Sermon
January 20, 2002
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
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Scripture reading

Psalm 40:1-11

1 To the leader. Of David. A Psalm. I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. 4 Happy are those who make the LORD their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods. 5 You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you. Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be counted. 6 Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. 7 Then I said, "Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. 8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart." 9 I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; see, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. 10 I have not hidden your saving help within my heart, I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. 11 Do not, O LORD, withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever. (NRSV)

John 1:29-42

29 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)

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Sermon: What are you looking for

How much money would it take to make you happy? 100,000.00? 1,000,000.00? 50,000,000.00? How much? Since you are in Church, I might expect a fair share of you to mention that money doesn’t buy happiness – however, we all know that there is a relationship. A few weeks ago I heard a report on the relationship between money and happiness. When people asked if money could make them happy, they replied that while it couldn’t actually buy happiness, money could provide the means for happiness. When directly asked which was more valuable, money earned or money won, inherited or that came as a gift, people said that of course money earned was more valuable than money obtained by other means. But indirect questions showed conclusively that money that was won or received as a gift or inherited provided more happiness than money that was earned. Mostly because of the sense of it being “free”. When asked how much money it would take to make them happy people answered on average of 1.5 million dollars. 1.5 million dollars.

I would be willing to be a test case, and let them know when I was finally happy. For many people, happiness is the goal – it is what many people are looking for – just a chance to be happy.

What are you looking for - that was Jesus’ question to the disciples who were standing along the road. It is a bit like our question to our Confirmands as they are being confirmed, “What do you seek?”

Now they don’t answer happiness, they answer “faith” - what would you answer? What do you seek? What are you looking for
What is it that you want to gain by all your striving and working and thinking? What is the goal of your living? What do you want to gain, or achieve or be?

Most of us don’t deliberately come to Church with that question in the forefront of our minds. Coming to Church isn’t so much an intellectual pursuit as it is an emotional fulfillment in the sense that We don’t come to church because we need to find out something about the world. We might say that we come to find out something about God. But maybe, if you think about it for a while, you rephrase it to say that we come because we need to find out something about ourselves, through God.

A few months ago, just before the parish house was redecorated, I started reading a book that many of you have already read… called the Prayer of Jabez. One of the points the author, Bruce Wilkinson, makes is that God knows us through and through. And wants us to have whatever it is that we need to become fully who we can become.

We come to Church because we need to find out something about ourselves, through God. God knows us through and through. Our call to worship is from Isaiah 49: Which starts out, “the Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.”

Imagine a God who is so connected with you that you are fully known. No secrets, no surprises, no misunderstandings… you have nothing to prove, there are no conditions to meet, who you are is so intrinsically good, that you can just relax in God’s presence… and allow that wonder to penetrate your being.

Is that the gift that we come here for? Is that the peace the Jesus speaks of in John 14: My peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you. I do not give as the world gives, so do not let your hearts be troubled, do not let them be afraid.

No strings attached… that is what faith offers to us…. the place where God dwells, a place to be known - where who we are is sufficient – good enough - and wonderful.

Imagine Jesus sitting right here, holding out his hand to draw you forward, asking you to sit beside him… ready to help you to understand the wonder of who you are, your beauty, the gifts that you possess, the goodness that emanates from your life – the potential that lives within you – all that you could do… Imagine Jesus sitting here and giving you your name –

Would you be ready to hear all of that? Or would you shut your ears and refuse to hear what Jesus would say. Would you turn your face, unwilling to acknowledge the truth of his words?

Would it come as a surprise to you? Would you expect some criticism instead? Would you believe all that he said or would you argue?

Would you feel guilty, unable to accept these kind words? Are you sure that you didn’t deserve them? Would you wonder if he had the right person?

Would you close your heart and your mind and tell yourself that this is impossible? Would you run away, to protect yourself? Or would you stay – like the disciples did and listen. Would you hear each word and let it wash over you… would you let it enter your heart, would you let it change your vision of yourself? Would you let it transform your life?

But what if it did? That is what happened to the psalmist, he says “ you have given me an open ear” He accepted God’s mercy and his life was changed forever.

The same thing happened to the disciples… they met Jesus and stayed and listened, they let Jesus into their hearts and minds, they heard all that he said… and then they were ready –

The psalmist says “Here I am God; I delight to do your will.”

The disciples go out to their friends and say, “We have found the Messiah”

In the Prayer of Jabez the author says that God has a plan for each of us… and I believe that God does have a plan… a wonderful plan – a way to make sure that love and compassion grow and fill our world.

God wants to be fully connected to each of us – to dwell in our hearts – to inform us of who we can become… so that we will be empowered - so that we will be convinced, that we will be compelled – to share the love and compassion – I want to make it even stronger, God wants this urge to share to be irresistible – God wants this impulse to be so strong that we can’t help but tell others – that we can’t help but do the work that is going to further the kingdom of God. We won’t be able to resist… that’s the plan…

And that is the work to further the coming of the kingdom – only a few weeks ago we were celebrating Christmas. We were in the middle of receiving the Christ Child, today we are called to respond. Our middle hymn “I am the light of the world’ reminded us – “the work of Christmas has just begun”

Howard Thurman: who inspired that hymn wrote,

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

The work of Christmas begins.

To find the lost, to heal the broken,

To feed the hungry, to release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people.

To make music in the heart.

The psalmist says “I waited patiently for the Lord, he drew me up from the miry bog and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Happy are those who make the Lord their trust.” Are you happy? I ask you once again - What are you looking for.
Amen

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