May 6, 2001
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
Write to Rev. Hamilton

rule1.gif (2336 bytes)

Scripture Reading

John 10:22-30

22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." 25 Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand. 30 The Father and I are one." (NRSV)

Psalm 23:1-6

1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff -- they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long. (NRSV)

rule1.gif (2336 bytes)

Sermon - Double Jeopardy

My family loves to watch jeopardy at night – we all sit around and try to beat the contestants to the right answer. There is as much competition in my family room as there is on the TV screen. The problem were having right now is that our daughter is graduating from High school this spring – and she has a young brain… one that has recently been filled with lots of information that hasn’t been obscured by what the stock market did that day, noises that the car still makes after being serviced, bad backs, how to put all the relatives that are coming for her graduation into one house, - you know – all the stuff that adults carry around with them. Therefore, she gets more and more questions right – and I realize, that for right now, maybe, only maybe, she is smarter than I am. Well, about jeopardy type questions at least.

Just like our confirmands. They and their sponsors have just spent the better part of the past year learning about God and faith and the church. I bet if I asked some questions they would be able to answer them right away – while most of the rest of us, would still be contemplating our answer.

They will know what Tenebrae means. And they can probably tell you the difference between Gethsemane and the Mt. of Olives. They will know who has the longest worship service, the Baptist Church or the Synagogue and they will know why. Their retention rate is higher, because their brains are young and agile and they aren’t cluttered up with insignificant information

Right now, for the time being, you confirmands are better prepared than we are to answer questions about faith and God and Church. That is a gift that you have been given by your sponsors and Mike and your parents. And it is a gift that will last – it keeps on giving. It is not like taking calculus when you are an English major – and asking, when will I ever use this. It is more like learning to ride a bicycle and knowing that even though you don’t do it all of the time, in the back of your memory is the knowledge that you would need in order to pick it up again. That is what confirmation gives you something that you can turn to time and again, and know that it will always be there for you. It is the same thing that we celebrate today – when we talk about Jesus as the good shepherd

We mean that God has promised to be with us always, just as a good shepherd watches over his sheep.

I will never forget the picture from my childhood of the Good Shepherd, you’ve probably all seen it too – there is a lamb, stranded on a craggy ledge, with Jesus leaning over, one arm extended ready to save the helpless lamb.

That painting depicts the 23rd psalm – the Lord is my shepherd, So I have nothing to fear. He will lead me in the right direction. He will give me peace and I will feel better. He will comfort me when I am down and walk with me, even through the worst times.

Jesus, leaning over the cliff, ready to rescue the stranded lamb.

At some point in every life each one of us here will feel like the stranded lamb – you confirmands will find that you have hard choices to make, right and wrong becomes more complicated, temptation a greater threat. Questions will be easier to articulate than answers.

That’s what the gift you have been given today is all about. It was preparation that will take you through all of those new experiences you will face as you mature toward adulthood. It is a wonderful gift, this good shepherd – Jesus, always there for you, an arm stretched out when you need it. What a comfort…

it will always be there for you, But it comes with a catch - you have to take advantage of it – by exercising those confirmation skills. You have to recognize that Jesus is there for you. As Jesus stretches his arm over the ledge to rescue you, you have to give him your hand. You have to be willing to accept the help that is offered.

So when decisions confuse you, when you are tempted, when you are hurt or sad – all you have to do is look up – and take advantage of the help offered. Sometimes it might be a hug from a parent or advice from a teacher. You might remember a conversation that you had with your confirmation sponsor, other times you might find that prayer provides the answer to your question.

You have to take the next step and look to your faith for the answer to your questions.

Are you wondering why I entitled this sermon Double Jeopardy? What will you risk? Will you look to your faith? or will you take an even bigger chance and decide to go it alone?

This morning we all come to this communion table recognizing that we are continually being blessed with God’s grace and promise to be with us always. God will save us when we are lost and gather us together as Christians, who will look to Jesus for our strength and direction and who will support each other in faith. We never have to go it alone, we never have to do it all by ourselves. Jesus is with us. This communion is open to all people for this is the Lord’s table and it is open to all who wish to know the presence of Christ and to share in the community of God’s people. 

Return to Home Page