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

By and Through

February 18:

Call:       Joel 2: 1-2, 12-17; Micah 6: 6-8;   Isaiah 58: 1-12;
Hosea 13: 6
Text:       2 Corinthians 5:20b - 6:10
Closing:    Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21

I used to give serious thought to taking the Jeopardy contestant test.

At one point in my life I thought I would be a pretty good contestant
    Although by now I find
that my responses are slower
and the questions (which they call answers) are harder.

But even now, there are times that I fantasize about it.

I picture myself saying something like this:
    I'll have "Religious Seasons" for 400, Alex.

    The host then reads,
        "In Christianity, the forty day period before Easter."

    I ring in first     [That's the real fantasy part]  and say
        "What is Lent?"

Alex awards me my $400.

I smile, my time in the SONY Picture Studios
    Will not be a total failure
For at least I got one right.

But my correct response is not only worth $400
    It is also,     a question worth our answering.

And so I ask,   "What is Lent?"
    Or "What is Lent    to you?"

It has to be more than an answer on Jeopardy.
It has to be more than a season on the calendar.
It has to be something meaningful.

Tonight, by our being here
to begin it with scripture, prayer, music, and reflection
we take our first steps to embrace the challenge
    of making Lent meaningful
    to those of us who claim to follow Christ.

It is a 40 day period of preparation
    Like the 40 days Noah was afloat
    Like the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert
    Like the 40 days Jesus was in the wilderness.

It is a 40 day period
    Of looking at ourselves
    And trying to figure out what we need to change
        In order to be more effective servants of Jesus Christ.

It is a 40 day period of seeking
    Through scriptures and devotions
    Through prayer and reflection

It a 40 day period of introspection
    To prepare us for the newness and joy of Easter.

It is a time when we need to understand
That we are not seeking to have Alex Trebek tell us we are right
But rather to have Jesus tell us that we are getting closer
    To getting it right.

Tonight, we turn to Paul to guide us.

But what do we know about Paul
That makes him one to whom we turn?

We know that Paul (birth name, Saul) was
Formerly a member of the Sanhedrin
    And probably a Pharisee.

We know that Paul was zealously opposed to Christianity
    That he was present at the execution of Stephan
        In fact,     approving of it
and holding the coats of those who threw the stones.

We know that after that execution,
    Many of the Christians fled Jerusalem
    And that Paul sought and obtained permission and authority
        To go after them
        To capture them
        To arrest them.

We know that on his way to Damascus to exercise that authority
    He fell to his knees
    Was blinded
    And heard Christ's voice speak to him.

As a result he became   that which he had once persecuted

As time went on
    He converted that same zeal into spreading the word
        As the church's greatest missionary and evangelist.

In doing so, he was challenged by those who opposed him
    He was beaten
    He was arrested
    He endured many hardships while traveling the world for Christ.

Too, by his letters,
he counseled and advised
the churches that he and others had established
throughout the area around the Mediterranean.

In what we call his second letter to the church at Corinth
    He counsels us as to the attitude, approach, and determination
        We need to have to make Lent meaningful
            [2 Corinthians 5:20b - 6:10]

First,  Paul identifies his role in representing God
        And in trying to help us    [20b - 21]

Second  Paul tells us to respond now        [1-2]

Third       The "Through" part where Paul admits it is difficult
        And tells us what he has been through   [3-5]

Fourth  The "By" part where Paul tells us that he got through
By certain characteristics and approaches
That is how he and those with him have succeeded                    [6-7]

Finally,    Paul tells us about the results
            Mixed reactions, but happy      [8-10]
Tonight we are the Corinthians who need to hear
    That Christ sent people to help us become reconciled to God
    That we must respond now - not delay and delay and delay
    That following Christ is not always easy
        for it requires sacrifice, pain, and endurance
    That we, like Paul and his companions,
        Can get through the difficulties
        By patience, generosity, love, truth, and the Holy Spirit
And That we will encounter mixed reactions,
but we can and will rejoice.

But Paul is not our only advisor
    The prophets, long before Jesus,
 gave us messages
of how to live lives that will reconcile us to God.

We heard some of those messages earlier
 as we were called to begin a meaningful Lent.

Joel warned us that the day is coming
    And that it is a day of darkness and clouds
But he also told us that we still had a chance
    "Yet even now return to me
    with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow."

Micah counseled us
    To do justice   to love kindness
and to walk humbly with our God.

Isaiah set out for us that the sacrifice or fast God wants from us is
    To free the mistreated
    Share with the hungry, the homeless, and poor
And that if we do, our light will break out like the dawn
        And God will answer our calls
        By saying,      "I'm here."
Finally Hosea warns us to not simply accept what God gives us
    And then forget it
    Like the Israelites in the wilderness
        Who, when their needs were satisfied by God
        Became proud and forgot their dependence on God.

What is Lent?
    It is the opportunity of a forty day period of preparation
        To be reconciled with God
        Through a risen savior.

An opportunity that will involve hardships
But hardships through which we can get
by using the gifts
spelled out by Paul and the prophets.

Are we going to seize the opportunity
    And put in the necessary work?

Or are we going to look at the hardships and sacrifices
    And decide to pass or delay?

Joel says that there is still time
Paul says the time is now.

What do we say?

I hope we seize the opportunity
    I am convinced that it is worth a lot more than the $400 I won on "Fantasy Jeopardy."