July 14, 2024, The Pearl of Great Price

Note: Today was the second Sunday for our new incoming pastors and the last message in their “Getting to Know You” series. The service was led by Pastor Carol Rudzinski, and the message was preached by Pastor Mike Rudzinski. The picture above is not him :D. If you would like a visit from the new pastors, please call the church office at 618-547-7423.

CALL TO WORSHIP (Based on Proverbs 2:1-5)
Let us take hold of God’s words and treasure his commands in our hearts
Let us turn our ears to wisdom and apply our hearts to understanding.
We call out for insight and cry aloud for comprehension.
Let us look for it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure.
Then we will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God

HYMN
#158 “Come, Christians, Join to Sing”

A TIME OF PRAYER (Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, Jesus told us to ask, seek, and knock. So we ask, Lord, please hear our prayers. We seek to know your will. We knock upon the door, trusting that you will open it for us. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,
for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
Amen.

HYMN
#163 “Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know”

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: The Pearl of Great Price
Text: Matthew 13:44-46
Series: “Getting to Know You”
Attachments (Right-click to open in new tab):
Sermon slides
Sermon audio

TRANSCRIPT:
The Pearl of Great Price
Mike Rudzinski

Good morning, everyone. I think I’ve met everybody here, but if I haven’t met you yet, I’m Pastor Mike. Last week, my wife, Pastor Carol, shared about our journey here, just to help you get to know our story a little better. And today is my turn to share a little bit about myself.

One part of ministry that Carol and I just really love is the ministry of hospitality. We started volunteering at a conference called the New Room Conference while we were in seminary. When we started, the number one job of hospitality is saying, “There’s the nearest bathroom.” Then over time, we learned it was also our job to dispense Band-Aids and Tylenol and help people whose cell phones had died. And we went from volunteers to now leaders of the hospitality team for the conference. This summer we served at a different conference and became their hospitality team, and they were surprised. Every time they needed something, whether it was scissors or a piece of paper or a marker, we just had it. They were shocked. “How did you know you needed to bring postage stamps?” Well, we know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two by now.

But we are new pastors and there’s still some areas where we’re learning. And it’s interesting to us this morning as we look at this passage about how Jesus preaches. We’ll see today that Jesus teaches in parables. Now, pastors like telling stories, right? We like telling stories, and we usually use those stories to illustrate the point we’re trying to make. But here’s what Matthew says about Jesus’ preaching: “Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. Indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.” (Mt 13:34–35) See, for Jesus, the stories weren’t illustrations to make his point, the parable was the teaching!

In fact, when we look at Matthew chapter 13, there are eight parables in the chapter, and out of those eight, he only explains two of them. One of those that he does explain is because the disciples came to him privately and said, “We don’t get it. Would you explain this to us?” And in the process of explaining this one parable, Jesus tells four additional parables. Two of these parables are the ones we’re going to look at today.

So what’s a parable? It’s a story of everyday life that has a surprise baked into it. And to follow in Jesus’ steps, I’m going to explain what a parable is by telling a parable. An example of a very well-known parable is when the Prophet Nathan went to talk to King David. Now King David had sinned. He had taken the wife of one of his subjects. And when he tried to cover up, it didn’t work, and then he had the man killed. And so Nathan had to confront David about this in a way that he could hear it. And if he just talked to him about it, perhaps David wouldn’t have listened, wouldn’t have heard. And so Nathan is going to use a parable to confront David. He tells this story:

King, there are two subjects in your kingdom, a rich man and a poor man. Now the rich man has many fields and flocks, while the poor man just had one little lamb. Now this little lamb ate from his table, drank from his cup, and slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to the poor man. And when the rich man had some guests who were traveling from far away and he wanted to serve them dinner, rather than take a sheep from his own pastures, he went and took this little lamb from the poor man’s house.

2 Samuel 12:1-7

The story didn’t need to go any further. King David stopped Nathan right there and said, “That man should die! In fact, he will pay four times over for what he did to this poor man.” David heard the message. But then the surprise kicked in because Nathan pointed at David and said, “You are the man!” And right then, David knew what it was about. So these surprises in a parable help us figure out what the message is.

So hear now these words from Matthew 13:44-46:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again. And then in his joy, he went and sold everything he had and bought that field.
Now again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything that he had and bought it.”

Matthew 13:44-46

And this is the Word of God, for the people of God, thanks be to God.

“The kingdom of heaven is like…” Jesus often began his stories this way, and he’s going to describe some hidden aspect of how the kingdom works. But there’s something surprising and unexpected in his stories that we need to notice.

So in this first story, we hear about a treasure in a field. Now today we have banks and we can store our money in a bank. But back then, if you were going on a trip, you might just dig a hole somewhere in your field and bury what you had that was valuable. And if you didn’t return or something happened to you while you were gone, it might still be there, even years later, just waiting to be discovered.

Now this man maybe was a worker in the field. Maybe he was plowing the field. Maybe he was just traveling and tripped over it. We don’t know. But the unexpected thing in this story comes when he finds the treasure and he doesn’t take it with him. I mean, finders keepers, right? That was kind of the law back then as well.

But he covers it up and he sells everything so that he can buy this field. Some think that perhaps he wanted to own it outright. If he was working for someone, perhaps his boss might try to lay claim to the discovery. Maybe whoever owned the field at that time might try to lay claim to it. He wanted to own it outright. And in his joy (can you imagine the cartwheels he does?) he sells everything. And maybe it’s a little shocking that the kingdom of heaven is like a man who dishonestly lays claim to treasure.

But Jesus will help us understand this parable better because he tells us a second one right after. This time, this time it’s a merchant, not just a man. And this isn’t a store owner or retailer. This is a merchant who makes his money by transporting goods from one place to another. He probably has warehouses. He probably has ships. He probably has a house in every city he visits. This is a man of means.

But unlike the first man, he didn’t stumble across a treasure. He set out purposely to go look for it. And it’s not just a casual search. It’s an intense search. I like looking at words in the Bible and the word used here is the same word that is used when Mother Mary is frantically searching for her son Jesus and can’t find him. This is the same search of the women at the tomb when Jesus’ body is missing. And it’s also the search of a shepherd who leaves his flock to look for the missing sheep.

Now part of what might be shocking in this story is that a wealthy man is going to sell everything, everything for a pearl. Something that would fit in his hand. I mean, if you think about the first man, he sold off his house. He sold off maybe his donkey or horse. And he was going to go buy a better house. And he was going to buy maybe a nice Ford F-350 with his new riches. But this merchant, once he buys that pearl, can you imagine? He might only have the clothes on his back and something that would fit in the palm of his hand! I mean, I lose my glasses like 20 times a day. Can you imagine if your riches were something that you could just misplace? Can you imagine going to sleep and what am I going to do with my pearl? All the things, as many as he has, he sells and buys this pearl.

So these are the two stories. Now what can we say about them? Well, it doesn’t matter who you are. You could be just a common person or a person of great means. And it doesn’t matter if you stumble across the treasure or if you’re purposely searching for it. But the kingdom of heaven in both cases is like a treasure. A treasure so valuable, you’d sell everything to have it. I mean, can you imagine finding a treasure in a field that would change your life?

At Kinmundy, maybe this has an immediate picture in our mind. And it was interesting to me as I was studying, I came across this very picture. [Picture of an oil well in a field.] But this is not what Jesus had in mind in his parable. In the kingdom, the thing that we sell everything for is not a literal treasure hidden in a field, it’s not a literal pearl, and it’s not oil gushing from a well.

So then, what’s the thing that you would sell everything for? Well, there’s a lot of possible answers to this. If you’re an artist, or a singer, or a dancer, or a songwriter, or an author, maybe you’re just looking for that big break, and you would take any means possible to get it. Or maybe you’re a business owner with a dream. Or maybe you’re someone looking to be rich or famous or have a million followers on social media. Or maybe you’re even a person who has a passion to start a hospital or a clinic or an orphanage.

Now in my life, well, I think of “The Game of Life.” Have you ever played “The Game of Life”? If you haven’t ever played this game, you get a little game token that’s a car. You start out and you’re a little peg in this car and you drive around the board doing all the things in life. You get to decide how much school you want and it’s a lot of loops around the board the more school you want. But then you collect pegs. You might collect a spouse peg, you might collect children pegs, and the cars don’t have that many seats and some of us have more children than they had pegs or spaces for. And I don’t even remember how you win “The Game of Life.” I think maybe you just drive off into the sunset.

I went to college, and I was an undecided major because I didn’t know what I wanted out of life. And then a year later, I was married (not to Carol). And then another year later, I was already working a full-time job. And then six months later, I had my first child. And then five months later, I bought a house, and then a new car, and then a few months later, I turned 21. But I was unsettled because I knew there was more to life than just these things. There was something more.

And I know that you all can relate to this too, because this longing for something more, something bigger, it’s not just my story, it’s every person’s story. And I know some of you are searching for it, not just window shopping, but like a mother looking for a lost child. And I know some of you are wandering lost, not knowing the treasure is right before you. But the treasure is here. Treasure worthy of selling everything you have.

But unlike the prophet Nathan, who made his parable crystal clear by saying to David, “You are the man,” Jesus doesn’t give the answer to his parable. That’s because Jesus is the answer to his parable. He is the man! He is the treasure hidden in a field. He is the pearl of great price. He’s the only thing, the only person worth selling everything for.

Now the apostle Paul knew this. In his letter to the Philippians, he gives his pedigree. He’s an Israelite circumcised on the eighth day. He’s from the elite tribe of Benjamin. He’s a strict and devout adherent to God’s law and a fiery defender of the purity of his religion, even to the point of persecuting the early church. He was a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law. But whatever gain that Paul found in these amazing and good and admirable things, Paul counted as loss compared to knowing Jesus. In fact, compared to Jesus, Paul said that all these great things are like garbage. Some Bibles say refuse or filth or rubbish, but literally it’s something so useless that you throw it to the dogs. Compared to all these good things, it just doesn’t compare. Jesus is the thing worth selling everything for.

