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

Building: A Verb

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

February 23:

Call:    Matthew 5: 38-48
Text:    1 Corinthians 3: 10-13
Psalm:   119: 33-40     (840)
Prayer:  Renewal of Church (574)

            Building: A Verb

Thursday night,
I stumbled onto a job opening for an executive director
at the Noah Webster Historical Site.

Now, that is Noah Webster, the lexicographer
      Not Daniel Webster, the senator and orator
      Not Mike Webster, the Hall of Fame football center
         Whose death helped prompt concern
over head injuries in the sport
Not Webster, (actually the first name of Webster Long)
played by Emmanuel Lewis
         In the late 1980s TV show

This is Noah Webster.
And it is his historical site in Connecticut
   That needs a new executive director.

Now, before you misinterpret my encounter with the ad,
I assure you that I do not mention it
   Out of any interest in filling the position

The ad struck with me first because I could not help but wonder
whether a vocabulary test would be required
   At this historical site in memory and in honor
   Of America's most famous dictionary writer]
And secondly and more importantly
because I came across it in a week
when my sermon title - out front for all to see -
had been chosen to look like an entry in a dictionary.

And thus I found myself struggling over the last few days
   To figure out
      Whether it was a remarkable coincidence
   Or whether it was simply proof
that God has a sense of humor.

But it wasn't Noah Webster of whom I was thinking when I chose the title
   No!  I was thinking of Paul

Like Webster, Paul was a writer
   But Paul wrote epistles or letters - not dictionaries.

And it is a passage from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians
   That inspired the title.

In our journey to our "escalator of congregational improvement"
That inspiring passage
Is what we think about as the line which we joined last week
   Moves closer and closer and closer
to the moment when we stand at the foot of the escalator
and have to decide
         Whether to get on that escalator
      Or Whether to walk on by
             And pass up - at least for the time being -
the opportunity for improvement

Obviously, from the fact that our text is from chapter three
   There were words preceding the words of the text
Earlier in the letter
   Paul presented the image of himself as father
and the Corinthians as his children

Then, in a subsequent passage, but still before this one
   Paul presented the image of himself as the planter
      And the Corinthians as "waterers"

Now, in this passage,
   Paul presents himself in a third way
as an architect or mason
      Who has drawn the plans and laid the foundation

Thereby leaving the Corinthians     to be the builders

In all three images - father, planter, and architect
   Paul initiates a process
   And then what follows - or at least, what should follow -
      Is growth.

The children grow into adulthood - and hopefully in faith.
The plants grow to maturity and blossom

And, of course, the foundation is built upon
   Producing a building that grows on it.

This is how Paul put it [1 Corinthians 3: 10-13]

Paul has laid the foundation
   And we know what that foundation is
We declared it with gusto in our opening hymn.

We sang out:

   The church's one foundation
[What is it?]
   [it's] Jesus Christ our Lord
   We are his new creation
   By water and the word.

Yes!  That is what we shouted out
And then, in awe we observed:

   From heaven he came and sought us
["sought" us - not stumbled upon us]
   that we might ever be
   his living servant people
   by his own death set free.

That is the foundation
   Upon which the Corinthians were told to build
      Using whatever building materials they had
         Whether they be precious metals and jewels
      Or Whether they be wood, hay, or straw

[It sounds like a revisionist version of "The Three Little Pigs."]

The Corinthians were told to build Christ's kingdom in this world.

They were told to do so together
   The very next verse of our hymn acknowledges that
      Called forth from every nation
      Yet one o'er all the earth

All are called
   Regardless of race, birthplace, or gender
All are called
   Regardless of IQ, education, or social status
All are called
   Regardless of our past failures or successes
All are called
   Regardless of income or pecuniary assets

All are called to be one
   In his service
For all are one in his grace.

Now if Jesus is the foundation
And if Paul laid that foundation not only for those in Corinth
   But for us as well
      (and if not, it wouldn't be in the canon)
   Then our role is obvious.

We, like the Corinthians,
   Are the ones expected to build on that foundation.

We, like the Corinthians
   Are the builders

And what do builders do?
   They build!

What are we supposed to be doing
   Building - as an active, moving verb

All too often we hear the word "building" in the church
   And we think of the structure
      We think of the noun - not the verb.

That enables us in our minds to enjoy the noun
   And what we have
At the same time escaping the verb
   And our responsibilities to do the verb.

And so every congregation - including ours - should ask itself
   Are we building?
   Or are we merely enjoying and using the building that we have?

Are we building
   Witnesses and disciples for Christ/?
Are we building
a community that serves Christ and Christ's children?

Are we building
   An atmosphere of love, mercy, forgiveness, and mission?

Are we building a community
   Whose members are building
not what they want or what they expect
but what Christ wants, what Christ expects?

If they and we do,
   Then Paul and Christ can look at them and us across the ages
   And say to each other
   "They have flaws,
but I am pleased with what those builders have been building

However, that question is not enough.
For every congregation - again including ours - should also ask,
   Are we committed to continue building?
Are we committed to never stop building?

These are questions that each congregation
   In the line
   That is moving to the escalator
Has to ask

You and I in this congregation
should be prepared to answer it

For next Sunday we will as a congregation
   Reach the escalator.

We will as a congregation
   Stand at its foot and look up

And we will as a congregation
Then decide whether or not
To put our feet on the first step of the escalator
And let God's love, presence, grace, and mercy
         Take us onward and upward.

There is an alternative.
   We can decide not to build
And instead get out of the line
Walk on past the escalator
And out of the building housing it
   Thereby tossing away
all that the scriptures have taught us
these last few weeks.

But remember:
   If there is no verb, there is no noun
   If there is no building, there is no building