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

Why Are You Here?

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

January 12:

Call:    Matthew 3: 13-17
Text:    Isaiah 42: 1-9
Read: W&S #12

            Why Are You Here?

I have a picture in my mind as to what took place in the story
   Of    JTB baptizing JTC
      That is, of course,
      John the Baptist baptizing Jesus the Christ.

The picture is based on my reading of the scriptural descriptions
    A story told in all three synoptic gospels [M, M, & L]
   And told in part in John's gospel

But I dare say that it is also based on movie and television depictions
   And even (although to a lesser extent) on paintings of the scene.

What I picture is a large number of people at the Jordan River

I picture them in a steady, unbroken line moving slowly
- one soul after another accepting John's call to repentance
   Until at last,    they reach John

I picture John looking into their eyes
      As they confess and repent of their sins
and I picture John lowering them into the water saying,
   "On behalf of God    I accept your repentance
      And I cleanse you with God's holy water."

And then I picture Jesus reaching John
   Perhaps in the middle of the line
so as to not call attention to himself
   Perhaps at the very end of the line
      Which position could show his humility

But the part that gets me is when John takes his hand
   And then realizes who it is who has come to be baptized.

I picture John's eyes opening wide in astonishment
   And revealing some confusion and uncertainty
      Wondering what he should do
   As he quietly sputters out the question,
      "What are you doing here?"

I picture Jesus smiling
in love, with respect,
and perhaps even with some amusement,
while John continues to sputter,
   "I need to be baptized by you" and yet you come to me?

I hear Jesus reply,
   "Let it be so now;
   for it is proper for us in this way   to fulfill all righteousness"

Then after John somewhat hesitantly obeys
   I see what we all picture:
      The heavens opening
      The Spirit of God descending like a dove
         And alighting on him
   I hear what we all hear
      "This is my Son the Beloved
      with whom I am well pleased."

I feel for John.

On July 1, 2007, my first day as your pastor
   I served communion to Rev. Russell Clark
      Who, some thirty years before
      I had gone to hear preach in Corning
because I had been told he was one of the best.

I am not certain which of the rest of you I served that July day
   But I was very much aware - and in awe of - serving Russell.

Until he died,
   I was always aware of Russell's presence
And too
   The presence of the late Rev. John Hall
   And the presence even today of Rev. Bill Cuthbert.

It has always been a humbling honor to pastor to them.

And so, in once sense I can relate to
What it must have been like to be John the Baptist
   On the day that Jesus went to the Jordan to be baptized by him.

But in another sense I can't
   For despite the high regard
in which I held Russell and John
and in which I hold Bill
John was standing face to face - not with one of them,
but with Jesus himself, when he wondered,
      "Why are you here?"

Jesus knew why he was there.

He knew this because he was familiar with what God had said through Isaiah
   [Isaiah 42: 1-9]

Jesus knew that he was expected to be gentle and humble
   "not cry  [out] or lift up his voice"
   "not break" a bruised reed"
   for God's servant was to be gentle and humble
      in order to establish justice for the earth.

Jesus knew too that he was to be an example and a symbol
   For "I have given you as a covenant to the people
         And a light to the nations"

And Jesus knew that by having John baptize him
   He could demonstrate humility
   He could set an example
   and his baptism would be a symbol and a light to the nations

Thus Jesus walked into that water and John baptized him so that
He might fulfill righteousness by:
      demonstrating the importance
         Of making the commitment that baptism involved
      by symbolically
having the sins of the world washed away
      by making it clear
that he was - and is - one of us.
      By using this opportunity to launch his earthly ministry

But for some reason, as I read the scripture
My focus was on John not Jesus
   And on the question I pictured him asking
      "Why are you here?"

As I reflected on this, I realized that it would be fair for John to ask the very same question of us
   Albeit with different motivation
      For John would not be in awe of being in our presence

 He would instead be asking us
   Whether we were really willing to make
      The kind of commitment that Jesus made
   And   Whether we were ready to start a new journey
         Of faith sharing
         Of faith living
         Of faith that gives birth to love and sacrifice

And so,
   On this day when we recall the question
being asked of our Lord
   we would do well
      to ask it of ourselves.

And we can ask it by placing the emphasis on different words
   Why are you here?
   Why are you here?
   Why are you here?
   Why are you here?

So, "why are you here?"

To explore our answers, we can break the question down into a number of sub questions

Are we here
because we are committed to serve and share Jesus Christ?
   Because we are moved by his love and sacrifice for us?
   Because we want something from him?

Are we here
   Because our friends are here so we might as well be too?
   Because we want to understand him more?
   Because society (or our families) expect us to be?

Are we here
   Because ...?

In fact, do we have any idea as to why we are here?

The next six weeks,
We will look at scriptures that will, I hope,
   Help us explore what is required and expected
of an effective church
      And of effective Christians within the church.
   And thereby help us answer
the question posed today

These six weeks will take us up to Transfiguration Sunday
   The last Sunday before Lent
   When we again hear the voice say,
      "This is my son, the Beloved
      with whom I am well pleased
and when the voice added
   "Listen to him!"

I ask that throughout that time
   You and I continually ask ourselves
      The same question that JTB asked JTC
         "Why are you here?"
and that as we ask it,
we move the emphasis from one word to another.

This is a take home test, not one for a grade
   But to strengthen our relationship with God.