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

November 27th, 2011:

The Pleading
Text:   Isaiah 64: 1-9
Read:   Advent Prayer   (201)
Words:  Mark 13: 24-27 35-37

                                The Pleading

Christ was not a surprise gift.

If he was, we would not have Advent.

But he wasn't           and we do.

Christ was not a surprise
        Because he was on the "Christmas List"
                Of Jewish people for centuries before
                the stable in Bethlehem was turned into a birthing room.

The people asked God to send someone to lead them
        They requested, begged and urged God to rescue them
        They pleaded.

They made plea, after plea, after plea
        Including the opening words of chapter 64
        In which the people asked through Isaiah
not just that someone come
                But that God himself come.

A touch of irony
        For a nation of people who had had God as their king
        But who had wanted to be like other nations
                And so asked, requested, begged, urged and pleaded
                To have God send them a human king.
The opening words of the plea in our scripture remind me
of the player introductions at a big football game
        where the coach and players burst through a large paper covered entrance
        to the cheers of the home crowd.

Or of Superman or a movie monster
        Prying open doors to make a grand and intimidating entrance.

"Oh, that you would tear open the heavens and come down
        so that the mountains would quake at your presence - "

Oh, that you would.

That would be a powerfully dramatic entrance!
        One that would dwarf any entrance made by
                Football players, Superman, or movie monsters.

The key to the plea though
        Is not the grandness of the entrance
        But the entrance itself.

For the substance of the plea was
        That God come down
        That God lead them
        That God be active in the lives
                Of these people who in the early days of their return from exile,
struggled
and felt that God was ignoring them

Knowing that Christ's entrance into the world
Resulted from a plea from the people
is the first thing we need to know about Advent.
We asked for help.
But it is not the only thing we need to know about this season.

The second is that we have to understand that the plea is a community plea
- not an individual plea

It is "come down to help US out."
        Not "come down to help ME out."

That community aspect is obvious in the language:
        "we did not expect ..."
        "we sinned ..."
        "we transgressed ..."
        "We have become like one who is unclean"
        "We all fade like a leaf ..."

But     in our time     and in our place,       I fear that
Some people forget or minimize the concept of community

Some think they can worship every bit as well by themselves
        And don't comprehend how much they cheat others
                And thus how much they cheat God
                By limiting their worship to a solo event.

Some think that it is just as good to use televised or on line services as their worship.
        And they too don't comprehend how much they cheat others
                And thus how much they cheat God
        By avoiding the sacrifice and effort
                That come from having to leave their recliners, couches, and beds
                To worship with
                And to strengthen and be strengthened by
Others of God's children.

Some talk of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
        And having one is good
- unless it causes them to overlook the need that God has
                for us to be a part of a
worshipping,    serving         community

Remember:
        That same Jesus Christ told us that
                The way to love God         is to love God's other children
                And that the way we treat them    is how we treat Him

Some treat time spent nurturing that sense of community
        As being unnecessary, trivial, or inefficient
As being of insufficient value.
As being a waste of their time.
        By avoiding the community time which begins our services
        By not getting to know others at worship
        By not interacting at fellowship time
                Or in non Sunday morning activities
Again cheating others and God
        And I would suggest,    cheating themselves as well.

The plea was a community plea.
        And it was answered as a gift to the community

Therefore, you and I must nurture that community

For
        we must respond as a community
        we must celebrate Advent as a community
        we must as a community give thanks on Christmas
 that God answered the plea.

But there is still more that we need to understand.

For the plea must be made knowing and acknowledging
        That we expect God to answer it
                Not because we deserve an answer from God
Oh, no!
        we have sinned and we have transgressed
        we have become like one who is unclean

We expect God to answer it
        because we have seen God's love and concern for us
                In what God has done for us in the past.
                        "you did awesome deeds"
                        "you are our Father"
                        "we are the clay and you are the potter"
                        "we are all     the work of your hand."

And therefore we, through, Isaiah beg that God
        Not be exceedingly angry
        And not remember our iniquity forever

In other words,
        The question of how and whether God answers our plea
                Is God's call   is God's choice         is God's decision
        And in making the plea we expect an answer, relying on
what God has done       Not what we have done.

One more thing that we need to know:
        Advent lasts for four weeks

It begins today and it ends with the Christmas celebration.'

That means that the four Sundays in Advent
        Make up only one thirteenth of the year's Sundays
        A mere 7.6 % of them.

Thus 92.4% of the year is not Advent.

I would suggest                 that you and I resist the tendency of
        Relegating the lessons we learn in Advent
                (lessons we learn about our relationship with God)
        to that small portion of the year.

I believe that these lessons are relevant and valuable
        All             year            long.

And so
 as we prepare to welcome Christ we need to recognize
that the pleas for help that we send to and through him
                Are based on our need to have him active in our lives

as we prepare to welcome Christ we need to recognize
That our pleas cannot be for ourselves or by ourselves  but must be for and by our community as well

as we prepare to welcome Christ we need to recognize
        that the reason we expect them to be answered
                is because of what God has already done
                not because of what we have done

And as we prepare to serve him after Advent
        we need to recognize the very same things.