I don't have a sermon this morning.
Instead, I have a few moments to speak as an introduction because the Church Council has invited Dr. Ira Helfand of Physicians for Social Responsibility to address our congregation. He will speak to us about nuclear disarmament.
Dr. Helfand is the Vice-Chair of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War organization. This group is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Dr. Helfand has brought that Nobel prize with him here today!
This ties in with a resolution passed at the General Synod this past Spring and which was presented to that body by Rev. Peter Kakos, who many of you know as the previous pastor here in Hatfield.
One of the hallmarks of our church is that we govern ourselves democratically. All members of the congregation are invested with the authority that comes from the Spirit, but we don’t throw everything on the Spirit and walk away without any personal responsibility to lead the church. We don’t have a hierarchy that speaks for us. We speak, instead, as the inspired and informed membership of the church, as church.
This is why the Church Council has invited Dr. Helfand here. It is to help us become more acquainted with the topic of nuclear disarmament. Then we have two months to discuss the topic. This is when we can and should, as church, look at it through the lens of Jesus’ gospel.
And I hope that our faith helps us to hold this discussion in a way that is respectful of each other’s opinions. Then at our Annual Meeting we will have the chance to vote for or against signing onto the resolution about nuclear disarmament.
As we begin this process, I ask you to keep in mind today’s two readings.
The 66th and final chapter of the Book of Isaiah, written while Israel was in exile, speaks powerfully and poetically against God’s need to have a temple re-constructed for Him: “Heaven is my throne and the earth my footstool. What is this house that you would build for me?”
Then only a few years later, once Israel has returned from exile as is beginning to reestablish itself in Jerusalem, the prophet Haggai wonders why it’s taking so long to rebuild the Temple.
These two prophets are saying two different things. It seems that there is more than one way to look authentically at the complexity of God and what God would have us do.
Please keep this in mind as we listen to Dr. Helfand and consider what he has to say.
Moving quickly on to the Gospel story, we heard today of Jesus’ encounter with the Sadducees. It’s a revelation that God sees things differently than we would often expect.
We tend to imagine God’s reality as an expansion of our own, but Jesus’ testimony reveals that there is a radical difference between the two, between our expectations and God’s reality.
I ask that we keep this idea in mind as well as we think about the proposal at hand. Let’s try to think beyond our own expectations, our own politics, and let’s try to envision what God would have us do as church.
Let’s listen, in other words, with open minds and Christian hearts.
So without further ado, I invite Dr. Ira Helfand to come forward to speak to us as he has to conferences in Norway, Mexico, Austria, Geneva, at the United Nations ... and now as well at Hatfield Congregational Church.
[We do not have a video of Dr. Helfand's remarks, but we do share with you his thoughts as they were shared at a TEDx Talk offered recently in Vail.
We thank Dr. Helfand for joining us on a Sunday morning to share his concerns about nuclear war and his hopes about what we can do to prevent it.]
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