June 18, 2000
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
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Scripture Reading

John 3:1-17

          1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." 3 Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." 4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" 5 Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." 9 Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" 10 Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

          11 "Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

          16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

          17 "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (NRSV)

 Isaiah 6:1-8

          1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." 4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 And I said: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"

          6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out." 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!" (NRSV)

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Sermon: Praxis

I was talking to a bride a few months ago – days from her wedding – and she was asking “how do I know that this is right for me?”  She had a bad case of pre-wedding jitters.  As we talked she came to the conclusion that it was right because he was her strength and she was his courage,  he was her peace and she was his spontaneity - and her list went on and on.  Then she said that as she looked into her groom’s eyes she saw herself reflected – but not as she was – rather as she could be – because that was how her future husband saw her -  it both comforted her and scared her… what if she couldn’t live up to that…


That is a bit like meeting God – God is the perfect complement to each of us,  offering us peace, for instance, where we have only anxiety…  and our true self is reflected back to us from God’s eyes – we begin to see ourselves as God sees us.  But that is where the analogy ends – When we experience human love we are instinctively drawn in.   


Whenever God calls to one of us,  we are tempt to run, to duck, to shut our ears,  to avoid the whole thing altogether… to try to talk our way out of it,  to bargain with God, …


That is because meeting God face to face and having that kind of personal conversation would dismantle our lives,  just as it did the life of Isaiah… nothing would ever be the same.   We would mark time as before and after that day.  If we met God,  as Isaiah met God,  we would have that date imprinted on our minds forever.  Exactly how Jesus described it in our Gospel lesson,  being born from above.  It would be a new birthday to mark – the day we were born of the spirit – the day that we came face to face with God…


I have the feeling that if God actually appeared here,  in our Sanctuary,  during worship,  we would all be face down – on our knees.  God’s majesty,   holiness,  love,  all those words we use to describe God,  would overwhelm us… and prostrating ourselves before God would be all that was left for us to do.  We would have no defenses.


This is Trinity Sunday,  the day that we investigate the holiness of God,  the wonder of God’s power and love,  and the difference it makes in our lives.


While it is true that most of us,  maybe in fact,  none of us will have the powerful face to face encounter with God that Isaiah did – we still are called by our faith to notice the times when we do encounter God and to respond accordingly.  


I believe that God is continually in the process of calling to us,  to try to lead us and guide us – to reflect to us who we can be,  who we truly are,   what potential lives beneath our skin – waiting for us to discover it and act on it…  We have been delegated by God to help to mend the creation –


But the question is,  do we hear God calling to us -  do we even want to hear God calling to us - or do we keep our lives filled with commitments,  busyness,  noise,  company,  schedules and our minds be filled with the noise of anger,  frustration,  fear,  or guilt.


It is impossible for God to break into our lives when they are full of noise and chaos.  It is impossible for God to lead us when we are in such a hurry that we are in front of God,  choosing the path.  It is impossible for God to call us when we keep the volume of our lives turned up as high as it will go.


When was the last time that you just sat and listened – listened for some evidence of God – 


 Maybe you would find what Isaiah and Nicodemus found -  that God is more powerful that anything we have ever encountered – God is both within us and distinct and separate from us.  God is in the fury of the wind and the fire of a live coal.  God is high and lofty and set aside by Glory – God offers a love greater than any we dare imagine.  God has the compassion to blot out our sin – so that we are restored to wholeness once again – God is our salvation – God is the protector of the creation – God offers us life,  


God gives so much – and we take – and we take and we take.  God asks for but one thing in return – us.  God wants our lives to flow out of what we know of God…  God wants our mission to be a natural evolution of our faith – For us to live lives filled with the same qualities we find characterize God.  


 We say we worship the God of justice and love,  the God of compassion and forgiveness,  the God of peace and the God of salvation.  This is our mission – this is our call -  to turn outward from the Church to the world and offer justice,  love,  compassion,  forgiveness,  peace and salvation. 


That is Praxis,  to turn our beliefs into action – to hear God’s call and answer it with our lives – to let God lead us toward lives of justice and love,  compassion and forgiveness,  peace and salvation.  God calls us to stand our ground in the face of injustice – to offer love to those who feel alone in the world,  to bring compassion to every interaction and allow forgiveness to blot out the transgressions we encounter.   We are called to seek peace for all people and make the way to salvation open for all people.


It doesn’t matter if you are a Deacon of this Church,  a student graduating from High School,  a Father celebrating father’s day,  because God’s call is inclusive.  It is a call for you to make a difference through Praxis.


Praxis is a big task, yes,  but praxis is possible because we have God with us – when we encounter God – in even the smallest ways – we find that the reflection of our truest self is given to us through God’s eyes.  It is there that we find our perfect complement – it is there that we see all that we can be – and that is a gift that we need not fear,  that we need not duck,  that we can let ourselves be drawn into.  God is with us in all that we do –  together we can handle anything.  Amen.   

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