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Recent Sermons

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"Daughters of God"

Rev. Sarah Buteux

Mark 5:21-43

When bad things happen to other people, most of us have a tendency to look ever so slightly away, the better to hold our own more closely.

When I pass a car accident, I always say a prayer for the family affected even as I ask safe passage for my own. Anybody else do that?

When I hear about another mass shooting, even as I pray for everyone involved, there is a part of me that cannot help but give thanks that it didn’t happen in my community or my church or my kid’s school. At least not this time around.

When I hear the stories of families waiting for the return of hostages in Israel or the stories of mothers holding the lifeless bodies of their children in Gaza, I shudder with empathy, knowing that I would go absolutely mad with fear and grief if anything like that ever happened to either of my children.

In the face of any of the horrible things that happen, I’ve often reached out to hug my own children and whisper: “You know how much I love you, right?”

“Yeah Mom, we know,” they say, as they roll their eyes and pull away. But I persist in telling them anyway, as if my love can protect them.

I think that’s just human nature. What we love we do our best to care for. What we care for, we do our best to protect.

Deep down we know ...

June 30, 2024

Miracles and Mystery on the Sea of Galilee

The Rev. Sarah Buteux

Mark 4:35-41

Today I made an historic announcement that you can read below or you can click on the link above and watch our service. It begins about 11 minutes into the live stream.

As most of you know, back in 2007 the ceiling in this sanctuary gave out and the resulting repairs and restoration cost the church over $2 million dollars. Under the leadership of the Rev. Peter Ives and with the support of many others but notably Peg Whitham who was moderator through that time, this congregation was able to raise a million dollars and took out a million dollar mortgage to cover the rest.

Through careful stewardship, sacrifice, planned giving, and refinancing, we have somehow managed to pay off just over half of the mortgage while keeping our ministry strong. But, if you were at our budget meeting two weeks ago, you also know that this coming December we will need to refinance. We will lose the favorable interest rate we have now and, given the current market conditions, we anticipate that our rate could more than double.

Well, I am awed and humbled and still in a state of disbelief, but friends, it is my joy to share with you the news that there are generous souls within this congregation who have the means and the desire to fully pay off the roughly $470,000 left on the mortgage this October.

Although they wish to remain anonymous, I hope and pray they will feel the full extent of our love and gratitude this morning as you rise and give the glory to God.

Friends this gift is a gift of extraordinary generosity and deep faithfulness. It is a gift of historic proportion and significance. This gift is a tremendous affirmation of the work we are doing here and the work we have yet to do. It is a sign that the God who began a good work in us over 350 years ago has not given up on us but is working through us even still.

This gift gets us out from under a debt that has weighed on us all and opens up possibilities for the future we have only begun to dream of. I think it is also a sign of God with us, a sign of God at work through us and around us, a sign of God’s faithfulness to you and your faithfulness to God.

And, as I think of Jesus’ words, “to whom much is given, much will be expected,” I hope and pray and trust that we will find the grace to be worthy of this gift and that together we will use it well.

Today we will read the story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Today we will meditate on the wonder of a God who remains with us through the challenges of this life. And so let me say this: First Churches, it has not been easy but we have weathered a most challenging season together and though I know we will weather many more, today I pray that as this news sinks in, as our hearts open to receive it and our spirits open to the will of the Spirit who will use it for good, that God would bind us together in faith and in hope, but most of all in love… May you feel the presence of God within and around you … a God who loves you, a God who is with you, a God who will never let you go. (Today's sermon follows if you click "read more.")

June 23, 2024

"Leading and Following"

Rev. Chris Mereschuk

1 Samuel 8:4-20

Today we were blessed with fabulous music and a sermon by guest preacher, Rev. Chris Mereschuk. Click the link to the right to watch our service. Here is the sermon:

If you take a look at the history of human civilizations, there seems to be a

tendency for societies to grow into more complex, bureaucratic, centralized,

and powerful systems of government, coupled with a demand for strong

leaders. Every person through history and geography is born into a tribe,

culture, or nation that has some form of an established system of government,

with varying degrees of hierarchy, liberty, representation, and civic


each functioning with some mix of effectiveness,

ineffectiveness, and corruption. In many cases, when that ratio gets too far

out of whack and the people become unhappy with how they are being led,

the people demand a new leader or even an entirely new form of leadership

or government. For it seems that leaders are prone to corruption, and the

people are prone to rebellion.

