May 9, 1999
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
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Epistle: I Peter 3: 13-22

Gospel: John 14: 14-21

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Sermon - 2+2+1

I want to start off my sermon with a math problem.

What is 10+1? 11, right!

What if you were working with time, 12 o'clock noon plus 1 hour = 1 p.m.

What if the clock only went to the number 10. Then 10 o'clock plus I hour

would equal 1. Right?

What if the clock only went up to 3. Then 3 o'clock plus 1 hour would equal


Now, on that same clock that went up to 3, what is 2+2? The answer is 1.

I had a whole math class in college based on this process that we just went

through. It was designed to help us think outside the assumptions about

math that were already ingrained in our minds. After weeks of doing all of

our math assignments on different "clocks" our understanding of the

quantitative process was so stretched that we were finally able to comprehend

really complex math equations that would have been impossible for us.

Imagine doing quadratic equations on a 7 hour clock. I never looked at math

the same way. It went from being a predictable tool to an unlimited

resource. All of my expectations and assumptions disappeared so that I was

able to imagine something even greater -

The word of God that Jesus was trying to spread was radically different from

the expectations that people had of the world. And even today, as we read

the Bible and our expectations and presumptions lead us to listen with closed

ears. That is why reading John's gospel is such a eyeopening and freeing

exercise, it is so filled with twists and turns that it has the ability to

open our minds - to soften the boundaries of our thinking so that we can

receive the good news. It forces us to think outside the box. And as the

boundaries are loosened, we do find that God has brought us to a spacious


Listen to the detail of the text:

Jesus says - I will not always be with you… at least not as you would wish.

But in my absence you will be cared for - guided by the Holy Spirit. You

love me, I know that, but in order for you to see how all of this works,

how you will live, simply because I live, you need to be actively living as

I have commanded. It is in the midst of your living out my commandments to

love God and love one another that you will be able to recognize that my

spirit, the Holy Spirit, is dwelling within you -

Through your faithfulness to those commandments, you will see that I am

still right here with you - when you need me, I will be in you, and you

will be in me.


These are words of great comfort to all of us, God has sent the spirit to

walk with us, stand beside us, to carry us - in the midst of all that life

can throw at us, all that life can offer. And - when we are living as Jesus

taught, loving each other, we will be able to see and know and feel Jesus'

presence with us.

These are incredible words of hope for the world, Because Jesus lives, we

live. God is in us and we are in God. We are not alone. Think about the

past few weeks.

First Kosovo, - People, like you and I, with children that they love, and

parents too old to walk fast enough to keep up, pulled from their homes -

torn from their lives, Ethnic cleansing. Is this really happening at the

end of the twentieth century, a situation so similar to the beginning of

this century.

Columbine High School, fear and terror, not only for the victims - and

their families, but for all of our children - everywhere.

Who are our Kids? Are they caught in a world that asks more of them than

they can give? Are they asked to grow up too quickly? Are they given too

much freedom? Are they left alone too often? Are their choices too broad

for them to comprehend?

Oaklahoma City, Kansas and Tenn, - tornadoes, wiping out whole blocks of

homes, destroying and changing thousands of peoples of lives, tearing

babies from their mother's arms, changing forever the way some children will

live and love and act. Filling mother's and father's eyes with pain as they

remember their vain efforts to protect their family from such a deadly force.


Human Nature and mother nature seemed to have combined forces. Suffering is

everywhere -

And in the middle of all of this we stop to celebrate Mother's Day.

Now I have an admission to make, - I have never been a big fan of Mother's

Day - Not that I don't love my mother, I do, Happy Mother's day Mom, she

will get this sermon over the internet. But, somehow, Mother's Day has

always seemed like such an artificial holiday. Even if I am a mother and I

could/do reap the rewards of the holiday. We all know that our appreciation

for our mothers is something that most appropriately happens in a spontaneous

moment, which is usually much more meaningful than what happens on a

prescribed holiday.

So I started looking for the origination of this holiday. It turns out that

it was first proposed by a Boston Unitarian woman named Julia Ward Howe in

1872. She was upset that mothers would give birth to a child and then at a

very tender age, send that child off to war, often to die - too young.

What she proposed was a "Mother's Day of Peace" - a call to all mother's to

step forward and help to change the events of their times, to make war and

suffering a thing of the past. When the holiday was becoming a national

observance her daughter spent all of her inheritance fighting the idea,

because she knew that it would no longer reflect her mother's intention. A

Mother's Day of Peace.

For just a moment let us think outside the box, have the boundaries soften,

or even disappear. Imagine, if that were the holiday we were celebrating

today - Imagine, in light of the past few weeks, what would we say, how

would we act? A Mother's Day of Peace.

Maybe this is our wake-up call. A call to say "stop" - a call to action,

to look to the future and know that we can change the world. We can begin to

alleviate suffering, in our town, our country, our world. We can begin the

conversation that will prevent more outbreaks of school violence. We can

decide not to tolerate violence on television and in movies. We can educate

the children of the world to understand diversity and accept it, not just

tolerate it - we can teach them to appreciate it, to desire it - to learn

from it. - We can minister to kids who are getting lost. We can find ways to

reach out to people who have lost everything they have spent a lifetime

working for, a homeland, a home, their families. We can send aid to

people who are struggling to rebuild their lives. - This is a battle for

peace, this is a struggle for life - and we can do what ever needs to be


The Holy Spirit will walk beside us, will inspire us, will guide us, will

give us strength and courage.

The further outside of the box we think, the more spacious the place in

which we will dwell. Imagine and then go do it.

Happy Mother's day.

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