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

Three Men and A Cloud

February 17th:

Assure vs. Insure
Call:    Psalm 91: 1-2, 9-16
Text:    Romans 10: 8b-13; Luke 4: 1-13
Read: W&S #17

            Assure vs. Insure

Sometimes things fall into place for the most unusual reasons
   Proving what our grandmothers taught us:
      "The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways."

This week, for example, I came to understand more clearly
a concept which I have known for years.

My improved understanding resulted
a little bit from the fact that this service follows Ash Wednesday
   but that not particularly mysterious
   we celebrate Ash Wednesday every year

It resulted considerably more from the fact that I felt compelled to preach
      On three suggested scriptures - not just one
   This is more mysterious
      Seldom do I preach on two scriptures - let alone three
   But this week,
the psalm, the gospel reading, and the passage from Romans
      Seemed to be intertwined and interrelated
         And all three spoke to me.
The trouble was that they all seemed to be speaking at the same time
   And thus I could not figure out
what to say or how to approach this intertwined trio.

That is where the third - and most mysterious - factor in my greater understanding comes in.

This third factor was my dissatisfaction with my original sermon title
   I thought it was too blah
   I thought that people driving by and reading our sign would say
      "That doesn't get me excited."
      "It sounds like the Methodists are in for
a bland - even boring - Sunday service."
   [Give me a chance to prove whether or not it is boring.]

For my first title was simply "Assurance"
   That was in the newsletter and it is in this morning's bulletin.

But Friday, as I went to work in earnest on this message,
I found that it neither told me what direction to take
Nor excited me
And I knew that title would not make any one here ponder,
"I wonder what he is going to do with that."

And then, as I played with more interesting titles,
I began to consider more carefully what direction to take
And I began to more completely grasp the difference between
   Being saved by grace through faith
And   Being saved through the law.

It is not that I was unfamiliar with the concepts
I could already recite and even explain them
but now I see them and grasp them more clearly.

So I ask you to join with me on the journey which began
In our Ash Wednesday service
A service which began with a warning through the prophet Joel.
      A warning that the Day of the Lord was coming
      And that it would be dark and terrifying.

A warning which, however, was followed by an expression of hope
   That if we turn toward the Lord  and away from our sins
And if we repent of those sins
   The Lord might relent of his intent to punish us.

And taking that hope seriously, we responded to
   By adopting for ourselves Psalm 51
The prayer David prayed after recognizing his sin with Bathsheba.

As we prayed, and despite all of us having let God down at times,
We watched the fire of the Christ candle burn up and destroy
      Our sins, errors, and regrets
      Converting them into ashes.

And we left the Ash Wednesday service understanding that
   We all have to pay heed to the warning
   We all have to hold on to the hope
   We all - imperfect persons that we are - have to pray David's prayer.
The words of Joel and David   and the sight of those destroyed sins launched us forward toward a stronger relationship with our God.

We resumed that journey today with the 91st Psalm
   Where we listened to the psalmist proclaim to us
      That God, in whom we trust is our refuge and our fortress
   And   That God will give his angels charge over us
         To guard us in all our ways.

And in the last three verses of that psalm,  we hear God assure us
   That because we cleave to God in love,    God will deliver us
   That because we know God's name     God will protect us
   That when we call on God,           God will answer.

In the NT we find Paul sharing that same assurance with the Romans
And he shares it with us   [Romans 10: 8b - 13]

The apostle tells us that with faith
   We confess with our lips   that Jesus is Lord
That with faith
   We believe in our hearts   that God raised Christ from the dead

And that when those who so confess and so believe,
   Call upon the name of the Lord      They will be saved.

Paul tells us of that assurance from God
   Right after explaining that
      Righteousness which comes from the law
Differs from
      Righteousness that comes from faith.
Now anyone of us who has ever read or heard Paul's letters knows
   That he consistently and persistently says that because of Jesus
      We are saved by grace through faith
      And not saved by the law.

In other words, we are saved by
The   undeserved,    unmerited,  unearned
grace of Jesus the Christ  In whom we trust

And that we are not saved by actions measured
Against how well we have obeyed the jots and titles of the law
Because if we were so measured,
we would try to earn our salvation by that obedience.
But because we are all
   At one time or another disappointments to God
No one would ever be saved.

Paul believes that the law informs
   And that it played a useful function
But that because of the gracious sacrifice of the Christ
   The law has been superseded as the defining characteristic of our relationship with God.

Because of this, Paul at times writes dismissively of the law
   Despite his respect for it

But I fear that many people today,
   Treat the OT law and the detailed additions and interpretations
   that humans added to it.
Not as useful and informative, but as the way to God
Rejecting by their thinking,
Paul's idea that we are saved by grace through faith.
And rejecting too Christ's teaching and example
of love, justice, forgiveness, kindness, and sharing

As I said, we've all heard this before

But for me a true appreciation for the difference
Came when, trying to avoid a blah sermon title on our sign,
      I found myself comparing
         Assuring to insuring
         Being assured to being insured
         Assurance to insurance

And in so doing, I turned to a book that was neither
   Scripture or commentary
The book was the American Heritage College Dictionary

That secular book defines assure as:
   to state positively as to remove doubt
   To cause to feel sure
   To make certain
   To make safe or secure

And that dictionary adds a "Usage Note" after the definition:
      "Assure, ensure, and insure all mean 'to make secure or certain.'  Only assure is used with reference to a person in the sense of 'to set the mind at rest.'"
      Giving as an example      "(I) assured the leader of my loyalty."

Insure, in addition to     "To make sure, certain, or secure"
   Is defined as,    "To cover with insurance."

And "insurance" is, according to the same dictionary:
   "The act, business or system of insuring"
   "coverage by a contract binding a party to indemnify another against specified loss in return for premiums paid."

What we have from God is assurance
Not insurance

God makes us feel certain and secure by setting our minds at rest.

We have been given that sense of certainty and security by God's grace
   Not by our earning it through the payment of required premiums.
We receive that assurance through our trusting God
   Not through our knowledge that the courts will enforce the contract

If the law is the defining characteristic of our relationship with God
   We have chosen to understand that relationship as insurance
And we would have no need for Christ
Whose life, death, and resurrection set our minds at rest
by demonstrating instead   a relationship based on assurance.

Other than the cross itself, no story better demonstrates trust than the story of Jesus in the wilderness   [Luke 4: 1-13]

The question for this Lenten season is,
   "Will we?   Will you and I?   Will some or all of us,
demonstrate during these 40 days, our trust in God's assurance?"