So back to my story. At the age of 21, I was fighting depression. I had a lot of sleepless nights. I was looking for my purpose, searching for my pearl. And God used a strange way to reach me. There was an ad on TV, I can’t find it now, but it had a song by The Byrds, “Turn, Turn, Turn”. How many of you remember that song? For whatever reason, one sleepless night, this song was stuck in my head, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I knew it was from the Bible. but this was before the internet, so I couldn’t just Google it. I had to find a paper Bible in my house, and I had to find it in the Bible. I don’t know if I knew it was Ecclesiastes, but I found my way to the passage. And just a note, if you’re ever depressed, don’t read Ecclesiastes. It’s not the book you want to turn to!

The book is written by Solomon. He was said to be the wisest person that ever lived, but he saw a broken world around him. And so his summary of that broken world was that everything was meaningless. Life is meaningless. It’s like chasing after the wind. Now there’s a good parable. “Life is chasing after the wind.” And I read through the book of Ecclesiastes from the beginning to the end, looking for an answer. The best I could find was at the end in chapter 12, where Solomon gives us the conclusion of the matter. He says, “Fear God and keep His commandments, and that’s our duty.” And I got to that point and I said, “Really? That’s it?” I went back to the beginning and thought maybe I missed it. Maybe I was a slow student or I was too tired. I read through it again from beginning to end. And I think I even read it a third time. I just didn’t get it. Then I prayed the best prayer of my life. I prayed, “God, I don’t know what it means to fear you and keep your commandments. Would you show me what a real Christian looks like?”

Now fast forward six months later. I had a new job. I was in a new town. I had new friends. We were out one night with these friends, and we were going to see a movie, but we got the movie times wrong. Again, kids, we didn’t have the internet to look these things up. Rather than go to a later show, these friends said, “You know, we really just need to go home because we have church in the morning.” Now, did you know that was the witness that I needed to change my life? It’s as simple sometimes as just talking about your life and faith in an ordinary way. Because they had no idea what God was doing in my life right then. But when I heard that, I said, “Oh, tell me about your church and we’ll be there tomorrow morning.”

Once I went there, I was hooked. I was around people who prayed, not just in church, but prayed at home. They read their Bibles, not because they had to. They talked about a relationship with God. I started hanging out at the Christian bookstore. I bought myself a big Study Bible, and I got the little tabs because, you know, it’s hard to find Ecclesiastes, so I put the little tabs in it.

Then one day I was just walking through the bookstore, knowing I needed something different. And I came across this book here. It’s called Peace with God. That was something I was missing in my life, peace with God. It was written by this gentleman named Billy Graham. At that time, I had no idea who that was. It was a name that I had heard once or twice, and so I thought he must be a good author. So I just bought this book. I was sitting on my couch reading through it, and it was going through all the things that I had heard at church in such a clear and concise way. I was just nodding along as I was reading it. Then I reached this part of the book, and Billy Graham said this directly to me. “Mike, you can go on being miserable and discontented and frightened, unhappy, and disgusted with yourself in your life.” Or — and he gave me a choice — “You can decide right now that you want to be born again.” And right there, right in that moment, sitting on my couch with a book of all things, I found my treasure hidden in the field. I found my pearl of great price, the thing I had been searching for, and my life has never been the same.

Now, if you know this Jesus, it’s not a surprise:
for a man to sell everything that he owns to buy a field,
or for a merchant to give up everything just for a little pearl,
or for a missionary to go across the world to share the gospel,
or for a man to start an orphanage,
or a woman to open a hospital,
or even an old married couple to give up their normal life, and spend five years in school, and two or three years waiting, and then move to Kinmundy, Illinois.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea today. Jesus isn’t asking you literally to sell everything. He certainly isn’t asking you to buy a pearl. And I don’t think he’s asking anyone here to be a missionary or a pastor, though he could. I don’t think he’s asking you to start an orphanage or a hospital. He could. But instead, Jesus is inviting you to a search, one that you’re already a part of, a search for something richer and more meaningful, something that fills you with such joy that you could sell it all. And if you don’t have that joy, if you haven’t found that treasure in your life, come search with us. Come listen in.

Next week, Pastor Carol will be back to preach, and we’ll begin a sermon series on hunger. We’ll be looking at this Jesus, our treasure, the one we hunger for. Would you pray with me?

Father God, we thank You for sending Jesus.
Jesus, we thank You for showing us the way through the game of life. We thank You for giving us joy when we find You.
Holy Spirit, there may be someone here this morning who has forgotten that joy. Would you restore it to them now?
Holy Spirit, there may be someone here today who’s searching and maybe they’re not ready yet. Would you just keep leading them?
But maybe there’s someone here even today who’s ready to stop being miserable and discontented and frightened, unhappy, or disgusted with themselves. Maybe they’re ready to trust and follow you, maybe even for the first time. Holy Spirit, I pray You give them the strength to make that choice now.
In all of these things, we give you the thanks and praise and give you all the glory. Amen.

Now, if any of you made any decision of faith today, don’t leave today without sharing it with someone. Pastor Carol and I are always available and would love to talk to you or pray with you after the service.

HYMN
#156 “I Love to Tell the Story”

BENEDICTION
[Holding a large pearl]
There are lot of things you could choose in life to chase after, but I think Solomon was right. Most are meaningless. Like chasing after the wind.
So Church, go now and find the true treasure, the pearl of great price. Jesus. Jesus is the man, the one who will make all things right, so you can finally find peace in your life.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.

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July 7, 2024, What Are You Waiting For?

Note: Today was the first Sunday for our new incoming pastors. The picture above is not them 🙂 The service was led by Pastor Mike Rudzinski, and the message was preached by Pastor Carol Rudzinski. If you would like a visit from the new pastors, please call the church office at 618-547-7423.

CALL TO WORSHIP
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies are new every morning!
Great is your faithfulness, O, God!
The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him!
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
He is good to the souls who seek him.
It is good to wait in peace for the salvation of the Lord!

–Based on Lamentations 3:22-26

HYMN
#454 Open My Eyes That I May See

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer:
Almighty God, you hear our joys and concerns whether we speak them
or not. Please give us strength to wait patiently for your answers and your
will. Help us remain faithful in seeking you. Keep us from foolish shortcuts.
Forgive us, Lord, for our sins. Awaken us to your Holy Spirit at work in our
lives. Help us long for the future you have for us. In Jesus’s name we
pray, Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN
#382 Have Thine Own Way, Lord

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: What Are You Waiting For?!
Text: Psalm 27:14
Sermon slides:   Kinmundy   Wesley   
(Right-click to open in new tab)
Audio was not recorded this week, but hopefully in the future!

TRANSCRIPT:
What Are You Waiting For?!
Carol S. Rudzinski

Hi! For those who haven’t met me yet, I’m Pastor Carol. My husband Mike is the other half of your new pastoral team.

This is our first official Sunday here, and well, this is a big change for all of us. And sometimes change can be hard, right? I’m admitting right now that I’m nervous about how you’ll receive us. And, let’s be honest, some of you are a bit nervous about what Mike and I will be like. And that’s ok! It’s to be expected!

And I’m quite sure you are missing Pastor Dave and Kim. I know you are happy for them as they begin retirement, but I know there is some sadness, too. I understand that. That’s normal. They’ve been part of this congregation for 10 years, so of course you are going to miss them. Please don’t feel like you have to hide that from Mike and me.

It will take a little while for us to get to know each other, so there may be a period of adjustment until we all learn how best to live with each other.

But I want to tell you that for Mike and me, overshadowing all of the other emotions is just such joy and excitement! We want you to know how very, very glad we are to be here, and how we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are in the right place. Absolutely the right place at the right time. In God’s time.

To explain what I mean by that, I’d like to start by telling you a story. It’s an epic story, the story of Abraham and Sarah, and how they waited on God, and how he was so faithful to them. Before God changed their names, they were called Abram and Sarai. Their story starts in Genesis 12, and the story of their waiting covers several chapters in the bible, 25 years, and thousands of miles.

So here goes: Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a far away place….’

Oh, did I mention I used to teach preschool? So many great stories begin this way, with “Once upon a time…” I promise, I don’t think I’m teaching my preschoolers right now, but I’m a big believer in telling good stories. So even though this is absolutely not a fairy tale, the conventions of story-telling can still be helpful, and so we’ll begin with…

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a far away place, there lived a man named Abram.

Now, Abram was an ordinary man, living an ordinary life, when he was interrupted by an extraordinary event. That’s a paraphrase from Sandra Richter in her wonderful book, Epic of Eden.

The Lord God came to Abram, and God spoke to him!

“The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you…’ Now Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all of their possessions, and those who became members of their household in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan.”

This was a lot to ask, an extraordinary command. Their whole culture, their whole way of life, their whole sense of who they were as a people was centered on family and where they lived. In Epic of Eden, Richter notes that God called Abram to leave everyone and all his security behind, and to trust God for a new identity in a new place.

That’s kind of the classic call story. God calls, and the person has to choose to follow. (Or not.) It’s an act of submission, choosing God’s will over our own. Often people sacrifice a lot to follow.

But Abram chose to trust God. He submitted and he followed. When God called him, he packed his bags and set out, even though he didn’t quite know where they were going, or how long it would take to get there, or what they’d be doing in the meantime. Despite the uncertainty, Abram chose to follow.

Oh, Abram and Sarai had a lot of adventures then. Chapters and chapters worth of adventures. Years worth of adventures! They did a lot of traveling. Abram built some altars and he fought a great war. Oh, there are just FAR too many adventures to tell all of them today. You can read all about these adventures in Genesis 12-21.

But during all this time, God had been promising Abram that God would provide land for Abram’s descendants. Finally — and this is YEARS later –Abram points out, You know, God, you keep saying that, but – I don’t know if you’ve noticed — you haven’t given me any children. That’s when God tells Abram he’d have innumerable descendants – as many as the stars in the sky — and makes a covenant with Abram, giving the land to his children.

Still, even after that, Abram and Sarai waited. And they waited. They were old and getting older, and still they were waiting.

Sarai knew they needed children — her security and the entire household’s security depended on having descendants. A lot depended on Abram having an heir!

You know the expression God helps those who help themselves? By the way, that’s not in the Bible, but it is a common thought. We can’t wait forever. Let’s buckle down and take matters into our own hands.

