Sunday, October 25, 2020

Legacy- Me, You, Us; 2 Samuel 7:12-14a


Rev. George Miller

Oct 25, 2020

2 Samuel 7:12-14a


Once upon a time there was a couple from Commack named Carol and Herb.


Carol was an awkward new girl from Brooklyn who was teased by those who were secretly jealous of her beauty.


Herb was the geeky guy in glasses who was more interested in things like camping and cowboys than girls.


Their romance began the day when he dipped her ponytail into an inkwell.  It continued when every night, he’d walk Scout the dog past her house.


Herb drove Carol crazy but eventually he won her over.


For their first date he took her to Smith’s Point Beach.  She made 3 dozen deviled eggs.


He sung to her love songs from Broadway shows, she bestowed upon him with over the top gifts.


Eventually Carol and Herb got married and they raised 4 children.  He shared his love for music by rolling down the car window and tapping out the beat on the roof of the car. She would pass the time by telling the kids stories.


Movies were a big deal.  Every time a Disney filmed was released, the whole family went.


Every night the family gathered around the table, and they would talk about topics like religion, politics, veteran affairs, not always agreeing but demonstrating that questions and difference of opinions was OK.


Herb and Carol often took their kids to the beach.  He’d play music all the way there, tap tap tapping along.  She’d pack mounds of food in coolers filled with ice packs.


As the sun went down, she’d set up the picnic table with items from the cooler- chips, dip, crudité, iced tea, Italian bread.  He’d grill sausage and peppers.


Every five years they’d take their family to Disney World.  He’d work mad overtime.  She packed toys for the car ride and snacks beyond snacks…


Though they were not perfect, I am everything I am because of the things they gave to me.


As a childless person, I was worried those things were going to die with me.


Then something wonderful happened.


As many of you know, since 2012 I’ve been blessed to have Cornelius and his sister Carmel’la in my life.  


From day one taught them that “Life is all about being in the right place at the right time and how you treat others.”


I’ve watched them grow.  It’s been a joy; it’s been bittersweet. 


To see them go from being kids who hung on my every word to independent teens who prefer looking at their phone and listening to their ear buds.


Since COVID our relationship has changed from outings to the beach, movies, and Disney to only going to the gym, but it’s made us even closer.


One day as we were driving to the gym, I commented on the music Cornelius was playing and how much I like it. 


To which he said, “Well in many ways the music I listen to is your music.”


Another day Carmel’la was reminiscing about our trips to Disney and said “I wish we could go back.  I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have.”


Every time we go to the gym, I bring a mini-cooler with ice packs and treats for us to eat post workout.


One day I went to the gym, carrying my cooler like I always do. 


Cornelius was already there with two of his friends, broing out.  Carmel’la was there with her best girlfriend gossiping, giggling, and comparing phones.


I let them have their space.


But what I observed was that Cornelius and Carmel’la were embodying the very things I had tried to teach them.


At one point, Cornelius went over to the cooler, took out the ice packs and called out to me from across the room, joking about how I over pack.  Without asking, he proceeded to share the snacks with his friends.


It was at that moment that I felt a profound sense of peace sweep over me.


My Mom, who had once packed 3 dozen deviled eggs, would’ve been so proud.


I realized that even though I don’t have biological children, my legacy will live on.  Through Cornelius and Carmel’la everything I am, everything I know, everything I tried to teach them, will live on.


Not only that, it also means that all the good parts of my mom and dad will live on too.


Through these 2 youth, I now have the assurance that my legacy will live on.  Even if I was to go to sleep that night and never wake up, I had the comfort of knowing that my legacy and my parents’ legacy would live on.




That’s what today’s reading is about.


King David has been busy securing his legacy. He’s become king of the northern and southern kingdoms.


He has armies, wives, money galore.  But he senses he must do something more- build God a temple, a permanent place to dwell.


To which God says “I have never asked you to build me a building.  I am content moving around with you, being free.  One day your family will build a sanctuary for me, but for today I am with you in your coming and going.”


Then God says “David, don’t you worry- your legacy will live on.  The promise I made to all your ancestors who came before will live on through your family.”


God says, “I will be with your son and I will love him forever.”




Such a valid theme for anyone who has walked this earth.


Do I matter? Did I make a difference?  Will I be remembered?


If David, Israel’s greatest king, worried about this, how much more so do we?




There is personal legacy, family legacy.  There is also church legacy.


Think of the legacy we have here at Emmanuel.


30 years ago we were birthed as a progressive presence in central Florida, a House of the Lord in which we have a passion for God and compassion for all.


