August 11, 2002
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
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Scripture Reading

John 21:15-17

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." 16 A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. (NRSV)

Matthew 14:22-33

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."

28 Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." 29 He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." (NRSV)

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Sermon: Not an Easy Call to Accept

Yes, I would absolutely love to help! Is that the answer you give when a co-worker asks you to interrupt your own work to lend a hand? Is that the answer you give when an impossible task is put before you? What is your answer when you fear that the task will require something that you aren’t sure you want to give. How do you respond when you are just plain afraid?

Yes, I would absolutely love to help!!!

That was the answer we – the mission trip group - learned to give this past week.

I say learned – on purpose, because for many of us, many times, that would not have been our instinctive response.

I think I can safely say that going on this trip was a leap of faith for every participant. We were answering a call to ministry, not at all certain of what it would entail. I can’t count the number of times that I heard “what have I gotten myself into” from both from students and leaders. This trip was a true leap of faith.

That was the same leap of faith that Peter took when he ventured out on the water – Jesus said “come” to Peter and Peter stepped out of the boat and onto the water. Peter’s answer was a resounding “yes” – a leap of faith. Until he began to sink.

“Yes, I would absolutely love to help” is a learned response. It may have been easy to sign up for a mission trip – at first some of the kids even called it their vacation! But when the work got difficult – when the days were too hot or too cold – when in living close quarters with 18 other people jangled your nerves – when expectations of behavior meant learning something about yourself and actually changing – it became clear that this was not a vacation. It was work. Real work that challenged us to learn new skills and learn about ourselves.

It was easy to say that first “yes” – I will go on this trip. But it was a real challenge to stay on the trip and learn to say, “Yes, I would absolutely love to help.”

At one time or another, everyone on the trip wanted to go home, sleep in their own bed, eat “real” food, call their friends, watch a ball game, go on line, listen to their own music, – that would have been so much easier.

But we stayed and endured.

Because – we knew there was a purpose. we were learning about a problem so widespread that it effects every country in the world. We learned that 24 people die every minute of a hunger related disease. and 18 of the 24 are children. Everyday 34,000 people die of hunger or preventable disease from hunger every day. We learned that 800 million people today are chronically undernourished. – and 12% of the population is starving. In the USA 1 out of every 8 children under the age of 12 goes to bed hungry – every night. It was hard to believe.

We heard the stories of hunger – about real families, like Faiza Karzai and her 2 small children, who live in a refugee camp in Pakistan, since they have had to flee their native land of Afghanistan. They have no land and no country. Since she is a woman, she is not allowed to work or own property. But we discovered that she could probably raise chickens without others knowing and even transport them under her heavy flowing robes to hide them from authorities. The chickens would provide her with eggs, a great source of protein and possible even cash. And a family in Africa – a grandmother and her 3 daughters, two of whom are dieing of Aids, and her 8 grandchildren under the age of 10. The grandmother walks 2 miles to get drinkable water, every day. The only income they have is from selling what they grow and can transport to the market. Think what the gift of a goat would do for them. She could not only transport water and her vegetables, but she could also feed her grandchildren the protein laden milk that they need.

And we heard that there is enough food – if it was only reallocated.

Our minimum daily need is about 2350 calories, or 3.45 cups of rice a day. We have available – right now, in the world enough food that each person could have 5.14 cups of rice a day, or 3500 calories per person.

So why are people starving, because of famine and flood, and war and poverty and climate and geography and politics and lack of education.

Think what education could change.

That is what we were doing at the Heifer Project Farm. We were the ones who were being educated. And we have vowed to pass on that gift.

As we ate, a large group gathered around a big table, we learned the value of food. We learned the way food becomes a meal, gathering us in, sustaining us not only food, but with the gift of support as we shared our struggles and our joys. It provided us with a place to rest and a time to renew our strength. So when we went back into the field we were able to do our best, once again. The food drew us together and the meal gave us all that we needed to do our work.

We learned about organic foods – and ways that we could help to save the environment – we learned to take only what we knew we would eat on our plates at first. 19 people needed to eat. And the bowls didn’t seem that large. And we all wondered if there was enough food on the table. No heaping plates of food… rarely was there food to scrape off of plates – but there was always left over food in the serving dish. So we have returned home conscience of the ways we can help to reduce the wasting of food – in our own homes and lives.

We met Du Ying from China who is in the US until November, away from her small baby, because it was so important to her to learn English and about better ways to farm and to teach us about world hunger. We saw her tears of missing when she spoke of her infant and her determination to do her job here well.

We learned about hunger and our world. We learned about ourselves and each other. We found out that we can change, that we can do the things that we thought we feared, feeding the giant hogs, like milking cows and goats, painting on tall ladders, working until we nearly drop from exhaustion, building stone walls, doing repetitive work, like making blocks for hours each day, only averaging 16 blocks in 8 hours. We found that we could accept criticism, that we can adjust our attitudes. That it won’t hurt us to try different foods, and we can exist on less food than we thought. We learned to work side by side with people from other countries and we learned that the call to feed God’s people hasn’t just been extend to us, that call has been heard around the globe. We also learned to appreciate everything that we already have in our lives…

We learned about our faith and the ways in which Jesus is with us through all of our struggles.

Just like Peter there were times that we doubted, but with faith, we were able to leave the farm with a newly painted barn, cement pads around all the outside buildings, a new stone wall, a smoother driveway, a good start on a new block building, with all the blocks being made by hand. We left the farm a better place. And we came back better people. We returned with more faith in our God. We can trust that Jesus will be with us when we say “yes” to his call.

The bottom line is that we gained more than we gave. With just a leap of faith, incredible things began to happen. It just took faith.

There are times in everyone’s life that God’s call to action is heard. Will you take that leap of faith? There are 19 of us that pray you will find encouragement and strength from our story. So that when Jesus holds out his hand and says “come” you won’t be afraid. Instead you will say – “Yes, I would absolutely love to help”. Amen.
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