I imagine Sarai and Abram must have talked about it a lot, worried about it a lot, even argued about it a lot. Sarai was unable to have children, and she was well past child-bearing age. God had promised them descendants, but how could this happen? They didn’t know what they were supposed to do. What is God waiting for? Is he waiting on us? Are we supposed to do something? Are we supposed to figure this out on our own? I’m so tired of waiting!

You know what happens if you don’t wait for God’s timing?
(click below to play video)

But Sarai was out of patience. So she figured out a solution. A man-made solution.

Sarai bowed to the prevailing customs of her day, and she gave her maid, her servant named Hagar, to Abram, so Hagar could bear Abram’s child. Under the laws of the time, any child conceived this way would be considered Abram’s and Sarai’s child.

I know, I know, I have a whole lot of problems with this entire scenario. Abraham and Sarah did lots that I don’t agree with. Don’t even get me started. But the point I’m trying to make is that they gave up waiting.

Naturally this solution led to a lot of problems. When Hagar was expecting, it led to jealousy and bitterness and pain. Big surprise, huh? Who could have guessed that taking matters into their own hands instead of waiting for God’s solution might lead to complications? I shouldn’t be so sarcastic here. I’ve been guilty of this myself, at times. We ALL do it sometimes. Abram and Sarai were very human, just like us.

Now Abram was 86 when Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. If Abram had been waiting for a child since they left Haran, that’s 11 years of waiting. Perhaps they had been waiting for a child even before God called them out of Haran. That’s a lot of years to wait.

But they weren’t done waiting, because Ishmael’s birth was not what they had been waiting for.

So Abram and Sarai waited some more.

Now we are all the way up Genesis 17. When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to Abram again, and again offered him a covenant: Walk with me and be trustworthy. Your name will be Abraham, which means ancestor of multitudes. I will be your God and the God of your descendants, and I will give you the land of Canaan. The sign of this covenant was circumcision.

And God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, saying that she would be the mother of nations. God told Abraham that Sarah would bear a son. And Abraham laughed. He was almost 100 years old.

Then one hot day, Abraham was sitting in the door of his tent when he looked up and suddenly, he saw three men standing nearby. As soon as he saw them, he ran from his tent to greet them, offering signs of respect and hospitality. The men agreed to stay for a rest and a meal.

Then one of the men told Abraham that the man would return in about a year, and Sarah would have a son. Now Sarah was listening to the conversation from inside the tent. When she heard this pronouncement, Sarah laughed. Of course she laughed! Did she laugh at the impossibility of it? She was 90! Did she laugh with pure joy? Oh, this is a story for another day, but for now, suffice it to say that Sarah laughs.

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?” Note that Abraham had thought he was talking to three men. But now we learn that it was actually the Lord talking to him. And God reiterated the point: when I return to you about this time next year, Sarah will have a son.

At this point, the story diverts again, with a lot more adventures, many of them pretty unsavory. They are great examples of the sinfulness of humanity, which play out in contrast to the faithfulness of God.

And sure enough, God was faithful, and he carried out what he promised!

Even though Abraham was about 100 years old and his wife Sarah was about 90, Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. Just as God had said she would. They named the child Isaac, which means, “He laughs.” Sarah was delighted. Genesis 21:6 says, “Sarah said, God has given me laughter. Everyone who hears about it will laugh with me.”

I would like to end the story with, “and they lived happily ever after.” But of course, then it would be a fairy tale. When real people are involved, it’s always more complicated than that.

But throughout the years of waiting, even when Abraham and Sarah weren’t always following perfectly, God was faithful, and he kept his promises.

You know, in many ways, Mike and I have felt like Abraham and Sarah. Once upon a time, God called us, too, like he called Abram. We were ordinary people, living ordinary lives which were interrupted by an extraordinary event.

The Lord said to Mike and Carol, “Leave your land, your family, and your household for the land that I will show you…” Now Carol was 51 years old when she left home. Mike took his wife Carol, their dog, Doodlepunk, and 1/3 of their possessions (they had to give away or throw away all the rest) and they set out for the school where God led them.

We had to choose to follow, and we had to leave everyone and all our security behind, and to trust God for a new identity and a new place.

Oh, we had lots of adventures then. The car racked up thousands of miles, and school went on for years and years. And years.

All this time, God had been promising us that he had a ministry for us.

Then, about three years ago, we began to hear the message “Wait.” Over and over, God began telling us to wait. When you start hearing things over and over, you want to stop and evaluate whether it might be God trying to get your attention. I heard it and heard it: we needed to just stop and wait. First was a sermon. Second time was our church’s verse of the day. Mike wasn’t so sure. Finally, we were walking down the street and I saw something sparkling on the ground. I picked up, glanced at it, said, “I think this is for you” and handed it to him. Here it is:

It’s a charm, like off a keyring or a charm bracelet. Can you read it? It is Psalm 27:14 “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart.”

Mike heard God then. After all, the third time’s the charm!

Sure, you can call it a coincidence if you want to. But the more time you spend with God, the more you know what his voice sounds like, and the more you’re going to hear from him.

God said wait. So we began waiting. And waiting. We waited for a couple of years. Some of you know just how hard it can be, waiting on God’s timing. People began pressuring us. Come home! We need pastors! Join our church; we need your help! You want to serve, you were called to ministry, so what are you waiting for?! Waiting got harder and harder. I have to admit, I didn’t always wait with good courage. Mike didn’t doubt, but I began to wonder if we might have heard God wrong. Still, God had told us to wait. So we prayed for the strength to keep waiting, for the faith, for the courage. We hung onto that scripture and we hung unto his promises.

God had promised us that what he had in mind for us would be a lot of hard work, but it would bring peace and great joy. And he promised we’d know it when we saw it.
He used the story of Simeon to illustrate that. You know the story of Simeon?

Once upon a time, there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, Simeon went into the temple courts. When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple as the custom of the Law required, Simeon took the baby in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. That was Luke 2: 25-33.

There is a painting called Simeon’s Moment, and the artist is Ron Dicianni. Someday I’m going to get a print of it and hang it where I can see it every day. The look on Simeon’s face! The artist got it exactly right. Simeon knew it when he saw it. Well, he knew HIM when he saw him. Without a shadow of a doubt. And Simeon is transfigured with joy. I know it sounds audacious, but God promised Mike and me that kind of complete, absolute knowing: when we saw the ministry he called us to, we’d know it. And it would bring us that kind of joy.

So, like Simeon, we waited. And just as the Messiah didn’t come in the form the people expected, Mike and I began to wonder if the ministry God called us to would come in a different form than what we had expected.

Then the message God was telling us changed. Not only wait, but watch. The story of Abraham and Sarah started showing up everywhere. How they waited, and waited, and waited for God to keep his promise to them.

But… watch for what? How much longer can I watch and wait, God? Many of my friends are talking about retiring, Lord! If the “baby” Sarah was waiting on represents the ministry you’re calling me to… well, Sarah was 90 when she had her baby! I don’t want to wait to start ministry until I’m 90!

Still, we began watching carefully. Then we heard, almost exactly one year ago, we heard clearly, OH so very clearly, Genesis 18:10, which says, Then one of the men said, “I will definitely return to you about this time next year. Then your wife Sarah will have a son!” So we began to believe whatever we were waiting for was coming soon.

We were originally from the Peoria area. The District Superintendent up there, bless his heart, knew our story, and he understood we were waiting. He called us up one day, and he had Stan Irvin on the call too; Stan is our district superintendent here. And they said, “You said you’d know it when you see it? What if you’ve already seen it, so you’ll know it?”

I had no idea what they meant. They told us that Bishop Frank Beard had appointed us here, to Kinmundy UMC and Wesley UMC.

And suddenly, I was Simeon, holding the promise in my hand. This is what I’d been waiting for! Oh, the peace that washed over me! I’ve only felt that kind of peace once or twice in my whole life. And I was just flooded with joy. We were Abraham and Sarah, holding baby Isaac. And we laughed with pure delight. We KNEW that we knew that we knew that this was what we’d been waiting for.

We knew YOU were who we had been waiting for.

If we had settled for a man-made solution and taken on another ministry, we wouldn’t have been available when Pastor Dave retired. But we waited. We submitted to God’s timing, and in obedience, we waited. And God is faithful; he keeps his promises.

And so, here we are, a year later, like Sarah or like Simeon, holding a brand new ministry in our hands and laughing with delight.

But of course, there is another story being told here, too. Once upon a time, a long time ago – but in a very near place — God called you, too.

Kinmundy (Click here to skip to Wesley)

God called the folks here in Kinmundy and the surrounding area. You all were ordinary people, living ordinary lives which were interrupted by an extraordinary event: God called you together as a congregation, and he said, “Follow me.”

Back in the year 1863—but continuing through today– the Lord called to the Ingrams and the Pruetts and the Wilkinson families, the Joneses and the Doolens and the Smiths, and the Freemans, and the Hensleys, and oh, so many more, and instead of asking your families to leave, God said, Come! Come, together with your family and your household. Come together to be part of the church family that I will build out of you, to bring the good news of Christ to our communities! Trust in me for a new identity, an identity in me, as Christ followers, and in particular, as people called Methodists.

And the people obeyed. They submitted to God’s will and they came, and they brought their husbands and wives and grandmas and uncles and friends and children. And oh, they had a lot of adventures then!

They sacrificed, and they sweated, and they loved each other, and they loved their community, and they worked hard and… well, I’d wager there were probably some rough chapters in there at times. There usually are, in stories where people are involved. But God is faithful, and he keeps his promises.

And the Methodists of Kinmundy kept on following Jesus. YOU kept on following Jesus. And you loved some more, and you served and you taught and you ate together and you laughed together and you cried together and you obeyed your Lord. And you grew in your faith together, and you told other people about Jesus’s love and grace and forgiveness and the salvation that he offers. What a beautiful story you have written here, you and Jesus as co-authors!

Oh, yes, there are lots of adventures in your story as a church family! And Mike and I want to hear them. We can’t wait to hear it from you, to have you tell us the stories of your families and the stories of your Sunday School classes and your circles, the stories of your congregations and the stories of your communities.

And all this time, God has had ministries for you. Some were short term ministries that have concluded, some are ongoing ministries, and some? Well, some are ministries that are waiting to be born, stories waiting to be told.

