Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
12:00pm Fellowship
Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
315-265-7474

Will it Be Shut?

November 6th 2011:

Potsdam and WS
Call:           Revelation 7: 9-17
Text:           Matthew 25: 1-13
Read:   Liturgy from Joshua 24

                        Will It Be Shut?

I am distressed.

For I learned this week that certain well respected people in this congregation,
Misread, misinterpreted, and misconstrued
My words as put forth on the sign in front of the church,
        Seeing the letter "U" as a different vowel
        And wondering not only why I give my sermon such a title
                But also why I would then put such a title
                        Right out front
                        Where the entire community had to see it

I am distressed because the "U" is in the title's most crucial word.

I am distressed
        Because the title's question is for     you and me
        And there is no way I would want to drop "U"
                From it.

And I am particularly distressed
        Because the scripture inspiring the title
may be the most powerful and dramatic story that Christ told.

But our God is a merciful God
And our God is a God of Second Chances.

So we begin correcting the error by reading
        from the correctly spelled and pronounced scripture

From Matthew 25: 1-13 ...

"Slam!" "Bang!"
        the door closed in front of the bridesmaids

"Slam!" "Bang!"
        the bridesmaids who had not seen fit to prepare themselves
        were left outside

And then,
much more softly, but much more cuttingly
than either     "Slam!" or "Bang!"
        came the bridegroom's words
                "Truly I tell you, I do not know you."

The bridegroom, of course, is Jesus Christ.

Can you imagine any sharper dagger to the heart
        Than those words of Jesus Christ
                Being spoken to you
                Or being spoken to someone you love?

"Truly, I tell you. I do not know you"

Imagine
        Standing outside that closed door
        Wanting to be let in, but knowing it was our own lack of preparation that put us on the outside

Imagining that          should call us
to want to look back and to reflect

And I believe   that call to look back and reflect
        Is why we encounter this scripture
        At this time of the year.

For you see, three weeks from today
        Is the first Sunday in Advent
        Thus the first day of the new Christian year.

That means      that today and next Sunday              are all we have
        To look back and reflect
Before our New Years Eve celebration of Christ as our king
        On the 20th
        And the beginning of the new year on the 27th.

We have now had nearly the entire Christian year to prepare

And so I ask
Are we better prepared today than we were 12 months ago?
Or have some of us wasted the year?
And taken the risk that if Judgment Day were tomorrow
They (we?) would be finally filling our lamps with oil
At the time the door closes?
And so what we are asking is whether when we get to the door,
Will it be open?                Or will it be shut?

We begin our look back
By remembering a few things that we encountered
        In the first part of the year that is nearly over.

This year began over 50 weeks ago
        With an Advent whose theme was
                "We wait for our Lord with
alertness, repentance, inquiry, and example


And so now, all these months later, we ask,
        Have we during this year been alert
                To God's message, God's command, God's call?
        Have we repented
                In deed as well as in word?
        Have we inquired
                As to what God wants and expects from us?
        Have we followed the example of Christ
                And have we been examples of Christ to others?

When we get to the door,        Will it be open?        Or will it be shut?

In early January        - more than a month into this Christian year -
        We saw the humility with which Jesus conducted himself
                When he underwent baptism by John.

Are we more humble today than we were when we looked at that story and reflected on that example?
        Or are we still focused on status, slights, and perceptions?

When we get to the door,        Will it be open?        Or will it be shut?

At the end of January, we found the gypsy woman Esmeralda in the Cathedral of Notre Dame (in Paris, not South Bend)

And we joined her in praying

        God help the outcasts                   the tattered, the torn
        Seeking an answer                       to why they were born
        Winds of misfortune                     have blown them about
        You made the outcasts           don't cast them out
        The poor and unlucky                    the weak and the odd
        I thought we all were                   the children of God.

Have our lives since then reflected the love and compassion behind that prayer?

Have we treated the poor and unlucky, the weak and the odd
        As bothers and sisters and children of God?

Or have our lives shown us to be witnesses against ourselves
As Joshua warned that we might be?

When we get to the door,        Will it be open?        Or will it be shut?

In February, on my 65th birthday, I asked us - you and me -
        Whether we would choose God     or the field.

Now, as we approach the completion of the year we look back
        Did we choose God?
        Did we choose the field?
Or      Did we still hedge our bets by making no choice
                And risk making us too late
                And unknown to Christ?

When we get to the door,        Will it be open?        Or will it be shut?

And all through Lent our theme was,
        "God is in charge - you and I are not."

Did that part of the year
        Make us open to and embracing of
the opportunity to confess and repent
                the opportunity to be strengthened
                the fact that God is in charge
        And thus the opportunity
                To choose humility over self promotion
                To choose obedience to God
over thinking that God should be obedient to us?

Or did we say, "there'll be more time later."
        Let's be selfish for a while
        And by doing so, again take the risk of the shut door?

And speaking of Joshua, as we prayed,
all of us proudly responded by joining him in declaring,
        "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord"

Well, this year, how seriously have we taken that promise?

When we get to the door,        Will it be open?        Or will it be shut?

We look back and reflect
        Not as an exercise or as an amusement
But as a prerequisite to looking forward and living.

We have to let the answers we give today
        Impact on how we live our lives,
Serve our God,
and give of ourselves
        tomorrow                and tomorrow's tomorrow.

As we continually ask ourselves,
When we get to the door,
Will it be open?
Or will it be shut?