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

Defending Hope

February 22:

Call:       Genesis 9: 8-17
Text:       Mark 1: 9-15;   1 Peter 3: 13-18
Closing:    1Peter 3: 21-22

            Defending Hope

Mark is the "Jack Webb" gospel

Obviously, Webb didn't write it.

But it is the gospel that most closely fits the style of
    This producer and star of the television show "Dragnet"
For like "Dragnet" Mark's gospel is:
Terse, succinct, and to the point.

Now, those of you who remember Webb, will recall
    That the shows would begin with
"Ladies and Gentlemen, the story you are about to see is true,
    only the names have been changed to protect the innocent."

This would be followed by a narration by Webb's character

It went something like this:
    It was Monday
    My partner and I were working days

    At 9:17 we were called to the United Methodist Church

When we arrived,
we found that the church secretary had been kidnapped

My name is Friday.  I'm a cop.
But not only was the opening terse, the interrogation was too.

In fact, the style of the show
    Is best revealed in the line most associated with it
        And one of  the all time great  TV lines,
            "Just the fact's ma'am"

And that, my friends, is the style of Mark's gospel.

In the seven verses that make up our text from Mark we find
    Jesus' baptism
    Jesus' temptation
    John's arrest
And the beginning of Jesus' Galilean ministry.

Seven verses.   Four major events.  "Just the facts."
Jack Webb would have loved this guy

The text    from this Jack Webb gospel: Mark 1: 9-15

The time in the wilderness sets the example for Lent
    But I think the last few words are what we need to hear
        if Lent is to be a meaningful time for us.
            "Now is the time!
            Here comes God's kingdom!"
    And most importantly,
            "Change your hearts and lives,
            and trust this good news!"

"Now!" as we heard Paul say on Wednesday night, "is the time."

Now,        for us      is Lent
    And what we have to do is
        "Change our hearts  and change our lives,
        and trust this good news!"
        the good news of Jesus, his love, and the kingdom of which he wants us to be a part.

In one sense this sounds easy.
    We are a bunch of good - albeit imperfect - people
    We want to be good
    We want to please Christ.

But I fear that often we do not grasp the depth of that commitment
I fear that we often approach it with shallowness rather than deep.

We have to remember that the word "trust" is in Jesus' statement
    The changes in our hearts and in our lives
        Are to enable us
To reach the point where we actually trust Jesus
Where that trust is an innate part of us and our character
        Where our actions derive from that trust.

And that brings us to Peter's letter.

Now calling it "Peter's letter" may be a misnomer.
    There is a great deal to suggest that the apostle Peter did not write it himself
    That instead, it was written by followers of Peter and reflected Peter's understandings.

But the authorship of a letter that has been accepted as canon for centuries
 is not what is essential to us today.

What does matter
is that the letter   was written to some in Asia Minor
    Whose lives were subject to persistent local harassment and persecution
    And thus whose faith could be weakened by such.

This is what makes it so appropriate for Lent
    Particularly Lent in a world
where faith is threatened
by secular factors and priorities.

    Although not directly persecuted in the traditional sense,
We are today, a lot like the original recipients of the letter.

And so we receive the advice and encouragement given to them.
    [1 Peter 3: 13-18]

The question,   "Who will harm you if you are zealous for good?"
clearly implies that no one should.

But recognizing that some will harm us
Not only when, but actually because,
we are zealous for good, he adds,
"But happy are you, even if you suffer because of righteousness!"

And then the third and most difficult part of this opening progression,
    "Don't be terrified or upset by them."

And while we might be quick to agree with the first line
    For     no one should harm us for doing good

And perhaps even reluctantly accept the second line
    For     even if it happens, the fact that we have done good,
should still make us happy

But that third line aggravates us
For who wouldn't be terrified or upset
    When persecuted for doing good?

This really calls on us to trust the good news.

While so far,   Peter's advice could well be secular
    For us hope comes not from the secular
        But from Jesus Christ.

And so the writer tells us
    "Instead (of being terrified or upset)
        Regard Christ as holy in your hearts"

And not only keep Christ in our hearts -
    The changed hearts that Jesus called for in Mark
    And the hearts that we want to work to change during Lent,

But also whenever anyone asks us to speak of our hope
    We have to be ready to defend it
    And we must do so with respectful humility
        While maintaining a good conscience.

Why do we have hope in Jesus Christ"
    Why we are willing to suffer criticism, unpopularity, loss,
and even economic, personal, and physical pain
    to please and obey him.

Our defense of that hope
A hope that is real to me and to you
    But is a myth to others
Comes from the trust in the good news
    And from the experiences we - and others we trust - have had with it

Our defense to non-believers cannot come from the Bible

For the Bible teaches us about Christ
and helps us to understand and appreciate our relationship with him

But the Bible is neither proof that he exists
Nor accepted as authority by those questioning our hope

No!     to defend our hope
we have to talk from our hearts
    we have to tell people of our experiences with him

I know that there have been times in my life
    When Christ acted in and through me.
    When I was so much better than Jim Barnes.

In defending our hope
We need to tell of those times.

I could tell of the time when I called on Donna
a woman who was not a parishioner who had ceased dialysis
which, of course, meant that she would probably die in a few days.

After giving thought to calling on her at 8:00 the next morning
    I instead called on her at 4:30 PM that very day

I prayed with her for a few minutes;
    And I expressed my concern to her family.

Donna died at 6:00 the next morning
two hours before I would have visited
if I had waited to the next day.

Some days after the funeral, I received a note.
The note was from a woman who had attended the funeral.
And in it she told me
that her husband had been in Donna's dialysis group
    that he had died a few months before Donna
And     that she had not been able to deal with his death
        Until she heard what I said at Donna's funeral.

I was touched   and I knew I was supposed to be there
And Jesus had not let me mess it up
by delaying my visit to early the next morning.

I could tell about last February when Marge and I wanted a retreat:
    After not finding a place that met our specifications in Plattsburgh
    We added an hour of drive time and went to Burlington instead.
        Where I found that Joanne Hazelton was in F-A
            Because her family was staying in the same motel.
        And I was able to call on her in that hospital.

I was supposed to be there
    And Jesus Christ would not let me screw it up by staying in Plattsburgh.

I could tell about Cleo from my first lay speaking course
    And about Ella Hailston from my first appointment

These are just some of many
Which convince me of Jesus' presence in my life
And why I have hope in him.
    A hope I am willing to defend to others.

Christ himself suffered on account of sins,
once for all
the righteous one on behalf of the unrighteous.

He did this, our letter writer tells us,
 in order to bring us into the presence of God

For me that is reason enough
for us to use Lent to change our hearts and lives.

Ladies and Gentlemen
    The stories you have just heard are true
    Names have not been changed to protect anyone.

It is 11:30
on the first Sunday of Lent.

It is the time
For people to begin trusting the good news of Jesus Christ.

[and here you may insert your own name I'll use my own]

My name is Barnes
I'm a follower  of Jesus the Christ.