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

Work In Progress

January 19:

Call:    John 1: 29-42
Text:    1 Corinthians 1: 1-9
Prayer:  Renewal of Church (574)
Psalm:   4o: 1-7  (779)

         Work In Progress

Each new calendar year starts with
Epiphany on the first Sunday
A celebration of the baptism of the Lord on the 2nd

And then we are presented with about six weeks before Lent

This year the scriptures for those weeks give us information
   On what is necessary for us
to strengthen our congregation's service to and for Christ.

Making 2014 a great year for that service
is going to take some effort.

And that effort begins with us facing the truth.

In that vein, I am compelled to be honest with you by saying:
   In my opinion you are not perfect

I believe that you have faults
I believe that you have weaknesses
I believe that you have done things that have hurt others
   And have disappointed or angered God
I believe that you have failed to do things
   That you knew fully well that you should have done
      thereby ignoring Christ's example and teachings.
I believe that.
I believe that of you
   As individuals
   And I believe it of you as a congregation.

And thus,      I know that I belong here.

For, by now it must be perfectly clear to you
   (and probably to persons who have spent only a short time with me)
      that I am not perfect
         I am not perfect as an individual Christian
         I am not perfect as a pastor.

I know that I have faults
I know that I have weaknesses
I know that I have done things that have hurt others
   And have disappointed or angered God
I know that I have failed to do things
   That I knew fully well that I should have done
   And thereby ignored Christ's example and teachings.

I know all that.

Now,     Because of what I believe about you
   And what I know about myself

I find myself thinking of the hymn that goes
   I am the church
   You are the church
   We are the church together

We're not going to sing it today
   But if we did, we would change the words to
      I am imperfect
      You are imperfect
      We are imperfect together.

Each of us and all of us      would admit our own lack of perfection

However, each of us and all of us still risk falling into the trap of
expecting everyone else in the congregation to be perfect
   After all, they are Christians
   They should be perfect

[When we hear that, it is hard to get that silly grin of recognition off our faces.]

And this can cause people in churches
to complain about and squabble with each other

The strange thing is that
In my nineteen years of serving as a UMC pastor
   I have observed time and time again
   That when people in churches squabble
It is usually over petty and relatively unimportant things

On judgment day,
I doubt that we will be rejected from Christ's kingdom
      Because we either sang the old favorite hymns
      Or because we didn't sing them
   But I can see where entering the kingdom could be impacted
      By failing to love each other

On judgment day
   I doubt that Christ will chastise us
      Because we used an organ
      Or because we used a piano or guitar or a band
   But I can almost hear Christ thanking us

      For supporting people we never knew
      Through our Global Mission Dinner

On judgment day
   I doubt that Christ will tell us to go back to the end of the line
      Because we did communion by intinction
      Or because we did it in our seats or kneeling at the rail
   But I do believe that Christ will express his disappointment
      If we have excluded people from his church
         Whether by rule or by action

On judgment day,
   I doubt that Christ will be upset
Because we wore suit & tie or skirt and blouse
Or because we chose to worship in jeans instead
   But I do believe it will be hard to defend ourselves
      If we have been self centered and selfish

And yet expecting others to be perfect while expecting them to tolerate our imperfections
Cause churches to fall into the trap of petty squabbling
Where, instead of together serving
   They together hold each other back.

But I mention this because there is hope
There is hope     For those churches
And   There is hope     For us

For, every one of us can get on the escalator of improvement
An escalator powered by grace, love, and Christ's presence

Christ is aware of our failures
And yet loves us and wants us to keep improving
Individually and as a congregation

No matter how many times we have disappointed him
Christ is aware of the good within us

And Christ has called this group of flawed followers together
   To do his work
   To share his love
   To tell his story

Christ recognizes and understands that we are works in progress
   Not fully formed followers and servants
      Again, individually and as a congregation

We understand that from what Paul wrote
in the beginning of his first letter to the Corinthians

These are beautiful, comforting and encouraging words
   For Christians and congregations all over the globe.

Paul begins this passage with reference to his own call
   to be    an apostle of  or envoy from Christ

[1 Cor. 1: 1-3]

And then addressing those in the Corinthian church
   He tells them that he thanks God for them
[This is something to which I can relate
   for each day in my devotions
      I give thanks for you
      And for the fact that I have been called
         To work with and among you

I do so even if - actually, especially if -
   I have had a disagreement with anyone among you
And in those cases I pray
not that the person will come to agree with me
but that despite any disagreement we might have had
we will be able to work together for Christ.]
      [1 Corinthians 1: 4-7]

After these, we come to what for me - on this reading -
   seems to be the comforting and exciting climax
of Paul's message

   [1 Corinthians 1: 8-9]

Christ will strengthen us
Christ will strengthen us
Christ will strengthen us
Christ will strengthen us

Most importantly,
Christ will strengthen us  "to the end"

Christ knows that we are not finished
Christ knows that we need to improve
Christ knows that you and I and everyone else
are works in progress,
And so,  Christ will continue to work on us "to the end"

If we believe Paul [and I do]
Then Christ will never give up on us
      For God is faithful
      And in calling us into Christ's fellowship
God has made a commitment to keep working on us.

Christians who keep this in mind
Can get past minor disagreements with other flawed followers

And they can understand
That since not one of us is complete
   our improvement individually and as a congregation
can and will come
      only by working together
      and allowing Christ to strengthen us through each other

For he is prepared to do his part
To the end! To    the   end!

Not through next week
Not until Easter
Not even just throughout the four and a half years I have left
   Until the mandatory retirement age
will result in a new person replacing me as your pastor
[and make me move out of the wonderful house next door]

If we want to get on the escalator of improvement
We first have to get in the building housing it
The recognition that we are works in progress
   Is the key that unlocks the door to that building
   And gives us the opportunity to enter

Today, we have the key in our hands

Next week we will look at
opening the door and walking into the building.
Unless, of course, we have no desire to hop on the escalator
   And go for the ride.