Sermon
August 20, 2000
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
Write to Rev. Hamilton

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Scripture Reading

John 6:51-58 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever

eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the

life of the world is my flesh."

52 The Jews then disputed among himself, saying, "How can this man give

us his flesh to eat?" 53 So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you,

unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no

life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life,

and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my

blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in

me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because

of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the

bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and

they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." (NRSV)

 

1 Kings 2:10-12

10 Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of

David. 11 The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned

seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat

on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.

(NRSV)

1 Kings 3:3-14

3 Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David;

only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. 4 The king went

to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon

used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the LORD

appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, "Ask what I should

give you." 6 And Solomon said, "You have shown great and steadfast love to

your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness,

in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept

for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his

throne today. 7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in

place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know

how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people

whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or

counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your

people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your

great people?"

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him,

"Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or

riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself

understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word.

Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before

you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you

have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall

compare with you. 14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my

commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life."

(NRSV)

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Sermon:  Words to choke on

We all know the story of King Solomon's wisdom when dealing with 2 mothers

who claimed the same child - Solomon suggested that they cut the child in-two

and share it that way. The real mother of course could not stand the idea of

her child being harmed and spoke up at once, relinquishing her claim on the

child, in order to spare its life. Solomon, then awarded the child to that

mother. A familiar story, but somehow we never manage to include in that

story the way that Solomon came to have such incredible wisdom.

What a thought - God asking one of us what we might like to have… like the

genie in the bottle granting one wish. What would you say? Tempting to say

- health, long life, peace, power, money? Or like the child who said,

I would ask for 3 wishes, and the last wish would always be 3 wishes.

Solomon - humbly - (and wisely) asked for wisdom. And because of his

humility, God also granted him power, wealth and a long life.

This weeks lessons want us to delve into 2 things that seem to be completely

opposite, Wisdom and Mystery. In our passage from St. John we hear Jesus

confusing the gathered crowd with his insistence that the way to eternal life

was by eating his body and drinking his blood. That was a mystery to many of

Jesus' followers. As a matter of fact, many of them found it so offensive

they backed away… Cannibalism was too extreme a suggestion. Of course -

today, because we have the benefit of 3 other gospels and 2000 years of

history, we hear this passage with spiritual ears. We know that Jesus refers

to communion at the Lord's supper - we know that John did not include in his

version of Jesus the story of the last supper - and that this was his way of

impressing us with the importance of all disciples partaking in Holy

Communion, that mysterious act by which we are all united, one with another

and with God at the same moment. A mystery that we can't begin to unravel.

Why would the lectionary creators link these 2 passages? A question that

pastors all over the globe have been asking themselves this week. Where are

the common threads, how can we weave them together - wisdom and mystery seem

to be on opposite poles.

But in fact, even though we think of wisdom as that which can unravel and

reveal the truth about mystery, they lead to exactly the same place in our

hearts. And that is what we are going to explore today. Wisdom and mystery

are linked by more than their contrary meanings.

Wisdom - we think of that as understanding - or you might say knowledge -

whose knowledge? Knowledge of what? I guess that we would define it, since

we claim to be believers in God, as knowledge of God or knowledge shared with

God. Having the same mindset as God - understanding what God would do, how

God would act, knowing what is right or wrong in God's eyes. Having Wisdom

would lead one to do God's work, because it would be so clear that that was

necessary. Wisdom = understanding or a shared knowledge with God that

would lead one to behave as God would want.

What is mystery? According to Webster it is a problem to be solved, an

enigma or a Christian sacrament. The mystery of Holy Communion is about a

life with Christ. This is a mystery that is rooted deep in our hearts and

our souls. It is about a spiritual connection that is represented by a

physical enactment. It is both personal and communal, it is being one on

one with God, it is knowing the depth of your neighbors suffering and joy -

just as you do your own. It is a moment that happens within us. It is so

much more than asking "What Would Jesus Do?".It is God infiltrating our

spirits: a flood of love and compassion and acceptance. It is a

willingness to let the Holy Spirit guide your life. When we share the bread

and cup we are asking God to infiltrate our lives. It is our chance to

answer when God asks - "what can I give you?" "wisdom, O God", "Give me

the wisdom of eternal life - give me the wisdom to live in peace and

serenity, give me the wisdom to live connected to you at all times O God."

But that truly is a brief moment - we find our way into that communion and

out as quickly as we can. We duck and run. For - in our hearts, side by

side with the holy spirit there is fear. We instinctively fear that which

we desire so deeply. We crave union with God and fear it all at the same

time. For one main reason. It will require something we won't welcome, but

we won't be able to resist. That would be Change.

When we take God into ourselves and allow God to nourish us, we begin to grow

and in that growth is change. Our values - our perspective, our joys and

our sorrows are forever transformed. We find knowledge - we see ourselves

as God sees us, we see the world with the same ache in our hearts that God

has - We understand the desperation that drives people to be greedy, mean,

and power hungry. We know that we - in our humanness - are a part of that

desperation. We can't help but repent and begin life again… and that is

what causes the problems… as we begin to understand - our behavior changes,

our outlook changes, and old ideas and maybe even friends fall away.

We have evidence of the way change challenges us - on all levels. We don't

want the look of our village green changed - by a brick retaining wall.

When we lose our job, we worry that we might have to move. As we listen to

politicians we fear changing attitudes about social issues - why can't

everyone believe like we do. We don't want the Church to change - we like

the old music and prayers. WE like it just as it is. AND - We don't want to

find out that God really can come crashing into your life and infiltrate it.

Life, as uncomfortable as it can be - is at least a known commodity.

Change is the unknown - in a way it is the mystery.

Our task is to be open to God and the Holy Spirit - to be open to both the

mystery and the wisdom we receive. Our challenge is resist the temptation

to slam the door on communion with God - our task is to let the change

happen. When God asks - "what can I give you?" And we answer, "Give me

the wisdom of eternal life - give me the wisdom to live in peace and

serenity, give me the wisdom to live connected to you at all times O God."

We need to stay in that moment - We need to receptive. For it will come -

our prayers will be answered. In that connection to God we will find that we

have eternal life, we will have the power we need to create a world anchored

in love - we will have that which makes us feel rich -

How are wisdom and mystery as alike as they seem to be opposite? Both will

lead us to doing God's work… to welcoming the stranger, comforting the

miserable, feeding the hungry and Offering God's grace to all we meet. They

both lead us to understand God's version of justice and freedom. They will

both lead us to peace of Christ and the prosperity of a contented life.

This week, as you go through living your life, notice - notice the people

around you who live as though they have found that wisdom, those whose faces

represent peace and whose lives seem filled with contentment or a hunger for

justice. Watching them could reassure your anxiety… calm your heart -

watching them could encourage you to stay the course, welcome change - growth

and the resulting transformation are wonderful things. Leave your heart open

to the power and mystery of transformation, allow you to begin to find that

God's wisdom dwells in your heart and spirit because God has infiltrated your

life…

And keep in mind that child's wish - always ask for that extra wish - God,

fill my heart and my mind with your wisdom and leave me open to the mystery

of your holy communion. Amen.

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