The people who would become the ancient Israelites followed much of this

same pattern. They began as ...

June 16, 2024

A House Divided Cannot Stand

Rev. Sarah Buteux

Mark 3:20-35

Many years ago, I did a wedding for Liberty and Louis, a lovely young couple in their mid twenties. Like most brides, Libby was deeply in love with her fiancé and extremely excited about her wedding. But unlike most brides, Libby was also living with terminal cancer.

A few years after their celebration, I officiated at her funeral. And then, the year after that, I gathered with many of the same people once again for the wedding of the young woman who had been Liberty’s maid of honor. Lou, God bless him, was there as the best man.

It was a bittersweet day, to be sure. Libby’s absence was felt deeply by us all. And so, as I looked at the young couple standing before me, I took the time to acknowledge their loss and the fact that they already knew something of what it meant to love one another in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, in good times and in bad.

“Life can be terribly hard,” I said, “You know that more than most. So in the context of your marriage, don’t make it any harder on each other than it has to be. Be good to each other. Be patient with each other. Be kind and gentle and quick to forgive. Be strong for each other, but even more than that,” I said, “do what you can to strengthen each other.

Be the other’s greatest supporter. Be your partner’s truest friend.  Be the one thing in each other’s life that works, the one person the other knows they can count on no matter what. Because life isn’t easy, but it’s a heck of a lot easier if you’re on good terms with the person standing by your side.”

Although it was that specific couple that inspired those words, I now try to share some version of this with all of the couples I join in marriage, because it rings true for me. I once heard another pastor say: “When your marriage is strong, you move out into the world in strength. When your marriage is weak, you move out into the world in weakness” (the late Timothy Keller).

It’s such a simple, obvious thing to say, but it’s also all too true. If your marriage is strong, you can handle just about any challenge the world can throw at you, but if your marriage is in trouble, then it doesn’t matter how great life outside your home is; you’re still going to be a mess.

I think the same can be said ...

June 9, 2024

What's the Point

The Rev. Sarah Buteux

Mark 2:23- 3:6

Do you ever wonder what Jesus would make of all this? Do you ever wonder what Jesus would think about our big, beautiful organ and gorgeous stained glass windows? What he would make of this minister with her fancy degree and generous pay check, let alone the sheer amount of money it takes to simply keep this whole building heated and in good repair?

I do. I think about it all the time. I have often looked not just at the Tiffany window, the Steinway piano, and the Skinner organ, but at the Konica Minolta copier, the Comcast router, the Otis bill for our elevator, indeed at this whole operation and my role within it, and heard that age old question reverberate through my soul: “could not this have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor?”

Anyone else ever feel, I don’t know, a sense of misgiving about it all? As if we are maybe missing the point? In a world where people are unhoused and hungry, is maintaining and supporting a beautiful old church like this one really the best use of our resources or should we sell it all and give the money away to a more worthy cause?
But then I remember that it wasn’t Jesus who asked that question; was it? No. Who was it?....

June 2, 2024

"Already Enough"

The Rev. Darrell Goodwin, Executive Minister of the Southern New England United Church of Christ

Psalm 139: 14-18 & Mark 1:9-11

Click the link to join our Pride Worship Service!

Today’s worship features beautiful music from our combined choirs and the incredible preaching of the Rev. Darrell Goodwin who writes:

I am proud to serve as the First Black and Openly Queer Executive Conference Minister of the Southern New England Conference, United Church of Christ. There were so many voices who told me if I shared my truth, I would have to stop preaching and that my ministry would never prosper. Thanks be to God that those narratives were LIES! The Holy Spirit did indeed have the victory. If you are a part of the LGBTQIIA community and are looking for a brave space to be your authentic self and journey in your faith, there is a church near you that’s ready to walk beside and have PRIDE in you. Check out:

Thanks to the Westhampton Congregational Church, Edwards Church, St. Johns Episcopal Church, and the Haydenville Congregational church for joining us at First Churches for our second annual Pride Worship service. It was Fierce, Fabulous, and Faithfilled.

