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

Why We Can

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

May 25:

Call:    Acts 17: 23-28
Text:    1 Peter 3: 13-18
Reading: W&S #208
Closing: John 14: 19-21

            Why We Can

When a few weeks ago, I chose to build this morning's service
   Around words from the third chapter of Peter's first letter
I felt good about it.

The words spoke to me
The words warmed my heart
And I was so moved to share them with you
   That I selected them over the story of Paul in Athens
      A scripture that I love;
      A scripture that is of tremendous value
         To anyone who wants to share Christ
         And fulfill the great commission;
      A scripture that makes me admire Paul
         Perhaps more than any other scripture about him.

But the words from Peter's letter so excited me
   That Paul in Athens
plays a supporting - rather than starring - role
in this morning's service.

And they so excited me that I anticipated that bringing them to life
   Would be relatively easy
      A real plus toward the end
of a good, but tremendously draining month.

But I was wrong.

Instead of being easy,
   For the last few days
My relationship with those words has not been anything but.

 Instead of being "easy,"
   my wrestling with presenting and enlivening those words
   are better described with words like paradox and conundrum

I have read and reread this scripture

Each time I love it
Each time I am comforted by it
Each time I am excited by it
Each time it calls out to be shared

But each time I try to put something together
   I get nothing.

That is a paradox.  That is a conundrum.

I feel like Tomas Jefferson in that scene from "1776"
   Where he sits alone in his room in Philadelphia
      Surrounded by wadded up papers
on which he tried to start
the Declaration of Independence.

I was just waiting for John Adams
to storm into my office,
look at what I had "accomplished,"
and   say "For goodness sake, Barnes, this is garbage!"

How in the world could I be
   So moved and excited by the words
   And yet be so stymied
in trying to bring them alive for this service?

[hauntingly]:  Paradox.    Conundrum.

I needed a solution.

And then
I thought of a later scene in the same movie.

In this scene,
Jefferson is standing in a corridor with Adams and Franklin
As the other delegates to the 2nd Continental Congress
      Are proposing numerous amendments
to Jefferson's document.

Adams challenges Jefferson to go in to the room
   And "speak for your words."
And Ken Howard as the tall Virginian responds sadly,
   "I had hoped the words would speak for themselves."

And "Boom!"

I went from 1776
to the old "Thanks, I need that!" Aqua Velva commercials.

What I had to do
Was let the words in Peter's letter speak for themselves.

The author of the letter wrote,
   [1 Peter 3: 13-18]

These words address our lives and Christ's role in them.

Because they do address our lives, we need to interact with what we read.

The passage begins
"Now, who will harm you    if you are eager to do good?"

As much as we want to believe those words
   And as comforting as they are
You and I live in this world
   And we know that there are times we suffer consequences
      When we do good.

As human beings, we might well react to these opening words
With obvious skepticism.

Look at what has happened
to girls in parts of the world
who simply want to go to school.

Look at the Freedom Riders in our own country
   Who lost their lives or suffered injuries
   Seeking racial equality back in the 1960s

But the author of the letter knows that.
The author is not naïve.

And before we can even express our human skepticism he adds,
   "But even if you do suffer for doing what is right,
      you are blessed."

And he instructs us,
   "Do not fear what they fear
   And do not be intimidated
But in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord."

He goes on to demand even more of us, saying,
   "Always be ready to make your defense
      To anyone who demands from you
      An accounting for the hope that is in you."

      "Yet do it with gentleness and reverence
      Keep your conscience clear
         So that when you are maligned
         Those who abuse you
for your good conduct in Christ
may be put to shame."

Concluding this line of thought with,
   "For it is better to suffer for doing good
(if suffering should be God's will)
   than to suffer for doing evil."

Why do we have a hope inside of us that makes us eager to do good - even when doing good is unpopular with others?

Can you and I account for that?
   To someone who thinks we are foolish?
   To someone who wants us to do evil
      Or at least to not do good?

Why would you and I - or you or I -
be willing to suffer in order to do something good?

   I don't like pain - physical or emotional
   I don't like to be embarrassed or have my reputation sullied
And   I don't like negative financial consequences.

There have been times in my life when I have been too weak
   To stand up or speak out in a situation when I should have.
Fortunately, there have also been times
when I have stood up and/or spoken out for what I believed was right
      risking consequences
      Instead of taking the popular or easy position.

The more mature my faith gets
   The more I choose the right over the convenient

For the defense we need to articulate
   Is that Christ is our Lord
   And we need to do what we understand he expects of us.

We can do this
   And hopefully with gentleness and reverence
Because as the letter's author points out
   "Christ also suffered for sins once for all
      (he was) the righteous (suffering) for the unrighteous
      I order to bring (us) to God."

We are deeply indebted to the man who hung on the cross
   A debt that we will never be able to fully repay
   A gift we did not earn, yet for which we are eternally grateful

That, my friends, is why we can and should do the right thing
   Instead of the popular, profitable, less painful thing

That is what the writer wrote.
His words do indeed speak for themselves.

Those words not only rid me of my paradox
   And freed me from my conundrum
They also rid us of the paradox of being both eager and fearful
   Of doing good
And free us of the conundrum of having to choose between them.