Wesley (Skip to Kinmundy)

God called you folks here. You all were ordinary people, living ordinary lives which were interrupted by an extraordinary event: God called you together as a congregation, and he said, “Follow me.”

Way back in your history—but continuing through today– the Lord called to the Joneses, and the Greens, the Atkinses, the Doolens, The Blacks, The Lowes, The Garretts and the the Arnolds, and oh, so many more, and instead of asking your families to leave, God said, Come! Come, together with your family and your household. Come together to be part of the church family that I will build out of you, to bring the good news of Christ to our communities! Trust in me for a new identity, an identity in me, as Christ followers, and in particular, as people called Methodists.

And the people obeyed. They submitted to God’s will and they came, and they brought their husbands and wives and grandmas and uncles and friends and children. And oh, they had a lot of adventures then!

They sacrificed, and they sweated, and they loved each other, and they loved their community, and they worked hard and… well, I’d wager there were probably some rough chapters in there at times. There usually are, in stories where people are involved. But God is faithful, and he keeps his promises.

And when Arnold Chapel burnt, the folks of Arnold Chapel combined with Zion church, and together, you all formed the congregation here at Wesley.

And the Methodists of Wesley kept on following Jesus. YOU kept on following Jesus. And you loved some more, and you served and you taught and you ate together and you laughed together and you cried together and you obeyed your Lord. And you grew in your faith together, and you told other people about Jesus’s love and grace and forgiveness and the salvation that he offers. What a beautiful story you have written here, you and Jesus as co-authors!

Oh, yes, there are lots of adventures in your story as a church family! And Mike and I want to hear them. We can’t wait to hear it from you, to have you tell us the stories of your families and the stories of your Sunday School classes and your circles, the stories of your congregations and the stories of your communities.

And all this time, God has had ministries for you. Some were short term ministries that have concluded, some are ongoing ministries, and some? Well, some are ministries that are waiting to be born, stories waiting to be told.

Kinmundy and Wesley

I’ve told you a lot of stories today. Now it’s your turn. Mike and I want to hear the chapters that you and Jesus have co-written together. We want to know your story up to this point.

You know, when new pastors come in, sometimes there is a worry that they will make big, sweeping changes. And sometimes, the congregations worry that the pastors won’t make any changes! And sometimes the pastors make inadvertent changes; I didn’t realize I’d changed the order of worship until Vervadene told me! So, I’m sorry about that’ I didn’t mean to make changes right off the bat.

The thing is, Mike and I don’t know you all yet. We don’t know your story yet. We want to know how God has used you, what he has called you to, and what he might be calling you to going forward.

Our plan is to wait a bit, to get to know you, to hear your story and understand how we fit into it. Why did God call Mike and me to be part of your story? Because it is YOUR story, after all. Mike and I are just bit players in one chapter. I hope it will be a very long and happy chapter, but the story of Kinmundy UMC starts long before us, and will go on long after we have retired.

And honestly, even the story of Kinmundy United Methodist Church is just one part of the bigger story. You know how the Book of Acts is the story of how the Holy Spirit was at work through the apostles and the early church? Well, we are part of that same story, the story of how Christ is still at work on this earth, building his Kingdom, through ordinary, extraordinary people like you.

When I went to write this sermon, I found that someone had written on my calendar, for July 1, the day we were to begin our ministry here. Mike swears he didn’t write it, and I sure didn’t write it. Somebody wrote on our calendar, “What are you waiting for?!” I’ve been thinking about this a lot. What are we waiting for? We are waiting on God!

So Mike and I want to invite you to wait with us. Together, as individuals and as a church family, let’s wait on the Lord. We want to hear his voice. Remember when I said Abram was an ordinary man, living an ordinary life, interrupted by an extraordinary event? That’s absolutely true: the call of God on your life is extraordinary.

But at the same time, nothing could be more ordinary. Because God calls literally every one of us. He calls you, and you , and you. And he’s calling us, as a congregation. He speaks to us all the time. So let’s enter into a time of waiting together, telling our stories, telling God’s stories, and listening for the next chapter. Together.

Will you pray with me?
O, dear, dear Lord! We thank you! Thank you for bringing Pastor Mike and me to this place, to these people whom you love so dearly! We thank you that your plans are worth waiting for. We thank you that you are faithful. Help us be more like you, Father! Help us wait faithfully. Please Lord, give us ears to hear your voice as you speak into our next chapter. And please, Lord, give us the words to tell others the story of your grace and your love. We pray all these things in Jesus’s precious name, Amen.


HYMN
#369 Blessed Assurance

BENEDICTION
May God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love and Him and keep his commandments,
May the only true God grant you the freedom to continue to live into his story as you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory both now and forevermore. Amen.
And until we meet again, Grace and peace.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible through the North and West entrances.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
 

Posted in Sermons 2024 | Leave a comment

June 16, 2024, A Circuit Rider Mounts Up, Pentecost 5

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP
Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief. Help me to see my world as You see it.
Lord, I obey; Help my disobedience. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow;  Help me to stay on the path. Thank you for the path, for guidance, for Providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation. 
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine, as a means of grace, as a person through whom your Holy Spirit flows. Amen.

HYMN 557 Blest Be The Tie That Binds
Tennessee Ernie Ford – Blest Be The Tie That Binds
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1LJ4gz7D0s

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 593 Here I Am, Lord
Here I Am Lord with Lyrics – John Michael Talbot
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnO5B_G505w

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: A Circuit Rider … Mounts Up
Text: 1 Corinthians 3:1-15
Series: The Final Four

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

1 Corinthians 3:1 But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men? 4 For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apol’los,” are you not merely men? 5 What then is Apol’los? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apol’los watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– 13 each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

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HYMN 536 Precious Name
George Younce – Take The Name Of Jesus With You
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBrGENqTFBg

BENEDICTION

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

Friends, it’s time to get back on the horse. What are circuit riders?

In the Methodist history in the United States, as settlers would move west, circuit riders would ride from log cabin to log cabin. And they’d say, “Hello,” and they’d say, “I am the Methodist preacher. We would like to hold services at so-and-so’s cabin. I’ll be there tonight to preach, and I’ll be back in six weeks or six months.” Because you see, you had an appointment to be somewhere to preach. And so when a minister is sent to a church today, they still call it an appointment. I have an appointment at 9 o’clock this morning, and here I am.

Circuit writers would sometimes be assigned to an entire river valley. Sometimes they would go in a line to where one would be here on a certain date, and another one would be here in two weeks, and they’d just go around in a big circle. Long about the 1880s, they started building houses for the circuit writers to live in. A circuit rider would have one church or two churches or three churches, or sometimes more. We’re still a circuit here because Kim and I will ride out to Wesley, because I have an appointment there. As the circuit riders rode, rain or shine, snow or thunderstorms, they would frequently be reading on their horse. And to be honest, that sure sounds like me.

But a circuit rider has an appointment, and the bishop fixes the appointments and decides who goes where. And when that appointment begins and when that appointment concludes. And what I have described this as over the years is a sanctified batting order. Now, if you’re a baseball fan, you know what I mean. The work of the team is done by the sequence of batters, not by any one batter. The previous batter strikes out. It’s up to the next batter to get a hit. If that batter gets on base, it’s up to the next batter to bat that player home. It’s a sequence of pastors that do God’s work.

And I don’t know if I struck out. I don’t know if I’m stuck on second base. But it’s the sequence of batters. And it’s the sequence of pastors that gets God’s will done. So, consequently, our way of doing things in a church is one pastor after another after another.

Now, other churches are different. A pastor comes in and changes everything the previous pastor did as if it was no good at all. Frequently, the pastor builds a little empire to where it’s all about him. It’s usually a “him” who does this. And it becomes known in town: this is Pastor so-and-so’s church. And when that pastor leaves, everything they did falls apart and the church starts over from scratch.

That’s not the Methodist way. We build on each other’s work. But this means that built into the system is the fact that things are going to change. And when things change, they’re going to catch you by surprise.

Just like 10 years ago when Pastor Dave came into the church for the first service of his time here, the first Sunday in July. And what do we do every first Sunday? We have communion. And Pastor Dave came in and the service started. And he turned around and all of a sudden he noticed the communion things were not on the altar. What happened?

Do you know what happened? Pastor Stephen King did it himself but never told me that he prepared the communion personally. And for the 33 years before that, someone in my church always got communion ready. And so I come in first Sunday I’m here, and I’m like, “We’re supposed to have communion.” Where is it? It’s gone. So I look out into the congregation for someone who I can throw the football to them. And there’s Jane Heinzman. And I said, “Jane, there’s not any communion here.” And she was like– and I said, “Would you pick somebody and go in the kitchen and get communion ready while we worship so it’ll be ready when the time comes?”

And so she went into the kitchen and started looking for bread. And she went in the kitchen and started looking for grape juice. And she found some juice. I think it was apple juice, put it in the little tiny cups, but they couldn’t find any bread. But in the freezer was a box of frozen pancakes. So our first Sunday together, we had to … hear the word … adjust. And we had pancake communion. I’m really not sure why we didn’t do that every year in July because it’s just a funny story. But when there’s a change, you don’t always know what the previous person did. And sometimes you want to do something different. And sometimes everybody’s just caught by surprise. And the most frequent words that are ever spoken in church are “We’ve never done it this way before.”

Friends, in the future, there will be a lot of, “We’ve never done it this way before,” but most of it will be good, just like new parents adjust to a new baby. There’s a lot of adjusting. We’ve never done it this way before, but it’s going to be good. But you need to learn to go with the flow.

Now, ironically, the apostle Paul talked about a change of pastors because the early disciples and apostles, they would rotate just like circuit writers, and one would be there for a while, and then another one would come, and then another one would come.

And there was a problem in the church in Corinth. And Paul addressed all the problems of that church in the letter to the Corinthians. And here’s the problem that he brings up in chapter 3. But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ, as beautiful babies, but very immature. If you had babies, you remember what it’s like; you won’t get a full night’s sleep for at least a year. You love them, but they’re a lot of work.

