Sermon
November 7 , 1999
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
Write to Rev. Hamilton

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Scripture Reading

Matthew 25:1-13

1 "Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took

their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and

five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with

them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom

was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was

a shout, 'Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' 7 Then all

those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the

wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' 9 But the wise

replied, 'No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go

to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' 10 And while they went to buy

it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the

wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came

also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' 12 But he replied, 'Truly I tell you,

I do not know you.' 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor

the hour. (NRSV)

Joshua 24:1-25

1 Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned

the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they

presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus

says the LORD, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors -- Terah and his

sons Abraham and Nahor -- lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods.

14 Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in

faithfulness; put away the gods that you ancestors served beyond the river

and in Egypt and serve the Lord.

15 Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will

serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River

or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and

my household, we will serve the LORD."



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SERMON

I remember the first time I heard this passage: "choose this day whom you

will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the

River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me

and my household, we will serve the LORD."

My family was in the car - 20 years ago- moving from Niagara Falls to the

desert of California - I was not happy about being torn out of a life that I

had come to find very comfortable. As a matter of fact, my husband had

stopped the car in Cleveland and said "either quit crying or get out and

walk, I can't take it anymore."

I knew he meant it, so I picked up a catalog that we had in the car with us

and started to leaf through it. It was a Christian book catalog and there

was the passage on a plaque, "As for me and my house, we will serve the

Lord" Underneath was the whole passage with the reference to Joshua.

"Choose this day whom you will serve"

Somehow that was just what I needed to hear. The trip went much better after

I had my attitude rearranged a bit. Instead of feeling sorry for myself I

could see my blessings and decide to refocus my behavior.

At first glance it seems as though both of our scripture readings today,

Joshua's choose and serve reference and also the maidens who prepare and get

into the banquet and those who don't and are left out are about behavior.

But they go deeper than that, these passages are about attitude, because it

is attitude that motivates our behavior. And these passages are about grace.

They are asking us a simple question - have you decided to have a

relationship with God? They are reminding us that God is drawing near to us,

trying to connect with us - have you been willing to take that first step

toward God? Are you willing to draw as near to God as God is to you? Or

have you found other gods to serve? Or let me rephrase it for you…

Are you living in fear or are you living a life of hope?

Fear is the motivator that arranges our attitudes continually, it strikes us

everyday - fear of losing our lives, our livelihood, fear of success, fear

of failure, fear of being alone, fear of hunger or poverty, even fear of

meeting god. There are so many of them that motivate our behavior that I

have to leave it to you to fill in the blank - what fear has the power to

motivate you?

What would be different about living a life a hope? Paul says in

Romans 8:24; "for in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope.

For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we

wait for it with patience."

Hope isn't about probabilities or even possibilities - hope is about

certainties - hope is about trust and faith - the undeviating reliability of

God. Hope dispels the fear. Hope is the assumption that God has drawn near

to you and wants to you to let go of all that stops you from taking that one

step toward God. Hope is the attitude that grace abounds. Hope is the

motivator that has the power to rearrange our focus.

God has drawn near. Are you living in hope or in fear? How can you tell -

without moving look at your hands - are they folded, or clenched? Are they

tight with tension or are they open? Let go of the tension - open your hands

- how can you receive what God has to give you if your hands are closed?

Think about your heart - is it tight with tension? Or is it open and ready

to receive. Take a deep breath - fill your lungs with hope, let the tension

slip away - God wants you to have the best of everything. Breath freely -

relax -

Choose hope, choose the Lord.

God's banquet is right before us, the table is set. All of us are invited -

it is open to everyone here - God's grace abounds. Are you prepared to

receive all the goodness that God wills for you? Are you prepared to receive

the grace that God offers? Take that one step -

Let us draw near to God as we join in our prayer of thanksgiving, preparing

to receive this Holy Sacrament. Amen

 

 

 

Matthew 25:1-13

1 "Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took

their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and

five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with

them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom

was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was

a shout, 'Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' 7 Then all

those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the

wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' 9 But the wise

replied, 'No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go

to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' 10 And while they went to buy

it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the

wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came

also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' 12 But he replied, 'Truly I tell you,

I do not know you.' 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor

the hour. (NRSV)

Joshua 24:1-25

1 Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned

the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they

presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus

says the LORD, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors -- Terah and his

sons Abraham and Nahor -- lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods.

14 Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in

faithfulness; put away the gods that you ancestors served beyond the river

and in Egypt and serve the Lord.

15 Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will

serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River

or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and

my household, we will serve the LORD."

 

SERMON: 11-7-99

I remember the first time I heard this passage: "choose this day whom you

will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the

River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me

and my household, we will serve the LORD."

My family was in the car - 20 years ago- moving from Niagara Falls to the

desert of California - I was not happy about being torn out of a life that I

had come to find very comfortable. As a matter of fact, my husband had

stopped the car in Cleveland and said "either quit crying or get out and

walk, I can't take it anymore."

I knew he meant it, so I picked up a catalog that we had in the car with us

and started to leaf through it. It was a Christian book catalog and there

was the passage on a plaque, "As for me and my house, we will serve the

Lord" Underneath was the whole passage with the reference to Joshua.

"Choose this day whom you will serve"

Somehow that was just what I needed to hear. The trip went much better after

I had my attitude rearranged a bit. Instead of feeling sorry for myself I

could see my blessings and decide to refocus my behavior.

At first glance it seems as though both of our scripture readings today,

Joshua's choose and serve reference and also the maidens who prepare and get

into the banquet and those who don't and are left out are about behavior.

But they go deeper than that, these passages are about attitude, because it

is attitude that motivates our behavior. And these passages are about grace.

They are asking us a simple question - have you decided to have a

relationship with God? They are reminding us that God is drawing near to us,

trying to connect with us - have you been willing to take that first step

toward God? Are you willing to draw as near to God as God is to you? Or

have you found other gods to serve? Or let me rephrase it for you…

Are you living in fear or are you living a life of hope?

Fear is the motivator that arranges our attitudes continually, it strikes us

everyday - fear of losing our lives, our livelihood, fear of success, fear

of failure, fear of being alone, fear of hunger or poverty, even fear of

meeting god. There are so many of them that motivate our behavior that I

have to leave it to you to fill in the blank - what fear has the power to

motivate you?

What would be different about living a life a hope? Paul says in

Romans 8:24; "for in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope.

For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we

wait for it with patience."

Hope isn't about probabilities or even possibilities - hope is about

certainties - hope is about trust and faith - the undeviating reliability of

God. Hope dispels the fear. Hope is the assumption that God has drawn near

to you and wants to you to let go of all that stops you from taking that one

step toward God. Hope is the attitude that grace abounds. Hope is the

motivator that has the power to rearrange our focus.

God has drawn near. Are you living in hope or in fear? How can you tell -

without moving look at your hands - are they folded, or clenched? Are they

tight with tension or are they open? Let go of the tension - open your hands

- how can you receive what God has to give you if your hands are closed?

Think about your heart - is it tight with tension? Or is it open and ready

to receive. Take a deep breath - fill your lungs with hope, let the tension

slip away - God wants you to have the best of everything. Breath freely -

relax -

Choose hope, choose the Lord.

God's banquet is right before us, the table is set. All of us are invited -

it is open to everyone here - God's grace abounds. Are you prepared to

receive all the goodness that God wills for you? Are you prepared to receive

the grace that God offers? Take that one step -

Let us draw near to God as we join in our prayer of thanksgiving, preparing

to receive this Holy Sacrament.

Amen.

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