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

Serving Love

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

March 22:

Reading:    "Lent" (268 as modified)
Text:       John 12: 20-33
Closing:    Hebrews 5: 7-10

                Serving Love

When I began my time as your pastor nearly eight years ago
    One of the most thrilling things for me
        Was serving communion to Russell Clark
            A man whom I admired
            And whose friendship I treasured
                Even after his death a few years ago

As you may have noticed:
Russell Clark and I had a lot in common.
And that extends well beyond
the fact that we both have had the joy and the honor
of pastoring this congregation.

Russell went to college at Colgate
As for me,     I grew up not terribly far from that school
   And I often used their toothpaste

Russell played the trombone quite well
    As for me
        I played the trombone

Russell played tennis skillfully until he retired from it the game at 90
    As for me,
I played tennis w/o skill until I retired from the game at 20
It is that last "similarity" that comes to my mind today.
    For     "serving    love"   sounds  like a tennis term.

But as used here this morning
It is a term for what our text describes
And both Russell and I would agree that it means something very different from its use in tennis.

In tennis, "love" - for some reason - means "zero."
In our scripture it means
something so valuable and so important
    That no number or valuation can be placed on it.

In our scripture and in our faith,
    Serving love is what Jesus did
    And serving love is what Jesus expects us to do.

In the text,
Jesus takes advantage of a request to meet him
    To talk about his death
        Which was to be a remarkable serving of love
    And he talks about the consequences to those of us
Who respond to that love by following him, and
by serving love - not just having it served to us
        [12: 20-26]

Jesus is the grain
    Whose death and burial bear much fruit
    You and I and others across the years and the miles
        Are the fruit.

But if you and I are going to be fruit
    We need to understand that likewise we will be seeds
        Who need to be buried
        And bear new fruit.
And Jesus,  knowing fully well,     that it must seem odd
    For a man of 33         to talk about the death that awaits him,
Turns and answers the unasked, but clearly present question
    "Why?  Why would he accept such a fate?"

He acknowledges that he is troubled by it, saying.  [27 - 28a]

He speaks first to those around him
    In words that may well be among the most revealing and informative statements that he is recorded as making:

    "I cannot ask to be spared what I know is coming
    For it is the very reason that I am here."

Then he speaks to his father,
    "Father, though I know that it means my death,
        Glorify yourself through me."

And, as happened at both his baptism and the transfiguration
    [28b - 33]

And, of course, "lifted up" means lifted up on the cross.

This story shows as clearly as anything in the gospels,
The connection between Jesus' death
And the subsequent life of the believing community.

You and I         are touched by his understanding and his accepting
    That his death  for the glory of God
    was the very reason     he was here.

Having been so touched, let me ask,
    "What is the reason that you and I are here?

Is it possible that we are also here for the glory of God?
Or are we here for our own glory?

Despite     how we often
make decisions that seem to demonstrate that it is the latter,
we know and we need to show     that it is the former.

 We too     are here for the glory of God.
    We are the fruit of Jesus' seed
And seeds from our fruit
    Must give birth to the fruit that will follow.

William Barclay who wrote the NT portions of the multi volume "Daily Study Bible" observes in connection with this scripture,
Something which should be obvious

But I confess that until I read what he wrote, had not really occurred to me,
    "It is always because men have been prepared to die
        that great things have lived."

And Barclay clarifies what he is saying by explaining,
"It is when a man buries his own personal aims
    That he begins to be useful to God."

This is what is meant when we speak of surrendering to God.

There is no greater act of love
    Than to be willing to give up your life for another

Actually there is one act even greater than that.
    "to be willing to even give up your child's life."

In this scripture we see both
    For Jesus the Son   was willing to gave up His own life
    And God the Father  was willing to gave up His Son's life.
And note that in their willingness
    Love was served     to you  and to me.

Not all love that is served requires someone's physical life.

Every day
    - in fact, every hour of every day -
You and I are given the opportunity to serve love.

We see an example in our text
We see it in the actions of Philip and Andrew
Who served love at the beginning of the passage
        By their willingness to take the gentile Greeks to Jesus.

The Greeks appeared out of no where
Seeking to meet this teacher
about whom they had heard so much.

And so Philip went to Andrew
    And together they both went to Jesus.

From the time last fall which we spent together in the early church
We learned there were many of Jesus' Jewish followers
    who had serious questions about gentiles following Christ.

Thus, when Philip and Andrew went to Jesus
    What they were doing
might well have caused other followers to become upset.

But they knew it was the right thing.
They seemed to grasp that in introducing those gentile visitors to Jesus
They were serving love to others of God's children
    Even if some colleagues might have disagreed
Or even gotten upset.
This scripture makes us think long and hard
    About the way we lead our lives
    And about whether our lives serve love to others.

If they do not,     we are not leading lives that glorify God

In our closing scripture from Hebrews, the author talks
About how loud cries and tears
Accompanied Jesus' prayers and requests;
He talks
    about Jesus learning from what he suffered;
And he talks about
    about Jesus being the source of eternal salvation.

And then the writer adds
- in the verse immediately following the stated scripture -
        "We have a lot to say about this topic
        and it is difficult to explain
[and here if the words were oral rather than written we would detect a firmness - perhaps even a shout]

        "because you have been too lazy
        and you haven't been listening."

Jesus' glorifying God by sacrificially serving love
    Was the very reason he was here.

If we too are here to glorify God
    By also sacrificially serving love
We cannot give others the chance to say
That we have been too lazy
and that we have not been listening

Especially if it is true!