And Paul says this, “Most of you people are immature like babies. And I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even yet, you were not ready, for you are still of the flesh.” If you try to give a little baby food for grown-ups, they just get a tummy ache. You have to baby them. Well, what is it that Paul is pointing out here that is so immature? And here’s what he says, “For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving like ordinary men?”

And so here’s the sign of immaturity. For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another says, “I belong to Apollos, are you not merely men not guided by the Spirit?” Because you see, friend, who the pastor is is not a popularity contest. I certainly hope in the future that I will not hear the phrase, “I belong to Paul–” or I’m sorry, “I belong to Dave. The way Dave did it, that’s the best way. It’s never going to be good again.” I sure hope I don’t hear that. To be honest, I’m just fleshly enough to hope that I don’t hear: I belong to Carol and Mike, and thank God that Dave guy is gone. The sermons now are not too long! Because you see, it’s not a popularity contest.

Now, a baby will sometimes love Mom and not get along with Dad, sometimes get along with Dad, but not get along with Grandma, but we don’t want to have favorites for a very, very important reason. And this is what Paul says. Paul says this, verse six, “I planted,” that’s what Paul loved to do. “I planted, Apollos watered. But overall, God gave the growth.” Verse 7, “So neither he who plants or he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”

Now, we have people in the room today who understand farming better than I ever will, but you know the ground wants the seed and the ground wants the fertilizer, and the ground wants the pesticide. But the ground also wants the water. And the ground needs all of these things. And just like all of us, pastors tend to have a specialty. And whatever the specialty is, that’s what they do. And that’s what they do. And that’s what they do.

And they do it well to the point to where, in the seminary I went to back in 1978-80, what they would tell us is that, after seven years, the church would begin to resemble the pastor because the church would adjust. And what they meant by that was wherever the pastor is talented and strong, the church would be talented and strong. But easing up behind would be the reality that wherever the pastor was weak, the church would begin to be weak. Now, there is a way to get around that. And I probably said this more often than any other thing in 10 years. Every single one of you has a gift and all of your gifts balance out wherever I’m weak. So, if I can get all of you involved in doing God’s work together, we’ll have everything covered. But this is generally a principle.


And so I’ve been planting seed for 10 years. Friends, the ground is crying out for the water. The ground needs the water. It’s time for water. All that seed I planted needs to be watered so that it will germinate. It’s the sequence of pastors that do God’s will. As Paul goes on to say, “He who plants, or she who plants, he who waters, or she who waters, are equal. And each shall receive their wages according to their labor. For we are God’s fellow workers.” You are God’s field, God’s building, where God gives the growth. You need each because, in our church, God works through a sequence of pastors. And if you and I had all day, we could go all the way back to 40 years ago or farther and talk about what each pastor brought to the church, what each pastor was good at, what each pastor brought in the sense of wisdom and abilities.
And maybe in that list of pastors, there will be some favorites, but God works through all of them to get the work of God finished. Because you see, someone has to plant. But after planting, someone has to water.

And what we need to do with regard to pastors is to let each one do their job, whatever that job is. Because you see, we are a functional family of God here in Kinmundy where Jesus is Lord and people grow. And that means that there will be times of planting and there will be times of watering. And we need to let each one do their job to get the results that God wants us to have. Now, some pastors are very similar. If one pastor follows another and the differences are huge, then you can have an allergic reaction like when Pastor King followed Pastor Ambrose. The differences were too big. But differences are a good illustration.

I would like to introduce you to basketball player Margot Dydek, who is 7’2″ tall. Just like me, she was probably over six feet tall in sixth grade. I would like to introduce you to Becky Hammon, who is guarding Margot Dideck. But what you may not understand is this. Margot and I understand this, being tall, wishes that she was quick. And Becky Hammon is quick. If Margot brings the ball down low to dribble it, Becky’s going to steal the ball. But I guarantee you, Becky, who is 5’6″ tall, has wished her whole life that she was taller. But because God has different people on every team with different gifts, there are quick ones who do quick things, there are tall ones who do tall things, and all the needs are met. After planting, it’s time for water. It’s time for a change. You need to let the player do their job. The worst thing you can do is to say to Margo, “I wish you were quicker.” The worst thing you can do to Becky is to say, “I wish you were taller.” Let each person be who they are.

And as a church, flow around them to where if there’s anything they’re not good at, one of you will be very good at it because God will see to it that the church has everything the church needs.

So let me tell you a story about change. There is a theologian by the name of Sam Kean who was going through a very difficult divorce. And he went to see Howard Thurman, who is another theologian. And this conversation occurred back in the late ’50s or early ’60s. And Howard Thurman’s advice to Sam Keane with regard to this divorce, this change in his life that he did not want. This is what he said. “When I was a boy in Florida, I used to go fishing. And the very best fish were to be caught just at the point where the bay met the ocean.” Now, what does that mean? The ocean is waves that are constantly stirring. The bay is water that’s more still. And where the ocean meets the bay, it stirs up the bottom so that there’s lots of things for the fish to eat. So the fish gather at the edge between two very different states of being, at the place where change is happening.

But Howard Thurman said, “There was only a short time between the tides when you could stay in the calm water.” You see, the tide comes in and begins to flow like a river from the ocean into the bay. The tide goes out; it begins to flow like a river from the bay out into the ocean. And Howard Thurman says, “You would just wear yourself out trying to stay in the same place to the point to where you ran out of strength.” And not only that: because you were fighting the tide, you had no time to fish.

And here’s the point that he made to Sam Kean. When the tide began to change, you couldn’t row against it. You couldn’t win. You couldn’t keep everything the same. You had to go in the direction that it was sweeping you. I’m not an expert on the tide, but if I’m not mistaken, it changes twice a day.

Sometimes, in church life, it takes 10 years before the tide comes in. And you can’t stay in the same place. There’s going to be a change. All you can do is go in the direction that it’s sweeping you, and we have a fancy phrase for that. Very literally, it’s to go with the flow. And friends, we are going with the flow.

I now live in Trenton, Illinois. You can pray for me! The worst thing about living in Trenton, Illinois, is for 10 years, I have kept my toothbrush right there, and it’s no longer there, and I can’t find it. And in fact, I’ll be honest with you, I can’t find anything. There is a charging cable that lets me charge my little Fitbit watch. If you’ve got it, please give it back. But I’m not wearing a watch today because I can’t charge it. I can’t find it.

Kim and I were packing. And as usual, I have this bright pink bag, which is impossible to miss. And into the bright pink bag, I put my blood sugar monitor, my pulse oxmonitor, and my very, very hideously expensive tube of Ozempic. And then the bright pink bag disappeared. If any of you have it, we need it back. But I finally gave up and got a new blood sugar tester. Last night, I gave up and ordered a new charging cable from Amazon. I’m going with the flow, and things will get better. And somebody who plants has planted a lot over ten years. And here comes somebody who waters, because if you’re thirsty, it’s time. It’s time. It’s time.

And I’ll be very honest with you: it feels very strange today to be in the midst of this change for me because I have no idea what it’s going to be like to be retired. Now, a number of you who are retired say it’s wonderful. Some of the rest of you say within six months, I’ll be looking for another job. And I don’t know, friends, but I do want to tell you– and Kim and I are here today on purpose. That’s our wedding day picture, on the way out of the church, on the way to our honeymoon. Whenever I think about how much I’m going to miss you, whenever I think about how painful and difficult life is where I can’t find any of my stuff, whenever I feel a little sad, I just whisper under my breath, “I’m going on my honeymoon.” So, the honeymoon starts today. And you can pray for me with all the things that I don’t know where they are. They’re in a box somewhere.

But with regards to the church, let’s go with the flow. And Kim reminded me this is the point. Mike Rudzinski will never be a good Dave, but he is a genius at being Mike Razinski. Carol Rudzinski, likewise, will never be a good Dave. She doesn’t play the guitar. (Mike plays the guitar. He might be a good guitar player!) But Carol Rudzinski will never be a good Dave. But you know something? She’s not supposed to be … because Dave was the planter and she’s going to be here to water. And just like the weather in Illinois, it’ll happen more quickly than you can imagine. There will be another pastor along after Mike and Carol to do whatever they weren’t perfect at. While this church will continue to live and prosper and grow in spirit and be blessed because God is staying here. And it is God that gives the growth.

So I’m going to let the tide sweep me off to my honeymoon. And I’m going to let the tide sweep into here two people I’ve known since 2017 and who I honestly would tell you are very good friends. I am very confident that if you loved me, you will love them. And I’m very confident that they will be very blessed to be the pastor in the appointment here.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we are going to have to give in to the tide today, remembering and rejoicing at everything that has ever been good. Every time we’ve smiled, every time we’ve laughed, and every time there’s been joy, sometimes, Lord, in the midst of sorrow. But Lord, we also know that there’s still going to be joy, there’s still going to be laughter, and there’s still going to be rejoicing in the days ahead. And so, Lord, we pray that you will bring your people joy in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

Posted in Attend Worship at Home 2023-2024 | Leave a comment

June 9, 2024, Walk This Way Our Promises To Keep, Pentecost 4

Image via Pixabay

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP
Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief. Help me to see my world as You see it.
Lord, I obey; Help my disobedience. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow;  Help me to stay on the path. Thank you for the path, for guidance, for Providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation. 
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine, as a means of grace, as a person through whom your Holy Spirit flows. Amen.

HYMN 374 Standing On The Promises
Alan Jackson – Standing On The Promises Of God (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YQXiQfEjqs

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 395 Take Time To Be Holy!
TAKE TIME TO BE HOLY | Jehovah Shalom Acapella 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5WdYUNLcRs

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Walk This Way: Our Promises To Keep
Text: Matthew 4:16-22, 28:18-20
Series: The Final Four

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.

——————————————————————————————————–
SERMON NOTES

Matthew 4:16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zeb’edee and John his brother, in the boat with Zeb’edee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

  ————————————————————————————————————-

HYMN 467 Trust and Obey
TRUST AND OBEY – LSQ – The Living Stones Quartet
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suXUg0dLsAo

BENEDICTION

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

(Some of the words in this message are drawn from “The Services of the Baptismal Covenant of The United Methodist Church as Revised to Align with the 2008 Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions,” Copyright ©1976, 1980, 1985, 1989, 2009 The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.“ Source: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/book-of-worship/the-baptismal-covenant-i )

For the past few months, we’ve been talking about God’s will being done right here and right now. And as God’s will is done, God’s kingdom will come right here and right now because Jesus Christ, more and more, will be the Lord of our lives and our community.

