Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
12:00pm Fellowship
Pastor Rev. Brooke Newell
Secretary Donna McDonald
315-265-7474

Well Pleased

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

January 11:

Call:       Acts 19: 1-7
Reading:    UMH 253
Text:       Mark 1: 4-11
Closing:    Genesis 1: 1-5

                Well Pleased?

I was born in 1946.

That same year, the National Council of Churches,
desiring to update language
and to take into consideration modern scholarship,
published the New Testament portion of the RSV
        [Revised Standard Version]

In 1952, the NCC finished its project
By publishing the full Bible (OT and NT)

Although at the time,
I had no idea how important this would be to me,
It is accurate to say that
We, the RSV/NRSV and I
        Grew up together..

Three years later,
    With the RSV having begun to replace the King James Version in many Protestant churches
including the Methodist Church,
    And in honor of my completing Third grade in Sunday School,
    I - at age nine - was given a copy of it
by the Chittenango Methodist Church.
That Bible accompanied me
throughout my childhood and my youth
    throughout my college years in Binghamton
        and my law school days in Illinois.

When I returned to Upstate NY at age 26
    And settled into my participation and membership
    At First United Methodist Church in Oneida,
My RSV Bible became an even more important part of my life
    Particularly as throughout the 70s and 80s
        I taught Sunday School
        And occasionally led worship.

In the early 1990s, that copy at last began to wear out
        Mostly from use
        But in part because on two occasions
it fell off the roof of my car and was returned to me,

Thus in my late 40s, I decided
that I would have to purchase a new copy.

When I went to do that, I discovered that in 1989,
The RSV had been revised
    Again to update language
    And to take into consideration new scholarship
       and had become the NRSV - with the "N" standing for "New"

In July 1995 at age 49 - albeit, a youthful 49 -
I stood in the pulpit
of the Jordanville (NY) Federated Church
I preached from Luke 9 on my first day as a UMC pastor
Reading, of course, from the NRSV

Three and a half years later I was using it at the VanHornesville UMC as well
At age 56 my Bible and I moved to Massena and Hogansburg.
Five years later I became your pastor.

Through my first seven years of serving here
    I used the NRSV for everything except three scriptures:
        Psalm 23, Luke 2; and Matthew 22 (or Mark 12)

I did so even though I had access to many other translations
    And often checked them to gain additional understanding.

And then in May of 2014  while attending annual conference,
        I heard Bishops Webb and Lowry -
Both make favorable reference to a new translation
    The CEB - or Common English Bible -
        Published in 2011

I bought a copy and put it on my shelf where it remained
    Until I decided to "take it for a spin"
    By using it throughout our Fall worship series on Acts.
        And using it too, in the Covenant Bible Study
            Which took place about the same time.

It was OK.
But I returned to the NRSV, my faithful lifetime companion
    For Advent through Epiphany.

I used the NRSV when I chose this morning's scriptures
And message title.

But on Thursday of this week
    I used the CEB translation of this morning's scriptures
    For my personal devotion time.

And I was blown away!!

And so, for first time since receiving my now tattered RSV about 60 years ago,
I began to contemplate putting my lifelong friend on the shelf
and using the CEB as my primary source for my worship scriptures.

For that day, the CEB translation added a whole new dimension
    To a scripture on which I had preached
        Every one of my previous 19 years in the ministry

Because of its language, a passage that I had known for years
    Suddenly seemed fresher     and even more inspiring.

[As an aside:
I see an intriguing pattern in my use of Bible translations.

I received my RSV
    about three years after the publication of the full Bible
I purchased my NRSV
    About three years after its first publication
And I purchased my CEB
    About three years after it was published.]

The scripture is Mark's story of Jesus' baptism by John.

This is how the NRSV (and pretty much the KJV and NIV) tell it: [Mark 1: 4-11]

Today, as we look at that story I do not want to focus on
"Why" Jesus was baptized by John
    Or the difference between John's baptizing and that of Christ
I want to focus instead
on the words spoken by the voice from heaven

What we just heard was the voice saying,
"You are my Son     the Beloved;
    with you I am well pleased."

I have always liked these words
    There few words that I ("we"?) would rather hear
than that God is well pleased by us.

Think of it:    We know how many mistakes we have made.

I you gave me a tablet of paper
    I could spend the rest of this service and all of next week's
        Writing a list of mistakes that I have made
    And still fall far short of recording even one percent of them

If you preferred to give me a flash drive
    I could fill it - and yet it would be inadequate.

Still, despite the abundance of mistakes,
I long to hear God say
        "You are my son"    "I love you"
And         "with you I am well pleased"

That, would bring me to tears.

I have the hope of hearing those words.
    because I know of God's love and mercy.

Your list of mistakes may not be as long as mine
or it may be longer -
but either way
I suspect you feel the same way and have the same hope.

But now:    the change in language
That blew me away, touched my heart,
And caused me to better grasp what God would like from me
This time the words are from the CEB
the not yet four year old translation which
I purchased a bit over seven months ago
And used for the first time a bit over four months ago;
 [Mark 1: 9-11]

Do you hear and feel a difference?  I do.

The CEB translation warms my heart
    More quickly and more deeply
    Than my old friend the NRSV
Or  the KJV or NIV, both of which use nearly the same words

All four of the translations say
    "You are my son."
All four of the translations say
    "I love you"

The three older ones, however, talk about being well pleased
    A phrase which I have already said
I would like - no, love - to hear from God.

But a phrase which can simply convey job approval
    "You did a really good job.  I am very pleased."

The CEB, however, replaces
    "with whom I am well pleased"   with:
"in you I find happiness."

Happiness!

Isn't it so much better to understand that we have made God happy
    Like a proud parent
Than to see ourselves pleasing God by doing a good job?

Now, I believe that the "well pleased" of the older translations
    Really meant more than simply doing a good job
But the CEB makes that clear
    And avoids the possibility that we simply see it as approval.

It is so much easier to understand our relationship with God
by grasping that our goal - our purpose -
        Is to make God happy
Rather than to seek God's approval and praise by doing
    An outstanding job on a task.

And understanding that we are to make God happy
Makes it easier to comprehend
Why, despite our innumerable failures and mistakes,
God keeps giving us chance after chance after chance

As much as I have always hoped to someday hear God say,
    "Jim, you are my son and I love you;
    With you I am well pleased."

Having learned a lesson from the voice at Christ's baptism,
I have come to believe that I would prefer
    To hear God say,
        Jim, you are my son and I love you
        "in you I find happiness."

Despite my loyalty to,
my long, almost exclusive relationship with,
and my respect for,  the NRSV

I have this week been reminded that my relationship with God
Is a journey to make God happy
A journey now traveled with two guides and teachers.