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

May 5th:

May 5, 2013
Potsdam & WS
Call: John 14: 25-29
Text: Acts 16: 9-15  (15: 36 - 16: 8)
Read: W&S # 40


The story in this morning's scripture
   Speaks loudly  and speaks clearly to me.
   And, because we have all had detours in our lives
I suspect,  it speaks to several of you as well.

I feel like    I have lived this story.
I feel like    I am Paul in this story.

The story takes place on Paul's second missionary journey
   A journey he began shortly after
the Jerusalem Council had given its sanction
to his taking the word to the gentiles.

On his first journey, Paul had traveled with Barnabas
But this journey - this journey - was different.   [15:36 -41]

Paul and Barnabas
   A man who had befriended Paul when others were too afraid to do so
   Were unable to reconcile their differences over John Mark

To us this conflict between friends seems so sad and so unfortunate

And thus we hurt as we observe these two servants of Christ
Seemingly fold their arms across their chests and say,
      "Then I will go without you."
Barnabas and John Mark went to Cyprus.

Paul and Silas headed north
to revisit the churches Paul had planted on his first journey.

Along the way they picked up Timothy in Lystra
And they picked up Luke, but its not clear as to exactly where.

And things were going well as Paul and his companions journeyed
   Churches were strengthened in the faith
      And they grew in number.

Then,    out of the blue,     things changed.      [16: 6-10]

Paul could not do what he had planned to do
   They were somehow forbidden to speak the word in Asia
   They were not allowed to go into Bithnia

And when they got to Troas,
Paul was also called  to do something he hadn't planned to do

This call came through a nighttime vision
   Of a man from Macedonia
   Inviting Paul to go into that country

And thus to take the word into Europe.

Paul had to abandon his own plans
   And to go where         God wanted him to go.
   And do what       God wanted him to do

Like Abraham leaving home
Like Moses returning to Egypt
Like Christ going to the cross
Paul went and did as God had required  [16: 11-15]
He went to Philippi
   A community named for Philip of Macedonia
   Father of Alexander The Great,
the young man who had spread Greek culture and
language throughout the world.

Isn't it ironic that Christianity reached Europe
   In part because Alexander had been so successful in spreading the language
   That Paul was able to use it to communicate with others
      Even in this town, named for ATG's father?

And in our scripture we see him doing just that
   As he meets Lydia at a "place of prayer"
   And baptizes her and her household

Most of us in the western world got the word
   From those who brought it over from Europe

And thus this story is an important part of our story.

But like last week's scripture,
     The importance of this story is not limited to its historical value.

For this story reminds us
   That we are not in charge
And   that when God's plans are different from ours
   We had better adopt God's rather than our own.

This brings me to why I relate so strongly to the scripture.

Now, I once was young.

Of course my children
think that was when
I went to school with John and Charles Wesley
   And before I rode the circuit with Francis Asbury.

But even they acknowledge that I must have been young.

And when I was, I debated whether to be a lawyer or a pastor

Even during my first few years in college, I vacillated between
   Going to law school and becoming a lawyer
Or Going to seminary and becoming a pastor.

At some point in my junior year
(that would have been 1966 or 67),
I made my decision.
   Law school and lawyering were in my future
   Seminary and pastoring were not.

Once I had reached my decision,
I made and followed through on my plans.
   I got my law degree.  I passed the bar.
I helped a lot of people with their troubles.

From the time I made that decision
I followed the route that I had mapped out for myself.

Oh, I was an active lay person in my congregation
   I taught Sunday School; I was the lay leader;
I was even President of the Trustees.

But I never looked back on my decision
I never second guessed my decision.
I never again considered entering the ministry.
Until    an event in 1993 or 94
(more than a quarter of a century
after I had decided what to do when I grew up)
This event - which I have mentioned before - occurred when I stopped to visit my parents
   And my mother's friend Dolores Cottet was there
   Dolores was not just Mom's friend,  she was a Baptist pastor.

Mom had told her that I had taken a lay speaking class.
And with no warning, Dolores said to me,
   "I've been praying that you enter the ministry."

I was stunned. I was amused.
Entering the ministry was not part of the plan I had made in the 60s

Marge and I laughed and we protested.

But Dolores Cottet was my "man of Macedonia"
   Inviting me and calling me
      To go somewhere other than where I had planned to go.
      To do something other than what I had planned to do.

After his vision, Paul
Traveled thru Samothrace and Neaopolois to get to Philippi
About 18 months after my encounter with Dolores
   I traveled through Utica, Herkimer, and Mohawk
      To get to southern Herkimer County
to serve in the pulpit of the Jordanville Fed. Church

Paul's unplanned journey did not end in Philippi,
   After the time he spent there
   He traveled South to Thessalonica, Athens, and Corinth
And later, guided by the Holy Spirit, took other journeys
   The last one of which took him to Rome - as a prisoner

My unplanned journey did not end in Jordanville
   After the time I spent there and in VanHornesville
   I traveled North to Massena, Hogansburg, Potsdam and WS
What later journeys, if any, I may take
   I do not yet know.

Paul strengthened the congregations to which he journeyed
   But Paul not only strengthened them
he also was strengthened by them

We get a hint of that from the letters he wrote from Rome
   For he talks about a man who was there providing him with
      Love, fellowship, and a reminder of God's presence
   The man was none other than John Mark
      The very person whom he refused to take with him
      On the journey in which he encountered his detour

I hope that, like Paul
 I have strengthened the places to which I have journeyed
   But I know they have strengthened me

Paul's life detoured from his plans.
My life detoured from my plans

Everyone here has had or will have detours in his or her life.

When that happens
Reading this story from Acts should comfort us

For it reminds us that we should expect
and (even at times) to embrace those detours.

And it reminds us that if our detours are required by God
We will be strengthened by them
And   hopefully others we encounter on those journeys will be strengthened by us as well.

God is good - even when God decides to mess up our plans.