May 26, 2024

Amazed and Astonished

Rev. Sarah Buteux

Acts 2:1-21

A few months ago I got an email from a pastor in Florida inquiring about visiting our church with a tour group. Thanks to Jonathan Edwards, we get a lot of visitors here at First Churches and let’s just say they tend to be on the more conservative end of the theological spectrum.

They show up throughout the week and we always open the church to them so they can come in and pray and bask in the presence of one of their theological heroes.

But this pastor wanted to know if they could come and worship with us on Sunday, and I’ll admit, that made me a little nervous. Did I mention the church was from Florida? Yeah, that right there was enough to set my Spidey senses a tingling. So I looked up their church on-line, read their statement of belief, and then clicked on the link for the “Revival Wells New England Tour.”

Turns out they were getting ready to embark on a 5 day “prayer assignment” with an historian/evangelist whose mission, according to his website, is "Raising up a new generation to aggressively invade the nations with the spirit of revival and reformation!” (Roberts Liardon Ministries).

“Aggressively invade the nations…” Yeah. Sounds like somebody needs to take a class or two on decolonizing Christianity.

Well, that made me really nervous. And I admit I only grew increasingly wary as I perused the itinerary.

Their plan, according to the website, was to come north to “visit, worship, and pray at the historical locations of the First and Second Great Awakenings as well as visit two Ivy League Universities: Harvard and Dartmouth.

“It’s time to take back our Ivy League universities, which were all founded for God!,” it said.

And then I learned that after visits to Park Street Church in Boston and Northfield MA, that they would, “visit Jonathan Edwards’ church in Northampton, where Edwards oversaw some of the first revivals in 1733-35 and preached his famous “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” that helped launch the First Great Awakening.”

Goodness, I wondered, are you coming to take back my church too?

Needless to say, I emailed the pastor right away and said, “call me.”
And here’s where things get interesting.

She did.

Yeah. She.

Wasn’t expecting that, were you? Me neither. ...

May 19, 2024

The Things that Make for Peace

Rev. Sarah Buteux

Acts 1:1-11

As Jesus came near and saw Jerusalem,
he wept over it, saying,
‘If you, even you, had only recognized
on this day the things that make for peace! ~ Luke 19:41

Alright, before I pray, I just want to say that this one is going to be hard. I know it is Mother’s Day and that a lot of us come to church to find a bit of peace and hope and respite from the barrage of bad news we are living under.

But the Spirit moves as it will and the message I have for you today centers around the war in Gaza and the unrest, outrage, and grief it is provoking here. These are not easy times my friends or easy things to discuss, so let us pray and ask God to open our hearts and minds that we might come to know the things that make for peace.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight,
Holy One. Speak through me if possible and in spite of me if needed. Amen.

I saw two children die this past week.

I didn’t mean to and I didn’t want to. I don’t watch the news on television and I am very careful when it comes to reading the news on-line because I know there is only so much despair and violence and horror that I can metabolize before I shut down. I skim the headlines, but I rarely click on them any more because I know that certain phrases and images, once they enter my mind, will never leave it.

But clips of children actively dying in Gaza are starting to pop up in my social media feeds, broadcast by tender hearted, well intentioned people.

I hate that they are posting images like this because I hate seeing it, but I understand it is because they are desperate to get the world’s attention.

I understand that they are desperate to bring the indiscriminate violence that is raining down on innocent civilians to an end, and I respect that.

I’ve also been following what is happening on our college campuses and I have to say...

May 12, 2024

Unbelievable Believers

Rev. Sarah Buteux

Acts 10

Note: Our internet was down today. We were able to record the service, but until we have wifi we cannot upload it. Here is the written text of the sermon.

