Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
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Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
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An Example

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June 30th:

Call: Galatians 5: 1, 13-25
Text: Luke 9: 51-56
Read: W&S # 77

            An Example

Today is sort of a special day for me.

It is the last day of my eighteenth year as a United Methodist pastor.

Ironically, I am today      going to address the very same scripture
   On which I preached  when the calendar said: July 2, 1995
   The first Sunday of my pastoral ministry.

It is a scripture with which I was unfamiliar
before I started working on it
in preparation for that initial service.

Because it was an important part of my first Sunday as a pastor
   Intensified by the fact that - like being a pastor itself -
The scripture itself was a new experience for me.
It has continued to have a special part in my heart
   Throughout my now six trips through the lectionary.

But there is more to my affection for it
   Than just the fact that it was   my first.

It is also a scripture
with a lesson that is an important part of my life
      And an important part of my character.
         Of who I am.
For in amongst all my flaws, faults, and weaknesses
   I am quick to forgive
   And am virtually never vindictive or vengeful.

I may get annoyed - all right, I do get annoyed.
   And while I may remain wary for a while,
      I get over my annoyance quite quickly
   And I neither seek to "put down" nor "get even."

It is a scripture with a lesson
   That illustrates what Christ has been teaching
And   a scripture that addresses one of my pet peeves
        The unwillingness of persons to forgive the mistakes of others
           Until they feel they have put the other in his or her place

The scripture is from Luke    [9: 51-56]

We can look at this story in at least three ways.

We can look at it    as a simply a transition story
   Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem
   On his way, an interesting event occurred.

Looking at it this way, we see the incident as "post card material"
   The front of the card would say
   "Greetings from "Somewhereville."

And on the back Jesus would write
   "We had hoped to stay here, but we couldn't
   so we moved on to "Somewherelseville"
where we spent the night.
I hope to arrive in Jerusalem the day after tomorrow.
         Love, Jesus"


Looking at the scripture this way, we see it as "filler."
   And we look forward to getting to the "important stuff."

A second and better way to look at it is in terms of the cross.

Why was Jesus going to Jerusalem?

He was going there to be tried and to be crucified.
He knew that.

Along the way, his travel plans get messed up.
He had planned to stay in this unnamed Samaritan village
   But they didn't want him
and rather than let anything get in the way of his getting to Jerusalem
      Jesus simply headed to the next village.

This approach can teach us
   that his love for us was - and still is -  so great
That he was determined to let nothing get in the way
Of his arriving in Jerusalem
To do what he was supposed to do:
   Hang on the cross
   And die for us.

This is a valid and impressive approach.

It is moving and it is powerful.

It is my hope that we keep this in mind
When next week we accept Christ's invitation
to join him at His table.

But my fear in this approach is that we risk dismissing
The scripture's reminder as      "unnecessary"
Because most of us already appreciate the power of his love
   And know that he accepted the cross because of that love.

That is why I believe
that the third approach is an even more needed lesson.

For you and    I live in
and   actively participate in       "a Get Even Era"

A time in which we feel compelled to get even
if we feel we have been insulted or wronged.

And as such we are James and John
   Who want to destroy the village
When what we need to be is Jesus
   Who did not even seek an apology
   But instead proceeded forward.

Too often we put our energy on humiliating or punishing
rather than
   on seeking to understand
What happened
      Why it happened
      How it happened.

Too often we don't bother to examine or look for
Our own contributions to the situation

There are times when we have clearly been insulted or wronged
   Times when we have every right to be hurt and offended
In fact that was the case here for Jesus -

But we have to ask how - even in those situations -
   Can we reconcile a desire for revenge
with  Christ's teaching that we must love one another?
And we have to ask how - again, even in those situations -
   Can we reconcile wanting to get even
With  Christ's teachings on mercy and forgiveness?

In other words
   How do we reconcile vengeance - or our desire for it - with
      The response we have learned to expect from God
      When we err and sin?

I, as one who has made many mistakes in his life,
want God to love me and forgive me
   Instead of getting even with me.

I, for one, cannot reconcile vengeful thinking
   With Christ's teachings.

And so any time I sense such a desire creeping into my thoughts,
   I think of this scripture
   And feel chastised by the example set by the guy from Nazareth
      Who 2000 years ago
was not allowed to stay in a village
Even as he was walking to Jerusalem
      To hang and die on a cross.

In the society in which the incarnate Jesus lived
   Hospitality was a big thing - an huge thing.
   It was expected of all

And it was necessary
   For travelers could not go on line to make hotel arrangements
   And travelers who were not welcome at the Best Western
      Could not slide a short distance down the road
      And stay at the Comfort Inn.

And thus when Jesus, a well known teacher,
Was refused a place to stay
It was a big thing
It was an insult
It was an inconvenient nuisance.

James and John were insulted.
   They wanted to get even!
   They wanted to bring down fire from the sky
      To destroy the village.

But Jesus, like a parent, impatient and frustrated with his children,
   told the Zebbadee boys
      To rid themselves of those thoughts
      And to simply join him in walking to the next village

Do you and I want to be like James and John,
   Whom 18 years ago this Tuesday
   I likened to Mafia henchmen asking their don,
      "Do you want us to off them?"

Or do we want to be like Jesus?

If the latter, we have to be offended by the phrase
   "I don't get mad, I get even"

For Jesus found it offensive some 2000 years ago
         When he rebuked James and John and set an example for us.

His example in trudging down the road to the next village
   Was an example consistent with his teachings of love and forgiveness.

Those teachings and that example are needed as much today
as they were back then.