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

Horace Greeley

November 9:

Call:       Acts 15: 36-41
Read:   1 Corinthians 1: 10-18
Text:       Acts 16: 6-15, 35-40
Close:  Acts 17: 22-25, 32-34

            Horace Greeley
[Covenant Prayer]
Is there a sadder way to begin a worship service
    Than to be called to worship
    By a passage telling us about an argument between
        Barnabas:   perhaps the nicest, most decent guy in Acts
and     Paul: the most important human figure in the book
and the person most responsible for the spread of Christianity throughout much of the world.

Don't you just want to get them together
    And try to work things out?

Don't you want to be Jimmy Carter
    To their Begin and Sadat?

Their falling out was over plans for a second journey,
    One to retrace the steps of the journey we looked at last week;
    One to shore up and nurture the churches they established on that remarkable and inspiring joint adventure

Both of them seemingly desired to set off together

Remember that they became friends even before they took that trip

Barnabas had befriended Paul
when no one else in Jerusalem would
He had introduced Paul to the Apostles
    And thus gave him credibility
He had gone to seek out Paul to bring him from Tarsus to Antioch
to help lead the congregation there.
The two of them had together taken an offering
from the followers in Antioch
to those in Jerusalem
who were expecting or experiencing a famine

That friendship continued after their trip,

The two of them were again sent to Jerusalem
This time to meet with the council over the issue of circumcision.

These guys were friends
They had shared experiences - both good and frightening
They liked, respected, and admired each other.

But they could not work it out for another tandem journey.

The problem was that
Barnabas wanted to bring John Mark with them.

Remember John Mark
    The fellow (actually a relative of Barnabas)
        Who accompanied them on the first trip
        But who had left them midway through it.

Paul saw that departure as a desertion.
He concluded from it        that John Mark was unreliable
And he was not about to take the chance
Of it happening again.
Paul was adamantly opposed to taking John Mark on this second trip.

Thus the issue between the two friends was simple:
Paul would rather give up Barnabas than take John Mark
And     Barnabas would rather give up Paul
        Than leave John Mark home.

And so, unable to reach an agreement,
    These two friends - sadly and perhaps angrily - parted ways

With John Mark, Barnabas shipped out to Cyprus
    To retrace as much as possible his earlier journey

With his new traveling companion, Silas,
       And having been entrusted to God's grace by his congregation
    Paul began his journey by going through Syria and Cilicia

[In general, retracing in reverse order the last part of the prior trip.]

In Luke's words,
    "Paul ... left, entrusted by the brothers and sisters to the Lord's grace."

We get a clue that Paul might not have his itinerary all laid out
    Or at least - that he was prepared to have God amend it.
And we get a hint that God the travel agent
    Was going to play a big part in the events of the journey.

After successfully revisiting Derbe and Lystra
(where they picked up Timothy)
God, in some manner
prevented Paul and Silas from entering the province of Asia
forcing them to instead     go through Phrygia and Galatia.

When he reached the area around Mysia,
    Paul decided that he wanted to go East to Bithynia

But again God intervened
    And again, in some manner, blocked his way.

Let's let Luke tell this part of the story:     16: 6-12

This morning a map was - in Crackerjack style -
    Inserted as a prize into your morning bulletin
A quick look at it will make it clear
why this passage had to be Horace Greeley's favorite.

For in denying the travelers entrance into Bithynia
    Forcing them to instead head to Troas
    Where they received the direction or invitation
        To proceed to Macedonia,
God basically said to Paul
what Greeley would say centuries later,
"Go West, young man!    Go West!"

And that is what Paul did.

He and Silas and Timothy and apparently Luke
    (for in verse 10 Luke switches from the third person to the first)
    went to Macedonia   to the city of Philippi.

Do you have any idea how significant this is for us?
    By going West, Paul went into Europe.
And, of course, Paul didn't just sight see,
    He took the good news of Jesus Christ into Europe

With most of us here being of European ancestry,
This means that this is the first time
the good news was taken to the continent of our ancestors.

And for those not of European ancestry it was a step in getting the good news to many of your ancestors as well
    For it is likely that the good news was taken to them by European missionaries

If Paul had ignored God's "Greeley-like" instruction
    Most of us would not be here today.

In Philippi, Paul began to witness and to make disciples almost immediately
    And despite Paul's often narrow views on women
    His success began with one.
        Her name was Lydia.     [Acts 16: 13-15]

But Lydia was not the only one they met in Philippi.

When Paul caused a demon to leave a slave woman
    And her owners got upset because they made money off her
    He and Silas were arrested and thrown into jail.

Even incarceration provided an opportunity
    To be witnesses to the good news
    And to make disciples for Christ.       [16: 25-33]

An earthquake shook the jail and opened the doors.

Paul and Silas and the other prisoners could have escaped
    Which would have cost the jailer his job - or his life
        For he would have had to have paid the price
            The escaped prisoners would have paid.

But they didn't escape.  They stayed right there
    And the jailer and his household were baptized -not punished
Was there ever a journey that so powerfully reminds us
    That our plans  are not always God's plans
        No matter how well thought out they seem to be
    That our plans  are not always God's plans
        No matter how well intended they are
    That our plans  are not always God's plans
        And that you and I need to be alert
to what God's plans are.

And of course, God's plans are useless
    If we don't trust them
If we don't adopt them
And if we don't execute them.

Paul's plans were to retrace his previous journey
    A fine idea
But God's plans were for him to take the good news elsewhere

After starting out,     Paul planned to visit the province of Asia
    Another fine idea
But God's plans for the spreading of the good news
would not be served by entering that province

Paul's revised plans were to go into Bithynia
    Probably still another fine idea
But still not consistent with God's plans

Finally Paul heard God's "Greeley-like" voice make God's plans clear,   "Go West!"
    He trusted them     He adopted them      He executed them

And because he did,
    Lydia and the Philippian jailer
        Received, trusted and adopted Christ

Because he did
generations later we are hearing the story
and we are expected to witness and make disciples

That will at times require us
    To sacrifice our own plans and adopt God's
        Even if ours are well thought out and well intentioned

That will at time require us
    To sacrifice working with people we love and admire
    So that we can execute the plans God has given us.

As I reflect on this
my sadness at the parting of the two friends
    Has been superceded by my awe for the way God works
    And for my gratitude that Paul listened and trusted.

And all this, in part, because God decided
    To play the part of Horace Greeley
    Long before Greeley himself played the part.