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

The Difference

January 15, 2012:

Anything Good?
January 15, 2012
Call:   1 Samuel 3: 1-10
Text:   John 1: 43-51
Read:   Lord Speak To Me

                                Anything Good?

I like humor.
I even try to be humorous
        Although, during the time I have been your pastor
        I have provided plenty of evidence that I am not always successful.

However, as much as I like humor
I do have reservations about certain types of humor
I am not crazy about slapstick or physical comedy
        The Three Stooges never turned me on.
        I never really loved Lucy.

I don't like stupid humor
And much of what passes for humor today requires people to look and act stupid
        Although I do have to confess that I liked "Get Smart" which some might argue falls into this category.

I don't like gross humor,
    And again, much of what passes for humor today seems to be based on off color language or socially
    questionable actions and sounds whose very use is perceived by the writer as funny.
I like satire, word plays and puns, and "clever" humor,
In short, I like humor that makes me smile

I liked the Beanie and Cecil cartoons where the animator put toes on the mountains so we could recognize the foot hills.

And my favorite humorous movie was - and is - "Dave"
        In which Kevin Kline makes his living
Finding jobs for people
And moonlighting doing impressions of the President
        And who is suddenly whisked off to the White House
                And told it is his patriotic duty to pretend to be the President
To cover up the fact that the real President has had a massive stroke and is in a vegetative state.

When I left the theater after that movie,
my cheeks literally ached from smiling so much.

But       I spend a lot of my time   reading and interpreting    the scriptures
And to be honest,
        The scriptures are not exactly a treasure trove of humor.

Inspiration?    Oh, Yes
Instruction?    You had better believe it
Reflection?     MMMMhhhhmmmmnnn

But humor?      Not much.

And that is why I have always like today's scripture.

I believe that it contains
the funniest line,
the words that produce the biggest smile
in the entire Bible.

Now the passage itself is not funny.
It is only one of lines in it that always makes me smile.

[John 1: 43-51]

Here we are as modern Christians
        We know that Jesus is the Christ
        We know that he teaches about love and peace
        We know that he has been sent to bring us closer to God

The hymn says that he came
        "to love, heal, and forgive."

And too, we know he came as God incarnate
And that he came as our king and our sacrifice.

We know who this guy is.
And so when Nathaniel asks,
"Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

We have to look at each other and smile - maybe even chuckle
        For we know that something really good came out of Nazareth
And we have to look at Nathaniel     with those smiles still on our faces
        And say, "If you only knew, Nat.  If you only knew."

But there is more to this passage than a humorous line
In fact,        the line I find so amusing      has more to it than humor.

For Nathaniel is somewhat of a skeptic
        He is apparently a devout Jew
        He is almost certainly a man who expects the coming of a messiah

But he is somewhat skeptical of what Philip has told him.
And I wonder whether you and I might well have been skeptics too.

There are two ways to understand Nathaniel asking the question
Neither is a matter of truly oppositional disbelief

First, what Philip said must have astonished him.

He has talked about,    prayed for,    and looked forward to the coming
Of the Messiah

But so great was his anticipation that he may have found it
       hard to believe   that at last the messiah had come
       hard to believe   that the messiah was just a short distance from him.

On July 4th weekend of 1955, I was at Independence Hall in Philadelphia
        I knew I was there
        I could actually see the building
But it was hard to believe that I was actually there on that date.

Adam had a similar experience in July of 1996
        When he entered the White House
        He had looked forward to it
But when he walked into the building,
it was breath taking for him to realize
that he was actually in the home of the Presidents.

In 1998, I worshipped at Foundry UMC in Washington
        I chose to worship there
because I knew that was where President Clinton worshipped
        As I entered, I saw guard dogs posted outside
                I saw the secret service man on the steps with a hearing device in his ear
                But when Mr. and Mrs. Clinton entered
                        I could not believe that Jim Barnes
                                Then of the hamlet of Jordanville, NY
                        Was worshipping with the President and First Lady.

There had to be some of that awed disbelief in Nathaniel's mind
        When he uttered those words.

But I think he had another more challenging type of skepticism.

I think Nathaniel,
        Like most of the Jews of his day,
        Had his own "picture" of the coming of the messiah.

And being from Nazareth was not a part of Nathaniel's picture.

Can you imagine if I told you that the second coming would take place
in Hannawa Falls?


Now, most of us would not actually ask,
        "Can anything good come out of Hannawa Falls?"

But someone might comment, "Hannawa Falls?
Why would God have chosen Hannawa Falls?"
[And somebody in the congregation might interject,
"It's simple.  He didn't want to pay Potsdam property taxes."]

But seriously, Nathaniel and the Jews of his day had expected
        A great military leader
        A person with the trappings of royalty
                And not a simple teacher from Nazareth
                Who had let this quirky wilderness guy baptize him

And so the question,    "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"
Amusing as it is to us today
Can be understood in both ways
Awe that it is really happening
                And difficulty reconciling
how it is happening
                        With how one had envisioned it happening

Any and all of us can be Nathaniel.

And even more importantly, any and all of us can be Philip as well.
And that is good news
for while it is easy to be like Nathaniel
Philip is the one we need to emulate.


For having discovered Jesus
        Philip wanted to share what he had discovered.
        And so he told Nathaniel about him

In doing that,
        Philip was the successor to the shepherds we talked about on Christmas Eve

In doing that,
        Philip was the predecessor to the apostles
                Who, at Christ's ascension, received for all of us
                The Great Commission to be witnesses.

And note how he did it:
When Nathaniel responded with skepticism
        Philip did not argue with him
        Philip did not get defensive
        Philip did not write him off

No,     Philip simply said,     "Come and See"
                And he gently led Nathaniel to Christ

For Philip knew that skepticism was normal
        And that it was just a matter
        Of opening Nathaniel's eyes
        Of opening Nathaniel's ears
        Of opening Nathaniel's mind
of getting Nathaniel    to give Jesus a chance


In that sense, Philip was a lot like Eli
        In this morning's Old Testament story
For Eli told Samuel to open his ears
        And when he did, he heard God speaking to him.

The story of Philip and Nathaniel is not in our scriptures because John
wanted to provide some light humor for Jim Barnes or anyone else who thinks like he does.

It is in John's gospel
        Because it tells us that when we are skeptical like Nathaniel:
        If we open our eyes     open our ears   and open our minds
                Like Samuel and Nathaniel finally did
                        We can see God          We can hear God
                        We can experience God.

It is in John's gospel
Because it tells us that when, like Philip,
we know we have encountered Christ
        That we can share him without being overbearing
        All we have to say is "Come,    and see"
                In one form or another.

And isn't that a lot more important than being the funniest line
        In the entire Bible?