Sermon for December 9

First Parish Congregational Church
United Church of Christ, Yarmouth Maine

Sermon by
Rev. Kate Dalton
December 9, 2018

Scripture: Judges 13:2-14, 24; Numbers 6:2-5

I wonder what it’s like to be designated as a savior before you are born. The pressure – not only on you but also on your parents, on your community. And to what end does the designation make it so? Do you have to be designated ahead of time in order to be a savior? Do pre-designated saviors always go on to save? To fulfill their “destiny”?

When we think of saviors, Jesus is typically who comes to mind – but the Bible is full of stories of people whom God uses to deliver Israel from oppression.

Last week we read to story of the birth of Moses. Unlike, Samson and Jesus, Moses does not seem to have been tapped before birth. But given the circumstances into which he was born, his life is miraculous. Not only does he survive – but he goes on to eventually free the Hebrews and lead them faithfully into lives of new possibilities.

Samson’s mother on the other hand – is clued in to the special nature of her son. Even if you’ve never heard of her before, her story should seem familiar. She has been unable to have children when an angel visits her and tells her that not only will she have a child, but her child will save her people from oppression. She seems to grasp the weight of the situation – but when she shares the news with her husband, he’s not so sure. He wants to hear from the angel himself and takes quite a bit more convincing before he is on board.

What’s great about these narratives is that they allow a way for either inclination. If you are inclined to get on board quickly and follow as you feel led by the spirit, you might identify with Samson’s mother. If you are more skeptical and need more to follow, you might identify with Samson’s father. God works with both – even if Samson’s father might be a bit frustrating – God wants him on board. And so God obliges his request.

For me, this suggests the importance of being surrounded with the idea of possibility. If God had not taken the time to convince Samson’s father – how would Samson’s life have been different? Would he have grown up to be the savior that God tapped him to be? Or would he have never overcome his fallibilities. Because, of course, Samson didn’t get it all right. You might remember that he’s famous for letting Delilah cut his hair – which violates the rules set out for him at birth. And yet in the end, God seems to restore his strength one more time so that he is able to topple the Philistines.

This story is a good reminder of the importance of how our understanding of our own lives shapes how we live our lives. What would happen if we taught every child that they could save oppressed people? This week two things from the commentary Spill the Beans caught my attention. First, they point out that the stories in the Bible feature a repetitive setup – God’s people are oppressed and a child brings the possibility of salvation. Second, the mothers participate in annunciation: the breaking through of the divine presence in order to announce the coming of change.

On the second Sunday of Advent, we focus on peace. In today’s world, peace can seem elusive. Violence dominates the news cycle. And now that news is available to most of us at any time in almost any place, it can be hard to imagine a different reality. And yet, that’s exactly what God asks us to do. We are asked to imagine and to believe that we can nurture a world that topples oppression. We are asked to imagine and believe that peace is possible.

And we must remember that peace is possible right now. Not the peace that sees the end of all war and violence between people, but the peace that unites us with God. The peace that fuels purpose. The peace that passes all understanding and allows us to accomplish feats of great strength like Samson.

I’ve led many mission trips with this church to a wide variety of places and it never ceases to amaze me the impact they have on participants. So often people return from the experience and are impressed by the happiness they observe in the communities with which we work. These are people who live in some unbelievably difficult conditions with very little. And yet, they often seem to have a connection with something that enables them to power through rather than wilt. They have a peace about them.

We can participate in that peace. That peace is God’s presence breaking through – bringing strength and courage even in the face of horrible oppression. That peace comes from how we understand our lives. How we understand our relationship with God. How we understand potential and possibility.

Give thanks that in these turbulent times, Advent is our annual reminder to reconnect with peace. To reconnect with hope and love and joy. To remember the extraordinary promises of God and our ability to participate in God’s story. May God bless as we continue to journey – connecting with peace that empowers us to work for deliverance. Amen.