Sermon
July 5, 1998
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
Write to Rev. Hamilton

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Scripture Reading:  Isaiah 66: 10-14

This passage is taken from what is commonly known as third Isaiah. First

Isaiah was written by a contemporary of Amos, who was most likely named and

was living in Jerusalem. Second Isaiah which begins in Chapter 40 was thought

to be written by a different person, an unknown prophet living in Babylon

while Israel found herself there in Exile. Third Isaiah is written by still

another prophet, who was living in Palestine after the exile. The people had

begun to return to Jerusalem, and the temple had been rebuilt, but they

still felt like outsiders.

10 Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,

all you who love her;

rejoice with her in joy,

all you who mourn over her --

11 that you may nurse and be satisfied

from her consoling breast;

that you may drink deeply with delight

from her glorious bosom.

12 For thus says the LORD:

I will extend prosperity to her like a river,

and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream;

and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm,

and dandled on her knees.

13 As a mother comforts her child,

so I will comfort you;

you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;

your bodies shall flourish like the grass;

and it shall be known that the hand of the LORD is with his servants, and

his indignation is against his enemies. (NRSV)

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Text: Love So Wide

I would like everyone here to play a game with me. Take the little

pencil that is found in the pew and write down the first words that come to

mind when I say a word to you...

Here is the word. "FIRE"

How many people came up with words like burn, pain, hot,.

How many people came up with words like - fireplace, warmth, cozy, crackle,

romantic...

Did anyone think of the Holy Spirit?

Fire happens to be a word that can bring to mind many different images, They

can either be very positive and inviting or quite negative and threatening -

or they could even be much more neutral - like fire truck. I would guess

that it all depends on your own personal experience.

God is a similar word - and it all gets even more complex when we think

about God as Father.

This sermon began to work in my mind when I was about 13. Now I had no idea

that I would ever be in a position to preach a sermon - but that was the year

that I realized that at some point in my life I must have been regarded as

cute. At 13 I was a straggly - too tall - string bean with braces and

glasses. In my effort to console myself and find some hope I started looking

through the family photo album. There I was - a 1 year old darling - and I

was being dandled on my father’s knee. My father was being the adoring parent

of a very cute baby. His eyes were filled with his love for me.

That picture has stayed in my mind - it gave me great comfort through all

kinds of trouble - no matter how much I tried my father’s patience, I

trusted that his love for me would always be there for me. I gradually began

to understand that God loved me the same way - I was forgiven and welcomed

back - always. I was safe and I would be taken care of - I could rest in

that. It was a great sense of security

But as I grew into adulthood I found that somehow my understanding of God

wasn’t quite accurate. I tried to be a good Christian - yet my life

certainly wasn’t smooth - there were bumps - and some of those bumps hurt. I

could never resolve how God fit into those moments of pain. Until one day I

was given a great gift - and it must have been from God - because it was

nothing I had ever thought of before. In a flash of an instant, I knew that

God was also my mother. My heart glowed as that last puzzle piece was put in

place. A mother for comfort and tenderness - it complimented my image of

Father-God perfectly.

For you the distinction might not be so clear - When I lead worship language

workshops I find that some people want to have very different images of God

than anything they found in their relationship with their father. One woman,

when asked to describe attributes of a father, could only talk about abuse.

Other’s speak of a dictator God, power and authority - still others of an

absent God...

Our use of language has a dramatic effect on how we think. Take for

instance, just the use of Old and New Testaments. Somehow it implies that

Christians have the right idea - or maybe that in the process of being our

God, God matured. How would our thinking differ if they were always

called the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures?

The Hebrew scriptures tell us that the Israelites were very conscious of the

effect a name could have on our thinking - Remember - they were forbidden to

say the word God - it was a law designed to protect them from making graven

images. Instead, they used their vocabulary to describe God - Yahweh, Elohim,

El Shaddai, love, lord, savior, shepherd, rock, anchor,

Our scripture reading this morning is one example - God is portrayed as a

nursing mother - So great is God’s love for us - But there are many others in

the Bible -

Listen

from Hosea 11:

It was I who taught them to walk,

I took them up in my arms;

but they did not know that I healed them.

I led them with cords of human kindness,

with bands of love.

I was to them like those

who lift infants to their cheeks.

I bent down to them and fed them.

Hosea 13 - God is like a mother bear who rips apart whoever would try to

separate her and her cubs.

8 I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs,

and will tear open the covering of their heart;

Psalm 22: God is like a midwife:

9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb;

you kept me safe on my mother's breast.

10 On you I was cast from my birth,

and since my mother bore me you have been my God.

Isaiah 42:14

The LORD goes forth like a soldier,

like a warrior he stirs up his fury;

he cries out, he shouts aloud,

For a long time I have held my peace,

I have kept still and restrained myself;

now I will cry out like a woman in labor,

I will gasp and pant.

God is like a warrior, and a woman in labor

On Sunday Morning is worship are very deliberate in our choices of names and

metaphors for God - We want to expand our image of who God is as much as

possible - for it is only through that expansion that we can begin to

understand what the early Hebrews knew only too well - God is so much bigger

than our mind’s can grasp - God is all things to all people - if only we have

eyes to see and ears to hear.

Another pastor told me that as he was tucking his daughter into bed one night,

many years ago, she stopped him and said - Daddy, "is God Jesus’ Father?

"yes, he replied - she thought for a moment and then with the wisdom of a 4

year old, she replied - "Then the Holy Spirit must be the mother"

As we come to this table this morning we remember that, like a mother, God

has prepared this meal for us, and like a father God, welcomes us to the

table. May God open our hearts that we may be receptive to a holy communion

with our Lord.  Amen

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