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

Be Confident

February 24th:

Be Confident
Call:    Psalm 27 (758)
Text:    Philippians 3:17 - 4:1
Read: W&S #20

               Be Confident

Despite the Syracuse - Georgetown game yesterday,
I enjoy sports so much.

This is the case even though I was never a gifted athlete.
   My greatest athletic success came in my early forties
      As a pitcher and singles hitter
      In a coed, slow pitch, church softball league.

No high school or college letters for me
   I just wasn't good enough.

But I enjoy sports
And I think the reason is that Sporting contests are "real."
There is no screen writer preordaining the results
By writing the words and actions for both teams.

And because they are real, sports teach us lesson after lesson.   [pause]

We learn that each of us has different gifts
We learn about team work and about working to improve.
We learn about pressure.
In sports we experience
   Winning and losing;   Triumph and defeat; Success and failure.
Being cheered and being booed

We even learn by things that seem unjust
   Like last Fall when NFL replacement officials
      Inaccurately applied a rule
   And by doing so, gave Green Bay an undeserved loss to Seattle.

And so,  conscious of the fact that
the March Madness of the NCAA basketball tournament
is fast approaching,
it seems appropriate to look to the basketball court for a lesson
a lesson in grasping some words
that Paul wrote  to the church at Philippi.

Imagine that there is one second left in a crucial game
   Team A leads Team B by a single point,
but has just fouled a Team B player
   The fouled Team B player goes to the line to shoot two free throws

He - or she - knows
That if he - or she - makes both shots,      his - or her - team wins
That if he - or she - makes one shot      the game is tied goes to OT

And he - or she -  knows too that
That if he - or she - misses both shots      his - or her - team loses
 and that he - or she - will be the goat.

When the shooter steps to the line, two headlines compete for priority:
   "Blank Hero in Team B Last Minute Win"
Or "Blank's Failure Costs Team B The game."

You are on Team B.   And you are a good free throw shooter.

Do you want to be the one shooting the foul shots?
Or would you rather have one of your teammates go to the line?

The person most likely to make the shots
   Is someone who has the confidence
that he/she knows what he/she is doing.
   The confidence
      That he/she has prepared for this moment
   The confidence
That if   he/she does what he/she is supposed to do
he/she will most likely succeed

Now, let's move away from the basketball court - in fact away from the world of sports.

And imagine instead,    that we are faced with a decision
Of the moral or ethical type -
"Should we do something?   or Should we not do it?"

Do you and I have the confidence
   First:      That what God wants us to do     or not do
            is the right thing?
and   Second:  that  we can do      and we will do
what God wants us to do
- even if it goes against some of our basic human instincts
   Like avoiding: pain and death?
      Like avoiding :   Serious social, political, and economic
  consequences?

In answering those questions
it might be helpful to reflect on our baptisms
particularly  the vows we take and the commitments we make

It should be easy to reflect on those at this time
For in the year 2012, I baptized 12 people in this sanctuary

During those baptisms, one of the promises  - the commitments -
that we make (and which we make again at confirmation) is
      That we accept the freedom and power that God gives us
         To resist evil, injustice, and oppression
         In whatever forms they present themselves.

And so I ask you and I ask myself whether
During the same year as those 12 baptisms,
did you and I encounter any evil, injustice, or oppression?
If we did,  did we resist it?
Or did we look the other way
because we lacked sufficient confidence   in God
to risk the consequences            of resisting?

In other words,      do we really have confidence in God?
      The God who sent his son
      The God to whom we made those baptismal commitments

Let's look at an example to which we can all relate.
This example requires three more questions.

First:      Did anyone feel slighted, insulted, or unfairly treated
at any time this year?

It might have been deliberate and it might have been a mistake
It might have been an accident and it might have been unknowing

But, however it occurred, I'd be surprised to find that any of us
didn't have that reaction  at least once in the last twelve months

Following up on that is a second and more important question:
   Have we yet forgiven the person or persons who treated us that way?
   Or have we so lacked confidence in God
      That we have chosen to dwell on or be petty about the hurt
      Rather than forgive the hurter as Christ told us to?

And finally, does the way we have handled these situation reflect
that we believe God knows better than we do
or that we believe that we know better than God does?
   t
Remember the words that we prayed at the beginning of the service
when we were called to worship by the 27th psalm.
They are what we say we believe

In that psalm
   We proclaimed     that God is our light and our salvation
   We announced      that God is the stronghold of our lives
      And that because of that, there is no one of whom to be afraid
   We asserted       that we believe that we shall see
the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Did we mean those things?
Or did we just read those words because they were put in front of us?

We all say we love God
   But do we have confidence in God and in God's word
To do what we know his followers are expected to do
Even when our human instincts tell us to do otherwise?

So far in this Lenten season.

   We have been warned of the potentially terrible nature of the Day of the Lord;

   We have been told that if we repent our wrongdoing, there is hope that God will relent;

   We have seen our sins go up in flames
      And converted to ashes so light as to no longer be
A heavy enough burden
to weigh us down and prevent us from serving God?

        We have received assurance that we will be saved by trusting God.

And so today we pause to ask whether we believe all that
   And whether we have so much confidence in God
   That we are willing to act in ways that demonstrate that trust.

Confidence is not a word we often use in church
   We tend to use faith far more often
   But using the more secular word "confidence"
      It prevents us from cheating in our use of "faith."

Paul addressed confidence in his letter to the Philippians

He addressed it not by questions, as I have
 but by an explanation which concludes with a pep talk.  [3:17 - 4:1]

Paul, who so often in his letters admits his own imperfections
   Calls on us to imitate him    As he imitates God.

Paul who suffered health problems, beatings, ridicule and incarceration
   Still tells us to imitate him
Paul who had every reason to question God about those afflictions
   Tells us to have confidence in God
   A confidence that will enable us to make the hard decisions.

In doing so, he calls on us to "stand firm in the Lord ..."
And he offers us a human example
of someone who has confidence in Christ.

Wouldn't it be neat if you and I took this season of the year
   To be sure that we are people who have stood firm
      In our trust and confidence in God
   And in leading our lives accordingly?

Then we can call on others to imitate us.