And that’s why we prayed this at the beginning of church. It’s all about following Jesus. And so we say, “Lord, thank you that there’s a path to follow.” If you’re familiar with the picture you’re looking at, there is a wooden walkway leading through all this greenery. But this comes from the salt marshes of the east coast of the United States. On either side of that walkway, there’s a swamp. If you take a turn to the right or the left and step off the path, you’re going to be in mud up to your knees or maybe more. We want to stay on the path. Lord, we want to follow you. And so we pray, help us to stay on the path. Thank you for providing a path that helps our feet to be steady. Thank you for providing us with guidance, with providence, which means that God is taking care of us as we go along the path, and with protection. God protects us as we stay on the path.

On the other hand, as I get older, I’m aware that some paths are a little different. Here’s a path that is a series of steps. Now, the whole point, as you know, is we want to get to the top. We want to get to where the sky is blue, and the sun is shining. And when we’re younger, we might run up these steps without even touching the banister. But I’ve found at age 69, I need the banister a lot more than I used to. And sometimes, I’ll actually use it to pull me up and pull me forward.

So, you see, when you’re on a pathway, you have two choices. The first choice is to watch where you’re going. But the second choice is to watch your step. Because sometimes the steps are uneven, sometimes the steps are broken, and sometimes the way is difficult.

The smartest thing they told me in driver’s ed in high school was that when you’re going down the highway, you need to look where you want the car to go. Now, your eyes flicker over here to this side, and your eyes flicker over there to that side, and your eyes also occasionally flicker to the speedometer. But the car goes where you’re looking. And if you focus too much on the ditch, you’re going to end up in the ditch. So you need to pay attention to where we all want to be.

And I think for 10 years, and I don’t think it’s been a bad thing, but for 10 years, I’ve asked you to focus not on the big picture as much as on the next step. Because you know something? All of us are different. The next step will be different for each one of us. Some of us, God wants us to change and do less of something. Others of us, God wants us to change and do a little more of something. Sometimes God’s will for your life at this step is something as small as getting up a little earlier in the morning. Sometimes the thing that is God’s will for you is as small as you being a little nicer to a certain person. And you know something? If you do each little thing well, you’re going to be at the top of those steps in no time. But if you slip and fall, roll down the steps the wrong way, it’s because you missed something that was little. Most accidents are caused by some little thing. And I always say to myself, when I have an accident, I should have paid attention. But if you pay attention to the next step, whatever it is in your spiritual life, whatever it is that God wants you to do, that’s perfect for you.

Now, the problem is somebody else has a different step than you. By the way, have you noticed how thick my glasses are? I am actually legally blind when I take them off. I didn’t find that out until I tried to join the Air Force in 1975. And the doctor said, “Son, you could just go home. You are too blind to serve.” But you see, when you look at your “step” and try to tell someone else that that’s what they have to do, the problem is that’s a little bit like me saying, “Here, if you can’t see, put these on. These glasses work great for me.” Unfortunately, they won’t work well for you.

So two things. We want to keep the big picture where we’re going in mind, but we don’t want to forget the little steps. And as I’ve said, I’ve talked to you about little steps for 10 years. Today, I want to talk about the big picture and ways to imagine and understand the big picture.

We have a liturgy. We have a series of promises that we make when we are baptized and when we join the church. And you, as a congregation, have promises that you make to people who are being baptized and joining the church. So, let’s look at those promises because they’re a big picture.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through the sacrament of baptism, we are, one, initiated into Christ’s holy church. We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit. All of this is God’s gift offered to us without price.

Something happens in a person’s life the day they’re baptized. They have resources, spiritual resources that they did not have before. They become a part of God’s family. They become a part of God’s mighty acts of salvation. And they receive a gift from God.

Now, later, as life goes on, there’s a time for commitment We call that commitment confirmation for young people. But another way to say it is the reaffirmation of our faith. You and I can renew the commitment that we make to God at any time and any day. And consequently, in a few minutes, we’re going to be talking about the commitments that people make when they join the church. But I’m going to ask every single person here, if you’re willing to do so, to recommit your life, to reaffirm your faith by also answering and making the same commitments and promises. In other words, we’ll do this together.

And through confirmation and the reaffirmation of our faith, we do three things. First of all, we renew the agreement, the holy agreement, the covenant that was made at our baptism, we acknowledge what God is doing for us today, and we affirm our commitment to the church that we’re a part of. Those are big-picture things. In Matthew 4:16, it says, “At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. For those who sat in the region in the shadow of death, light has dawned.” And from that time, in other words, beginning at that time and on through all of his ministry up to today, Jesus began to preach saying, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

You see, friends, there are things that should be different about our life. Now, it’s possible that there’s someone here who’s perfect. And if you are here and you are perfect, I want to meet you because you should be up here doing this, and I will listen to you. But the reality is we’re all on the way. Step by step, God is asking us to live a different way, different for each of us in that moment.

But the big picture of what it means to repent has to do with these questions. Now, if you’ve been in a wedding, you know where it says, “I do,” you say, “I do.” And because I want to encourage all of us who would like to do so to reaffirm our faith that we all join in when it’s time to say, “I do.” Later on, not to confuse you, there’s a place where you will say, “I will.” But we’re all in this together today. So here, I have this question which describes the big picture at the top of the stairs where we’re all wanting to go. Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness? Do you reject the evil powers of this world? And do you repent of your sin, wishing that your life had been different and that you could do what God wants you to do? And if that is your desire, please say, “I do.”
I do.

Now, here’s the truth. God’s going to help you with that. Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil? You don’t have to do what evil says. To resist injustice – you don’t have to do what injustice says. To resist oppression – you don’t have to do what the oppressors and the dictators and the evil people of this world want you to do. And you can resist them in whatever forms they present themselves because of God’s help. If you would like God’s help to live this kind of life, please say, “I do.”
I do.

That’s what it means to repent. And those questions are available to remind you what it means anytime they can be helpful.

Now, right after the verse where it talks about Jesus saying that he began to preach for people to repent, this happens: as he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter and Andrew, his brother, casting a net into the sea. And he said to them, “Follow me.” Now, what follow me means is, “I’m going this way. You don’t want to go that way. Will you go the direction I go? Will you listen to the things I say? Will you do what I ask you to do? Will you follow me?” And Jesus says this, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” In other words, I’m going to help you help other people to follow. And notice their decision in verse 20: Immediately, they left their nets and followed him. They did not know where they were going. They just knew that they wanted to be with Jesus and were willing to change what they wished to do to what he wished, just to be with him.

Here are the big-picture questions for what it means to follow Jesus, the profession of our faith. So I want to ask you this, do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior? Do you put your whole trust in His grace? And do you promise to serve Him as your Lord, not all by yourself, but in union with the church which Christ is open to people of all ages, nations, and races. And if that’s your desire, would you say I do?
I do.

Now, according to the grace given to you, in other words, as God helps you, according to the grace given to you, will you remain faithful members of Christ’s Holy Church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world? And if that’s your desire, please say, “I will.”
I will.

If you do those things, you will be a long way to reaching the top. Now, these questions, basically, Landon is asked. Paisley is asked. But we’ve all joined together. And then, of course, it repeats, just in case you missed it. I want to ask the congregation, do you, as Christ’s body, the church, do you reaffirm both your rejection of sin? And do you reaffirm your commitment to Christ? And if that’s your desire, please say, “We do.”
We do.

And so here’s the task that is asked of the church. Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith? Will you be a help for a person to do God’s will, not a hindrance? And will you particularly nurture the young people, Landon and Paisley, who are now before you, and take care of them spiritually? And if that’s your wish, I’d like to ask you to join me in making this commitment:

With God’s help, we’ll proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness that they may grow in their trust of God and be found faithful in their service to others. We will pray for them that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life. And you see, this is a clear indicator of what the church is supposed to do. And it helps us stay on track and stay on the path.

The faith is not only what we do, it’s also what we believe. So let me ask you these questions.

Let us join together in professing the Christian faith is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament. Do you believe in God the Father? I believe in God the Father, almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ? I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day, he rose again. He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

These are the basic facts about the life of Jesus Christ. But if you ever have a question about what they mean, I would love to attempt to answer that question.

Finally, do you believe in the Holy Spirit? I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. These are the basic facts of what God does to us and through us in the church.

And you notice there, the word in blue, catholic. I should take a minute to explain what that means. The word in front of this church is Methodist. And that assumes that we’re methodical and organized. There’s a church down the street, the word in front of their name is Christian, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only Christian church. And a little further down the street, the word in front of a church is Catholic. And that word catholic means universal. What it’s referring to is all Christians everywhere. You see, friends, we’re in this business of serving God, not just with Methodists. We’re in this business of serving God with all people who are Christian everywhere, all around the world. And that’s what that word, catholic, means there. Catholic with a small “c”.

And now it’s time for a baptism.

Paisley’s folks are standing with her. Anyone else who wants to come up can also stand with her. And wherever you are, you can express your wish and your prayer for her by extending your hand toward her. Lord Jesus, we have water here. Water cleanses. Water quenches our thirst. Water brings us life. And so, Lord, I pray that this water of baptism would be living water that would bring life to Paisley as she’s baptized today. Amen.

Paisley, I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son of Jesus Christ and in the name of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Following are these words of confirmation: Lord, we pray that the Holy Spirit would work within Paisley, within you, Paisley, that being born through water and the Spirit, you may always be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. And all the people of God agreed in prayer: Amen.

Trent is not feeling well today, so we will baptize him at another time.

Now, you make promises to Paisley as a part of her being baptized. You see, she’s been adopted. She’s now adopted into God’s family and adopted into our church family; that’s what the word initiated means. So here’s our promise to Paisley: now it is our joy to welcome our new sister in Christ. Through baptism, you are incorporated by the Holy Spirit into God’s new creation and made to share in Christ’s royal priesthood. We are all one in Christ Jesus. With joy and thanksgiving, we welcome you as a member of the family of Christ. Welcome, Paisley. Welcome.

