Counting Our Blessings: God's Fair Days

19 October 2008


Counting Our Blessings: God’s Fair Days
Rev. Jennifer Whipple
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our minds and hearts be acceptable in Your sight, Oh Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

            “So what is it at your church that people put all of their energy and heart into?  What is it that people would be willing to go to the mat for?” he asked. 
             "Hmmm…," I thought, "Well, I think there are a few answers.  The first is the kids, the second is each other, but ‘tis the season after all – so right now I would have to say – The Yankee Fair."  
             “The Yankee Fair – what’s that?”  
What is that?!" 
I tend to forget that other people don’t know about the Yankee Fair, especially when we are in the thick of it.  So, this conversation I had in a class I took recently led me to create my “Why the Yankee Fair is a Blessing Top Five List.”  I’m no David Letterman, nor do I have a writing staff at home or 40 hours in a day – so five is all you get.

            [Before we get started, as a word of introduction for those of you who may have never experienced Yankee Fair Day, it is our way of displaying some of our gifts and skills – whether those are in interior design, quilting, creating decorations out of nature, or baking.  It is our way of opening our doors for people in the community to come in and purchase gently used housewares, clothing, toys, and beyond.  It is our way of sharing what we see as an important issue or celebration at the time with the greater community – as this year’s theme was all about sustainability and going green.  So having given those very brief words of introduction that in no way do justice to what the fair actually is and does for and in this community I present to you the “Yankee Fair Top Five List.”]***

5. The Yankee Fair is a blessing because Sanctuary is not just a building.
Now the Fair Chairs, Booth Chairs, Barn Friends, and secretaries may want to get me for this one, because Lord knows that the preparation for the fair and the work that goes into it is not easy, but I believe the Yankee Fair offers us an opportunity for Sanctuary.  As crazy as it may seem, the fair gives us an opportunity to step away from our everyday lives – perhaps to worry about something else or to share our worries with someone else.  Just being on the church grounds there is a connection with God’s presence that we may tend to overlook in our daily lives.  It gives us an opportunity to spend long hours in this sacred space where we are called to take time out and reconnect with God and with one another.  To that end… 

4. The Yankee Fair is a blessing because in the church Fellowship can be a verb.

            The Yankee Fair allows an opportunity to Fellowship.  As we have the chance to walk throughout the church and the grounds during preparation and on the day of the fair as well laughter rings out through the halls – they are full of people enjoying one another’s company.  It allows us an opportunity to learn about people we may not have known so well before.  It provides us with the opportunity to build and to strengthen the relationships in this place that we rely on to sustain us in both the difficult times and our times of celebration as well – to share the intimate parts of ourselves that mean the most to us – information and feelings about family, faith, our world, and beyond.

3. The Yankee Fair is a blessing because Going Green means Raising Green. (Outreach)

            The fair this year was an ultimate act of stewardship.  Not only were there hundreds of volunteers giving thousands of hours to create the extravaganza that took place yesterday, we saved a good deal of dumpster space as we tried our hardest to reduce waste, reuse goods, and recycle the leftovers.   All of our leftovers went to well-deserving organizations.  Non-profits working internationally in Nicaragua, women in need of a fresh set of clothes for a fresh start entering the work force, kids who usually only have the chance to window shop at toy stores who now will have new toys and so many more.  And after the fair we have the amazing total of over $24,000.  After the bills are paid for things like the tents, tables, and don’t forget the port-o-potties, the proceeds from the fair go to a variety of different places.  They are used to assist folks from this place in their desire to go on mission trips, bell festivals, special classes and trainings for things like Stephen Ministers, as well as for scholarships to summer camp and beyond for our youth from our Christian Growth and Enrichment Fund.  Another portion will help to cover the cost of special projects in the church – which is where such items as new equipment for our sound system and Reach Booth have come from in the past in order to be sure that not only can we hear in the church but also that people out in the community can have the opportunity to worship with us on TV as well. All of the proceeds from the SERRV (meaning of acronym) room will go to support artisans in third-world countries who bless us with their crafts and use the money paid to take care of their families and others in their villages.  And finally, and perhaps most importantly, 50% of the proceeds from the fair will go to mission and outreach projects that are near and dear to our hearts and mission.  This year those projects are the Silver Lake Conference Center that has provided summer camp programs for young people for over 50 years, as well as retreats for Confirmation Classes, and our very own All Church, Women’s, and now Men’s Retreats as well.  And the other project that will be supported through fair proceeds is our Refugee Resettlement Ministry which will allow us once again to welcome the stranger – people who have been forced out of their homes for tragic reasons and who have been forgotten will be able to find a home here in the United States and come to realize that they too are God’s beloved thanks to the generosity of the people who walked these halls yesterday, as well as the many volunteers who gave of their time.

As important as all of those aspects of the Yankee Fair are, I would argue that the final two on my top five list are even more important – and even more related to our scripture readings for today. 

2. The Yankee Fair is a blessing because God doesn’t call the qualified, God qualifies the called.

            What do I mean by that?  I mean that the fair is an opportunity for us to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.  Hopefully in all we do preparing for and carrying out the Yankee Fair we grow as some of God’s chosen people who are on a journey of learning to live and serve in the name of Jesus Christ.  As we collect items, clean, work, laugh, and cry together at the reality of life that happens outside of these walls, we learn to serve God in new ways and to work with others in Christ’s name.  If even just for a brief moment we are more inspired to live what it is that we sing in the hymn, “Take My Life.”  And hopefully that inspiration reminds us that we are to live as God’s disciples all of our days. 

