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

I Want It

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

June 16th:

I Want It
Call: Psalm 5: 1-8   (742)
Text: 1 Kings 21: 1-21a
Read: W&S # 166

            I Want It!

A preacher is a number of things
   [Please:  I am not asking you to suggest
what some of those things might be.]

While most importantly a preacher is
an interpreter and communicator of scripture.
He or she is also a cheerleader
   For Christ and for Christ's church
      Including all who make up the church

You see, our Christian faith is a positive - not negative faith
   And you and I ought to be joyous and enthusiastic

Thus, encouraging a joyous and enthusiastic atmosphere
      Is a part of the preacher's role
      And in that we find  "the preacher as cheerleader."

So today, I am going to practice being like a cheerleader

I am going to do that - even though I don't have a megaphone
   I can because  God blessed me (or cursed you)
   By giving me strong vocal chords.
So I think I can handle it
Even without that traditional cone shaped    sound enhancer


Let's try it.

Give me a      "J"
Give me an  "E"
Give me a      "Z"
Give me another   "E"
Give me a      "B"
Give me a third   "E"
Give me an  "L"

What does it spell?  Jezebel

And today,     we are going to spend the morning with Jezebel
   Not with "a" Jezebel
   But with "the" Jezebel, the Jezebel of the OT

Yes, the Old Testament!
For Jezebel is a biblical character
      She's not someone from Greek or Roman mythology
      She's not someone from Aesop's fables
      She's not someone from a cheap dime store novel
         Or what they call today "adult literature."

She was King Ahab's wife
   And thus, although born in Phoenicia and worshipper of Baal
She was queen of Israel
      the northern portion of a kingdom
that had split into two parts after Solomon's death.
      The part which was also called Samaria

Jezebel was a wicked woman
   In fact she has become the personification of a wicked woman

But contrary to popular belief her wickedness does not derive from lust.
There is nothing in the story of this OT Jezebel
      That provides indication of lust.

Lust, gluttony, and sloth are the only three of the seven deadly sins
Of which we have no evidence that she was guilty

However, the four of which we do have compelling evidence
Greed, pride, wrath, and envy
Caused her to break at least seven of the Ten Commandments
   And adultery was not one of them.

So, this personification of a wicked woman
   Should not direct us to the lust and adultery type of sin
But rather a much deeper, more dangerous type of selfish sin.

The really scary thing about this woman
   And the very reason we are spending the morning with her
Is that
   We can - to some extent - relate to her failures and failings
We can see enough of ourselves in her
      to learn from her.

And I believe that the most upsetting aspect of studying scripture
   Is finding parts of ourselves
      In the characters we most want to not be like.

To find that we can understand Jezebel - even to a small extent -
   Is discouraging and discomforting
but it is   informative and helpful

With that warning,   This is her story:      1 Kings 21: 1- 16


Jezebel is a woman who knows what she wants
   And has a plan as to how to get it.

In this day and age most of us would feel complimented
if someone observed,
"You are a person who knows what you want."

And most of us, in making such a statement to or about another
   Would intend it as a compliment.

Very few of us would be pleased if someone told us,
   "You don't know what you want."
Or even,
   "You know what you want but you have no idea as to how to get it."

and such statements would seldom be intended complimentarily.

Not only is Jezebel a woman who knows what she wants and has a plan to get it
   But what she wants   she wants for someone else.

Can any of us think of wanting to get something for someone else
   Without thinking of
O"Henry's "The Gift of the Magi"

[And here I should note that every year as we celebrate of high school graduates
I try to make a literary reference
So as to convince the graduating seniors
that I too am educated.]

But in this case, meeting this self imposed annual requirement is secondary
   "The Gift of the Magi" is my all time favorite short story.
And it just jumped right out
   As a contrast to the story in the scripture.

The story is about Jim and Della Young who are not blessed with riches but who love each other so much
That he sells his watch to buy combs for her beautiful hair
and   she cuts and sells her hair to buy him a platinum fob for his watch.

That story made me cry when I first read it in high school
   And it continues to touch my heart now
"somewhat more than a decade later."

I don't even have to reread it
   All I need  is to think about it and I get misty eyed.

Jim and Della knew what they wanted to give each other
And each had a plan to do it.

What then, is different about
Jezebel wanting to get Naboth's vineyard so she could give it to Ahab?

It is simple for us to say:
       "Murder," "theft," and "conniving to produce false witnesses."

We like that answer.
We like that answer for then we can all say
   simultaneously, indignantly, and forcefully.
And,     I am sure too,    accurately.
That, "I wouldn't have done that,"

I really cannot   imagine anyone in this room
   Doing the same things that Jezebel did

But when we give those answers,
   We distance ourselves from Jezebel's story
   And cheat ourselves out of the lessons we can learn from it.

What is different is the characteristic
   That abounds in O'Henry's story
   But of which Jezebel is devoid

Sacrifice!

Sacrifice is the very same characteristic we have talked about the last two weeks
   When we looked at its absence in Ananias and Sopphira
   And its presence in Stephen.

Sacrifice is the essential characteristic
manifested in  and taught by  Jesus The Christ

We see it when he talks about loving our neighbors as ourselves
We see it when he reminds us that that message applies
even to our enemies
We see it when he tells us to forgive
   For in doing so we must sacrifice our anger and desire for revenge.

Most of all,
   We see it in the cross
   Where Christ willingly died for you and me.

In "The Gift of the Magi,"
   Jim and Della loved each other so much
      That they each sacrificed his/her prized possession
      To give to the other.

In our scripture,    Jezebel sacrificed nothing
In the church we talk about Christ's   "sacrificial love"
   But to me that term is redundant
   For sacrifice and love are intertwined and interrelated.

How much we are willing to sacrifice for another
is the true measure of our love.

Jim and Della loved each other   Jezebel loved only herself.

You and I can relate to both the scripture and the short story
   Because we constantly make decisions about
      How much we are willing to sacrifice
      To get what we want.

And that brings us to the rest of the story
   The part where God - through Elijah -
Comments and passes judgment.

I find it revealing.          [21: 17-29]

It is not surprising    that Jezebel was to be punished.

It is not surprising that Ahab was to be punished
      Even though he had neither planned nor executed the land grab
   For when Elijah found him Ahab was on his way
"to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it."

It is not terribly surprising    that God showed mercy when Ahab showed repentance by putting on the sackcloth
For we Christians are used to God showing mercy
      (and for that I breathe a sigh of relief
         and say, "Thank you God.")


What surprised me and opened my eyes
   Was something that I should have recognized more quickly.
For in the verdict Elijah presented, he not only convicted Ahab
   Of murder      Of theft
and   Of doing what is evil in God's eyes

But also,   "He acted most abominably in going after idols."

Acquiring Naboth's vineyard had become so important to
   The royal couple
   That     they had given it priority over God
That     they allowed their desire for it
to become their focus
   That     the begin all and end all of their lives
            Was this vineyard not God.

And this is where you and I
   Who would seldom, if ever, even think of
      Murder,  theft,      and false witnessing
Should be able to relate to Jezebel.

For we too put so many, many things ahead of God
   And we are often inclined to allow
our desires rather than God's word, love, and example
   to determine what we do.

[pause]  Don't we?

The cheerleader in us wants to encourage God and Elijah
   By shouting (with or without megaphone)
   "Hit them again, harder, harder"
      referring, of course to Jezebel and Ahab.
But perhaps it ought to refer to us
   And the idea of hitting us    with this story of idolatry.