A Sermon from the North Yarmouth Congregational Church
A sermon offered by the Rev. Nancy J. White in the public worship of the North Yarmouth Congregational Church, UCC of North Yarmouth, Maine on Sunday,
October 9, 2016.
Selected verses from Matthew 3 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Proclamation of John the Baptist
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,make his paths straight.’” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. …”The Baptism of Jesus
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. … And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
2 Corinthians 5:17New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
Quite a statement from Apostle Paul. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. A bold statement and a promise for each of us. We can be new. All the old is washed away. Like John the Baptist preached, we can repent, we can turn it around, we are not stuck with whatever questionable choices we have made in the past. In Christ we are new creatures. Awesome!
Some of you know that one of my favorite resurrection, new life symbols is the butterfly. It speaks to me of a total transformation, a metamorphosis . A caterpillar, sometimes stunningly beautiful, sometimes not, encases itself in a cocoon and then becomes a whole new creature – a butterfly. It is beautiful and mysterious and something I don’t completely understand from a biological standpoint – God is an awesome God – making new creations all the time. God creates new life out of death. After forest fires new life springs forth and the cycle of the forest begins again. Likewise with volcanoes and other natural occurences. Once Maine was covered with ice and now it is verdant and green teeming with life from the oceans to the hills.
So what does that mean for us? We give up our old ways and presto we are new! Sounds easy doesn’t it? In practice it’s a lot more complicated, isn’t it? We may want to give up old ways that are not life and God affirming but there may be obstacles to doing that. Perhaps we know that our job results in hardships for others but we need to support ourselves and our families. We know that some of the purchases we make that fit our budget cause others to live below minimum wage or are the result of people working in unsafe conditions on the other side of the globe. But it’s what we can afford…. For years I shopped at the cheapest place around and now I am going through clothes and donating huge bags to charity as I don’t really need them. I like variety and fashion and shopped accordingly. Now I am trying to downsize from the result of purchases that I didn’t really need. Before I was aware of how my purchases affected others, I shopped without thought. In the love of Christ, I endeavor to make choices on what I buy with an awareness of how we are all connected in God’s world. My purchasing patterns may not be totally there but I do believe that in Christ I am making a difference, in Christ, I am a new creation.
You may have some other area of your life that you need to consider changing. Are you new in Christ with all your acquaintances or do you have friendships which are not God-affirming? Is there some habit in your life that needs to change because it is not good for your health or the wellbeing of others? Is there something in your life you can’t let go of and holding on to it is keeping you from doing something new and amazing? Or have you tried to let old ways die only to have whatever replaces it repeat the same bad pattern?
We are new creatures in Christ – that is ours to embrace fully or not. The opportunity is always there to make positive changes in our lives and God will always respond with grace abundant. Today we celebrate one of the sacraments of the church. A sacrament is defined as a visible sign of God’s grace. Grace is defined as undeserved favor and it is free. God’s love is freely given to us this day. Freely given to Little Joseph and his parents Libby and Tim as they commit to nurturing Joey in Christ through baptism and freely given to us as we affirm our own baptisms. And we also commit to helping Joey grow in his faith as a community. Together with God’s help, we are a living breathing community of Christ and we have the loving presence of Christ with us this day and always. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Hunger cannot.
Hardship cannot. Death cannot. People cannot. The ways of the world cannot. Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God.
This next Friday evening, we will be having time together to explore how to have difficult conversations in the Spirit and love og God. This will be an evening of exercises and role play and we will practi e how to listen for understanding. We will be using current topics in our culture but nothing specific to North Yarmouth Congregational Church. This is one of the first steps in becoming a new church in Christ. The choice is ours. Do we truly want to become a new church community? Then let us break bread together Friday evening at 5:30 – this will be a potluck supper so please bring something to share. Come with open hearts full of the love of God and expect to learn something new on this quest to become new people and a new church in Christ. Amen.