Our founding pastor, Rev. Loffer, focused us on justice and community ministry.  Rev. Carrell brought in intellectualism and deep thought.  Rev. Lauks embodied extravagant pastoral care.




Think of the Moderators we’ve had over the past 11 years.


Glen, who was passionate that we see ourselves as more than a winter church.


Stephanie, who brought real-world passion and made us more active in the FL Conference.


Tracy, who saw us through so many topes during times in which the path seemed rough and rocky.


Diane, who leads with a strong, focused vision of fiscal responsibility, accountability, and showing up.




Marg who kept the administrative boat afloat through so many changes of leadership and ensures the history of Emmanuel is remembered.


Ruthie who has brought us into 2020 with social media, online giving, and new ways of outreach.




Connie who brought poise and conciseness into our music program. 


Maureen who brought soaring vocals and a focus on grace.


Ken who brought big smiles, big voices, and rhythm.


Ari and Carnide who brought in other languages, a sense of Sabbath and joy in the midst of a pandemic.




Think of Emmanuel UCC and what our legacy is and what it is becoming.


Thanks to the creativity of Sue, every worship service starts with


“We are Emmanuel, we love we give we share. We show God’s Holy Spirit through the ways we care. Our challenge is at hand. In faith and strength, we’ll stand. So that our witness to God’s light will shine across the land”


So that our witness to God’s light.


God’s light.


What is light?


Light is that which provides warmth and welcome when things seem dark.


Light is that which shines upon the corners that need work, the cracks that need attending to, and the places where dust waits to be swept away.


Light is also that which illuminates the path, that shows the way ahead, the future, the promise, the possibilities.




King David thought his legacy had to do with what he built; God reminded him its what he does and how he lives.


I give thanks for the legacy that Carol and Herb passed on to their children.


I give thanks for Cornelius and Carmel’la who will carry on their legacy, as well as mine.


We give thanks for all those who came before- Rev. Loffer, Carell, Lauks, Connie, Sue, Ken, Glen, Marg, Maureen, Tracy.


We give thanks for those who are with us today- Diane, Ruthie, Carnide, and Ari, our Anniversary guy.


We give thanks for each and every one of you who are here right now, and for those who ware watching from home, and those who are yet to come.


For through you, our legacy will continue.


It’s not just about me, it’s not just about you- it is about us,


with God, through God, for God,


continuing this legacy that began with Sarah, Rachel and Hannah, and continues through us today.


Peace and love, Amen.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Hannah: Nasty, Bold, Speaking; Sermon on 1 Samuel 1:9-16


Rev. George Miller

Oct 18, 2020

1 Samuel 1:9-16


In 1994 I experience the most harrowing event of my life: my ex-boyfriend stalked me.

For four months I endured threatening phone calls, slashed tires, false allegations, my car, home, and place of business spray painted with derogatory words.


For four months I couldn’t sleep at night.  The cops could not help.  The courts could not help.


The only solution was to flee; to leave behind family, friends, work and move across the country to Minnesota.


It’s taken over 25 years to come to terms with this event.


During this time, I was meeting with a psychologist and for some reason we got on the topics of movies and I said that I had yet to see “Schindler’s List” and didn’t think I could.


To which the psychologist said, “Well, that’s because what you’re experiencing right now is your own Holocaust.”


I can’t tell you how comforting her statement was.  Instead of shaming me, or telling me to think positive, or that other people in the world had it much worse than me, she validated that at that moment in history, I was enduring the worst thing  person could.


Her affirming legacy lives on.


I think that one of the reasons our nation is in such disarray right now is that for far too long, so many people have been in pain, and either they have been silenced, not listened to, or invalidated.


Think about the cultural script we have been wrongly taught-


Dismiss your pain.

Don’t speak up when hurt.

Be positive.

Stop your whining.

Others have it much worse than you.




The truth is this- no one has it worst than you at this moment.


Your pain, your struggles, your mountains and valleys are real, and they are yours.


Each and every person in this room, watching online, reading this has the right to feel what you are feeling.


No one has the right to take that away from you or to correct you.


I think this is why the Black Lives Matter Movement has become such a lightning rod.


Here we have a specific group of people that can articulate, stand up and give voice to how they feel, what they are experiencing, and how they’re being treated.


When other folks who sit silent or unacknowledged with their pain hear others articulate theirs, it creates a sense of anger, rage, and me-tooism.


Think of right now.


There are those who can’t understand why the discussion of systematic racism has become such a thing when


-they are battling wildfires

-recovering from hurricanes

-filing bankruptcy due to COVID.


So many of our nation’s sisters and brothers in pain, and instead of saying “I see your pain, I hear your pain and I believe you,” they turn to “Suck It Up Buttercup” or “All Lives Matter.”


