|September 24, 2000|
|Rev. Virnette Hamilton|
|First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT 06776|
|Write to Rev. Hamilton|
Scripture Reading Mark 9:30-37
30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want
anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them,
"The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and
three days after being killed, he will rise again." 32 But they did not
understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked
them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" 34 But they were silent, for
on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat
down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must
be last of all and servant of all." 36 Then he took a little child and put it
among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 "Whoever welcomes
one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not
me but the one who sent me." (NRSV)
Proverbs 31:10-31 10 A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious
than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no
lack of gain. 12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 14 She is like
the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away. 15 She rises
while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for
her servant-girls. 16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her
hands she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds herself with strength, and makes
her arms strong. 18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her
lamp does not go out at night. 19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and
her hands hold the spindle. 20 She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out
her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid for her household when it
snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson. 22 She makes herself
coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known
in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land. 24 She makes
linen garments and sells them; she supplies the merchant with sashes. 25
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her
tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat
the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband
too, and he praises her: 29 "Many women have done excellently, but you
surpass them all." 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman
who fears the LORD is to be praised. 31 Give her a share in the fruit of
her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates. (NRSV)
Sermon: Martha Stewart doesn't live here.
A year or 2 after we moved to New Milford some friends from California
called to say they were going to visit us. We had been in the same gourmet cooking
group at our church in Bishop. We were very excited - and planned a really
special dinner for them - and then decided to take them to see the Silo, as
a special treat. We knew that there was nothing like it in Bishop. The
day they were to arrive I slaved in the kitchen trying to make sure that
everything was perfect - I was really out to impress them - I was consumed
with putting together a real gourmet meal.
After the trip to the Silo and the meal that had taxed all of my energies,
We sat back to just visit. The husband said, "well this was certainly a
nice meal - thank you. (I beamed) then he added " you know we were just
down visiting Kathy's roommate from college - she is a good cook too - and
you should see her house. Wow - we had a great time - it was like staying
in a fancy bed and breakfast - maybe you've even heard of her - Martha
It wasn't long after that that I decided to into the ministry. Obviously,
my calling was not going to be leading the women of the world to greater
Our amazing woman from Proverbs always reminds me of Martha Stewart. But
the passage is more about function than it is form. It is more about motives
than roles. It is more like poetry than a job description.
Proverbs opens with Woman Wisdom crying out in the streets telling all who
would hear - to heed the call of wisdom on their lives, she says: if you
live within the commandments of wisdom you will understand the fear and the
knowledge of the Lord. Our passage closes the book of Proverbs and
illustrates the fulfillment of that promise. Our amazing woman is
living within the commandments of wisdom. All of her efforts are the embodiment of
God's call on her life. She understands the fear and the knowledge of the
Lord. She is doing her best to live faithfully.
Yes, she is a great woman, but not because of what she is doing, The
motivation behind the form is the issue: what compels her to do it. There
is a difference between a person who outwardly does what they know looks good.
They do good works to benefit the self. Those who live faithfully work to
the benefit of others.
The question for disciples of Jesus is: What is greatness?
It was the question that tripped up the disciples who were traveling with
Jesus - when they found themselves arguing about who was the greatest.
Jesus challenges them on the nature of true greatness Greatness - Jesus
says - looks like this - a welcoming of those who are considered the least in
society - children. In his world children were not considered to be a full
persons - worthy of respect - until they reached the age of maturity because
so many of them died before they grew into maturity.
Jesus says: greatness is measured by faithful living. It is the motivation
that denotes the heart of faithful living.
Consider this life. A woman with young children - abused and neglected as
a child she had vowed to make their home a warm and loving place at all times.
She wanted them to have everything that she didn't have, security,
constant attention, the right clothes, and all of the opportunities that she missed
out on. She did her best, constantly busy, driving them from activity to
activity, setting up the best play dates, she became super mom - She was a
servant to her dream for her kids - yet, there was still a lingering ache
in her heart. Each time someone slighted her child, she was hurt beyond
belief. Jealousy and anger began to consume her She knew that she wasn't
happy, but she kept up her frantic pace to create a perfect life for her
children. When suddenly she woke up - and noticed that her children weren't happy
either. Had she failed? Well - she had provided them with all that she
never had - but something was missing. Outwardly it all looked wonderful - but
inwardly something was askew. That was the year that she signed up to be a
mentor for underprivileged children in the school district not far from her
home. She planned to fit it in between all of her family obligations one
hour each week - not a problem. Soon she was there one hour, for each of 5
children. Then she found herself picking up a needed toothbrush, or a new
pair of socks, soon she was arranging much need visits to the eye doctor
finally she was responsible for arranging for a huge group of these kids to
attend camp this past summer she raised the money to buy camp clothes,
sleeping bags and back packs. She found a way to pay their camp fees.
And she says - I never intended for all of this to happen it just grew out
of my own pain and suffering. I identified with those children - and I knew
that no one was happy when I was trying to create perfect life for my own
children. They already had my devotion. I was called to use my pain and
suffering to bring some relief into the lives of those who were truly
suffering. God found a way to use the sorrow of my childhood to create joy
for the children that I can help. And that gives me great joy. Faith -
full living. I love the term Faith full. A life filled with faith - everyday - filled to
the brim - like a cup filled to overflowing - so that it runs over,
splashes onto all everyone around. Faithful living effects all those who
even get in the vicinity. It flows outward - it creates new possibilities -
It creates new life.
Faith full living isn't about doing what looks good, it isn't about
greatness. It isn't even about what you should do or ought to do. God
embraces us in our struggles, just as Jesus embraced the children.
Faithful living is giving God a chance to embrace you, to transform the pain,
sorrow, disappointments, and challenges of your life into gifts and then finding
away to exercise them as gifts. Faithful living is about doing what feels
right -what feels authentic. When you are faithful to God you are also
faithful to yourself.. Faithful living is what brings you long lasting
We say that we are disciples, but what is a disciple? A student - we are
students of Jesus Christ. We are all in the process of learning how to live
faithfully. Think of this time as our internship. We will be presented
with many opportunities to live faithfully - that is our constant challenge:
to practice living near God and within the commandments of wisdom so that
our efforts become the embodiment of God's call on our lives. For we are much
like that amazing woman, for we also seek to understand the fear and the
knowledge of the Lord. Amen.
Return to Homepage