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

Rocks and Thorns

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

July 13:

Call:       Romans 8: 1-5
Text:       Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23
Reading:    Apostles Creed  (p.35)
Closing:    Romans 8: 9-11

                Rocks and Thorns

God is good.

And yes,    as the classic exchange goes:   "all the time"
    I would specifically add:   "including this weekend."

You see, when we initially worked out our tentative vacation,
    I was not to be here this weekend

But after giving some thought to it, we realized that
    We wanted to be here for the Summerfest;
    We wanted to be here for the yard sale
    We wanted to be here for alumni weekend
And We wanted to be here for Marge's birthday.

And so we slightly altered our plans
    Inserting a donut hole of work and service
        In the middle of our July vacation time.

This opened things up so that, in addition to the things I mentioned
    We could have Melanie and 2/3 of our grandchildren here
        To experience a weekend of Potsdam fun.

And then, after changing our plans
    Adam let me know that July 10 was the 110th anniversary
        Of worship in this building
By changing our schedule
    It had become possible to celebrate that anniversary
With a fun, informative - and hopefully meaningful - worship service.

God's being good to us did not stop there.
    For, you see, well before the idea of a special service occurred to me,
        I had already picked the text around which this morning's service would be built.

And had I known the anniversary date before doing so,
It is unlikely that I could have picked a better scripture
    Than the parable of the sower
    To help us as we reflected back across the eleven decades
        That Methodists have worshipped in this building.

Our text is what I call a "'Yup!'" and "Ahhh" parable.
    One of those parables where we respond
        Like the like a wise man from rural Maine
        Who chooses his words carefully
            never using more words than absolutely necessary

Unlike so many of Christ's parables
    Which challenge, disturb, and even anger us
When we first hear them
        Parables that teach us by getting under our skin,
This parable is one where, after each part,
        We nod our heads and say "Yup!"
             Conveying that we have observed what is being said
             Our "Yups" convey acceptance and agreement.

But the scripture is in two parts
    The parable itself  that is the "Yup" portion"
        The time when we nod our heads and say "Yup"
But the second part of the scripture is Christ's explanation
    Of what the parable means

This explanation     is the "Ahhh" portion.

Since worship should be participatory - not passive,
    That is how we are going to read these familiar words.

Now, in setting the scene for the telling of the parable,
Matthew offers a brief introduction,
Then Christ tells us about seeds which
fall into four different types of soil.

In our participatory reading:
I'll begin by reading Matthew's introductory words

Then, I will read the soil portions,
Pausing after each of the soils,
        At that point I want you to respond, "Yup!"

[I will cue you so you can focus on the words rather than wondering at what point you should come in with your response.]

Then when we get to Christ's explanation
(the second part of our text)
    I will pause after he tells us about which each soil means
        Again I will cue you
    This time, however, when I do so,
I want you to respond with a knowing "Ahhh!"

It is my hope that after we have read and heard the text in this manner,
    We will all remember and recall the story
    And too, that we will all consider why he told it to us

Most importantly, it is my hope that we will consider
    How it relates
to us, to our faith,
and to our relationship with God.

So let's actively       and interactively     encounter our scripture.

First the context of the telling of the story   [1-2]

Now the "Yup" portions
    [3-4]       [5-6]       [7] [8]
and finally, Jesus' comment
that closes the story   - and does not require a "Yup." [9]

Then several verses later Christ explains what he was saying.
    I'll again read his words
    You will respond - on cue - with "Ahhh"
        [18-19] [20-21] [22]    [23]

I am sure that in the 110 years     - and three days
that persons have been worshipping in this structure,
That worshippers have, upon hearing the parable frequently nodded their heads and gone "Yup."
        Upon hearing the explanation, have continued to nod
And to knowingly utter "ahhhs" as well.

And I believe that this is the case
    Even though it is unlikely that any of my predecessors
        Had the congregation respond to the text
        With oral "Yups" and "Ahhhs."

And I am convinced that on July 10, 1904
    There were people in this room who had and would
sow the seeds of Christ In all four types of soil
And I am further convinced that on July 10, 1904
    There were people in the congregation
        Who themselves had been, were, and would be
            All four types of soil while receiving the seed.

And finally, I am convinced that in each worship service in this building since July 10, 1904
    The worshippers were both       sowers and soils.

I know  that is the case        in this room    this morning

And that is how and why the parable at last moves

from the agreeable and comfortable
to the challenging and disturbing

from the "Yups" and "Ahhhs" to the "OOOOOs"

for when we figure out where we fit into the story
    the parable     can and should      get to us

For there been times
when we have been the path
when we heard the words of the kingdom
    but did not understand
    and the words were taken away
        because those words/seeds had not been able to find lodging in us?

Those were the times when we heard the words
    But did not grasp that they related to us.
Those were the times when we heard passively
    Rather than interactively.
Those were the times when we did not put ourselves in the story
    Or allow the story to be put in us.         "OOOOO"
And there have been times
    When we have been the rocky soil where the words we heard took root, but the soil was not deep enough for them to live long
    When the words caused us to become enthusiastic
But only for a while
or until something else enthused us more

Those were the times when our commitment to serve Christ waned
after an inspired beginning
those were the times when the day to day discipline required
caused us to lose interest and enthusiasm
those were the times when we indulged our need for excitement
    rather than depth and faithfulness

Too, there have been times
    When we have been the soil laced with thorns that strangled the plants that grew from the seeds
    When we have been choked by things that drew us away from Christ and the life he taught us to live

Those were the times when we allowed other things
(including good things)
to interfere with our service to and for him
Those were the times when our schedules and commitments
    Prevented and hampered us from growing and serving
And so again we say,    "OOOOO."

But too there were times when we have been the good soil
    When the seeds that were planted in us
grew and flourished
    When the seeds that we planted in others
        Grew and flourished as well.

And on those occasions, our "OOOOOs" are returned
    to proud "Yups" and "Ahhhs"

For 110 years
    Despite the fact that all soils have been present here
    The good soil has prevailed among those worshipping in this building.
        And the seeds they produced
            Managed to find other good soil

The people who have sat in these pews and chairs
And those who have stood in the pulpit
Have for over a century, not only cared for their own soil
But also have
placed good soil on the parable's hard paths
            deepened the soil above the parable's rocks
        And     cut the thorns choking the parable's plants

One of the ways they did this
    Was by providing us with this building

Another - even more important - way was by setting an example
of faith, service, and commitment
of generosity, sacrifice, and mission
of ministry, mercy, love, and care
of looking to the opportunities of the future
instead of focusing on the difficulties of the present.

Now it is our turn to,
remove the rocks and thorns
that hamper or prevent us and others from doing likewise

Our turn
"Yup"   and "Ahhh"

This anniversary is a reminder that it can be done.
This scripture is a reminder that we need to do it.

God is good.
    Not only this weekend;
Not only for the last 110 years
But also, as we declared earlier -  All the time.

Thanks be to God
    And to the people who planted God's seed like words and spirit in us.