11-5 “Word and Work and World”

“Word and Work and World”
A meditation based on
Psalm 107, selections and 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
November 5, 2017
Community Congregational Church of Chula Vista
Dr. Sharon R. Graff
* * * * *
Years ago, in 2002, the United Church of Christ adopted as its slogan the phrase that
Gracie Allen used posthumously to encourage her grieving husband George Burns. When
George was cleaning out some of Gracie’s personal items after her death, he found a note
tucked in amongst them. Opening the note, he read the following words, “George, never place
a period where God has placed a comma…” Mr. Burns found great comfort in those words and,
though he missed his beloved Gracie with all his heart, he went on to live a vibrant and
meaningful life for another 32 years.
Fast forward with me from George Burns’ death in Los Angeles in 1996 to a hotel room
in the same city in the year 2001. Ron Buford, had just been hired by the United Church of
Christ to create a much-needed advertising campaign, and was checked into a downtown LA
hotel. He was mindlessly browsing in the gift shop. All of a sudden, his eye fell on a postcard
that featured Gracie Allen’s last words to her beloved husband. Ron Buford knew this would
become the hallmark of the successful identity campaign for the United Church of Christ…and it
certainly has!
“Never place a period where God has placed a comma” led us naturally back to our
historic denominational mantra that “God is still speaking.” Friends, this is not simply a 21-
century slogan…it is a invitation to each of us, an invitation that captures the essence of our
17th-century pilgrims forbears who sailed to North America in search of religious freedom; who
are credited with founding this new nation upon values of liberty and justice for all. In the year
1620, as they were fleeing religious persecution, the small pilgrim band listened one last time to
the inspiring words of their pastor, John Robinson. He had given them profound new teachings
about civil government; he had taught them about equal rights and equal duties; he had
convinced them that government should function for the common good. Now, from the deck of
the Mayflower, Pastor John Robinson faced them one last time, and said, “Loving and Christian
Friends, I charge you before God and before his blessed angels, that you follow me no further
than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ. If God reveals anything to you by any
other instrument of his, be as ready to receive it as ever you were to receive any truth by my
ministry: for I am verily persuaded, I am very confident, the Lord hath more truth yet to break
forth out of his holy Word…” In other words, pay attention, read the scriptures with an open
mind and heart, listen to the wisdom in others, for God has more truth yet to break forth…
“Never place a period where God has placed a comma…God is still speaking…” With
lightness and perspective, that great theologian Gracie Allen joins Pastor John Robinson to
remind us that all truth is not yet known; that the Word of God is alive and dynamic; that the
same Word which became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth lives in our time as we speak and act and
think and heal and teach and minister in the name and Spirit of Christ. Gracie Allen’s words go
much further back in history than to the 1600s. They go all the way back to scripture itself and
we have heard a couple of those passages this morning. The author of the first letter to the
believers in Thessalonica writes also that God is still speaking. “It is God’s word,” the author
writes, “God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.” Word and Work through YOU!
God is still speaking, brothers and sisters, and you are one of God’s mouths.
What message might God want to speak through you? The psalmist gives us a clue:
God gathers people in trouble from the east and west, from the north and the south. God
gathers those who wander. God gathers the hungry and the thirsty. God gathers those whose
souls faint within them. God gathers those who cry out, and those who are distressed. And
God makes a place for all of them—for all of us—God makes a place that is like a pool of water
in the middle of a very big desert. God makes a place where food grows plentifully and towns
provide community and a parched land—outside and within—that parched land becomes a
spring of water. This is what God does. And this is what God wants to do through you.
I love this scripture because it is comprehensive. All four directions are included. All
who are troubled are promised rest and comfort and security. All who are hungry and thirsty
are promised food and water. Comprehensive. No deductible. All. Needs. Met. Period. By a
God who is good and loving and steadfast.
Yet, we know that God isn’t working alone to meet those needs. God has us—and
about 7 billion other people on earth—and our work is to creatively weave together our time,
our talents and our treasure to be God’s ambassadors for good. Word and Work in the World.
That’s our job, friends! Lifelong employment as God’s representatives! All 7 billion of us! God
is still speaking, and God wants to speak through YOU!
This invitation comes today from scripture, from Gracie Allen, from our beloved United
Church of Christ, and from this congregation. Next Sunday, we each have the opportunity to
take another step in becoming God’s words on earth. Through commitment of our time, of our
talents, and of our treasure, we each participate in the ministry of Christ right here. And I
encourage you to prayerfully consider which of these you can commit—time, talent, treasure.
We all have something we can offer to God…we all have something through which God can
speak. As you prayerfully ponder your commitment this week, and prepare your commitment
cards for next Sunday, I invite you to join me in being as generous as you are able with your
time, your talents, your treasure. For God is indeed still speaking, right here, right now,
through each one of us!
Amen and Blessed Be