            The passage from the gospel of Matthew today speaks to growth as disciples.  Some have seen it as a justification for the separation of church and state.  Others have looked at it as Jesus’ dictate on taxes at the time.  However, what I have discovered throughout this week is that what this passage really speaks to is true discipleship.  Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” meaning the coin imprinted with the emperor’s image.  He then follows with “Give to God what is God’s.”  Well what is it that is imprinted with the image of God?  If we look back at the story of the creation in the book of Genesis, we realize the answer to that question is each and every one of us -- that all creation is a sign and symbol of God’s desire to love and share so much that we are created in God’s image as God’s beloved children.  And so too should we have that desire – to love our neighbors as ourselves and to share what we have and who we are as Christian people with others as well.  But just as we would not try to build something without instruction or share another’s story without first hearing it, we need to grow in our own faith and learn who we are as God’s children.  We need to spend time in discipleship training – allowing God to qualify us for the tasks God calls us to.  Hopefully, as we encounter one another and God in the context of the fair here at the Congregational Church of Brookfield we grow in our love for one another, our desire to share the amazing knowledge we have of a God who has so gifted us for this journey, and our willingness to serve our God – to render to God what it is that is God’s – our very lives.

1. And the number one reason the Yankee Fair is a blessing is because we don’t change the message.  The message changes us.

            Yes, my brothers and sisters, I am talking about the “E” word here – Evangelism.  When I pray with the volunteers before the doors open to the excited crowds outside on Yankee Fair Day the one thing that I am sure to pray is that when we do open our doors we will allow the people who enter in to see the best that we have to offer as Christian people and the best God would have us be…that we might be an example of Christ for those who are welcomed into this place on the day of the fair.  Granted this is something that we should strive to do everyday and everywhere, but there is just something about fair day that reminds us of our call once again to share God’s message of love and grace through our word and deed.  We are reminded that we should offer an extravagant welcome to all people – people literally from the East & West, the North & South, people of every race, creed, orientation, economic status and beyond – the hundreds who walk through our halls, the barn, cottage, and parsonage.  That it is more important to be gracious and grateful than to haggle for best prices -- that the folks who enter this sacred space are helping us in our mission of outreach and service -- and are affording us the opportunity to be the people God calls us to be in this community and the world.  It is a tall order to be the face of Christ to people who are new among us – to be patient, kind, loving, faithful peacemakers.  And that is where we remember that we are not perfect, but we are forgiven and should forgive each other in turn.  We have this amazing opportunity at least once a year on fair day to step out of our traditional New England Congregational comfort zone and to spread the gospel message to friends, family, and strangers alike…to show why it is that we gather as people of God and why it is that we work to answer God’s call to us to use our gifts and skills for good in the world.

            When we share our faith in our word and deed we have no idea what might come of it, but as people of faith we do know that if we trust that the Holy Spirit is working among us then amazing things can come about.  The Apostle Paul writes in his First Letter to the Thessalonians, “For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of people we proved to be among you for your sake.  And you became imitators of us and of the Lord…so that you became an example to all believers in Macedonia & Achaia.”  When we pass it on we can be assured that our words and actions are just what someone else needs to hear and see.  We stake our claim as people who work to bring about justice – even if just in our own little corner of the world as the Thessalonians did.  And living in the times we do, in a world that is constantly on edge and affected by war, disaster, corruption, and economic distress people need to see, hear, and feel the love, hope, and joy that comes with having a relationship with God now more than ever.  But true transformation only occurs when we, like the Thessalonians, not only speak of our faith but also truly and consciously live it day to day.  There is nothing more detrimental to bringing about the will of God then speaking of being a person of faith and then not living it.  As one blogger writes, “If what we proclaim doesn’t match what we live, it will at the least fall flat and [at the worst] possibly drive people away from the gospel.” 

            Yankee Fair Day allows us the opportunity to speak through our word and deed the message that has been passed down for thousands of years – and show what it means to us as people of faith – to people who we may not know and who we may not see again…but who may most be in need of the gospel message that changes hearts, minds, and lives.

            So you see to some the Yankee Fair may seem like just another church rummage sale, because as they say “one man’s discarded item is another man’s treasure.”  But it is so much more than that.  It is an opportunity for Sanctuary, Fellowship, Outreach, Discipleship, and Evangelism.  As we reflect on this year’s fair – the wonderful time it was, the wonderful funds raised, and the wonderful chance to open our doors to our wider community let us hope that we have fulfilled our call and responsibility as God’s faithful people – and ask God’s forgiveness for the ways we have fallen short.  Let us recognize that it is only through God’s grace that we are able to successfully accomplish the amazing feat it is to carry out a fair that is as involved as ours is.  And as we begin to prepare for next year’s fair – which the countdown now tells us is of course 364 days away – let us keep these purposes and responsibilities for the fair in front of us. Because it is truly an extraordinary blessing we have the opportunity to count on in God’s Fair Days.  Amen.

***Note: This was not preached but may be helpful to those who have not experienced the Yankee Fair and Barn Sale at the Congregational Church of Brookfield.

4. “Living Messages” from


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