermon. That comes from somewhere else.

The message that God calls to be preached comes from meeting Jesus.

We would have officially celebrated Epiphany - the visit of the wise men to

the infant Jesus - on the 3rd of January - the first ice storm of the year,

which cancelled our service. But the time of Epiphany on the church calendar

doesn't end with one day, all of the readings for the 6 -8 weeks after

epiphany deal with direct encounters with Jesus - last Sunday we heard about

the baptism of Jesus by John and this Sunday we read about the call of the

disciples. We begin to understand that people's lives are changed when they

come face to face with Jesus.

Have you met Jesus Christ -? Have you come face to face with him? I am going

to take a huge risk and guess that the answer to that question is "yes." Now

- I don't want half of you to get up and walk away - wondering how you managed

to get into the wrong church. - This is still the First Congregational

Church on the Green - and I did ask, have you met Jesus Christ?

I am not talking about those moments when you get a warm fuzzy feeling, like

on the front steps of the Church on Christmas eve, singing Silent Night or

when your whole family is gathered to celebrate the holiday together and

everyone is happy. Those are special moments - truly wonderful moments, but

they probably are not epiphanies.

So what is an epiphany - when do you know that you ran square into Jesus

Christ?

The answer to that question is this - when has your heart been opened so that

a truth was revealed to you? Truth revealed Remember what John told us - 1:17

17 "The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus

Christ." And Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14)

You know, I realized as I wrote this I was as reluctant to give this an

authentic voice as you are to hear it. I had to start over more than once -

because - according to the story from John - once we recognize that we have

met Christ we follow, we dwell with him, our lives change - we will never be

the same. It would be easier to tame this - it is hard to hear it with your

heart.

When have you met Jesus Christ?

Maybe it was when you were surprised by a fountain of forgiveness flowing

through your heart - forgiveness that lifted years of being imprisoned by

hatred - forgiveness that opened up a whole new world for you - that righted

relationships, that allowed you to believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was

real and offered even to you… Was that when you met Christ?

Or maybe it was when as you sang a hymn you knew that through the music and

the words you too were loved by God, that all of God's promises were for you -

that as unworthy as you felt, in God's eyes you were wonderfully made and

cherished. And You knew - in that instant that God would always be there for

you. From then on you would live grounded by that love. Was that when you

met Jesus?

Or was it as you stood in the store, buying the articles you would put in a

kit to be sent to Honduras - and suddenly you connected with the desperateness

of those folks and their children - and you could see the contrast - your

life, with clean water to drink - food to eat - a roof over your head, and

their lives - devastated - hungry, dirty, filled with grief and despair -

and tears filled your eyes and you made sure that you delivered many kits to

the church.

Or was it one day when you happened to glance into the eyes of a homeless

person wandering on the green and in them you saw - the need, the loneliness,

the sense of being forgotten, the loss of self-respect - the desperation - the

hopelessness. All of it welling up in your heart - until it ached with

compassion - and the courage to try to right the wrong you had just witnessed.

Or maybe it was as you wrapped your gifts for Santa Fund kids - and suddenly

you knew the pain of being a parent with nothing to give your child on

Christmas morning and a prayer was ushered out of your heart - "God - please,

let this gift bring your light into the life of the child who receives it and

hope into the heart of the parent"

Maybe you met Jesus this morning as you witnessed the baptisms or these

wonderful infants. And you pledged your support with your whole heart.

Or perhaps - it happened a long time ago - and the truth of the moment

resides in your heart. A moment that drew you into the truth of the Good

news. A moment that changed your life - A Moment that gave you hope and new

life.

As I am writing a sermon I come face to face with those moments in my life,

when I was looking into the eyes of Jesus, when a truth that I can not deny is

revealed to me, and slowly - but surely - I find myself being drawn out of the

darkness, into the light - one bright ray at a time until I understand the

essence of the passage - until I know what God is asking me to bring to you.

And then I pray - a prayer of thanksgiving.

This week, spend some time in the darkness, looking for the brightness of the

light - find those moments that you met Jesus, those revealed truths that

linger deep in your memory - let the forgiveness and compassion and love in

your heart be stirred, let little rays of light converge - to shine brightly

upon the knowledge that yes, you have met Jesus Christ and let it call forth

from you the person who wishes to follow Jesus Christ, who desires to dwell

with him, who seeks a closer relationship. The difference in your life will

be night and day - Amen.

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