Sermon
July 11, 1999
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
Write to Rev. Hamilton

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Scripture Readings

Psalm 119: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to observe your righteous

ordinances. 107 I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to

your word. 108 Accept my offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your

ordinances. 109 I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget

your law. 110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from

your precepts. 111 Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of

my heart. 112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the

end. (NRSV)

Matthew 13:1-23

1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2

Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there,

while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in

parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some

seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds

fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up

quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were

scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell

among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on

good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some

thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen!"

18 "Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the

kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what

is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was

sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately

receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for

a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that

person immediately falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is

the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth

choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good

soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears

fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another

thirty." (NRSV)

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Sermon - You need sun and water!

Before I moved to CT. I lived in the High Desert in California, in the Owens

Valley. It is the deepest valley in the continental US and gets less than 5

inches of rain a year. The day we moved out it was 117 degrees outside. We

had strange soil, called DG, which stood for decomposed granite. It was a

bit like crushed rock or even, sand. Nothing like the soil we have here. To

give you an idea of what it was like, listen to this. We moved in during

Sept. - There was nothing growing in our yard - it was just DG. We started

right away digging the trenches for the sprinkler system - but that wasn't

complete until March. Between Sept and March, nothing grew in that soil.

Even though we got the tiny bit of rain we would get for the year in that

time, nothing grew in that soil. It had plenty of sun, just not enough

water. When we added water, everything grew. Our motto became "you can grow

anything if you have sun and water!"

We certainly know a little bit about not having enough water - this has been

a very dry year, many of our lawns are burned up, I know that some

communities have restricted water usage and people who have well water are

being very careful. We have good soil; we have had lots of sun, but not

enough water.

We understand the necessity of soil and sun and water good growing conditions

for good crops.

Wasn't Jesus clever to use such a graphic image to help us to understand how

the Kingdom of God would work? We understand what Jesus meant, but are we

ready to listen? Do we have ears to hear?

For the past week I have been in Providence Rhode Island at General Synod -

which is the Biennial meeting of the United Church of Christ as one of the

two delegates who represented all of us in the Litchfield South Association

of the Connecticut Conference. There were about 3,000 delegates and a couple

thousand visitors every day and there were 80,000 cookies all baked by the

willing hands of the members of the UCC churches in the Rhode Island

Conference. Those cookies sustained the delegates as we sat at tables,

working from 7 am until 10 PM. Taking only short breaks for lunch and

dinner.

I have to confess that I left for Synod with an unwilling heart and closed

ears. In my mind, this was an exercise in futility. Local churches propose

resolutions to be presented, debated and voted on by committees and delegates

on the floor of synod. But the reality is, because we are a church and not

the government we have very little authority that will bring these matters

into line with the resolution. Let me give you an example. A church on the

West Coast sponsored a resolution entitled "Violence In Our Schools -

Beginning An Ending," initiated by a teenage girl who was horrified at what

had gone on at Columbine High school. This resolution, which was passed,

resolves that the "church will raise awareness of youth violence, cultural

attitudes and the effects of marginalizing people". It asks us to call upon

the powers that be to change the world. It calls us to "support and teach

the skills of non-violent conflict resolution and to provide counseling and

to encourage peer mentoring, including the desire to and ability to move as

agents of reconciliation among campus groups." These are quotes.

This is a wonderful concept, and one that was almost a unanimous vote. But

the reality is - despite our passion to stop the violence, as a church we can

vote all day, but unless we act, nothing will change.

I left here as a skeptic and a cynic dragging my feet and I returned saying -

I want to go to Synod again. I left here a doubter and returned with a

renewed faith in the church. I do believe based on what I saw, that we can

and do make a difference. Maybe, just maybe, it is our willingness to try

that makes us different - that gives us an edge.

What changed my mind?

Let me paint a new picture of synod for you. Thousands of folks gathered in

one place, at such a time as this, determined to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus

Christ. Thousands, pouring into the convention center, each day, sitting

close together to share worship, breaking bread together, in worship, at

meals, in fellowship. Offering welcome and hugs and taking good care of each

other. Celebrating each other's victories, finding common ground necessary

for a resolution to pass, working to present all sides of an issue and to

offer information for understanding. All this happened in a spirit of

acceptance and affirmation, through intellectual debate and concern for all

people. It also sparked much discussion on how we can, as local churches

facilitate the passed resolutions.

The motto of the United Church of Christ is "that all may be one" Their

struggle is to become "multi-cultural, multi-racial, and accessible to all."

I began to believe those words as I looked around the convention center, and

I saw people from all over the world gathered together, every color skin

imaginable. I began to believe those words when I heard the first verse of

John read in Choctaw, and Hawaiian and languages that I could not identify,

over and over it was read, that all might understand - "In the beginning was

the word, and the word was with god and the word was God." Over and over -

it was read.

I began to believe that it could be done as we sang hymns in different

languages, first in English, then once again, in another's native tongue.

I began to hear the words "that all may be one" as for the first time - as I

witnessed the youth in this church standing in front of the assembly,

gathered as youth groups, delegates and synod facilitators to sing, play

drums, dance, read, even preach.

We are the church of Jesus Christ - we are Christ's hands and feet in the

world. Christ lives through us, through our willingness to love each other

no matter what obstacles might lie in the way. The seeds of God's justice

have been planted in our hearts. We can do anything when we rely on God,

when we look toward God's own Son, and when we remember the water of our

baptism.

Very soon all of the resolutions passed at Synod will be arriving at local

churches. Will they fall on fertile soil; will the conditions for growth be

right? What will happen at this church? Do we have both Son and Water?

When it rains in the desert some of the natives go outside and stand with

their arms outstretched, I used to think that is was because it was so novel

and they just wanted to get the full experience of the rain. But now I

think, Maybe they were there to be in unity with God, saying "Thank you God,

let your creation bear fruit!" Amen.

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Benediction:

God's Word lights our paths and guides our feet. We are called

to pass on the gifts of truth and justice, of love and mercy to all we meet.

Go forth, sharing the light of God's love, upheld by the peace of our Lord

Jesus Christ and living in the joy of the indwelling Holy Spririt, Amen.

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