Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org


Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

March 3rd:

Call: Psalm 63: 1-8
Text: Isaiah 55: 1-9
Read: W&S #20

               SEE KING
[Hold Up Bible]
This book is special, moving, and inspiring
However, this book, by and of itself,
is not likely to convince many unbelievers that there is a God
   For this book presupposes and takes as a given that there is a God.

Conviction and conversion are much more likely to result
   From the testimony of other people by their words and actions
That is  informed and inspired, nurtured and deepened
         By this book
      As well as
         By their own experiences with God
      And   By continued interaction with still others
         In worship and in service

I - like many of you - am among the fortunate ones
I saw and heard testimony about God early in my life

My parents knew there was a God
      They shared it with me both by what they said and what they did
   They involved me in the church long before I entered Kindergarten
My maternal grandmother knew that there was a God
   I can still picture her first thing in the morning
Reading her Bible in a chair by the window
In her Lee Center home.

And while I have suggested that the Bible itself does not convince many
   Her devotion to it
and to the God it revealed and talked about in it
   Was convincing testimony to me
And thus that memory and my gratitude to her remains brilliantly clear
   Today - some fifty three years
after she sold the house in which that memory was planted in me.

Throughout the years there have been others
whose lives have reinforced and nurtured my belief
   some were ministers and some were laity
   some, in fact, are a part of this congregation
      and of others that I have served
for our faith journey is a process of seeking God
and one that begins rather than concludes    when we have
Accepted, recognized, and understood that God is real

And that process involves this book
Which is a God given tool to help us come to know who God is.
As well as to know,
 what God wants and what God expects of us.

It is a tool that    informs and reinforces our beliefs
and enables us to share and live those beliefs
so that our lives    will testify to others  that there is indeed a God
It is a tool that enables us to seek a greater understanding
   Of our relationship with God
It is a tool that brings us back when we wander or stray.

It is a road map to greater faith,
a prescription for a greater and deeper relationship with God
a guidebook on our journey      to and with  God.

Today two parts of this book
the psalm that called us to worship
And words that God spoke through the prophet Isaiah
Invite us to constantly, consistently, and determinedly seek God.

The psalmist tells us of our need for God and how desperate it is:
   "O God, you are my God, I seek you,
   My flesh faints for you,
   As in a dry and weary land where there is no water."

Our need to seek God, in other words
   is as essential to our lives  as water.
Our lives are dry and weary without God

The prophet    then issues an expansive invitation to come to God
   Using the same desperate image of hunger and thirst
And making it clear that this invitation is not just for a privileged elite
   [Isaiah 55: 1-9]

Did you hear how that began?  Did you hear those first words?
   "Ho, everyone who thirsts,       come to the waters"

That "everyone" - fortunately for us - includes those who have sinned

The prophet calls us to
   Seek the Lord that he may be found,
   Call upon him while he is near;
Then urges,
Let the wicked forsake their way
   And the unrighteous their thoughts
   Let them return to the Lord that he may have mercy upon them
   And to our God for he will abundantly pardon.

Isaiah is telling us that
   God's love is out there for the taking - and at no cost
And   that God's compassion, and God's mercy, and God's pardon
   Are out there for the asking.

Not just for special people
Not just for people who have been relatively good all their lives
Not just for those raised in the church
But even for those who ignored God and misused the gifts God gave

The prophet said, "Everyone,  come!"

The gift of God's presence, Isaiah proclaims    is free
   Free to all.

The only way we can be excluded
   Is by indicating that we'd rather do something else
   Something      Where we set the menus
   Something   Where we control the company we keep.
To grasp the power of Isaiah's words
we have to know the situation at the time God spoke through him
to the Jewish people of his day
and to you and me today.

First:      the book of Isaiah is really three books with three authors
- not one book by one author
Scholars, refer to them as First, Second, and Third Isaiah
   (Obviously theological scholars are no more creative in their titles
      Than those in other fields with which we are more familiar)

The second and third Isaiahs are from the school of First Isaiah
   There is a definite continuity of thought
All three books (or all three parts of the book, if you prefer)
are concerned with the exile

[That's "exile" not "exodus"
The exile is when Jewish people were removed from Jerusalem & Judah,
and relocated to Babylon and other parts of the Babylonian empire.
The exodus had occurred centuries before that,
 when the Jewish people, led by Moses, fled slavery in Egypt.]

Chapters 1 - 39 are First Isaiah
and were spoken before the exile
Chapters 40 - 55 are Second Isaiah
and spoken during the exile, not long before the Jews were
allowed to return.
Chapters 56 - 66 are Third Isaiah,
And took place after the return of to Jerusalem and while experiencing discouragement in efforts to rebuild.
First Isaiah sounds a warning
   Albeit one mixed with hope
Second Isaiah sends forth a promise and hope
   While not forgetting what got them exiled in the first place
Third Isaiah is instruction
   For those trying to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.

Our passage is from the promise and hope of the middle Isaiah
   It comes to us during Lent
as we await the promised joy of Easter.

At the time of Second Isaiah
They (and Isaiah) are still in exile and they are struggling
with how they - supposedly God's people -
were exiled in the first place.

Hadn't God promised
that David and his descendents would rule for ever?
And yet there they were    in captivity and w/o a Davidic king.

Hadn't Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem as a house for God
   And yet the temple had been destroyed
   And they could not detect God's presence with them

They wondered:
   Did their God lack the power to save them?
Or    did their God no longer care for them
      Because they had been a disobedient people?

And then they hear Isaiah's words of promise,
   Seek the Lord that he may be found,
   Call upon him while he is near;
   Let the wicked forsake their way
   And the unrighteous their thoughts
   Let them return to the Lord that he may have mercy upon them
   And to our God for he will abundantly pardon.
WOW!  That had to help.

In a sense during Lent
   You and I are the exiles struggling with our understanding of
      God's relationship with and to us

Thus we need to hear Isaiah's words and accept his invitation
   To seek the Lord;  to call upon the Lord;  and to return to the Lord
We must seek
   So we can more clearly  see our King, our Lord
We must seek
So others - believers and non-believers -
can hear and see the testimony of our lives
We must seek
   So that those who hear and see us can accept the invitation too
   And thus also be able to see our - and their - King and Lord

This book is a God given tool
   To help us as we seek to see the king
   (Thus the somewhat ambiguous space in the sermon title)
And to help us struggle through Lent
      As those from Jerusalem struggled in Babylon
   Looking forward to hopeful promise of Easter
      A promise even greater than that of returning to Jerusalem.