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Plymouth United Church of Christ
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Eau Claire, WI 54703
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“Not A Word Fell to the Ground”
Sermon, Year B, Epiphany 2, January 18, 2015
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: 1 Samuel 3:1-20, Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18, John 1:43-51

Three rich texts here this morning. I think they work together in a way. At least, they’ve been working together in my head this week as I’ve been thinking about what it means to be at the beginning of 2015 and in this time of Epiphany. Also thinking about what it means to be where we are in the life of Plymouth Church. Over the last year our worship attendance has been steadily going up. Giving is up over the previous year. Good things are happening here.

What do these texts mean for us?

Three things in here that have clicked with me this week. I’ll talk about them quickly, and then we have some time for you to use the markers and stars we handed out. You’ll have a chance to write some things down and think.

The first is Psalm 139. My favorite Psalm. It is so intimate. The picture of God that it gives is an intimate God that knows us, knows us by name. That phrase, “You have searched me and known me.” God has searched us. God does not wait for us, but comes to us. Seeks us out. Searches us. God wants to know us, wants to be in relationship with us. And God knows us by name. Knows who we are. As individuals and as a church. As a community. God has also searched us and knows who we are. This is a God that wants to be close to us. Not a distant God, but a close God.

The other phrase is from the story of Samuel. We have at the beginning that God calls Samuel by name, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel then does become a great prophet in the history of Israel. He’s there to help set up the first kingdom as well as many other things. At the end of this passage is a foreshadowing of that: the words, “And the LORD let none of his words fall to the ground.” That’s a striking image to let none of his words fall to the ground.

Sometimes we say things, and they just plop to the ground. No one hears them, or cares, or listens to them. But his words went out, stayed level, went into people’s ears, presumably to be heard. And in Samuel’s case, people did listen. Mostly.

Wouldn’t it be great if our words didn’t fall to the ground? Though there are things I’ve said over the years that I wish had immediately just fallen to the ground before anyone heard them. But in terms of our good words, our positive words, our words of healing, comfort, building up, goodness. It would be nice if those didn’t fall to the ground. If they went out, if God helped keep them up and going out to the people.

So if you say, “Clean up your room” they respond with “I would LOVE to do that! Thank you for reminding me!”

Or if you say to a friend, “I really need to tell you my story. I need for you to listen to me.” And they listen. They let none of your words fall to the ground.

Or as we have prayed for so many years in the church, “Let there be peace on earth.” Imagine if that didn’t fall to the ground.

If God did not let any of these fall to the ground.

So what is a word or words you might be thinking of that can guide you through this year that you don’t want to have fall to the ground? That you would like God to keep lifted up and listened to?

The third phrase that struck me is from the Gospel. The question Nathanael asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” At the time, Nazareth was a small village way out in the hinterlands. Jerusalem was the important city. It was the capital, the political and religious center of Jewish life. Though really, Rome was the political and power center. But for the Jewish people, Jerusalem was the important city.

I mentioned this phrase in last week’s sermon as well, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Just like today, back then there was a sense that good things only come from the largest cities, or the most powerful people, the richest people, the most important areas. There was not an expectation of anything good coming from that which was small, on the margins, off to the side.

I think that we hear that and feel it also today. Can anything good from: Alabama, Cadott, Syria, the community college versus Ivy League, a public school in Altoona versus a swanky private school in Madison. You can fill in the blank yourself.

I think we hear that, and feel that, sometimes today, even about ourselves. We might ask the question, “Can anything good come out of Plymouth?” We think we are a small church without all the bells and whistles of the big churches, without the big budgets, the large staff. We are tempted to ask, “Can anything good come out of Plymouth?” Those are words that need to fall to the ground. Instead ask, “What is the good that can come from Plymouth?” Or “What is the good that can come from me? From us?” None of us are particularly powerful, or rich, or prominent. But there is good that can come out of us as well.

So, we are at the beginning of a new year. A year full of possibility. Time to build on the successes of last year and go forward. A time to let go of the mistakes we made individually, as a family, as a church. and to let go of the failures. I know that in your lives, you have all had setbacks, and also movement forwards. There have been deaths, financial anxieties, and struggles with children and struggles with parents.

Move into this year. At this time of Epiphany we remember the star that led the magi to find Jesus. The shining star that led them to Jesus, who is the light of the world, and we remember that Jesus is the light.

So I will give you some time to think here. Lynn will play some music. And what I would like you to do is to think that as you come into this year, what is a word that you would like to hold before you. A few weeks ago when Lynn led worship she talked about our Epiphany words. Think of a word, words, phrase, hope, whatever you would like to have guide you into this year and that you want God to keep from falling to the ground. Write that on your star, to let it guide you this year like the magi’s star.

There is no right or wrong here, and it’s all between you and God. You don’t have to share it with anything.

So what is the word you don’t want to fall to the ground, and then related to that word, ask, “What good can I do related to that?” Ask yourself how you can live that out, letting Jesus’ light shine through you to help keep that word from falling to the ground. Then write that on the star as well.

And you can also think of what good you can do on behalf of Plymouth, or the good that Plymouth can do this year.

Take a few minutes and think, and write, or draw a picture, or simply meditate. And then I will end with a prayer.

[after a time of music]

Let’s pray: Epiphany God, you have searched us and you know us. You know what is in our hearts. You know what we have written or thought here today. We lift up all of these words, all these words, all these guiding stars that they may be fulfilled in your grace. That we may be the light that we want to be, and that we may be the light that you want us to be. We offer you our hopes for ourselves, for our community, and for this congregation of Plymouth United Church of Christ. Help us keep these stars before us to lead us to Jesus as your star led the magi to him so many years ago. Amen.

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Plymouth United Church of Christ
2010 Moholt Drive
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 54703

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