Sermon for Sunday Jan. 2, 2022

FROM PASTOR STEPHEN

This Sunday I presented 13 Hopes for the New Year.  As sometimes happens, I have written far more material than can go into one sermon.  So this week I offered, and probably next, you will be able to pick from 13 Sermon McNuggets.  Each of them will deal with a hope that I, and you too, I think, have for 2022.  God knows we could use a year of peace and harmony.

 

Stephen Carnahan

1st Congregational Church

Gray, Maine

January 2, 2022

What we need in the new year.

Each day now is getting longer.  It’s not really noticeable yet, but it will be in another month or so.  As usual, the new year arrives and proceeds, and will end.  There’s really nothing cosmologically significant about it.  The earth continues to circle the sun, the sun continues to orbit around the galaxy, the galaxy continues to do whatever galaxies do.

But it’s hard for us humans to not notice the turning page of the calendar, which, of course, we invented.  But turn the page we have, and it makes us think of what is on the next twelve pages.  Here’s what I hope will happen.

Protection for the environment   #1

Somehow, someway, we will finally do something about the environment, particularly about climate change.  We have been ignoring this problem for way too long.  It was time to act! Forty years ago!

Birch trees and chickadees.  I don’t want to lose them, do you?  But they are moving north as the weather warms.  And that is the smallest of problems we are facing.  Storms, droughts, floods, famine, oh, it’s too much to think about.

Could it happen this year that world leaders will get together and finally put corporate needs aside and do something to make a change!

I want my Chickadees!

 

Laughter   #2

 

My resolution for 2022.  Read more.  Turned on the captions on my TV.

Do you laugh enough?  I don’t know how much is enough, but I hope you do.  Many of you have mentioned that you like that I put humor into my sermons.  I suppose some of you hate that, but you haven’t said so to me.  Yet.

We need it.  I need it.  Though I am still deeply in the process of grief after losing my wife a little over a year ago, I still need to laugh.  I need to have some funny people around me.  Do you want to do me a kindness? Tell me a funny joke.

And God, may we your people have the ability to laugh at ourselves.  WE are so often absurd, and we need to recognize that.

No, I am not saying we should never be serious.  Most of what I have talked about today is a serious matter.  But we have to laugh.  God gave  us humor, it is built right into us.  And the world could be improved if all of us recognized when it is time to laugh.

Cherishing of children   #3

I think we do this.  I believe American society is protective of its children and does much to nurture them and keep them healthy.  When I am in a school and see children of all races sitting peacefully together under the guidance of a caring teacher, I think that this is our world at its best.

But we know there are issues.  There are children doing forced labor.  There are children being trafficked. There are children being forced into the military.  And there are so many children suffering in poverty, or fleeing from war, or being used as pawns in the battle over immigration.  Isn’t it heart breaking?

I know we are not going to end this in the coming year.  But perhaps we can reduce it.  Maybe we can help people see what Jesus knew, that children are a spiritual model for us.  Maybe we can pass laws that help lift children out of poverty.  Maybe we can create worship experiences that our children can appreciate.  And can nurture the children in our own lives and support their parents in the crucial task of parenting.  Yes, wouldn’t it be good if we come to this time next year knowing that the children of the world are better off.

Truth   #4

Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  President Garfield said, “ the truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”

Funny and I understand.  But what has made us miserable in the past few years? Dishonesty.  People have been lying to each other over and over, and it has come to the point that no one can trust anyone anymore.  And we are miserable.  We are trying to build our lives and our society but we have so little trust.

It is hard for us to know what to do about this.  But let us be honest people.  Let us tell the truth.  Let us not pretend to know what we do not know.  Let us say what is on our hearts.  Let us be, as Jesus said, “As wise as serpents and as harmless as

Unblocking the supply chain by buying less stuff  #5

Have you heard about the supply chain problem? Why is this happening?

In part because we are buying too much stuff. I am not saying YOU, I am saying WE.  I’m part of the problem, but I’m doing less and less.  Have you bought something you didn’t need?  Or out of boredom?

We could solve the supply chain problem buy consuming less.

I would love to hear that people are buying less stuff.  Will that happen in the new year?  Can you make it happen?

 

Empowering of women    #6

In 1985 a church member came to report to me about what had happened in the other UCC church in town.  “They’ve hired one of those girl preachers.”  In the 30 years since then much has changed:  There are now more women pastors in the UCC in Maine than male.  This is a good thing.  We are better off now with more women in leadership.

I want to see more of this in the coming year.  I know that life remains harder for women than men.  I know that my daughter has to think about where she goes and whether it is safe for her in ways that I never do.  I am aware that women are required to look pretty.  Little girls are aware by a very young age, I’d say 3, that they get praise simply for being pretty.  I am aware that in many places in the world women are oppressed politically, socially and domestically.  And this leads to many other problems.

I am also aware that Jesus highly valued women.  He spoke to them like equals.  He let them be spiritual leaders.  And who did he appear to at the Resurrection?

I want the new year to bring us more equality.  I want women to be valued for their looks.  And their minds.  And their abilities. And their nurturing nature. And their tendency toward cooperation and togetherness.

I hope we can follow the path of Jesus who honored women for their faith, their intelligence, and their courage.

A cure for covid.  And many other diseases.    #7

I know what you think I want.  And you’re right.  A cure for Covid.  I want to see what you folks look like on the bottom half of your face.  I’m tired of the inconvenience of it, but that’s a petty, selfish thing.  I’m sad for all the people who have really suffered from this.

And not just Covid.  So many other diseases that cause so much distress.  Jesus, the Bible says, often felt pity for people who were suffering from illness or disability.  He did what he could to heal them.  I pray that we will find healing for some of the diseases that trouble us.