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 27:

Call:       Matthew 13: 31-32
Text:       Romans 8: 26-28, 35-39
Read:   W&S #43
Psalm:  Psalm 105: 1-11, 45b    (828)
Closing:    Matthew 13: 44-52

            WRKTGTHR FR GD

In the summer newsletter
I abolished and prohibited the term "summer vacation"
because all too often it leads us to believe that we must
vacate worshiping and communing with God
during the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day
    between the end of one program year
    and the beginning of the next.

I replaced the abolished term with a new one:
I called it "Reflective Intersession"

In doing so, I hoped to convey the idea that this time is a gift,
    A gift of an opportunity to reflect, read, and worship
        In order to strengthen our relationship with God
        And to strengthen our understanding of that relationship

I have been using my Reflective Intersession        to do that.

And one of the conclusions I have reached is
That I am important!

That may sound a bit - perhaps quite a bit - immodest
    But it is true.
    I am important.
I am important to God
    And I am important to you
        Whether you are an admirer or a detractor
        I am, as your pastor, important to you.

Too,    You are important!
This is likewise true.
Although it is considerably less immodest for me to point this fact out.

You are important
You are important to God
    You are important to me
And You are important to each other.

And all that is good.

But you know what?
    There have been times when some of you have disappointed me
    And there have been times when some of you have annoyed me

And even though you are important to me,
    This too is true.

Of course,
    There have been times when some of you have been disappointed by me
    And there have been times when some of you have been annoyed by me

And even though I believe I am important to you
    I know this too is true

[In fact, I recognize that it is quite likely
that I have disappointed and annoyed you
more often than you have disappointed and annoyed me.]

Another relevant and incontrovertible fact is
    That you and I have         - way too often, I might add -
    Annoyed and disappointed God

And yet, each of us remains - and will continue to remain -
important to God

We have been placed
in this village and in this building,
and in this diverse group that we call a congregation
not because we never disappoint, annoy, or disagree,
but because God put us together         - for a purpose

And that purpose is:
    To worship,     to share,   and     to serve God.
As a team that works together.

We are expected to do so
    Even when we do disappoint each other
    Even when we do annoy each other
And Even when we do disappoint and annoy God

All congregations and pastors need to understand us
    Because for some reason,
        God so often chooses to work through flawed followers

And this is where
our textual scripture from Paul's letter to the church of Rome
and the two scriptures from Matthew
    - both our call and our closing
come into play.
For all those scriptures - and many, many, many others -
    Remind us that we are not only important
    But also that
despite our many flaws and our numerous failures
all of us are needed    and even essential
in order to fulfill the purpose of our coming together,

Now, in the 19th - and even well into the twentieth - century
Preachers often took a single verse of scripture as their text.

I have virtually never done that
    Not only because the suggested lectionary scriptures always have more than one verse,
    But also because most scriptures require the context of a multi-verse text.

However, for this morning,  I am going to turn back the clock.
I am going to be like those older preachers
- albeit without the hour long sermons that they used to give.

For I am going to limit myself to only one of the eight verses
That the bulletin shows as our text.

That verse is Romans 8: 28
And I am about to present it
without its originally anticipated seven companions.

I do so,    in order to make sure
that it does not get lost among,
Or hidden by,
the other words we would have heard.

I urge you to listen to it;
I urge you to remember it;
I urge you to take it seriously
And I pledge to you     that I will too

Our scripture:  [Romans 8: 28]

"We know" Paul writes
    not:    we think
    not:    we suppose
    not:    we guess

But "We know"       "We understand"     "We are confident"
        that all things
        do indeed work together for good
             for those who love God
             for those who are called according to God's purpose

Do we know that?
Do we really know that?
Or do we simply give lip service to it?

We answer those questions   with our answer to another question:
"Do we live our lives relying on the fact that
       all things - no matter how difficult or challenging
do work together for good for those who love God

Romans 8:28 is a confession of faith
    Not merely a nice sounding proverb.

That confession, as Paul Achtemeier points out in his commentary,
Is NOT "some Pollyanna unwillingness to admit evil
    even when it slaps us in the face."
[Interpretation "Acts" at p. 143]

No, it is a confession that
    "because we are in God's hands,
the kind of God who sent his own Son for us,
all things will finally resolve into good"  [pp. 143-144]

"All things" is a broad term,
it includes "people"
    people like you and me
    people who sometimes disagree
    people who sometimes disappoint and annoy each other

And thus it seems to me that
    Not only should we find this passage comforting
        When we are challenged
        Or when everything seems to be going wrong
    And boy it is comforting on those occasions.

But we should also find it instructive
    For us as individuals who are a part of a congregation.

For all the people in a congregation must work together for good
We are all essential;   We are all needed
when some of us get annoyed or disappointed;
when some of us sulk in self pity and decide to withdraw or drop back;  and
when some of us allow disappointments, disagreements, and annoyances to take priority over working together
        We fail.    We fail as individual followers

    And We make it more difficult for the congregation
To accomplish and fulfill God's purpose for us

When any of us fail to carry our weight
    We become like the missing vowels and missing space
In the message title
On the sign out front
And in the bulletins in your hands.
The absence of vowels and spaces
    Made it harder to understand
that this morning we would be talking about
God's expectation that you and I      "Work together for good."

Most of you figured out what the title was saying
    But it took more time and more effort.

If I had left out the other two spaces
it would have been even harder
    It would have required even more effort.

That is because we are like the vowels and the spaces
Important       Needed      Even Essential
When we are missing
    It is harder for the consonants to do their job
    It is harder for the words to communicate the message

The Matthew scriptures nicely frame our text

In our call to worship we heard Christ explain
    That even the tiny mustard seed
        Contributes as a part of God's creation
            For it grows into a tree or bush
            And gives the birds a place to rest.

And in the closing scripture Christ points out that
    The old is as important as the new; and
    The new is as important as the old.

Working together involves
    The big and the little
    The old and the new
    The rich and the poor
        All important;  all needed;     all essential
And together they all can and should,
- our scriptures tell us -
Work together for good.

Paul wrote:
We know that all things work together for good
for those who love God,
    Who are called according to his purpose.

Paul says that we know that     Do we?
    Do our lives reflect that we know?
    If not, hadn't we better start learning?