Think about the issue of breast cancer and how many women, and men, and families it affects.


Years ago, we didn’t talk about it.


Years ago, male doctors told women “Don’t worry about it, I’ll do the worrying for you,” and then 6 months later those women died.


Years ago, women chose to forgo chemotherapy because they were afraid of losing their hair, their attractiveness and their sense of self-worth.


Years ago, husbands told their wives to skip medical treatment otherwise they’d no longer find them sexually attractive.


I think of my grandmother, Harriet, who Hattie’s Hope is named after.


As a kid, my grandmother was always “old”.  She used a walker; had every kind of -sectomy you can think of.


Growing up, my grandparents slept in separate beds, like Lucy and Ricky.


It wasn’t until I hit middle-age that I realized the reason- my grandfather no longer found my grandma sexually attractive after her mastectomy.


She never showed it, but how devastating this must have been for her. 


Grandma was in love with him since kindergarten and said he had the strongest shoulders to rest upon.


To go from that to separate beds because she was a survivor of cancer, how heartbreaking that must’ve been.


Today we give thanks that as a society we have moved forward.  We have created awareness of breast cancer and other cancers.


We wear pink.  Celebrities survivor’s stories.  Call them “warriors.”


Shows like “Designing Women”, “Sex and The City” address it head on.


Instead of waiting for their hair to fall out women are pro-actively shaving their hair, boldly go bald, adorning their scalps with ornate headwraps, and discover just how fun it is to wear wigs.


How different things would’ve been for Grandma Harriet if she was living now as opposed to 1960.


Pain is pain.  Loss is loss.  Trauma is trauma.


Whatever YOU are going through is indeed the worst thing anyone can endure.  Thanks to today’s story we learn that we have the spiritual right to address our worries straight on, with zero apology.


Here we have Hannah.  So strong, so independent, so wonderfully NASTY that she gets the 1st two chapters of the book to herself.


Hannah has a pain that’s all her own- in a world that only values you if you have a male child, Hannah is barren.


Just like Sarah, just like Rachel before her.


Back then, if a married woman did not have a child it meant 3 things-


-You were cursed by God

-You did something wrong

-Your family legacy has hit a dead end.


Add to this another dilemma- If Hannah is barren, how can God’s promise of family and land pass on?


So, Hannah does what she needs to take care of Hannah and to ensure God’s promise keeps on keepin’ on.


At a time when women weren’t allowed in the sanctuary alone, at a time in which you were supposed to be go through the heigh priest…


…Hannah struts right into the sanctuary.  She goes right past the temple priest without even a head nod.


Hannah prays.  Hard.


She calls out to God.  She speaks.  She cries.  She’s electric.  Kinetic. Moving her mouth so fast she’s like a rapper.


Hannah goes straight to the source of all blessings and she does what she needs to do without the assistance of a man or a well-fed priest.


Of course, surprise, surprise, the priest thinks there’s something wrong with her.


She’s hysterical.  She’s crazy.  She must be drunk.  She’s NASTY.


When confronted that she appears overly emotional, she shoots him her best Kamala and says-


“Mr. Priest, Mr. Priest.  I am speaking. To God.  I am not drunk. I am a woman with great concerns.”


“I am reclaiming my right to take my concerns to the LORD, pouring out my heart and my soul.”


To which the priest does something that all of us can learn from- instead of interrupting or dismissing her, he lets her finish her sentence, hears her, affirms her, and says “Go in peace. Israel’s God has grated your petition.”


9 months later Hannah gives birth to the first of many children, and her son becomes the one who anoints not one but the first 2 kings of the country.


Did Hannah face her situation by saying “Others have it worse than me?”


Did Hannah face her situation by sucking it up or by shutting up?




Just like Abraham.

Just like Moses.

Hannah spoke.

And she continued to speak.

God listened.

God acted.


Not only did Hannah’s life change, but so did the life of her community, so did the ways of the world.


Once again, we are reminded of so many biblical truths-


Faith is always fragile.

The promise always seems to be at the end of the road.


We are not passive participants in our own faith story.


God is personal.

God wants to engage us in dialogue.

God wants to bless.


God hears.


Male or female, child or elder, black, brown, or white, straight, trans, or gay, God listens.


We ALL have the right to speak.

We ALL have the right to take our concerns straight to God.

We ALL are not as barren as we feel.


Perhaps most importantly for today-


We all have the right to our pain; we all have the right to express our hurt.


We all have the right to take all our worries, our cares, our heartbreak straight to God, and to know that God will listen.


For that we can say “Amen.”