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

Miller's Window

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

April 21st:

Potsdam
Call:    John 10: 1-16
Text:    John 10: 22-30
Read: Psalm 23 (137)

            Miller's Window

Some weeks, sermons write themselves
And as my remarkably clear mind directs my fingers across the key board
I marvel at how easy it is to write a sermon.

This has not been one of those weeks.

For a while my remarkably     clogged up  mind
Sent no messages to my fingers
   And I marveled at how hard it is to write a sermon.

Part of the reason for this week's difficulty
   Is that having successfully downshifted my energy gears
So that I could actually rest on vacation
I now I find that that I am not as quick as I had hoped
at shifting back
into the gear required for productive work and writing.

In addition, I have to admit that I have spent some potential work and thinking time
   Watching the televised coverage of the hunt for those responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings

This was an intentional choice because I believe
that a pastor cannot minister from an ivory tower

I believe
   That to be an effective servant he or she needs to be aware of what is going on in the world.

And this particular event was made more personal
Because Betsy's daughter lives in Belmont
   A community that was locked down on Friday
   And Marge and I have visited her there.

But what really made this week difficult
was that the message of these scriptures seemed so obvious that I was challenged to find anything to say
   that amounted  to more than mere words
that would fill up space and time.

I wondered whether I should simply give a four sentence sermon:

One:     Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are his sheep

Two:     Christ as the Good Shepherd may well be
our most familiar and comforting image of him.

Three:   The OT prophet Ezekiel tells us that the Good Shepherd
         Cares for the sheep
         Rescues the sheep when they have been scattered
         Feeds the sheep
      And   Tends to the weak, injured, and lost sheep

Four:    You and I should be thankful that we are his sheep.

I might well have also tried to get a chuckle or a groan
by telling you that in the fourth sentence
I spelled the word "E W E" rather than "Y O U"

That is certainly something that you might have expected of me.
But with the exception of the specific reference to Ezekiel
   I would not have told you anything that you didn't already know;
   And probably not anything about which you needed a reminder.

That brief, succinct sermon would have let us get right out to the fellowship time.

That brief, succinct sermon would have let us get home so that we could do whatever we plan to do this afternoon.

And that brief, succinct sermon would have saved both you and me energy
because it would not have required anything of us.

All we would have had to do was
   Smile and nod our heads in agreement.

But   that brief, succinct sermon would have cheated you and me.

For worship requires our involvement
   It should encourage - and challenge us - to be involved
      Involved    With the scripture
      Involved With the reflection on it
      Involved With our God.

Worship is not passive;
It is active and it is participatory.

Worship is not a polite smile and a nod of the head.
It is an experience where we ask questions like
   "How does this apply to me?"
and   "Is this something I need to work on?"

And thus I had to shake off my post vacation lethargy,
shift into a higher gear
   And drive more deeply into the scripture's most obvious message

As I did so I found myself focusing on verses 14 and 16

   "I am the good shepherd.
I know my own and my own know me."

"I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice."

And similarly, from the passage that I was going to read, but chose not to,
   Verse 27:      "My sheep hear my voice
            I know them and they follow me."

These verses demonstrate that
As Christ sees things,  and as he uses the terms,
The relationship between the sheep and the shepherd
is an intimate relationship.
It is not simply a formal, business like relationship.
   Which can be described as
   "You do this for me and I will do that for you."

It is a relationship where they know each other
   And that knowledge and that intimacy
   Are the reasons that the sheep follow him.

The Jewish leaders of Christ's day
   Had come to think of their relationship with God
      As a formal, "quid pro quo" relationship.

Thus their accent on the law.
Thus also, the need for Christ (and later Paul) to establish
   That the relationship between God and the people
   Was and is one of love and grace
      Not of law and obedience to it.

The image of Christ as the Good Shepherd
   (and of us as His sheep)
Is a part of our understanding that love and that grace.

But digging into our scripture
instead of simply smiling and nodding
takes us even further.

It takes us to verse 15
The verse between the two on which I focused

This verse tells us of Christ's declaration,
   "I lay down my life for the sheep."

It was only after saying those words
   That he let us know that there are other sheep
whom he wants
      To bring into his fold

This is where my eyes began to open
   And I really began to understand why we need to go past the obvious  and    dig deeper into this scripture.

For our tendency is to approach the good shepherd passage
   As a still photo
   Or a very short news clip

Instead of as the opening portion of a motion picture
About our relationship with Christ
And his charge and commission to us
But it is a motion picture
A picture that begins here with Christ telling us
that our relationship with him is based on love
that he knows us and we know him
and   that he wants and needs to bring others into the fold.

That motion picture continues with his death and resurrection
Which he told us about in this scripture

   "I lay down my life for the sheep."
   "For this reason, the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life    in order to take it up again."

   "No one takes it (his life) from me,
   but I lay it down of my own accord."

And after all that,
Our motion picture concludes with Jesus tying everything together when he talks with Peter after breakfast on the shore of the Sea of Galilee,

We know this story:  From chapter 21: 15-17

Do you see what happens here?

Jesus, in this post resurrection period repeatedly tells Peter
   "Feed my lambs."  "Feed my sheep"
and thus builds on this morning's scripture
thus telling not only Peter,
but also the other disciples and those of us who are their successors
That     he (they) (we) are to be his  good shepherds

That's not a nod and smile kind of thing
   Not even as one resumes work after a week of vacation
   Not even in a week of remarkable tragedies brought on
      By human hate, chemical explosion, and earthquake

It is instead a commitment
A commitment that - like worship - requires involvement and participation.

For our relationship with the good shepherd
   Not only comforts and benefits us as his sheep
   But also requires that we be the shepherds
      Who care for and feed others
      And bring still more sheep into his fold.

I am reminded almost daily of my roles
   As both a sheep cared for by Jesus
and a shepherd called to service by him.

For my office is dominated by
   the Horwood window depicting Christ as the Good Shepherd
a window that is dedicated to Rev. and Mrs. John W. Miller

John W. Miller shepherded this congregation over a century ago
And was the shepherd when the work began on our building
   And participated in the first wedding in this sanctuary.

Like John W. Miller
   We are sheep in Christ's fold
      We know him and we love him
      He knows us and he loves us

And like John W. Miller
   We are shepherds
doing Christ's work of caring for and rescuing other sheep.


As I worked on this message,
   Even in this week of devastating events,
I could not escape the comfort that window provided
To me as one of his sheep
   Nor the awe
      that I am one of his shepherds
      entrusted with looking after and increasing his flock

For a moment I even wondered
If the Good Shepherd in Rev. Miller's window would have had tears in his eyes
           If I had tried to get away with a "smile and nod" sermon
         And cheated you by doing so.