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

Lenten Luncheon 3-8-2012:

It is a joy and an honor for us to host this luncheon.
It is a joy and an honor for us to have you here during this season

It is particularly a joy and an honor because I think Lent is important
But fear that for a great number of Christians
        Caught up in the busyness of their lives
        Subjected to the demands and responsibilities of
                Work, family, and society
Even of trying to do good -
Lent has become    a tradition to be recognized - perhaps even observed
Rather than         an opportunity for self reflection and spiritual growth

Lent requires us to slow down
        And participate with the Holy Spirit
        In our becoming closer to God and a more Christ like servant.

I can relate to being busy.
I can relate to the demands and responsibilities of work and family.
I still have two weeks of vacation left for me to take by June 30
        And I am having a difficult time figuring out
                How and when to take them.

Maybe that is why the scriptures on which I have preached
thus far this season
Have struck me so powerfully
- even though I have preached on them several times before
It has seemed that these scriptures are
exactly what I (and I expect others) have needed to hear
And scriptures which - if we stop to listen to them -
        Will make this Lenten season one that is
Enriching to our faith
And     Strengthening to our service.

On Ash Wednesday I looked at Isaiah 58: 1-11
        In which we heard a frowning God's sadness, wonderment, and weariness           At our failure to understand.

"My people are in rebellion" God tells Isaiah
"2Yet day after day they seek me ...
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;

They ask of me ...      3"Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?"

Then God speaks directly to God's people:

Look,   you serve your own interest on your fast day,
                        "Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high. "

And then God points out what we should already know:

6Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

7Is it not
to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

"9Then you shall call,          and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help,         and he will say, Here I am."

And yet despite our failures, God continued and continues
to give us another chance to get it right.

And if that wasn't clear enough on the night Lent began
the following Sunday, Peter's first letter      [1 Peter 3: 18-22]
        spelled out why God sent God's son - in moving, personal terms

verse 18        "For Christ also suffered for sins
once                    for all
the righteous   for the unrighteous
                        in order to bring you to God."

God so badly wants a closer relationship with us
        That God let - caused - his son to suffer

This scripture says that we didn't deserve this  - for we are unrighteous
        And that Christ didn't deserve it either - for he was righteousness

The tradition of saying that Christ died for our sins
Has come to sound       Academic, distant, routine
Saying that the purpose of Christ suffering was to bring us closer to God
    ["Jim, I let him hang on that cross because I want you closer to me."]
        Sounds so much more intimate and real and personal

These scriptures have struck me this year
        I am glad that my busyness and responsibilities
                Have not prevented them
From penetrating my heart, my soul, and my mind.

It is my prayer that all of us take advantage of this Lenten season
        To actively participate with the Holy Spirit
        To allow our faith to be enriched and strengthened by God's words
And most importantly:   To become closer to God

Then if God shakes God's head in wonderment
It will be with a smile, rather than a frown, on God's face.