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