Potsdam United Methodist Church
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Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
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Travels With Paul

October 26:

Potsdam
Call:       Acts 11: 27-30;  12: 24-25
Read:   Acts 13: 26-41, 44-49, 51-52
Text:       Acts 13: 2-5, 44-47;  14: 8-15a
Closing:    Acts 14: 6-18

            Travels With Paul
[Prayer]
With whom would you rather travel?
    Val - from Time Warner Cable's "Travels With Val"
    Charlie - from John Steinbeck's "Travels With Charlie"
    Gulliver - from Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels"
Or  Paul - from Luke's historical travelogue in "Acts?"

Well, I don't know Val
    I am not certain whether her idea of places to visit would coincide with mine.
    More importantly,  if I am going to travel with any female,
        I'd prefer it to be Marge.

So, Val is out.

Charlie, of course, was John Steinbeck's dog
    And while traveling with him means I would probably get less advice about my driving than I normally do -
        It might also mean that I would
acquire at least a few tickets for speed limit signs
            That I do not see as quickly as my usual navigator
        Besides, I don't even own a pooper scooper
And that would be essential if Charlie was my companion.

So Charlie is out as well.
As for Gulliver
    I fear that traveling with him would be a lot like
        Traveling with Timothy Leary in the 60s
    That's just not my cup of tea
        Or whatever it was that Leary gave Swift
            To put in Gulliver's tea

No way that I want to travel with Gulliver.

And so, of the four presented choices of traveling companions,
    All I have left is Paul.

Picking Paul as our traveling companion
Might, however, be the most dangerous choice of all
[Which, of course, is really saying something,
    when one of the others is a psychedelic journey with Gulliver.]

But traveling with Paul would not only be the most dangerous
It would also be the most rewarding.

And so today we elect to travel with Paul
    As we begin the last third of our journey through Acts,
    With Paul's first missionary trip.

During the first eight weeks of our journey
    Our stories took place
        In Jerusalem
    and In all Judea and Samaria

With today's service, however, we venture out into the beginning
of the third geographical area
       of our commission to be witnesses and to make disciples.
A commission we received
on the very first day of our journey
For, with today's service, we venture out into the rest of the world    or as Jesus put it, "to the ends of the earth."

As we do so, I should note that
     I am now calling our fellow traveler "Paul" rather than "Saul"

For it is in chapter 13 that Luke first tells us
that this persecutor-turned-evangelist,
has acquired this new, more gentile like  name.

This is the shortest of Paul's three missionary journeys,
    But still the round trip was about 1000 miles
        Roughly like a trip from Potsdam to the western suburbs of Cleveland, OH - and then back home.

This trip was not Paul's idea and he did not take it alone

It was the church at Antioch
    - Inspired by the Holy Spirit -
        Who sent Paul - along with Barnabas - on this journey
    A man named John Mark (a relative of Barnabas)
        Accompanied them.

They took a boat to the island of Cyprus
    Landing at the eastern port of Salamis [Sal'-e-mis]
        Where they shared the word in a Jewish synagogue

    Then they traveled westerly across the entire island to Paphos
        Where they dealt with a false prophet
        And met with the receptive governor.

Leaving Cyprus by another boat, they then headed north to Perga in Pamphylia
    There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem
[In Paul's eyes, John Mark didn't just leave- he deserted them]
After a short time in Perga, they went even farther north
This time to Pisidian Antioch

There Paul accepted their invitation to speak in the synagogue
    He talked about God keeping God's promise to Abraham
    He talked about the judges and Samuel
        And of how the people had demanded a human king
    And how God met that demand
first with Saul     and then with David.

All this was well known Jewish history and well received by all.

But Paul was setting the stage to proclaim
That Jesus, a descendent of David and heir to the promise,
Was the savior sent by God
     And that John the Baptist had come before him
    To announce his presence.

The people in the synagogue listened intently to Paul
    As he proceeded to tell them about Jesus    [13: 26-41]

As Paul and Barnabas left the synagogue
    The people urged them to speak again on the next Sabbath.

The next week,
    The events in the synagogue were dramatic
        [13: 44-49]

This marked a turning point in the ministry of Paul and Barnabas
    They had now declared that the focus of their efforts
        Previously on the Jews, but rejected by them
        Would, in the future, be on the Gentiles

Their stay in the city did not last much longer
    For an interesting combination of
        Jews
        Women among the gentile god worshipers
And The city leaders
            Incited the crowd
            And threw Paul and Barnabas out of the district.

As we imagine being thrown out of town,
I ask you:  Do we still want to travel with Paul?

Or are Val, Charlie, and Gulliver
beginning to sound like wiser choices?

For me, Paul's  faith and trust in Christ   provide the answer
And that faith and trust shout out in the quietest of ways
    In their response to being thrown out of that city
        [13: 51 - 52]

They shook the dust from their feet and they went on.
They shook the dust from their feet and they went on.
They shook the dust from their feet and they went on.

And they did so, over flowing with happiness.

Who could observe that response
    And not want to travel with them?

Their experience in Iconium was similar:
    A number of Jews and Greeks believed
    But then some Gentiles and Jews hatched a plot
        To mistreat and to stone Paul and Barnabas
    And our two traveling companions fled to Lystra and Derbe
        Where they continued to proclaim the good news.
            Unperturbed by the anger directed at them.


In Lystra they encountered an interesting new problem
    A problem that I suspect that they had not anticipated
And one that presented a whole new challenge to their faith     [14: 6-18]

After they healed the crippled man
    The people thought that they were gods.

Paul and Barnabas, rather than being flattered
    Recognized immediately
that this was diametrically opposed
to the message they were trying to convey.

But I have watched
a number of politicians - both Republicans and Democrats
and     a number of clergymen - both Protestant and Catholic
    who allowed their egos and self centeredness to trump their service
    who allowed themselves to think that being acclaimed
made them more important
than what they were called to do
    and thus destroyed any chance of successfully accomplishing what they had set out to do.

Paul and Barnabas did not fall into that trap!
    They protested vociferously     and made it clear
        That Christ was the one who had healed the man;
That they were only humans
            Who were servants
called to share the good news of Christ

And so even when persons from Antioch and Iconium arrived
    And caused the crowd to stone Paul
        To drag him out of the city
        And to leave him there supposing he was dead
I want to travel with him.

I want to be in the group of disciples
    Who surrounded him
    And helped him get up and walked with him to Derbe.

And I want to be with them
As they returned home
Retracing their steps
    Even going through and establishing churches
In the very places where they had been so abused

I would love it
if each one of us could make a banner for our homes
    and another one for this church
proclaiming the words that Paul spoke
        in Pisidian Antioch on this return trip home

For,
This man who had been thrown out of two cities
        Even being left for dead on one of those occasions
And     who fled a third city because of a plot against him,
Said:
"If we are to enter God's kingdom,
we must pass through many troubles."

Maybe this would remind the Christians of today
    That being a follower of Jesus Christ
        Is serious business.

Maybe our banners would remind us
    That the church is not just a social or civic club

Maybe they would get it across to us
    That rather than grumble or complain about our troubles
    We should get up, dust ourselves off and go on to serve Him.

Maybe when others have troubles these banners will inspire us
    To gather around them and offer outstretched hands
    Like those who did that for Paul
        When he had been left for dead.

It is more dangerous to travel with Paul
    But seeing what it means to follow Christ and fulfill his commission
As verbalized and lived by him
is rewarding beyond belief as well.

So, I will choose him
    Over Val
I will choose him
    Over Charlie
And I will choose him
    Over Gulliver.

I invite you to travel with us as well.