Landon has already been baptized, so you have already said these words to him. But the words of confirmation are words that we say today, [and?] I invite you to stand up and invite your family to stand around you if they want, put their hands on your shoulders if they want. Landon, it’s our prayer that the Holy Spirit will work within you, that being born through water and the Holy Spirit, you might always be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. And the whole church says: amen.
[silence]

And for all of you, it’s also my prayer that the Holy Spirit would work within you, that being born through the spirit and growing as a Christian person, that you may always be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.

We joined the United Methodist Church, which is over 8 million people all around the world. We are a part of a great worldwide family. So as members of Christ’s Universal Church, I want to ask Paisley and Landon, but I also want to ask those of you who would wish to reaffirm your faith this question: Will you be loyal to Christ through the United Methodist Church and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries? And if that’s your will and wish, please say, “I will.”
I will.

And then there is this church right here, where you’re a part of a specific church. Members of Wesley Church with us today, I want to ask you to reaffirm your faith and commitment to Wesley Church. Friends from Kinmundy, I want to ask you to reaffirm your faith and your commitment to this specific church. As members of this congregation or the Wesley congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness? And if you are willing to serve in that way, please say, “I will.”
I will.

Now, a brief explanation. Prayers are pretty obvious. The other people in this room need your prayers. Presence is pretty obvious. There’s a need to show up. Gifts is pretty obvious. The lights are on. The work is done because of your financial gifts and your support. Your Service; I’m thankful for Jaret and Kathy to provide music. I’m thankful for Jared who’s helping with the AV. I’m thankful for the ways we serve together. And witness means that when it’s time, we are willing and able to speak and talk to others about our faith.

This church can only thrive if we do all these things. And so we’ve described the big picture, and we’ve come to the part of welcoming Paisley and Landon and welcoming each other.

So members of the household of God, today I commend Landon and Paisley (and everyone else in this room) to your love and care. And I ask you to do all in your power to increase their faith, confirm their hope, and perfect them in love. And here’s our promise to each other. Let’s join together.

We give thanks for all that God has already given you. And we welcome you in Christian love as members together with you in the body of Christ and in this congregation of the United Methodist Church, renew our covenant faithfully to participate in the ministries of the church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness that in everything, God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

Well, pastor, you might say, you’re reminding us all to take care of each other. What’s the scripture for that? And here it is, Jesus’ last words before rising up into heaven. Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” In other words, God has put Jesus in charge. And now that Jesus is in charge, he looks at the disciples and says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, of all kinds of people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

And then, look at verse 20: teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Watching over each other involves helping one another learn to do all that jesus asked us to do.

And so, watching over and taking care of one another in this very particular way, we are all moving to the beautiful place above those dark stairs. What helps us to get there is to teach each other to observe everything that Jesus asked us to do. And that’s what each step is – a command of Jesus. And we help each other take those steps.”

So, we have two choices. If the steps are troublesome, you need to hang on to the banister and watch your step. But never forget where we are heading, that beautiful place of everything being done as God wants it to be done.

And so you have two choices. Friends, take both. Choose both. Lord Jesus, as we follow You, sometimes we’ll be on the steps and we’ll need to watch our feet because it will be easy to stumble. It will be easy to trip. Sometimes being a Christian person is difficult. But Lord, help us never to lose sight of where we are going. Because, Lord, You have walked each step in front of us. Help us to move out of darkness into your beautiful light. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

Posted in Attend Worship at Home 2023-2024 | Leave a comment

June 2, 2024, God Has A Plan … And You Are Essential, Pentecost 3

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP
Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief. Help me to see my world as You see it.
Lord, I obey; Help my disobedience. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow;  Help me to stay on the path. Thank you for the path, for guidance, for Providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation. 
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine, as a means of grace, as a person through whom your Holy Spirit flows. Amen.

HYMN “Are Ye Able,” Said The Master
“Are Ye Able,” Said The Master | HBBC Choir (Hosanna Bible Baptist Church, Bacarra, Philippines)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkwBi5-huIs

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Lord, I Want To Be A Christian
Lord, I Want To Be A Christian – Acapella – Eugene Cha
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h8uBLNy0M4

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: God Has A Plan … And You Are Essential.
Text: 1st Corinthians 12:7, 11-22, 31, 13:1-3, Ephesians 4:11-16.
Series: The Final Four

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio

——————————————————————————————————–
SERMON NOTES

1st Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. … 

11 All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single organ, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable …

31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Ephesians 4:11 And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.

  ————————————————————————————————————-

HYMN Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Carrie Underwood – Great Is Thy Faithfulness ft. CeCe Winans (Official Performance Video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NT0HcAr9aeI

BENEDICTION

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

The church sign has said this for a while because it’s at the heart of what we want as Christian people: Thy kingdom come. That’s what we want. Thy will be done. That’s what we want. And not some far-off future day, not somewhere else, but right here and right now.

And today, I would like to tell you about another aspect of that, which is that God has a plan. If God didn’t have a plan, how could we pray thy will be done? God’s already figured out what God would like to happen. And whatever it is that’s God’s plan. Whatever it is, that’s God’s will. But I want to say to you today that you are essential.

Yesterday, Kim said something to me that made me feel very anxious. She said, “There’s a lot of people that are on teams that are coached. And there’s something their coach said to them that they’ll always remember.” And she suggested to me that I ask you to tell me what it is that I’ve told you, this saying from Pastor Dave, that you will never forget. And for some reason, that just really scares me.

Now, it’s ironic in different churches that I’ve pastored, they would say different things because, of course, every preacher has sayings that they repeat. But to be honest, every church is different.

But what you’re looking at here is a basketball team, and they are running their offense. And I made the basketball team in seventh grade. Do you know why I made the basketball team in seventh grade? I was six feet, two inches tall, in seventh grade. And I sat on the bench all year long. But during practice, I was the big guy they got to run the offense against, which helped the starters to do better. And as a result, I made the team every year until I gave it up. But you see those two guys underneath the arrow in the picture? They’re setting up a wall. They’re setting up a pick. And you can barely see behind them the little guy who’s running around them. And behind him, number 31, there’s somebody on defense who’s not keeping up.

You see, that’s what they want. Somebody on defense not being able to stay with their man because when that guy comes around the corner, he’s going to get the ball and make a shot behind that wall that they practiced again and again and again. You see, there is a plan. They all know what to do. But every single person is needed so that they have that situation where five guys on defense are occupied with four guys on offense, and that frees someone up to make a basket.

So you see, there are the players on the floor. Every single one of them is essential. Now, what’s interesting in hockey: if you have bad behavior, they make you sit down, and the team has to play with fewer players. This would not be good in basketball, and it’s not good in church because every one of you are essential. Every single one of you is a player. Every single one of you is in the game. And God has a plan and needs every single one of you to do what you’re supposed to do to help the whole team to win. Every single one of you!

Well, Pastor Dave, you might say, “Well, what about you?” And I say, “I’m the coach. All of you are tired and out of breath, and I’m just standing there watching things happen.” Occasionally, the coach will also play. Not very often. Pastors are like coaches. Because of their guidance, the team will win. But the reason the team wins is every player does their job, and each one of you has a job to do. God has a plan and you are essential.

And the coach is also essential because it’s the coach’s job to help every single player do their very best. And it’s the coach’s job to help coordinate all of the players to play together so that everything works out. And if there’s any individual player that needs some help, a little bit of encouragement, it’s the coach’s job to take care of that. Let the players play the game. The coach watches over the players. And the pastor, in a sense, is the coach.

And here’s what the coach tries to do to help the team to win. Coaches are famous for pep talks in the locker rooms to fire up the team, to get them excited because excited, enthusiastic teams play better. And I want to tell you, friends, scientists have studied churches that grow in number. They did a study with this once. They put together a sample of every kind of church that was growing. And they made a list of all the characteristics of every kind of church that was growing. And then they put a matching sample together of churches that were shrinking. And they found there was only one significant difference. And that’s that in every church that was growing without exception and not found ever in any church that was shrinking were these four things. The first one is the laity, the players. The laity are excited – that’s how they feel – about what is happening in their church. And on the screen here, you see a picture of them unloading the ship and you see management standing off to the side watching that work being done. But friends, the more you get excited, the more God will be able to use you.

And it’s the same way with the sports team. The more they get excited, the better they play. One of the coach’s jobs is to make sure that the team gets excited. Every single one of you is gifted to play your position. Now, the little ones that run very fast and are good at dribbling, they’re very gifted at playing their position. That’s why the coach put them in that position. Being the biggest guy, I rarely got into the game, but the coach said to me, “Never, never, never dribble.” And I said, “Coach, why would I never dribble?” And the coach said, “When you dribble, you put the ball down where the little guys are. Don’t do that.” Tall guys have their job. It’s different. Everybody has a unique way of serving God.

“Are you able?” says the Master? Yes, this verse says, “Every single one of you is able to do what you’re supposed to do.”

Now, what goes along with that is you’re not able to do what you’re not supposed to do. You don’t have to worry that much about what you’re bad at. You’ll get to focus on what you’re good at. Because 1 Corinthians 12:7 says– and to be honest, if somebody asks you, “What is it you will never forget Pastor Dave saying,” it would be this verse. “To each of you, to every single one of you without exception, to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” You have your particular, unique way of helping God. And if you don’t know what it is, it would be good if you and I had a conversation as your coach.

Here’s the other thing that’s ironic. I have never wished that I was a little guy, but I have wished that I was quick and that I could dribble. Do you get to choose what your gift is? And the answer is no. God chooses God’s will for your life. 1 Corinthians 12:11 says, “All of these, all of these special abilities, the way the Holy Spirit works through you, all of these are inspired by one and the same Spirit who apportions, who hands them out to each one individually as he wills.” And what that means is if you’re not like me, that’s God’s will. And if you’re not like the person sitting next to you, that’s God’s will. And if you’re not like the person on the other side of the church, that’s God’s will, because God doesn’t want us all to be alike.

As Paul goes on to say, comparing the church to a human body, “If the ear should say, ‘Because I’m not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make the ear any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing?” Because in the earlier Corinthian church and also today, we have a tendency to wish to be like someone else, to envy what someone else can do and think that because we’re not like them, we’re not needed.