I have never been one to keep my mouth shut; which, admittedly, has not always served me well. Most people, when they walk into a new situation, have enough wisdom to get the lay of the land before they start spouting off.

Some people know how to read a room. But not me. For better or for worse, I’ve always been one to speak up if I feel strongly about something, which is why my first year at Smith College was such a complete and utter disaster.

Like most first year students, I spent my initial evening on campus in an orientation session, and a big part of that orientation was centered around diversity and tolerance. I don’t think they use words like “tolerance” anymore, but keep in mind this was back in the 1900’s before - like - smart phones and Hulu and electricity.

The Resident Assistant, who was leading the session, let us all know that she was a lesbian and she hoped everyone would be accepting of her and all the other queer and questioning people on campus. And let me tell you, my friends, I was ready.  Not to be accepting, unfortunately,  but certainly ready with a response...

May 5, 2024

Salt and Light

Rev. Sarah Buteux

Matthew 5:13-16

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt… You’re here to be light… God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. (So) stand—shine! …be generous with your lives. (For) by opening up to others, you’ll prompt others to open up with God…” ~ The Message
Salt! Light! Stand! Shine! Generosity! Openness!

Oh my goodness, First Churches, today we’re going to be talking about stewardship and evangelism. Yay! Maybe? Maybe not? I don’t know? I mean, I know that the only two things progressive Christians are more uncomfortable talking about then stewardship and evangelism are…well…nothing. Actually I think those might be the two things we’re more uncomfortable talking about. Am I right?

But you know what?

I actually love that about us.

I do, because I think at the heart of that discomfort is the fact that we are not a ...

April 28, 2024

Shepherds, Sacrifice, and Mutuality

Bekah Maren Anderson

Psalm 23 and John 10:11-18

We were blessed to have Bekah Maren Anderson as our guest preacher today. Bekah Maren Anderson (she/her) is a queer and disabled writer, activist, and theologian. She earned her Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in 2021, and now serves as the Director of Pastoral Care and Community Connections for the Julian Way, a ministry offering spiritual care to people with disabilities. She is the co-convener of the Disability Theology Discussion Group, board member of the United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministries Board, and a Member in Discernment with the Farmington Valley Association of the UCC. She lives in Northampton, where she enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons, sampling many kinds of loose-leaf tea, and entertaining her tiny gray cat Jasmine. Her sermon on the Good Shepherd is a must listen for anyone struggling with burn out.

April 21, 2024

Don't Go It Alone: A Sermon for the 215th Anniversary of the Dorcas Society

Rev. Sarah Buteux

Acts 9:36-43

Have you ever been so tired you felt like you were going to die?

Have you ever been so overwhelmed that you wanted to?

Years ago, I was flying home from a pastor’s retreat and I realized that I wasn’t afraid of the plane crashing. This was a little unusual. I’m not a particularly nervous flyer but, like anyone, I worry. And yet on that particular flight, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there was a part of me that would have been relieved if that plane had gone down.

You see, I was a year and a half into my first call and I was doing everything in my power to save the little church I was pastoring in the face of impossible odds. Everyone in the congregation knew I was doing my best and God bless them, they were content to let me.

They’d put all of their faith in me as their best hope and, if I had died on the way home, that’s how they would have remembered me. Not as someone who had tried and failed. Not as someone who had let them down or disappointed them. But as someone who had done her best and unfortunately, for reasons beyond her control, died tragically before I could fulfill my promise.

It is embarrassingly grandiose thinking. It was clearly a sign that I was burned out of my little gourd. And it was a sign of just how unhealthy and dysfunctional my relationship to my first congregation and my understanding of leadership was at the time.

I honestly thought it all depended on me. I took on the responsibility of saving that little church, my people let me, and truthfully, if I had died on that trip home, there’s a pretty good chance that the congregation would have too. It wasn’t a healthy, sustainable, or life-giving arrangement for any of us.

I bring this up not just to embarrass myself, but because I’m pretty sure this isn’t a particularly unique situation or dynamic in most of our churches.

We expect a lot of our leaders within the church - and by leaders, I do not just mean...

April 14, 2024

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