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

Plea and Advice

March 5, 2014:

Call:    Isaiah 58: 1-3 (4-12)
Text:    2 Corinthians 5:20b - 6:10
Prayer:  W&S #14
Psalm:   Psalm 52 (785)

            Plea and Advice

This will be a relatively short message.

Now, don't applaud
   It is just that the most important part of this service
      Is what we will be doing after the message is over.
   And the scriptures, the music, and the message
      Need to set that up so that it will provide us with
a meaningful beginning
to a meaningful season
of self examination and faith growth.

As such my own words will simply be the mortar
Connecting and holding together
The words from Isaiah and Paul
   Words which are so self explanatory
      That many words from me
      Might well detract, rather than add
         To tonight's experience.

In being called to worship we heard
That God wanted Isaiah to put the Israelites on notice that in God's eyes they were sinful and in rebellion.

Then we heard God sadly ponder the people's actions and attitudes
   "Day after day they seek me"
But they do so
   As if they actually think of themselves as
      "a nation that practiced righteousness"
   as a nation
      "that did not forsake the ordinance of their God.

God repeated to and through Isaiah the question that caused the Israelites to naively and foolishly ask in their prayers
   "Why do we fast, but you do not see?
   Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?"

And then God gave them their answer
   And God gave it to them full barrel!
      [Isaiah 58: 3b - 5]

Imagine being the Israelites
   Thinking you are doing well
   Wondering why God seems to be ignoring you

And then receiving that canon fire from God,
   "You serve your own interest"
   "You fast only to quarrel and fight"

But God is a god of love, hope, justice and mercy
And doesn't just criticize,
But also informs  and teaches and explains
   [Isaiah 58: 6-10]

Isn't this what the scriptures tell us over and over again?
   Remove the yoke with which you oppress others;
   Stop pointing the finger of blame;
   Cease speaking evil words and voicing evil thoughts;
   Give food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted.

I think that what God is saying this instruction is
   Listen to the pleas of others    and I will listen to yours.

Or to rephrase the "Golden Rule,"
   "Do unto others, what you want me to do unto you."

Of course, we people can be a bit hardheaded.
And that was the case in Isaiah's day.

Too it was the case in the days of Paul's ministry as well
   Certainly in Corinth, which as we have noted before
      Was a wild town
      Perhaps the Las Vegas or Monte Carlo of its day.

Still - or perhaps because of this - Paul established a church there
   After a while, however, divisions developed in the Corinthian church
      These divisions were over a number of issues
         Moral behavior
         Food rules and regulations
      Even, believe it or not, over who had baptized them

But the issues are not important for us tonight
   What is important is that the church was divided.

That is why in the letter that we call 1 Corinthians
   Paul wrote about love being
      Patient and kind
      Not arrogant, boastful, or rude.

And that is why Paul wrote in this letter - 2 Corinthians -
that those who purported to follow Christ
   Must be reconciled to God
And   Must not accept the grace of God in vain

In doing so,
   Paul not only set himself and his co-workers up as examples,
   He also gave advice as to how to live God's plea for true obedience and answer one's own pleas to God

He writes   (beginning with 6:4)

"as servants of God, we have commended ourselves in every way"

Then, in instructing them he delineates their sufferings
   "Through great endurance
   In afflictions, hardships, and calamities
   (Despite) beatings, imprisonments and riots
   (through) sleepless nights and hunger"

Those are what Paul claims
to have suffered     and to have been willing to suffer

How did he and those closest to him meet those challenges?
   "By purity, knowledge and patience
   (by)  kindness, holiness of spirit and genuine love
   (by truthful speech and the power of God

   With weapons of righteousness
      For the right hand and for the left."

And they had done so
   "In honor and dishonor
   In ill repute and good repute"

Paul not only writes these thoughts
   But he is one who tried to live them as an example for us.

As we begin Lent we do so in an era of conflict and division
   In government
   In the gap between the "haves" and the "have nots"
   Between people who differ from one another
   Amongst churches and within churches.

In an era likes this it takes effort to overcome the challenges
And be reconciled to God.

It takes effort
   To Remove the yoke with which we
- intentionally or unthinkingly -  oppress others;
   To Stop pointing the finger of blame;
      And give forgiveness  as well as accept responsibility
   To Cease speaking evil words and voicing evil thoughts;
      Even if understandable
   To Give food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted.
      Instead of resorting to selfishness and self-centeredness

Lent provides you and me with a special opportunity
To find and use that effort

We can accept that opportunity tonight.