Sermon
July 13, 2003
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
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Scripture Reading

Isaiah 44:1-8

1 But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! 2 Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you in the womb and will help you: Do not fear, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. 3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring. 4 They shall spring up like a green tamarisk, like willows by flowing streams. 5 This one will say, "I am the LORD's," another will be called by the name of Jacob, yet another will write on the hand, "The LORD's," and adopt the name of Israel. 6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be. 8 Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one. (NRSV)

Ephesians 1:3-14

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of his glory. (NRSV)

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Sermon - What is your legacy?

I have just returned from vacation, visiting parents and family, spending time at my father-in-laws grave, and contemplating the meaning of life… and the meaning of the end of life.

Isn’t it interesting, that you meet people who spend their whole life saving so that they can give their children an inheritance… And you meet those who hold that inheritance over the heads of their heirs, to force behaviors of which they approve.

And there was my father-in-law… who died with no money to give to his children… which only occurred to me when I began to write this sermon. His legacy to his children was so much greater than money. It was the gift of love – it was a way of life. It was appreciating people and events for the blessings that they were. It was learning to be accepting and generous with your whole heart. At his funeral we compared him to Moses, Standing at the brink of the promised land, knowing that he had done his work well and had prepared his people to live fully in that new place, even though he would not live long enough to experience it himself.

After his funeral I began to wonder, what legacy will I leave? What legacy do I want to leave? What is my goal?

We all have short-term goals and they are difficult enough to attain, but long-term goals, they pose real issues.

When a young couple comes to me and asks to be married, we begin the process of preparing for that event. I make them write down where they are right now, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, with their families. Then I ask each of them to write a 1-page prediction of where they and their spouse will be in ten years. After they do that work, we talk… about what their life goals are… and we learn together that each decision that they make will either lead them closer to the goal or away from it… On the day of their wedding, my gift to them is a copy of that goal.

What is your goal? What legacy do you want to leave?

This passage from Ephesians is all about our inheritance. God had a goal, a short-term goal - and that goal was accomplished in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the giving of the Holy Spirit. We were adopted and we have inherited all the blessings that God has for us… those have been given, and they continue – as Paul says – to be lavished upon us. For one purpose only… so that as we realized our own salvation, we will pass it along to the rest of the world. God has a long-term goal. God is still working toward the goal. And we – as God’s own children – have a part in that goal.

I know a woman who inherited a good deal of money when the last member of her family died. This woman lives so simply that it would amaze you. She says that she has no needs or wants. She has but one goal: to leave that money to her children. At face value it seems a bit strange, until you realize that her legacy to her children isn’t the money at all, but her understanding of how to live a life that is simple and uncomplicated, making material possessions secondary to helping others and being one of God’s servants.

God’s blessings have been given to each of us… how we choose to use them is our decision. But how we make those decisions makes a difference in the outcome.

Right now, The United Church of Christ is meeting in St. Paul Minnesota - General Synod, is what they call that biennial meeting of the whole denomination. The theme of synod this year is simple.

“God is still speaking”

General Synod does not speak for the UCC’s 6,000 local churches. But it does speak to each of the churches. As members of the UCC, we are each challenged to be in dialog with God. Our denomination at this meeting might investigate an issue and then take a stand that could mystify us… but that is the beauty of this denomination… it is organized around the precept that each of us has a responsibility to listen to God. to talk to God, to investigate issues – of faith and life – with God. And then make our decision about what is God’s will. The stand that the UCC takes is challenge for us to engage in prayer and study, rather than a mandate that we believe the same thing.

God is still speaking. God isn’t finished. God has more to say… more blessings to give… more guidance to offer… as Gracie Allen once said, “Never place a period where God has placed a comma”.

We all have choices to make – and each decision will lead us toward our goal or away from our goal.

Alfred Nobel of Norway – the founder of the Nobel Peace Prize – was an incredibly wealthy man, as a result of all of his many inventions, including dynamite. It is said when his brother died, the newspaper put the wrong obituary in, they mistakenly put Alfred’s Obit that they had in the can, in case he died suddenly. As he read his own obituary, he realized that he was going to be remembered as the creator of an instrument of destruction. He was horrified. He realized that he wanted to leave a legacy that would reflect who he had truly been – he decided to leave a legacy of peace, and that is when he changed his will to set up a prize to be given to those individuals whose contributions to the world fostered peace.

We still have time to decide what we want to leave, what that goal will be. We still have time to make decisions, with God’s help. We still have time to pray and listen. We still have time to make sure that the legacy we leave reflects our true selves.

God is still speaking. We still have time to listen. Thank God!
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