Sermon
July 25, 1999
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
Write to Rev. Hamilton

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Scripture Readings

Romans 8: 26-39
& Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52

Matthew 13:31-52

31 He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like

a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the

smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs

and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its

branches."

33 He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast

that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it

was leavened."

44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which

someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and

buys that field.

45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine

pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he

had and bought it.

47 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into

the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it

ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So

it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the

evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where

there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 "Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes." 52 And he

said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of

heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what

is new and what is old." (NRSV)

Romans 8:26-39

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know

how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep

for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the

Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of

God.

28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love

God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew

he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he

might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he

predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and

those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who

is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for

all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will

bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to

condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the

right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from

the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or

nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, "For your sake we are

being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered." 37

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers,

nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth,

nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love

of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NRSV)

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 Sermon: Once you get it, you've got it.

This passage from Romans is probably familiar to many of us, mostly because

it is often read at memorial services. In our weakness and suffering we are

sustained by the love of God, we can trust that God is for us and nothing can

change that.

Our relationship with God is sometimes all that we have left in times of

tragedy. We have all watched the Kennedy and Bessett families struggle with

unspeakable loss this past week, and many have marveled at their strength.

But as a people of faith, we know that they are consoled and comforted by

their faith tradition and by their trust that nothing will ever separate them

from God's love. Yes - their grief is beyond comprehension, but their

conviction and their faith will lead them forward. The love that they share

is but a small measure of the love that God has for them. That immeasurable

love is what gives them hope for the future and allows them to continue to

live in the world.

This passage from Romans is a statement of faith, not of logical reason. We

accept it with our hearts. "for I am convinced that neither death nor life,

nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,

nor height, nor depth , nor anything else in all creation will be able to

separate us from the love of God in Christ our lord.

We understand this with our hearts. I look at my Grand-daughter Tess, and I

know - I watch her parents tend to her every need, share in her delight as

she discovers her world, and struggle to keep her safe, and I know. And I

remember her mother when she was the same age, and how when I would complain

about the decrepit condition of our car, a 1960 valient, that had no gas

gauge, the trunk and a back door were permanently closed, and the gear

shift would fall into your hand when you were down shifting in traffic, my

husband's Uncle Tom would volunteer to buy us any car we wanted in trade for

our adorable daughter. We would all laugh at his joke. I already had found

the pearl of great price, so to speak, and I would protect it with my life

if necessary.

That is what we are to God, we are the pearl of great price. We are the

ones that were found and bought and paid for, with the life of God's own son

- Jesus Christ. We are the treasure hidden in the field, so valued that in

God's Joy everything was sacrificed to buy the field - to save the treasure.

Us. Imagine. Can you? You. The pearl of great price, the greatest

treasure. What is it that God values so? For most of us it is hard to see

within ourselves that which God would treasure so. What is it about you

that God would value? What could be so wonderful within each of us.

I think the answer to that question is also found in our parables. The

kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed - like a bit of leaven in a triple

measure of flour - from tiny things come the unexpected.

From our lives, our willingness to be disciples will come the kingdom of

heaven. God needs all of those tiny seeds that we plant as we live our

lives. Without them the kingdom doesn't stand a chance. We are the leaven,

we are the seeds.

This past week I was in Seneca Falls New York for the annual celebration of

the Women's Rights Convention of 1848. All of us here realize that women

now have the right to vote, to own property and to claim their children as

their own after a divorce. Most of us have heard of the Suffragists that

worked to make that happen, but not many of us here knew that it was because

of a seed planted one day when a few women gathered over tea. Frustration

over Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and all of the other women

delegates from the USA not being allowed to speak at the World's Anti-Slavery

Convention in London in 1840 became the topic of their conversation. The

convention in July of 1848, 2 quick weeks after their tea drew 300-400 women

and men. Those reforms didn't become a reality until 1919, long after most

of those women had died. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the author of the

Declaration of Sentiments, based on the Declaration of Independence, is

quoted as having said, "I never forget that we are sowing winter wheat which

the coming spring will see sprout and other hands than ours will reap and

enjoy"

Seeds sown. Seeds of God's kingdom that will grow and bear fruit -

I stand here before you, as a pastor of this church, evidence of their

labors. You see, it was at that convention that Antoinette Brown Blackwell

asked for help in securing her ordination and placement in a church.

Through their efforts, in1853, she became the first woman ordained in a

recognized denomination, the Congregational Church.

What have you done? What will you do? How will your life contribute to the

coming of God's reign, when all people will be valued as God values them,

when all will live in peace, when all people will have food enough and a

place to be warm.

Maybe we could write some of our own parables.

The kingdom of God is like an adult deciding to become a big brother of big

sister - a tiny seed that changes a life.

The kingdom of God is like a black woman - Rosa Parks - refusing to give up

her seat on a segregated bus. A tiny act that produced a whole civil rights

movement.

The Kingdom of God is like a child willing to defend another child in the

face of injustice, a tiny act, a sense of justice is born.

The kingdom of God is like Dr. Fleming noticing something unusual in a Petri

dish - antibiotics change the course of medicine forever.

The kingdom of God is like an ordinary Christian saying yes to teach church

school, and the gift of love is passed on to a new generation.

The kingdom of God is like one more infant among all the billions that have

been born, only this one in a manger . A tiny new life - then the salvation

of the world.

Once you understand this, you will always have it.

Amen.

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