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

Pressing Forward

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

March 17th:

Call: Psalm 126   (847)
Text: Philippians 3: 11b - 14
Read: W&S #17

            Pressing Forward

Next Sunday is my brother Brian's birthday.  It will be the 56th time he has celebrated his birthday.
   It is an important day for Brian and those of us in his family
However, that is a relatively small number of people

Next Sunday
is also the last day of the greatest sports weekend of the year
For it brings to a close the first week of play
in the NCAA Men's basketball tournament.

That is an important day
for universities, players, coaches, and their families,
for the venues in which the games are played and their employees
for fans all over the country
That is a relatively large number of people.
    Certainly many more people than will take note of Brian's b'day

Most significantly though,
Next Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday which begins
the most remarkable eight day week of the year.

That is an important day
   For everyone here
   For everyone in churches throughout the world
   For everyone who calls himself/herself a follower of Christ
And also, although they don't yet know it,
for others who will someday call themselves followers.

That number dwarfs
the number impacted by the basketball tournament
even if you add Brian's birthday celebrants to it

[Of course, that is not much of an addition
   for Brian, his brothers, his sons, and at least 2 of his nephews
all consider the basketball tournament to be much more important than the birthday.]

Because next Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday
today is not only the fifth Sunday in Lent
It is also Lent's last Sunday before Holy Week

And I am telling you now
   That we could not have a better scripture to send us into Holy Week
      Than the words from Paul's letter
to the church at Philippi

for   we have been preparing for Holy Week
   or in more accurate  and more Buzz Lightyearlike language
      "For Holy Week - and Beyond!"

Thus far this season:
We have heard  of warnings    and hope    and assurance
We have been told
to have confidence and trust
We have been urged
to seek to see (as well as to hear and to follow) the king
We have been
   informed       that we have been forgiven
   and instructed    that we have to forgive
We have seen
   our sins transformed to ashes
We have reflected on commitments that we have made
   like the baptism commitments
      to repent and renounce spiritual forces of wickedness
      to reject evil, injustice, and oppression
      to confess and serve Christ and trust in his grace
      and (as parents) to introduce Him to our children

   and like the congregational commitments we have made
      to faithfully participate in the ministries of the congregation
      by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service.
   (Commitments of which that we all too often need reminders)

Lent - as I suggested in the March newsletter -
   Is like baseball's Spring training.

It is an annual period of learning and preparation
   A time set aside to get better   for what counts

When the games that count begin
   The time set aside for Spring training
   Has hopefully improved each member of the team
      As well as the way they work together.

When Easter has been celebrated
   The time set aside for Lent
   Has hopefully improved each member of Christ's family
      (And each member and participant in this congregation)
   As well as the way we work together,

When Lent ends and the Easter celebration begins
The time for preparing     to do    what is expected
Is replaced by the actual     doing of    what is expected
And thus as we approach the end of our Spring training
   It is time for a pre season pep talk

And that is exactly what Paul gives us.
   He tells us
      to stop sitting around  talking and debating
      And get to work.
   He tells us that,
by all we have learned and done during Lent,
   we should be transformed into
greater witnesses, disciples, and servants of Christ

Lent was supposed
To have changed us
We were supposed to have allowed ourselves
to have been changed.

And hoping and believing that we have been changed
   Paul gives us this pep talk:     [Philippians 3: 4b-13]

Good speech.  Rockne and Lombardi would be proud

Paul calls on us to
   Forget what lies behind
and to strain forward to what lies ahead

Paul commands us to
   press on to the prize,
the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus

he does so
   after telling us what kind of an impressive resume he has,
   but informing us that despite that resume,
      he has not reached the goal
   that  he still must forget the past
   that  he still must strain forward
   that  he still must press on toward the goal.

If Paul has to,
   Jim Barnes certainly has to
   As does everyone else in the congregation.

Unless, of course, we think that we are better followers of Christ
   Than the apostle Paul.

It is not always easy.
   [Actually it can, at times, be incredibly hard.]

Paul acknowledges that. Look at his choice of words
   "strain forward"     not "coast forward" or "move forward"
   "press on"        not "just try it to see if you can."

When I hear "strain forward."
   I think of oxen pulling a very heavy load
Or of the "Little Engine That Could" straining for all its worth
      To get the train up the hill
      And then to the other side..

When I hear "press on"
   I think of soldiers moving forward
despite adverse weather conditions and lousy terrain.

And so now I ask,
   As Lent draws close to its end
   Have we worked hard and paid attention to and reflected on what we have heard?
   Has our use of the opportunity that Lent provides, prepared us to slug through the mud of trying to be like Christ?


Has it transformed us into people
   Who can forget the past
Instead of letting our failures and the failures of others drag them down?

Has it transformed us into people who will strain forward and press on
   Instead of giving up because it is hard to choose God
      Over the hundreds of other things
that compete for our priority?

Or have we wasted the opportunity that Lent has provided for us
   By choosing God's rivals competitors over God?

I pray that we have not allowed ourselves
   To stagnate - or even fall back -
      As individuals
   And   As a congregation.

The good news is
   That we have nearly two more weeks to get on board.
The bad news is that Lent does not come around again
   Until March 5, 2014 - some 353 days from now.