Christ is our broad and living foundation

 "No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid,

which is Jesus Christ."

                                                                             1 Corinthians 3:11


This church, 2nd Congregational Church, was established in August of 1836.  This present building was completed and dedicated in 1875. Our founding members came from 1st Congregational Church in Williamstown that was organized in 1765. But our history goes back even farther.  Our religious ancestors were the Puritans seeking freedom of religion as the Massachusetts Bay colony, and before them English reformers, and before them, Catholic monks and priests, and going way back, the ancient apostles.  The foundations of this congregation are deep and wide. But our foundation is more than just human history.


No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he uses that word foundation five times in the space of four verses.  So what exactly is a foundation?

I dusted off my Funk and Wagnall’s — for those of you who remember “Laugh In” — and learned that ‘foundation’ originated in the Latin word ‘fundus’ which means base.

A foundation is the basis on which something was established AND continues to be supported and sustained. A foundation is not a once and done deal. This building still stands on its 1875 foundation. AND Christ’s continuing presence still supports and sustains us.

Now another definition of foundation is a fund, there’s that Latin word fundus again. A foundation is money, funds, set aside for the permanent maintenance of an institution AND the institution so supported.  I bring as a recent example the Clinton Foundation. There‘s also the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lilly Foundation, and Newman’s Own Foundation. These are humanity’s heroes, and they write the checks with a whole lot of zeroes! All these foundations do good works and support causes all over the globe, giving away billions of dollars every year to support and sustain the arts, the health of people, and the care of our planet. We should all be grateful for the generosity of these and other foundations.

BUT, Jesus Christ, the Church’s one foundation, didn’t give away money. Jesus gave his time and attention to people often neglected or mistreated by others. But he didn’t give them money. Jesus gave wisdom and sometimes criticism. He gave hope and health. And Jesus gave his life. 

No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid . . . Jesus Christ.

Don’t get me wrong.  Jesus wants us to give and be generous.  He preaches: “Give your coat and your cloak, give your time to walk with someone on their journey, go the extra mile, and yes, give money to those who beg. But when the church’s mission centers around sending a check, it becomes hard to distinguish the church from any other charitable organization. 

Our foundation is Christ and we must make Christ visible.

In the field of architecture and construction, foundations are essential but are not the most attractive parts of a building. We usually hide them with ‘foundation plantings’ like shrubs or lilac bushes. There are other kinds of foundations that are also best kept hidden.  In a somewhat dated definition, ‘foundations’ means ladies undergarments —like girdles and corsets that add support in their own way but are concealed under a dress or suit. And foundation can also be a type of cosmetic, that base coat of makeup hidden under the powder and blush. Foundations are necessary but they don’t draw attention to themselves. Without them, however, buildings and bodies sag and collapse !

So what does a foundation look like? 

It’s deep and wide enough to support the weight of the building. Foundations are determined by the building site and size. If you’re building a skyscraper, your foundation will go very deep. If your building near water, your foundations might extend above ground and your house sit on stilts. If you’re building in an earthquake zone, your foundation needs some wiggle room so that when an earthquake hits, the foundation can absorb the shock without damage to the structure above it.  Foundations are not identical.

Often Christians have tried to refine the broad foundation that is Christ.   People have tried to narrow faith down to a particular point. And if the believer or the denomination disagrees with that point, well then they have slipped off the foundation and are no longer worthy of the name ‘Christian.’

You don’t believe in the virgin birth — you’re out!

You don’t practice speaking in tongues — you’re out!

You allow women to be preachers — you’re way off base and on the slippery slide to hell!

No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid . . . Jesus Christ.

But Jesus was a complex man. He taught many difficult lessons. He used many beautiful words to describe himself.  He is called the lamb, but he calls himself the shepherd.  He says he has come to fulfill the Law, but he breaks it by healing on the Sabbath and eating with Gentiles and sinners. He tells us to love our enemies, but he speaks harshly to his opponents, the Pharisees. He forgives sins, which only God could do, and teaches others to forgive and so threatens the whole tradition of the Temple and its system of sacrifice. He teaches love and accepts suffering. Our foundation, which is Christ, does not rest on a single point, but is deep and wide, accommodating many people over many ages in many lands.

There is a beautiful passage — a vision glorious — in the book of Revelation that reveals a broad and colorful foundation. The new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, comes down from heaven, shining like a jewel.   

              Revelation 21 tells us:
                   14 … the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them  the twelve                                           names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb…
                   19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every jewel; the                                 first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the                                                                   fourth emerald, 20 then onyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz,                                                   chrysoprase, jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.


Quite a Stunning and varied foundation for the city of God.  

As part of the interim process we will begin to examine the foundation that supports this congregation.  I’m not talking about the work of the trustees or the sexton. They all do a terrific job with the physical foundation, checking and maintaining the parsonage and the church building inside and out.  

I am talking about the soul of this church.  Is Christ the reason we come together?  Is Christ still at the bottom of every action we take? 
Is Christ visible, evident to the community and all we serve?

The checks we write, the good we do, should bring glory to Christ and not to ourselves. How do we make it known that we do everything for the sake of Christ?    Without twisting an arm to convert someone or seeming to judge them, how do we reveal our foundation and say: “I see Christ in you and I do this for Christ’s sake.”  A word like that can save a life.  

Whether we stand in the food pantry, in a homeless shelter, or in a peaceful protest we do this for the sake of Christ.

Christ has been the foundation of 2nd Congregational Church for over 180 years. The future of this church is also supported and sustained by Christ. That is good news. We don’t bear the weight of the future alone. Yes, there are things for us to do so that our mission here continues, and we will do them. But history and faith remind us that we have the support of the living Christ, the One who is with us always; the One who bears our sorrows and our sins, our hopes and our needs.

No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid . . . Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

Below is Rev. Barbara's sermon from

February 19, 2017.

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Greetings from Rev. Barbara Kershner, Interim Pastor

From the warmth of our welcome, to the inspiration of our worship, the delight of our young people, the embrace of our caring, and the diversity of our mission that we offer, you will want to see what we are all about. We invite you to visit us.  We'd love to have you as part of our Church family. We welcome all!


Welcome to  

The Second Congregational Church

81 Hancock Road • Williamstown, MA 01267 • (413) 458-3467