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

Sun, Moon, Us

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

February 9:

Call:    Matthew 5: 13-16
Text:    Isaiah 58: 1-9a
Psalm:   112: 1-10
Prayer:  Renewal of Church (574)

            Sun, Moon, Us

The imagery that we are using during this series of scriptures
   Is that of congregations moving toward the escalator of congregational improvement
      An escalator powered by
Christ's love, grace, and presence.

We take the journey toward that escalator
guided and instructed by
a map    or instruction book  of Scriptures

As we receive that guidance
   We know that we can turn back and abandon our journey
at any time.

And when we get to that escalator,
   We will have to decide
      Whether to get on and go for a life long ride
OR    Whether to walk on by, concluding
that what God expects of effective congregations
is just too much for us

Our journey began three weeks ago with unlocking the door
to the building housing the escalator
The key we used was the scriptural reminder that we are all
   Works in progress    - not fully formed followers
The following week we opened the door by turning the knob
   A knob that was the scriptural reminder that
Despite differences in our life experiences
   [in fact, blessed by those differences]
we must be united in our service to Christ

Last week we took a step inside and looked around
   We discovered a lot of others milling about
   And at first were intimidated and overwhelmed
But the scriptural reminders we received as we looked
reassured us that following Christ
   Is not all that complicated

Today we start moving
To get to the elevator that we are seeking

The reminder today   began with our call to worship.

Did you recognize it?
I'll bet you did.
In fact, I'll bet you said,
         "I know those words.
They're from the Sermon on the Mount."

And if you said that,   you were right.

This week's call and last week's call are both from
   Christ's most famous and best loved sermon.

Last week, if you remember, it was the beatitudes.
Everyone knows the beatitudes
"Blessed are the poor in spirit"
   "Blessed are the merciful"
"Blessed are the peacemakers"
All these and more.
And now today we moved more deeply into the S on the M
and we heard Christ tell us
      "You are the salt of the earth"
and
      "You are the light of the world."

When he said those words,
   Christ was speaking to the group of flawed followers and faith seekers gathered on the Mount
   And Christ was also speaking to groups of flawed followers and faith seekers gathered today in congregations across the world.

Salt is used for two main purposes:    seasoning and preserving.

Thus when Christ calls us the salt of the earth, he is saying
   That we - you and I -can and should
season his creation and bring it alive
and   That we - you and I - can and should
preserve his creation and keep it alive.

But as interesting as that image is,
it is the image of us as the light of the world
   and the warning contained in it
on which we focus today.

The image itself is simple.

Christ expects and requires us to illuminate the world
   By sharing his story, his love, his mercy, and his grace
But that expectation comes with a necessary warning
   For all too often congregations behave in a way
      That makes it seem like they are putting bushel baskets
         Over their lights
      thus making it difficult or impossible for them
         To illuminate the world for others.
Congregations put that basket over their lights
   By not telling or living the story and lessons of Christ
Congregations put that basket over their lights
   By their members complaining about each other
Instead of working together to strengthen their mission and ministries
Congregations put that basket over their lights
By insisting on getting their own way
and pouting when they don't
Congregations put that basket over their lights
   By focusing only on themselves
And not on people outside the congregation.
   [a tendency which our congregation tries to counter with, among other things, our Global Mission Dinner.]

This scripture came alive for me fifteen years ago.

It was this Sunday of 1999
   I was starting the last half of my fourth year at Jordanville
   But only my fourth month at VanHornesville.

My text that day was the words that called us to worship
And the imagery in the scripture seemed ideal for a children's story.

I did not have a bushel basket, so I substituted a beverage tub.

As I headed out to the 9:30 service in VanHornesville
I took both the tub and a candle with me.

I told the children of that congregation about the scripture
and then I lit the candle
   and placed it on the floor of the chancel portion of the church

Next, I put the upside down beverage tub over the lit candle.
After a moment
   I dramatically lifted the tub up
   Intending to show how the candle had been extinguished

But the candle was still lit!

I was felt somewhat embarrassed.
   How had I screwed this up?

Muttering some kind of an apology
(and probably making a little joke)
   I again put the tub over the candle
   After a seemingly appropriate time, I once again lifted it up

And once again the candle remained lit.

Red color came to my cheeks
A sense of inadequacy came to my heart and my mind.

Until ...
Until, I realized that my unanticipated result
   Was exactly what was supposed to happen
   And that the result I had obtained - despite myself -
made the words of Christ more meaningful
      Than an extinguished candle ever could have.
For when Christ lights the candles of the congregation
   We can hide the light
   We can take steps to avoid anyone else
getting any value from it.
   We can intentionally, carelessly, or by some chance
      Obscure it from others.

But it stays lit     And congregations that decide to do so,
   Can lift the basket or the tub up
   And start meeting Christ's expectations
The expectation that we be the light of the world, however,
   Did not begin with the Sermon on the Mount.

In a passage that reminds us not only of the SOM
   But of the Micah passage we heard last week
   And of the image of Christ separating the sheep from the goats later in Matthew's gospel,
      Isaiah, centuries before Christ
      Set out that expectation.

It begins with a tone of bewildering frustration
in God's instruction to the prophet,
[Isaiah 58: 1-5]

"My people," God said
   "act as if they are a righteous nation
   instead of one that continually forsakes my rules."

"My people complain that they fast and I do not pay attention.  They wonder why I do not notice them humbling themselves.

"So Isaiah,    shout out to them that I see them
   But that I see that their fasts are for their own selfish interests"

"For these people fast all day, but at the same time
they oppress their workers
they quarrel and fight
   (at times over who fasts better
or who knows the right way to fast)

But after expressing God's understandable frustration
God tells them what a Godly congregation does
   [Isaiah 58: 6-9]

The Godly congregation
   Works to loose the bonds of injustice
The Godly congregation
   Works to break the yoke and let the oppressed go free
The Godly congregation
   Shares its bread with the hungry
   Shares its shelter with the homeless
   Provides clothes to the naked
And   does not avoid the less fortunate or those of lower status.

If a congregation is a Godly congregation
   Then its light will break forth like the dawn
   And its healing will spring up quickly

"Then when they call,         God will answer
Then when they cry for help   God will say, "Here I am."

Every congregation of Christ's church needs to ask,
   "What kind of a congregation are we?"

"Are we a congregation that sees itself as righteous and humble
   but serves only its own interest?"
"Or are we a congregation that serves God by caring for God's other children
   With a heart of love
   Not with the idea of acquiring an impressive resume?"

However we answer that question
   (And it is a much more palatable question on the day of our Global Mission Dinner)
   we - like other congregations -
have to admit that there are times
      when we bring out the bushel baskets to hide our lights
      and think we are righteous  when we are actually selfish

As we walk toward the escalator of congregational improvement,
   Our shining - if indeed we do shine -
will be a light that guides others as well.

We close this morning with a way to remember
   The instructions from Christ
And   The instructions through Isaiah

This reminder is sort of a riddle
   For riddles begin with questions
And end with answers.

Our riddle does just that:
   Question:
      What are three things that need to shine?
   Answer:
      The sun, the moon, and us.