Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Hattie Taylor Office Hours:
Tues. 3-5pm
Thurs. 10am-2pm
Information info@potsdamumc.org
Main Office Hours:
Mon. & Wed.

The Proclamation

December 11th, 2011:

Text:       Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11
Closing:    John 1: 6-8, 19-28
Read:       Advent      (201)

                                The Proclamation

Two weeks ago, on the first Sunday of Advent
        We hollered out to God
and we - as a community - pleaded that God would
        step dramatically into our lives
        and put our relationship back together.

We begged and we pleaded
        not because we thought we deserved God's help
        but because we recalled and we were inspired
                by what God had done for us in the past,
                things that demonstrated the love God had for us.

One week ago, on the second Sunday of Advent
        God responded
        By preparing us for that reunited relationship,
                Telling us to remove the obstacles to a relationship
                        By leveling the hills - our sins of commission
and filling in the valleys - our sins of omission
and thus creating a highway-like connection between God and us
        sort of a heavenly Autobahn
        for quick and unimpaired interaction.

Today on the third Sunday in Advent, God issues a proclamation

Now, a proclamation is an official formal public announcement
        And generally issued by an executive without legislative action

We think of kings issuing royal proclamations.

In the story books, we might find a king saying,
        "Whoever can save my kingdom from the dragon can marry my beautiful daughter and succeed me as king."

In the book of Esther we find the king being manipulated into issuing a proclamation that would result in punishment for being Jewish

In history we find numerous times that proclamations are issued
        Not just by kings, but by other executives

Three weeks from today is the 149th anniversary of the most famous proclamation in American History
        A proclamation which had been promised three months before
        A proclamation
                That was issued by a man named Lincoln
                That was issued without Congress having passed it
                That set some captives free.

We call that January 1, 1863 American proclamation
        "The Emancipation Proclamation"

That same title would be appropriate for the proclamation in our scripture
        The one delivered to us through Isaiah
        The one delivered to others through us.

For the words of this   "third Sunday in Advent"        proclamation
        Surely proclaim the emancipation of a people

And like most proclamations, the word was to be spread.

And as Isaiah delivered it to us, with the charge to deliver the word

We are to
Deliver to the oppressed
the good news of Christ's coming
and the emancipation that it brings
we are to
        use this news to put back together the brokenhearted
we are to
        proclaim liberty to the captives
we are to
        proclaim release to the prisoners
we are to
comfort all who mourn

we are to tell them
        that they shall rebuild a relationship
        that has been devastated by many people over many years
for this is the time of the coming of the Lord
        the time of the Lord's favor

we are to tell them that God
        loves justice
        and that God hates wrongdoing

We are to tell them that God will make an everlasting covenant with them
        A covenant of salvation
        A covenant of righteousness

We are to tell them
        That God will cause righteousness and praise
                To spring up
                Like a bountiful garden.

That is what God, in response to our plea proclaimed to Isaiah
That is what Isaiah proclaimed to us
That is what we are to proclaim to others
        God is alive    and God is active       in this world.

Picture it as sort of a relay race
        With the proclamation being the baton

God runs the first leg          and gives the proclamation to Isaiah
Isaiah runs the second leg      and gives the baton to you and me
You and I run the third leg     and we give the baton to ...

Do we give the baton to anyone?
Or do we hold onto the baton
        And simply say,
"Thank you, God, for setting me free
for emancipating me from the captivity of my sins"?

I hope not.             I pray not.

Our pleading to God for help was made as a community
        Not as individuals.

If we don't pass the baton to someone
        Then our team fails to complete the relay race.

If that happens,
I'll let you tell God that we gave up on the race
        Because I don't want to be the one to deliver that message
        I am afraid to even tell Isaiah - let alone God.
Delivering this proclamation by passing that baton
        Is not nearly as hard as we often fear.

We do it, in part by together helping others
And particularly when we help those named in the scripture itself
        The oppressed,
the broken hearted
the captives and prisoners
those who are mourning

we are told to deliver to them
the good news of liberty, release and comfort
of justice and righteousness
of the coming of the Lord.

I see our Thanksgiving and Easter baskets
as a way our congregation does that
I see our Global Mission Dinner
as a way our congregation does that
I see our response to natural disasters
as a way our congregation does that
I see our shoe box ministry
as a way our congregation does that
I see the turning over of our basement to the Holiday Fund
as a way our congregation does that

and I see that the fact that we do all these as a community
        as a way our congregation passes the baton
        and spreads the word
about God's presence and God's coming
about God's proclamation.

And while we do this pretty well, we must keep doing it.

Another way we pass the baton of proclamation
is by giving priority to worshiping God.

That means that when we have guests on Sunday, we say to them
        That God is a priority, by simply telling them
                "Our worship starts at 10:30, we'd like you to go with us, but if not, expect us home about noon."

That means that when we have chosen to be out late Saturday night, we remember and demonstrate
that God is a priority
by also choosing to get up for worship on Sunday morning
                And taking a nap on Sunday afternoon.

A year ago,
I would have said that we do pretty well with this as well.

We had moved up to having the third largest weekly worship attendance in the District

Much more importantly, our attendance had increased every year of my appointment
It was (and is) a good forty per cent higher than in 2006, the year before my appointment.

But this year, our attendance has slid slightly
        At the end of November we were down 4 people from 2010.

Very frankly,
despite all the positive things we have done this year
and there are many -
this is unacceptable.

The question I present to us is whether it is
simply a bump in the highway
or an acquired carelessness with the baton you and I are expected to pass?

We have to give priority to worship
        And if we do so,
we pass the baton       and we deliver the proclamation
to all who observe us.
        Even - or especially -
to those who think we are silly for doing so

And if we don't,
        Then you and I have failed God
        Who told us to deliver and proclaim
                And who came into the world
                And gave us the great commandment
                And charged us with the great commission.

But the great thing in an Advent that begins in a year of a very small slide
is that we get to start all over.

That is the point of the proclamation
        God, our king, is to be among us
        Our punishment and imprisonment is over
        That is the good news of Advent and Christmas
                The good news of the proclamation
                        That you and I are supposed to pass
                        In the relay race that is life.

This Christmas,
        Let us give God the gift
        Of our enthusiastic willingness to pass that baton.