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

Not Complicated

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

February 2:

Call:    Matthew 5: 1-12
Text:    Micah 6: 1-8
Psalm:   15 (747)
Read: Renewal of Church (574)

         Not Complicated

[WS: This is the third of seven pre-Lenten messages about scriptural concepts of
congregational improvement that will finish on March 2, the Sunday before Ash
Wednesday.  All seven messages are inspired by and based on lectionary
suggested scriptures for that Sunday.  I invite you to go to PotsdamUMC.org,
to either read or listen to others in the series.]

I remember growing up just outside of Syracuse.

My family was certainly not poor,
but we did not have a lot of money available
   for extravagant vacations or entertainment

Still, my parents gave priority to seeing that we kids got to things.

My father was not much of a sports fan
   But his boys were
   And so every year he would get us to
      A Syracuse Nationals NBA game at the War Memorial
   And   a Syracuse Chiefs baseball game at MacArthur Stadium.

To me, those facilities seemed like such big places
   I think the War Memorial seated 5-8,000
   And MacArthur Stadium must have had room for 7-10,000
As a boy growing up I could not imagine finding my way around such enormous buildings without my Dad to lead me.

I was sure that if I ventured off on my own, I could get lost
and perhaps never found.

But during my adulthood,
   I returned to both and was surprised at how much smaller they had become
   By simply following the signs, I maneuvered just fine

Once I grasped what to do and put my mind to do it,
I found that getting around them was not that complicated

The intimidation that I had felt as a child
   Was not only gone
   But it seemed so foolish
that I am almost embarrassed to admit that I ever felt it.

I do so only because
   I have to believe that a number of you can relate
      To experiencing those feelings
      And still being able to remember them.

And you don't have to be a sports fan.
   I had the same feeling when they took me to the Ice Capades
And am sure that I would have
   Had they taken me to a concert.

Of course, as adulthood went on,
   I found my way around much bigger places
      The Carrier Dome,
which could hold several War Memorials
         (there were 35, 500 there last evening)

as well as,    Exhibition Stadium in Montreal
         Although admittedly by the time I got there
            The stadium was not particularly crowded
And      Nationals Stadium in Washington
         Where I spent an evening this past summer.

Oh, there are still occasions when I go someplace new
   That I wonder whether I will be able to find my way around
      Fletcher Allen was one
         On my first - and maybe my second - visit
      This [Potsdam] church building was another
         During my tour after my May 2007 interview.

But in these situations
all I had to do is remind myself
   That they are not really that complicated
      All I had to do was pay attention to the signs.

This is the third of seven scriptures or pairs of scriptures
That speak to readers and hearers
Not just as individual Christians
But even more powerfully as congregations

Therefore, throughout our look at and reflection on them
   I have suggested - and I will continue to suggest -
 that we allow them to guide us
      On a trip to, and a ride on,
the escalator of congregational improvement
an escalator powered by Christ's love, grace, and spirit

Two weeks ago, we began by finding the key
That we need to unlock the building
in which the escalator is housed


That key was remembering that we are "works in progress."
   Flawed followers of Christ
   And especially remembering that others in the congregation
      Are works in progress too.

Then, last week, our scriptures reminded us
   To serve as a united group
      Not a homogeneous group
      Not a group of clones
   But rather a group with a variety of gifts and experiences
That is or should be united by a common purpose
   Following and serving Jesus The Christ
      And too, a group that knows that despite our differences
         The main thing is to keep
         The main thing
         The main thing.
That main thing is Jesus Christ.

With that reminder,
We turned the knob and stepped into the building

So today, we are inside the escalator building
   A building teaming with people
      Milling about in no quickly recognizable manner

As I thought of this
My mind and my emotions went back to
The anxiety and uncertainty of my childhood visits
to those facilities that seemed so "Billy Fuccillo sized"
         In other words, "huge."
For I see that for many of us
Entering the escalator building is quite like,
little Bud Barnes entering the Syracuse War Memorial
      About sixty years ago.

The thought in my mind then and now
   "I'll never be able to find my way around.
Maybe I should just leave."

And therefore what I need
   And what,      I suspect,        most of us need,
Is what helped the adult Jim Barnes learn to get around
   The War Memorial and MacArthur Stadium
   And even the cavernous Carrier Dome
And that is a reminder that
"It's not complicated.
All we have to do is pay attention to the signs."

Our scriptures today provide that reminder
   And they are our signs

These scriptures are in this book   [hold Bible]
   For the very purpose of guiding us
      When we feel overwhelmed entering a new arena
      When we have to make a decision about what to do

They enable us to navigate the wandering crowd of people and decisions
   That we encounter after walking into
the building where the escalator is.

The first reminder and the first signs are the beatitudes that called us to worship and tell us that,
   We must  maintain a spirit of love for the poor
   We must trust that, even when we mourn, God will comfort us
   We must be meek rather than aggressive toward others
   We must look for and desire righteousness
   We must give mercy rather than seek revenge
   We must remain pure - rather than deceitful - in heart
   We must be peacemakers rather than disturbers of the peace of others;
   We must accept the risk of pain, punishment, and persecution
      Rather than fall into the trap of behaving unrighteously
   And we must put up with derision and false claims
      Rather than reject our God

Some of these - actually, many of these - things are difficult
   Persecution, for example, does not appeal to me

But even the most difficult of the beatitudes is not complicated

For example,
   If someone has failed us or wronged us
      Our choice is to either
         give him or her mercy
or seek vengeance
with fists, words, or actions

Does anyone really think that choice complicated?
If we understand and love God, is there any real choice?

And when we turn from the beatitudes
   To words from the OT prophet Micah
We find an even less complicated statement of required behavior
   Towards others in and out of the congregation

[From Micah 6: 1-8]

Has there ever been a simpler - or better - answer
   Than that provided through Micah?

The last verse of this passage is so important to me
   That I have it right next to my desk
   On a calligraphy plaque that Marge created for me
What does the Lord require of us
   as individuals, of course
   but also as a congregation?

The answer is simple.  It is not complicated.
   To do justice
      We are to treat people fairly
   To love kindness
      Being kind needs to be second nature to us
   To walk humbly with our God
      Walking alongside God   and in God's footsteps
      But remembering while doing so,
that God is so much greater than we are
And remembering too
that our various gifts have been given to us
 through and by God's grace.
They were not earned by our merit.

On this third of seven weeks
   You and I are in the building housing the escalator of improvement
      Amidst a group of moving people

And we together have a choice
   We can say, "we are uncomfortable"
   And then walk away from congregational improvement
OR We can read and follow the signs from Matthew and Micah.

It is not complicated.