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

United We Serve

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

January 26:

Call:    Matthew 4: 18-23
Text:    1 Corinthians 1: 10-17a
Psalm:   27: 1, 4-9  (758)
Read: Renewal of The Church (574)

         United We Serve

Some years ago,      some distance from here,
   A congregation was in worship

When they felt that God was talking to them, saying,
   "Send four of your most capable out
to share my son's story
and to bring others to me through Him."

The congregation was excited.

They picked four people out.

Then, the four got together to determine where they were to go
   "I think we should go North," said the first one
   "No, it we be better if we went South," a second responded.
   "What?" asked the third and fourth at the same moment
      and they continued,   "We should go to the _____"
         and here those two diverged
            as one said "East" and the other "West."

They argued about it for a while
And then, the first one spoke again,
   "Since are not in agreement, we should each go our separate ways and see what we can do."

And they did.
   Number One went North
   Number Two went South
   Number Three went East
Number Four went west.

And they all failed.

When the congregation heard about their failures
   They got together to discuss what had gone wrong.

And they recognized that by going their separate ways
   The four that they had sent had failed
Because they had lost the support and gifts of the others
   To do a task
That they should have known
 required them to share gifts and work together.

And they once again heard God's voice,
   "Send four of your most capable out
to share my son's story
and bring others to me through Him."

So the congregation again selected four of their members
They sent them out to do     what God had told them to do
And they instructed them to go together.

The second four went on their way
And at first this togetherness seemed to be working.

However, as time went on they began to argue with each other
   Over music and money
   Over rituals and the right way to dress for worship
   Over the meanings of certain passages of scripture

And, of course
   Over which of them was the most essential

They began to complain about each other
to the persons to whom they were to tell Christ's story
      and so their listeners began taking sides
and they also started complaining.
   Then, sadly, the situation got even worse
      For when people in the original congregation heard this
They began to take sides as well.

Finally there were just a few people left in that original congregation
   They moaned and cried about what had happened
   They wondered how God could have been so wrong
      When God told them to send four persons out.

And as they were feeling sorry for themselves
   Once again they heard God's voice,
   "For Heaven's sake, read Paul's first letter to the Corinthians."

One of them picked up the Bible and began to read to the others
[1 Cor 1: 10-17]

As the people in the remnant of the congregation heard those words
   They were ashamed.

For they began to grasp that their problems
were not because God had called on them to do something
But because
   They had failed to be united in mind and purpose
   They had allowed themselves to become divided
      Over and by the unimportant issues
They had, in short, ignored the fact that,
   "The main thing
   is to keep the main thing
   the main thing."

And that main thing is that Jesus Christ is Lord.
   And he had called them
And he has called us    to follow and serve - together

Now,  the congregation in our story is fictional
         And perhaps even somewhat exaggerated

Like the Corinthian congregation which was not fictional
   They, however, needed to hear Paul's words.

There is no congregation in the world - not even ours
   That doesn't need to be reminded of Paul's words.

That need may be even greater today
   Than it was when Paul penned this passage

For you and I live in a world
   Where when we disagree,
We think that one side is right and the other wrong.
For you and I live in a world
   Where people are often polarized to the extent that they take sides - not always so much on the issues themselves
      But rather who it is that is espousing the position
For you and I live in a world
   Where people look to complain rather than to find solutions
      And accent differences rather than similarities

And while we think of this in terms of politics or social interaction
   Even churches
- like the one at Corinth and the one in the story - are not immune.
And thus, our pre-Lenten lectionary scriptures
Force congregations to look at themselves
And help congregations
climb on what I call: "the escalator of improvement"

We began talking about that escalator last week
We noted that it is powered
by grace, by love, by mercy and by Christ's presence

It is appropriate that the lectionary pairs Paul's words
   With the call to Peter and Andrew, James and John

We've heard about that call for years
in Sunday School and in worship services.

We know that Jesus called these men by saying to the two pairs of fraternal fishermen,
   "Drop your nets and follow me
      I will make you fishers of men."

We know that Peter and Andrew and James and John
   Dropped their nets and followed him
And we know that they lived up to their commitment
   Following him to the end

But like the Corinthians to whom Paul wrote
And like the fictional congregation in our story,
   In fact, like all congregations at times
these four and the other disciples squabbled among themselves
   failing at those times to understand
that Jesus had called all of them
   knowing they would disagree
   but believing that their differences
would strengthen their service together
Not only did they squabble,
   But even these four at times thought
That they were the most important

Remember,
   James and John asserting that they should be the ones to sit in the honored places on either side of Jesus
   Peter, James, and John falling asleep while Christ prayed

And most famously that Peter
   - The very same Peter who dropped his nets in the scripture  and promised to follow Jesus -
denied, on the night Jesus was arrested even knowing the man whom he had been following
   and he did so as LeBron would have put it
   Not one time, not two times, but three times

But the disciples called at the Sea of Galilee in our call to worship
overcame those differences and disagreements
   to serve together
      united by Christ's love
      and by the understanding that what they shared
         was a commitment to follow and tell about
         the one whom they declared was "Lord"

They did so while walking with the incarnate Jesus
They did so
   After the crucifixion, the ascension, and Pentecost
      Thereby constituting
the first congregation of His church
And finally, they did so in such a manner
as to form other congregations
   so that his story could be told
throughout His world - 'til the end of time

They did not always agree
   But they and others in the early church
      Were united in the same mind and the same purpose        to serve and share Jesus.

This series of lectionary inspired reflections
   is not aimed at us
and it is not about us
But is for us
   In the sense that I hope it inspires and strengthens us
   And all the other congregations of Christ's church
      Who are challenged by these scriptures

Having last week, unlocked the door to the building
Housing the escalator of improvement
With the reminder that every one
Of the imperfect people in Christ's church
         is a work in progress
         Not a fully formed follower of Christ.

We have today, opened the door to the building
   With Paul's instruction to not allow ourselves to be divided
      But to instead to be servants who are united
By the same mind and the same purpose.

As we continue our journey toward and then on that escalator,
Let's keep the main thing, the main thing
   After all, it is the main thing.