Potsdam United Methodist Church
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Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
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To Plant Peace

December 23rd:

To Plant Peace
December 23, 2012
Potsdam
Scripture:      Micah 5: 2-5a
Read:

                                To Plant Peace

Today is the fourth and the final Sunday in the season we call Advent.

For us  this year,
the season began with Jeremiah relaying God's words,
"The days are surely coming ...
                When I will fulfill the promise I made
For I will cause a righteous branch to spring up for David
                He shall execute justice and righteousness to the land."

And thus the season began on December 2, 2012
With our recognition
That those words were a reassuring commitment from God
To keep and fulfill the promise made earlier
   Despite the disobedience and drifting of God's people

Having faith that the days were indeed surely coming,
You and I joined hands
And started off on a journey together.

We were guided each week of that journey
by the words of a different OT prophet

We have taken those words
And as we have journeyed,
We have held them out in front of us like a banner,

Thus far that banner has proclaimed
        That we have been preparing the way of the Lord

The Lord who would come
To do justice and righteousness
The Lord who would come
To refine and strengthen our relationship with God
and The Lord who would come
        To embrace the outcast whom we - admittedly - so often ignore

Each week we lit a new candle in our wreath
        To signify and mark an additional leg of the journey.

And now today, that banner and that wreath have been completed
For a fourth prophet has spoken to us

This time       the prophet is Micah

Micah told us that
        The great ruler of Israel would come forth from Bethlehem
                The small tribe and city from which David had come

And Micah told us that
like his shepherd ancestor
        This new great ruler would stand and feed his flock
in the strength of the Lord.

But as fascinated by what those words from Micah meant

What really reached out of the pages of my Bible
        grabbed me by my collar,
        and shook me to get my attention,

Was the last thing Micah said in our text
        "he shall be the one of peace."

Among the people of his day, there was much talk of the coming of a great warrior
        But Micah says,                 that in fulfilling the promise
        What God will send      is a man of peace.

When I read those words my mind jumped immediately to the similar words of Micah's contemporary, Isaiah,
Who, in talking about the birth of a child
       to establish and uphold the throne and kingdom of David
And to do so with justice and righteousness
        Said the child would be called among other things
        The 'Prince of Peace.'"

And I could not escape the conclusion
That this ruler was indeed
the very one about whom God had spoken through Jeremiah
in the words that sent us off on our Advent journey

and so as we add the final line to our banner, it now proclaims

that we have been preparing the way of the Lord
        who would come not only to do justice and righteousness
not only to refine and strengthen our relationship with God
and     not only to embrace the outcast whom we so often ignore

But also to plant God's peace among God's people.

[pause] Once we added those words to our banner,
I should have been happy

I was - sort of
        And the fact that I was not,
 says more about me     than it does the banner
For I am a person of order
        I like my files to be alphabetical,
I like my pictures and decorations to be symmetrical,
and     I like my stories to be chronological

And so I found myself struggling with the fact that
        While Micah was chronologically the earliest of our four prophets
        We did not hear God's words through him until the last of our Advent Sundays.

But that same characteristic    (my desire for order)
        Caused me to dig deeper to find some order
        In the lectionary decision to have Micah bat cleanup.

That digging caused me to conclude that if we are to take seriously
that God's promise would be fulfilled by a man "of peace"

We have to first come to the understanding
that we must commit ourselves
to living lives of justice and righteousness

and we have to come to the understanding
that leading lives of justice and righteousness is not easy
for it is like we are the metal exposed to the refiner's fire
        and we can we get through it
        only because we know we will be stronger and better if we do;

and then we have to understand that this fire is not a physical fire
        but rather something even more terrifying to many:
accepting and embracing that to do so
requires from us justice and righteousness
not only for people who seem like us
but even more importantly to those who don't
In other words, we must be just and we must be righteous
        To the poor, the different, the challenged
        In short, to the outcasts

Only if we can do that
Only if we can do that
will we obtain the peace that God wants for us

Only if we can do that
        Will we truly accept that the one who is our ruler
                Is a man of peace
                And expects us to be men and women of peace
                        In our actions as well as our words

That is why we hear God's words through Micah
        On the fourth and final Sunday of the season

And so as we conclude Advent we have to ask:

Have you and I really meant what our banner proclaims?
        Are we really committed to justice and righteousness?
        Are we so committed to that, that we are willing to experience the refiner's fire?
        Are we so committed even when we realize that that fire requires us to be just and righteous to the outcasts?
        Do we understand that only if we meet these prerequisites, can we call ourselves followers of this man of peace?

In short, have we really prepared to celebrate this birth?

If not, we had better hurry
        Our celebration begins in about 32 hours.