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 Price

March 25th:

The Price
March 25, 2012
Call:   Jeremiah 31: 31-34
Text:   Hebrews 5: 5-10; John 12: 20-30
Read:   Psalm 51        (785)

                                The Price

I like symmetry.                I like it a great deal.

I like it because it requires balance.
I like it because it necessitates that there be a pattern.

This should be obvious to anyone who has seen the pictures I have hung in the parsonage.
        Particularly the "Hall of Presidents"   on the second floor

I have displayed on two sections of the west wall of the hallway
        framed pictures                 of 18 US Presidents

Both sections show that I have balanced:
The size of the pictures
        The chronology of the presidencies
And even factored in to some extent
the importance of the president.

My strong preference for symmetry
(and I prefer the word "preference" to the word "obsession")
Does not just impact the way I hang pictures.
It is reflected in the way I put services together.

For example,    the services for the first five Sundays in Lent
        Each week               The call to worship has been the OT lection
        Each week               the textual scripture has been the epistle lection
And     Each week       my sermon titles have begun with the word "The."

This is the last of those five Sundays
As I prepared for it, I struggled finding myself feeling,
        Very much like a film critic
reviewing the trailer for a film
rather than reviewing the film itself

The text is Hebrews 5: 5-10             [read]
        This passage introduces themes and concepts
                That are much more completely developed
over several of the chapters that follow

It seemed to me that that more complete development was "the film"
        And the text we read was the trailer
which merely tells a little bit of the film
and is designed not to stand by itself
but to get people interested in the film

To avoid reviewing "the trailer",
I tried to expand the text
to include "the film" found in the rest of the letter.
But
I began to feel like a scholar preparing to present a paper
        Rather than a preacher attempting to bring a scripture alive.
And there is a lot of difference between
        A scholarly paper on the one hand
        And a sermon on the other

The former tends to be longer, dryer - and often duller
        It is directed almost exclusively to the mind
        Its natural form is to be written - not oral

The latter tends to be shorter, more emotional - and hopefully livelier
        It is directed to hearts and souls - not only to minds
        Its natural form is to be oral - not written

[An aside: That is why the spacing, punctuation, and wording in my sermon manuscripts differ from what they would be if I was writing an essay or a treatise or a book.]

I knew that this could not be what I was expected to do.

And so I sneaked a quick look at the lectionary gospel lesson
        It was from John 12:
As I looked at verses 20-30, I said
        "Ooooohhhh!     This strikes me.  This calls out to me.
Maybe I should switch texts."

But then a voice (my voice) inside me said,
        "You can't do that!  It would be like giving up."

Do any of us want to be accused of giving up?


Did Syracuse give up            when Fab Melo was ruled ineligible?
Did Louisville give up  when they struggled mid season?

And I had just visited 30 year old Barb Steenberg at CPH
Where she is hospitalized several times a year.
She hasn't given up.

But if I were to switch texts, what would I be giving up?
        My pride?               Indefensible
My plans?               Plans can always be changed
My pattern?     For a guy who likes symmetry as much as I do
                                This was the hard one

But I had to admit that my affection for symmetry
        Which is often - in fact, usually - a good thing
Was getting in the way of a meaningful message
                On a scripture that was calling out to me.

When I realized that,           I hung my head
        For I recognized a fool who
                Seemed to prefer symmetry               To God's call.

I was embarrassed and I returned to the gospel.
        [12: 20-30]

Just picture this remarkable and moving scene
Jesus,  with the crowds gathered around for worship,
admits his soul is troubled about what is ahead

What is ahead, of course, is the cross
He admits that it has crossed his mind
to ask his father to save him from it.

But he tells them that he has rejected and dismissed that approach because,
        "it is for this reason that I have come to this hour."

Jesus has come to this hour to die.

The author of Hebrews explained this
        In the passage that was originally to be our text

Jesus was not only a high priest, he was the high priest
                Appointed by God
        Jesus was not only the high priest
                He was himself the offering that he as the high priest presented to God on behalf of the people
                        As such offering,
Jesus was and is the source of our salvation.
        And Jesus was not only the offering, He was also the son
                And being son, was what made this offering so worthy

Jesus has come to this hour     as priest, as offering, and as son
        To be nailed to the cross
and     To die a painful and shameful death

all this to
- as we have noted every since
we heard the words from 1 Peter on the first Sunday in Lent
"bring us into a closer relationship with God."
He knew this
and as such knew he had to reject any plea to be released from that task

Jesus has come to this time
to die as John records him saying
                Because it was the very idea behind his incarnation
                Because it would glorify God
                        And give life and hope to the people

Jesus died not to save himself,
but to save the people  - including us.

The voice from heaven confirms all that
        And it confirms, therefore,
that Jesus is the offering that seals the new covenant
        the one that Jeremiah spoke of in the call to worship
        the one that supersedes
the covenants with Noah, Moses, and David
                the one etched in our hearts.

Jesus paid the price
Jesus paid it by rejecting the idea of a plea to be released
        And thus paving the way for his walk to the cross

God the Father paid the price
God the Father paid it by sending his son to that cross.

You and I are the beneficiaries         Of that walk to the cross
You and I are the beneficiaries         Of that new covenant.

What price are you and I willing to pay?

For the words, "The Price" in the sermon title
Do not just refer to what the father and son paid.

It is also what price you and I are willing to pay
        To demonstrate our gratitude
                as descendants and beneficiaries receiving
                        The gift from God,
And     The sacrifice of God's son

By living lives with true wisdom
                        And fasting in the sense that God chooses
                                Not as ritual and routine actions
                                But by loving, sharing, and caring

Hmmm, those were all the Lenten sermon titles.

There is still a pattern
        But the pattern can't take priority over the message.
                Even for those of us who like symmetry a great deal.