|May 24, 1998|
|Rev. Virnette Hamilton|
|First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT 06776|
|Write to Rev. Hamilton
believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father,
are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may
believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given
them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that
they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent
me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those
also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory,
which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the
"Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these
know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make
it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I
in them." (NRSV)
Text: What more could we ask?
Does anyone here know what this is? (Virnette is showing the UCC wrought iron symbol that has been on display, at various places, in the church, for some time) I dusted it off - it has been in my office for nearly 5 years now - before that it was at my house and before
that it was in this sanctuary. This is the symbol of the United Church of
Christ. The crown is set atop of the cross, which supported by the orb, to
signify our diversity which is united in Jesus Christ. The motto of the UCC is
a portion of this mornings text, "that they may all be one" But are we?
I read in one of my denominational books, when I was studying for the
ordination process, that any time an organization says that it is united, it
probably isnt even close. Indeed, a friend of mine refuses to go to church,
even though she is a very spiritual person, because she says that it is her
impression that churches are mean & argumentative places. She has asked me if
that is what God intends? Do the people in churches know what those on the
outside think? I have an answer to the first question, but not to the
None of this is new - however - by the time John wrote down his many
meditations on the life of Jesus, he had seen many disagreements between
believers. His biggest concern was the way he saw the tradition of Christian
faith being lived out in community. John understood that our ability to live
out our faith as one would bear the most credible witness to the authenticity
of Jesus. When conflicts arise in churches the credibility of our faith in
Jesus Christ slips.
Not much has changed, here at the end of the twentieth century, we see more
factions of the Christian church than ever before - we even see denominations
breaking up - forming two where there had been one.
And as a pastor, I do wonder what the world thinks of the Jesus church.
Every time that I pick up a magazine or newspaper it seems that religion is a
hot topic, especially now, at the end of the millennium.
Again, not much has changed - There is a medieval manuscript that suggests
that the church is something like Noahs Ark - "If it were not for the storm
outside you could not stand the stench inside."
Even if we wonder what the world thinks, but we dont have to wonder what God
Our scripture lesson this morning spells it all out for us - God intends for
us to live in harmony... God intends for us to be united as one body - the
body of Christ. Remember ? "I in them and you in me, that they may
become completely one so that the world may know that you have sent me."
But what seems easy in theory, God knows, is difficult to achieve.
God has given us many gifts to help us find our way - in other words - We
arent out there on our own - to become one with Jesus Christ and God and
each other is no small trick. So God has given us the tools.
That is what communion is about - the remembrance that unites our hearts and
minds and souls - one with God and one with each other -
That is what love is about - the same love which anchors us to our children,
our spouses, our parents - also anchors us to God, to other Christians, and
to everyone else. This same love is what binds us today to those we have
loved and lost, those who dwell with God - the dead and the living forever
bound together - they will live on in our hearts until we are united with them
at the last. Even death cannot break the bond of that love.
The strength and power of that love is the foundation of all that Jesus prays
that we become - remember 1 Corinthians 13 -
1 Corinthians 13:4-12
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant
or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all
things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never
We use this passage at weddings and at funerals because we know that these
words are true - we have seen it work in our own families. We know these words
are true when we grieve for a person that was love in action everyday of their
lives - they are the saints we sing of - the lives we celebrate today.
But this passage isnt given to us for just our family interactions. Just as
our scripture lesson today was originally written to instruct the church, so
was I Corinthians 13. - the church at Corinth which was mired down in
conflict - remember the beginning of the passage -
1 Corinthians 12:19-20
If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many
members, yet one body.
We are the body, the church - we are the disciples that Jesus prays for. Our
lesson this morning is his pastoral prayer - for us today. We are the ones
who heard from earlier disciples, our parents and grandparents. The ones as
the current disciples, who will - by our actions - pass our trust in the
truth of Jesus Christ along to our children.
This is not about being the same, because we cannot be the same -God has
created each of us as individuals. This is about affirming the richness of
our differences, about acceptance, about working together when our
differences threaten to separate us. This is no small job - it takes faith and
it takes love.
What is the greatest commandment asked the disciples? Jesus answered: Love
God with all your heart and mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.
From those words will come everything that is necessary for the church to grow
- from that love the unity will grow and flourish - This was Christs vision
of the kingdom - all of us one with the living God. Love being the
"As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that
the world may believe that you have sent me. I made your name known to them,
and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be
in them, and I in them." (NRSV)
"that they may all be one."
This is our challenge - to live lives that demonstrate the truth of our
salvation. To win disciples - to love in a way that the world rarely sees -
to work together in all things never losing sight of the goal of unity.- the
vision of the kingdom. May our actions tell us with certainty what God and the
world thinks of Jesus Christs followers.
This emblem of the UCC stands for a richness of people and ideas, for our
faith - for our task - It stands for Christs vision of the Kingdom. It was
carried out of this sanctuary the day that Russ Ayre retired as our minister
of 35 years signifying the transition this church was to undertake. Somehow it
never made its way back in - Maybe it is time for us to consider returning it
to this place, that we might keep Christs vision of One Body ever before us.
Return to Homepage