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 Sacrifice

February 26, 2012:

The Sacrifice
February 26, 2012
Call:   Genesis 9: 8-17
Text:   1 Peter 3: 18-22
Read:   Psalm 25        (756)

                                The Sacrifice

I think titles are important
        I am not talking: King, Queen, Duke, Earl, or any other royal title
        I am not talking Doctor, Rev., or any other earned title.

I am talking titles of writings
        Writings like my sermons, the title to which give a clue to what will be in the message
        And which help me remember what my thoughts had been when I originally selected the scriptures on which to preach.

Writings, too, like books, magazines, and newspaper articles
        Like the recent C-O article on the Lenten Lunches
                An article written by our own Betsy Baker
        An article whose title was written, however, by some nameless person in Ogdensburg who indicated that the lunches were for,
                "The Observant and Others"

Now, I chuckled when Betsy showed me the paper
But that nameless headline writer has inspired me
To give you the chance to determine,
        Are you observant?      Or      Are you an "other?"
Those of you who have not already looked at the bulletin insert on Lent
        Take a quick look at the titles to my Lenten sermons.

If you are observant
        You my be able to tell me which author's books inspired
                The style of my Lenten sermon titles

Just read the titles"  "The Fast"       "The Sacrifice" "The Descendents"
        "The Gift,"     "The Gardener"

How many of you said, "John Grisham?"
        You are observant
The rest of you will have to attend the lunches as "The Others."

For a while though I feared that I had spent too much time
trying to be like Grisham
And not enough time
figuring out what I was to write after the title.

For this week, when I reread the scriptures to see
what to do with today's Grisham like    "The Sacrifice"
I was lost.     I was puzzled.          I was stumped.

In the 1 Peter scripture that we will hear shortly, the word "suffering" was mentioned, but the word "sacrifice" was no where to be found

And the only way that the 1 Peter scripture seemed to connect with the story of Noah in the call to worship scripture
was not anything I had ever thought of discussing with you.

Thus,
It was only while driving home after spending my Saturday morning
        Chairing a conference call meeting of the UNY CAH;
        Then going to Canton for my annual meeting with the DCOM;
        Then meeting with another pastor whom I am mentoring,
        Then resuming my prayers for help with this message
That I finally figured things out

Saturday at 1:30 PM is a bit later than I like to figure things out.

But let's return to the Noah story.

Note:           This is not the story of        Building the ark
This is not the story of        putting two of each species on it
This is not the story of        Noah's laughing neighbors
This is not the story of        the punishing flood.

Instead, it is the story of what God said and did afterwards,
        "I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood and never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth."
        "I have set my bow in the clouds,
and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth."
        "When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant that I have established between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth."

Why?    Why did God say this            and do this     after the flood?

What did God get in exchange for this covenant or promise?
With pardon to those who created the WWJD T shirts,
my question here is WDGG
        What did God get?

The promise God made was not    a conditional promise
"You do this for me and I'll do that for you"
No! This is a unilateral promise, simply:
        "Never again will I destroy all the people by a flood"

What do we have to do to make sure that promise holds?
        Nothing!        Nothing!        Absolutely nothing!

What did God get?
        Nothing!        Nothing!        Absolutely nothing!

God gave up God's right to destroy us (by flood anyway)
        But God got nothing in return.

And then God put his bow in the clouds
        Not to remind us - although it may and I hope it will
        But to rather to remind Godself!

We got protection from the punishment that those of Noah's day had experienced
        And     God     got     nothing.

If we want to talk about sacrifice,     this is it
        God sacrificed and gave up a part of God's power
                Getting nothing in return
        And we - you and I - got the benefit
This was indeed a sacrifice
        A sacrifice surely made out of love for us.

This tells us a great deal about God's love for us.

So does the scripture designated as our text:   [1 Peter 3: 18-22]

Whereas the Noah story is very early OT
        Before the prophets, before David, before Moses,
Before even Abraham
        Before the exile and even before the exodus,

This letter is written well after the crucifixion
This letter is written well after the resurrection
This letter is written well after the ascension and Pentecost
And the author attempts to help us understand all those events

When I reexamined this scripture yesterday
Two lines leaped out at me - first verse 18
        "For Christ also suffered for sins
once                    for all
the righteous   for the unrighteous
        in order to bring you to God."

Remember,
the scriptures tell of the relationship between God and humankind

This scripture proclaims that Christ suffered
        In order to restore a closer relationship
                Between God and us              Between God and you and me
It says that this suffering was not just for some of us
        But for all of us.

It says that we didn't deserve it       - for we were unrighteous
        And that Christ didn't deserve it either - for he was righteousness

But God so loves us
And God so badly wants a close relationship with us
        That God let - caused - his son to suffer
        Reclaiming a close relationship with us
                Was the very purpose of that suffering

And so I again ask      WDGG
        What did God get?
        Did God get anything?

To answer that question we have to take a good look at our own lives
        And at the lives of those around us

To answer that question
        We have to see Christ's suffering as an offer

If we truly accept that offer,
Then God gets what God wants - a closer relationship with us

If we don't accept that offer
Or don't accept it in anything other than empty words,
Then God gets only a suffering son
        And that is not at all what God wants

In the other passage that leaped at me yesterday,
The author of the letter tells us
of the way to start accepting the offer
the way to begin the process of giving God what God wants:

Verse 21
        "And baptism which this (the flood) prefigured, now saves you
                Not as the removal of dirt from the body
                But as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Baptism can be seen in many ways
        Various denominations define and describe it with different theological concepts.
        For me though, reading this passage this week,
                My own thoughts and my own understanding were enriched
                By seeing baptism
As our appealing to God to give us a good conscience
And as a way for us to accept God's love and offer of a closer relationship
        Demonstrated so powerfully
        In the suffering of Jesus Christ.

In the story of Noah we see God sacrificing
        God's right to punish the lot of us with destruction
                Without being certain of getting anything in return

In 1 Peter we see that Christ's suffering for others
Is a sacrifice made with the hope of a closer relationship
        But without being certain of getting that relationship in return
One way for us to look at Lent
        Is as a time for us to follow the appeal of our baptisms
        With the commitment of our lives
        And the sharing with others.

That involves some sacrificing by us
        But our sacrificing is puny
        Compared to God's sacrifice for us

God's sacrifice does indeed merit the title,    "The Sacrifice."
        Even without an intent to be John Grisham like

Even those of us who are only mildly observant should see that.