The Rev. Dianne O’Connell

First Congregational Church

July 3, 2011

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, and56-67

Psalm 45:10-17

Matthew 11:25-30

SILENT MEDITATION  :  "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."  Sir Winston Leonard Spenser Churchill  (This was said in a speech given at Mansion House on November 10, 1942, in response to the Allied victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein, World War II.)


Here’s to the End of the Beginning

            Good morning. It’s an unusual service this morning in that it is even more top heavy with musical offerings than last week was.  Which means, of course, that the sermon will be even shorter!  The music, has included patriotic offerings, from Caroline’s organ prelude “Variations onAmerica”, to our own thunderous rendition of “God of the Ages,”Barbara Ross’s “America the Beautiful,” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic, “ as performed both on organ as well as vocal and banjo. We even had a cello duet playing the old battle hymn “Joshua.”

I mean the Fourth of July is almost upon us! And our prayers rise high that our nation can live into its highest ideals.  Winston Churchill once said of Americans, “They always do the right thing – after they have tried everything else.

            Franklin Roosevelt responded, “I do not look upon theseUnited States as a finished product. We are still in the making.” Which is true, but we, as a country, are not newborns, we aren’t even children or teenagers.  We’ve been around as a nation for two hundred years, and as a developing culture, separate from that ofEurope, for going on four hundred years.  We are of an age where we are fully responsible for not only our actions and motivations, but also the results of those actions. May God strengthen us when we get it right, and forgive us when we don’t.

            The Fourth of the July often brings forth quotes from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine – those guys who were in on The Beginning of this New Nation.  I’ve chosen a couple of quotes from two men who were on the world stage some 150 years later. The time: the Second World War. The leaders: Sir Winston Churchill, prime minister ofGreat Britain, and Mr. Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of theUnited States.  These gentlemen were not building New Nations, they were men called to lead established, mature countries during some very dark times, indeed.  They were way past the beginning, they were smack dab in the middle of it.

            After the war, Churchill said, “I have never accepted what many people have kindly said, namely that I have inspired the nation. It was the nation and the race dwelling all around the globe that had the lion heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.” 

            That’s how I feel about those of you who have taken up leadership roles here atFirst Congregational during some dark and scary times, and those of you who have faithfully and continually worshipped God through the turmoil – keeping your heads “when all about you were losing theirs and blaming it on you.”

            I can offer no better advice that that of President Roosevelt when faced with a problem in need of a solution:It is common sense to take a method and try it.  If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” Which you have done this year. A pride of lion-hearted Christians, determined to try something, several somethings, to build and sustain the church and church family you love. You have been mightily successful.  Me, I just had the luck to be called upon to give the call to worship,  but I sure am glad I got the assignment.

            Now this being my last Sunday with you as Intentional Transitional Minister, I want to say something that is VERY important.  I did not choose the Scripture readings for this morning.  These readings are the ones specifically assigned for this particular Sunday by the Lectionary. But I have to admit a silly grin came over my face when I first read the selection from the 45th Psalm, remembering the Intentional Transitional Minister Search Committee, and a series of phone calls I received last summer regarding this position.  Here is the Psalm:

            “Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear:  Forget your people and your father’s house, the king is enthralled by your beauty (would the king be you, Fermen?) – put on something professional and enter the palace of the Intentional Transitional Search Committee – try to be articulate --  never use the word “bamboozable” – and if they offer you this position, take it, and the nations will praise you for ever and ever.”  Outrageous and egotistical?  Of course. But fun to think about, nonetheless.

            Now we are both on the cusp of something new – but not really a new beginning.  It’s not the end either, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

            The Genesis reading this morning reminded me of this church and its on-going walk with God.  Abraham has sent a servant to find an appropriate bride for his son Isaac. The servant arrives at a well and meets Rebekah and knows that she is the one for Isaac.  The analogy is not perfect, and there are a lot of characters I haven’t assigned roles for, but the idea is that the servant is able to convince first Rebekah and then her family that this marriage is a good idea.  Rebekah agreed, took the long journey with the servant, met Isaac, and from all accounts they fell in love, married and prospered, as promised.  Now, let’s be clear.  I am NOT Rebekah.

            For this morning’s purposes, let us think of Abraham as God, the servant as your Search Committee, Rebekah asFirst Congregational Church, and with God’s blessing, Isaac as the Rev. George E. BlairIII.  Me, I’m just the narrator, a teller of stories, a reader of poetry, a giver of advice, which I’ve given a lot of over the past ten months. But here is what I found this week:

If you can trust yourself when all folk doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;….

Yours is the Universe and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Church, my friends!*

                                                                                                (* with apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

            Several of you have said that I have made a positive impact on this church, and for that I am grateful, but let me also say, that you have impacted me, and you have made a serious convert.  Larry and Norm are going to help me tell you about my new attitude toward my faith:

Gimme that Pilgrim Religion

I'll Fly Away



And Jesus said, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.        (KJV)

May God bless each and everyone one of us. Amen.

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