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

Provocateurs

November 18th:

Call:   1 Samuel 1: 1-11
Text:   Hebrews 10: 19-25
Read:   ??


Last Sunday was Stewardship Sunday
        And despite the obvious generosity of the members of the congregation
        We still, as is customary,
have a need for additional funds
so that we can expand our ministry.

One way - and a creative way at that - to raise those funds
Would be to have sponsors for my sermons.

Today's sermon presents a good example.

I could begin it by announcing
(and here any of you with children or grandchildren
will probably recognize my inspiration)

Today's sermon is brought to you by
        The number 48
And     The words: "provoke" and "respond"

And at the end I could add
        My sermon today
        Has been made possible by gifts from worshippers like you.

PBS would be proud of me.
        (The congregation is another matter)
Having seemingly moved the church
From 26 Main to 123 Sesame
I would now like to begin the message by apologizing to Garrett.

I had him read one of the more melodramatic passages in the scriptures
        But I had him read it straight.

You and I are now going to take that same scripture
      And we are going to interactively bring out the melodrama in it
I suspect that we
are going to have more fun than I allowed Garrett to have

Picture the old silent movies
        With love;              with good;      with evil
        With good triumphing over evil
        With the audience participating with its responses

Well,   you are a congregation - not an audience
        But you         are going       to have to do.
I need to have you participate.

There are three human characters in the story with which 1 Samuel begins

One is Elkanah
The others are his two wives:
        The heroine Hannah      The villainess Peninnah

Now, whenever I pause after a sentence or phrase in which something good or touching happens
        I want you to respond,          "Oooooooo."

Whenever I pause after a sentence talking about Hannah,
        I want you to respond,          "Hallelujah!"
Whenever I pause after a sentence in which I describe what Peninnah has done,
        I want you to respond           "Boooo!"

Let's give it a try     [run them through the names]

Now,    the scripture - interactively

There once was a man by the name of Elkanah
He had two wives
       One had given him children.           Her name was Peninnah [B]
        The other was barren                    Her name was Hannah [H]

Now this man used to go up year by year from his own town to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh
        Where Eli's sons were priests of the Lord.

On the day when Elkanah sacrificed he would give a portion to his wives and children
        To Hannah, he gave a double portion
                Because he loved her
                Even though the Lord had closed her womb        [OOO]

Peninnah, though, felt superior because she had given her husband children, and therefore used to severely provoke her rival.   [B]

So it went year by year
        As often as she went to the house of the Lord
        Peninnah used to provoke her.   [B]

It bothered Hannah so much that she could not eat
        And Elkanah went to her and told her not to be sad
        And asked her if he was not more to her than even ten sons would be     [OOO]

So, after she had eaten and drunk at Shiloh
        Hannah presented herself to the Lord    [H]

Deeply disturbed, Hannah prayed
        "Oh, Lord of hosts, if only you
will look on the misery of your servant
and remember me
and will give your servant a male child
        I will set him before you as a nazirite
                Until the day of his death      [H]

In due time, Hannah conceived and bore a son
She named him Samuel    [H]

As we know, Hannah kept her promise
        Samuel became priest and prophet
        He was God's instrument in warning the people about earthly kings
And was likewise the instrument through whom
God anointed both of the first two kings:
Saul and David.

And here you can practically hear the music from Handel
        Hallelujah

As we listen to this story,
        We find Elkanah sweet, kind, thoughtful, and a wonderful husband
        We find Hannah sensitive, loving, sad, and faithful
But,
        We find Penannah irritating, upsetting, mean
                And as she provokes Hannah
                She provokes us as well
        It is really easy to boo Peninnah!  It's really hard not to.

We respond to Peninnah's provoking behavior by getting angry.

And that is why it is such an interesting scripture to pair with
        The text from Hebrews

For in the text, the writer tells us, instructs us, even commands us
                to      "Provoke one another!!"

and having just acknowledged
that Peninnah's provoking Hannah angered us
we are surprised and even uncomfortable
        when we hear that instruction

After all, if we didn't like it when Peninnah did it
Why should we expect anyone to like it
when we provoke them?
Why should anyone expect us to like it
when someone tries to provoke us?

But the word "provoke" has more than one meaning
        One is          to incite to anger
        Another is              to give rise to or evoke
        Still another   to bring about or induce

In all of these meanings,       one thing holds true
        "provoke" requires a "response"

Our scriptures require us to react and to respond
        Or else they are just words on paper
Our faith too requires a response
That response is to share the message of our faith with others

Peninnah provoked out of meanness, jealousy, and self importance
        Hannah's response was hurt and sadness,
        Our response was anger
The fact that provoking requires a response
Is why the writer of Hebrews can write this:     [10: 19-25]

Whereas Peninnah provoked hurt and anger

We are  to provoke one another to       love and good deeds
We are  to provoke one another to   not neglect meeting together
We are  to provoke one another to       encourage one another

As noted the word "provoke" in all of its specific definitions
Means to stir someone to action - to get a response

We are not always comfortable doing that.
And any time we try to stir someone to action
        We do risk getting them upset.

Kyle Idleman
        Is the creator of the "I'm Not A Fan" video study we are offering on Sunday nights.
And he is the author of the book that accompanies it.

In that book he tells of how a parishioner once sent an e-mail
        Asking to be removed from church membership
In the e-mail, the stated reason was
        "I don't like Kyle's sermons."

What a devastating thing for a pastor to hear!

Kyle wanted to understand what it was about his sermons
        That the parishioner didn't like
So he called him.

The parishioner stammered a bit
 when he found that it was Kyle on the phone,

Finally, however, he made this point,
        "Well, whenever I listen to one of the messages,
        I feel like you are trying to interfere with my life.

And Kyle's response was,
        "That's a part of my job description."

But it is not just a part of his job description
This morning's text tells us that it is a part of the job description
        Of all Christians

Remember, the Great Commission
        (you ought to, I certainly mention it enough)

In it Jesus charged and commissioned us
to be his witnesses
and to make disciples for him
at home and to the ends of the earth

The mission statement of the UMC repeats it,
        "The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."   [BOD section 120]

And it adds,
        "Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple making occurs."

We do have      a charge or commission
We do not have  a choice.

We may annoy someone along the way

But if we are confident
That through the blood and flesh of Jesus we can now enter the new and living way he has opened for us;
If we are confident
that we have a great priest over the house of the Lord;

        We can approach with hearts and bodies sprinkled and washed; and
By holding fast to the confession of our hope.

And then, we can consider what  we      must    do
        To provoke one another to love and good deeds
        Not neglecting to meet together
        But instead gathering together to encourage one another.

We fulfill Christ's commission   by both provoking and responding

As we do so, we can be confident that God has a hand in all this
For while Peninnah intended to provoke Hannah
Hannah's response was not just hurt and sadness
She also responded by demonstrating her faith
As she sought and reached out for God's help
                        By action and prayer

So with these two passages you and I have
        Both an instruction to provoke
        And an example of how to respond when provoked

The instruction         is part of our job description.
The response    is part of our blessings

That's why God insists that we be provocateurs for each other.

Two of our sponsors - provoke and response - got their air time
As for the number 48 - this is my 48th sermon of 2012.
        And it doesn't care about air time
        It's sole purpose is to remind us
of the instruction in the scriptures