|January 17, 1999|
|Rev. Virnette Hamilton|
|First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT 06776|
to Rev. Hamilton
John 1:29-42 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward
him and declared,
Scripture: John 1:29-42
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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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