If everybody was like that other person, how would the church have what you can offer? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. So if you’re an eye, focus on seeing. If you’re an ear, focus on hearing. And if you’re a nose, focus on your sense of smell because that’s what God needs from you. Having said that, you see, those are players.

Here’s the verse that talks about what pastors do as coaches. Ephesians 4:11, “And his five gifts were that some should be pastoral leaders.” Now, in Ephesians, Paul actually talks about five different people doing five different things but we tend to roll all these together and expect a pastor to do all of them. The five are listed in the lower right-hand corner on the screen:
The pastoral leader is frequently an apostle. That’s someone who links different churches together.
The pastoral leader is frequently a prophet. That’s someone who prays to know what God’s will is, and through the pulpit in sermons and in other ways, share it.
The pastor is expected to be an evangelist and good at helping people outside the church come in.
The pastor is also a shepherd, someone who takes care of people and also a teacher. But basically, this is the verse that talks about the five things that pastors do, and verse 12 is the heart of it.

The task of the pastor is, number one, you see the green print, to equip the saints for the work of ministry. The pastor’s job is not to do the ministry. The pastor’s job is not to be in the game. But the pastor’s job is to help every single one of the saints, that’s you, to be ready to do what it is God wants you to do. That’s ministry, a word that means service. Now, what’s interesting is the word equip literally means, in Greek, it literally means to mend.
It means to perfect. It means to repair, and so a coach is watching the saints. And when there’s a need to remind a player how to do a left-handed layup, the coach takes that player’s side and works to mend that flaw. When there’s a need for a player to rest because maybe their leg is hurting, their knee is hurting, the coach takes the player aside and says, “We need you to rest for a bit” because the coach sees to it that all the ministry is going on that is done by all the unique and amazing people that are a part of God’s church.”

The second thing is all of that work that the people do has its focus on, you see the blue print on the screen, to build up the body of Christ. This is a Greek word called “oikodomeo” that is also translated as edify, but what it basically means is to connect. Think about it. When you build things, you take two-by-fours, you take paneling, you take concrete blocks, and you connect them together. The outcome of ministry is to connect us together, to link us together as people that care about each other, who are united in serving God.

And we do the work of ministry and we connect with each other until we all attain to the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children… And so part of this connecting and building each other up is to speak the truth in love. And by doing that, we are to grow up in every way into Him, Jesus, who is the head into Christ, from whom the whole body, all the different parts, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied. When every part, when each part is working properly, when every single one of us is doing what God wants us to do, it causes bodily growth, and it causes that building up, that connecting people together in love. Because you see, we are here to love one another. And that’s what builds the church up.

We are all, as John Wesley said, going on to perfection. When a child is conceived, the first few times the cells divide, they’re all exactly alike. But as the child grows to become– or as the embryo grows to become a baby that can survive and live, the cells begin to differentiate. One decides to become an eye. One decides to become an ear. One decides to become a foot. And the body becomes a human being by each part becoming more and more different. And consequently, as you go on to perfection, you will be more uniquely who you are. The closer you come to perfectly fulfilling God’s will for your life, the more you will be you, and the less you will be like anyone else. Because how God defines perfect is for you in your place to be doing your task in the body of Christ. Centers on the basketball floor need to be tall and they need to do what centers do. Centers on the football field need to be strong and they need to do what centers do on the football field. Each one of us has a place on the team that’s unique and it is fulfilled by us allowing ourselves to differentiate. So in the church, differentiation is this: Doing your own thing while remaining connected with other people. That’s what it means to live as a part of the body of Christ.

And so consequently, these words from Howard Thurman help us figure out our differentiation: Don’t ask what the world needs. Don’t ask what the church needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive in Christ Jesus and go do that. Because what the world needs is these people who have come alive.

Psychiatrist Dr. Murray Bowen and Rabbi Edwin Friedman, who have studied churches as families, have noted this: When families all try to put pressure on each other for everyone to be alike, it causes more and more conflict. If you’re in a family where there’s conflict, what’s needed is for people in the family to begin to encourage people to be different, to be who God made them to be. And in churches that are in conflict, Pastor Dave wants to say, if there’s conflict, it’s because somebody’s trying to boss everybody else around. What’s needed is for everybody to do their own thing. And by that, I mean what God wants them to do because setting people free to be who they are is the cure for conflict. All around us, on Facebook and elsewhere in our nation, you see all this feuding going on? It is caused by people over here saying, “You need to be just like us.” And people on the other side say, “No, I don’t want to be like you. You all need to be just like us.” And they’re all going to fight until they’re willing to allow the others to be who they are. That’s what’s required.

So consequently, as your pastor, I need you to differentiate. “Well, Pastor Dave, you asked me what makes me come alive. I’m really sorry to tell you this. It’s not singing in the choir.” Well, okay. I don’t want you to sing in the choir then. “Well, Pastor Dave, it’s not teaching Sunday school.” Well, okay, I don’t want you to teach Sunday school then. What makes you come alive? And a person thinks a minute, and they say, “Well, it’s playing golf. But God doesn’t need me to play golf, Pastor Dave.”

And see, here’s the thing. You help the person who loves to play golf answer one question, “How can you serve Jesus Christ while you were playing golf?” And you know what the answer is? And you can try this if you love to play golf. Go to the clubhouse, volunteer to be a part of a foursome with three other people you don’t know, and through all 18 holes, tell them how much you love Jesus … because the only choice they have is to quit if they don’t want to listen to you! But you know something, instead of preaching to them, what you might do is say, “How are you? How are you doing? Oh, you’re having a problem? Do you mind if I pray for you?” Because ironically, it’s those conversations that lead a person to want to believe in Jesus Christ. And a golf course is a perfect place to corner– I mean to have a conversation with someone.

But you see, the key thing is to ask this question, “I love to play golf. How can I use that for Jesus?” Here’s another one. And this is a true story. Kim and I have a number of friends that go to the Godfrey United Methodist Church. And what these friends found out is they love Monday Night Football. So the question is, “How can God use Monday night football?” So a number of the guys got together, picked the house with the biggest TV, and they invited other men from their church to come over and watch Monday Night Football. And when halftime starts, they turn the TV off and have a Bible study. And when the game starts up again, they turn the game on. That house is full every Monday night.

How can I use what I love to serve Jesus Christ? And I look out at all of you, and after 10 years, I know some of what you love. I could tell you what you’re doing that is so wonderful. But then the sermon would be longer, and we’re not going to do that. But if you know what you love to do, you’ll find yourself doing stuff like this. This is Larry Hebren, the grill master, being cheered on by his fan club, making food for a SALT Potluck.

Serving God, if you serve in the place where God has made you able, will be fun. It’ll be meaningful. It will be rewarding. You are attending a church, which is a great tool that God uses for growing beautiful Christians. But the goal is for you to bloom, not for you to wear yourself out making the flower pot pretty. God’s will is for you to bloom because you are a part of a functional family of God where Jesus is Lord and people grow. And what that means is that what God wants is for you to let your light shine. Now, as good as Judy’s light is, God doesn’t want you to shine Judy’s light. That’s her job. You get to shine your light. And your light is needed and it’s essential. Because if you let your light so shine before other people, they will see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, help us turn away from that temptation to imitate other people and help us turn toward discovering what it is you’ve asked us to do so that we can do well, what you’ve already helped us to be ready to do well. And so, Lord, we pray that you’ll work through each of your people, each in a unique and beautiful way that fits together perfectly to do your will on earth as it is in heaven. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

Posted in Attend Worship at Home 2023-2024 | Leave a comment

May 26, 2024, We Follow the Faithful Witnesses, Pentecost 2 Memorial Day

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP
Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief. Help me to see my world as You see it.
Lord, I obey; Help my disobedience. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow;  Help me to stay on the path. Thank you for the path, for guidance, for Providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation. 
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine, as a means of grace, as a person through whom your Holy Spirit flows. Amen.

HYMN America The Beautiful
Gaither Vocal Band – America the Beautiful [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3SPjk1ktRQ

Note: we are singing patriotic hymns this morning because of Memorial Day; embedded in these words are prayers to God. Please sing them as prayers.

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Let There Be Peace On Earth
Wintley Phipps – Let There Be Peace on Earth
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hld_uwhyk4

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: We Follow the Faithful Witnesses
Text: Hebrews 11:1-6, 13-16, 32-40; 12:1-2
Series: The Final Four

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio

——————————————————————————————————–
SERMON NOTES

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old received divine approval. 3 By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear. 4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he received approval as righteous, God bearing witness by accepting his gifts; he died, but through his faith he is still speaking. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

13 These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets– 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated– 38 of whom the world was not worthy–wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

  ————————————————————————————————————-

HYMN My Country, ‘Tis of Thee
Mike Allen, Allison Durham Speer, Kim Hopper, Dean Hopper – My Country ‘Tis of Thee [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTnOWvx-4q4
or
Home Free – My Country ‘Tis of Thee
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pKmQiClghs

BENEDICTION

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

We are following Jesus. But because we’re not the first, there are faithful people that we are following. And they set an example for us of faithful witnesses to what it means by faith to do our duty.

Memorial Day weekend is to remember those who gave their lives. This is the person in my family, Arthur Kueker, my grandfather’s nephew from Colorado. My brother was doing Google searches for our last name, and he came across the story of Arthur. It had been unknown to our family. Arthur earned a Silver Star on June 14th. That’s eight days after the beginning of D-Day on June 6th. He and a private, he was a sergeant, attacked a German machine gun nest that was firing upon their comrades. And they circled around to the side of the machine gun nest and threw grenades into the machine gun nest. And then, the story goes, they fixed their bayonets and charged. Now, friends, it chokes me up just even to say it. The only reason I know that you would fix your bayonets and charge a machine gun nest is because your rifle is out of ammunition. A few days later, both he and the private died from their wounds.

My brother is very thankful for discovering this story because no one knew. Arthur Kueker won a Silver Star for this, but it had never been delivered to his family. And my brother was able to contact his elderly sisters in Colorado and see to it that they knew of what their brother had done. By faith, they did their duty. And we are not always aware of the sacrifices that other people have made.

Now that I’ve filled the room with very deep meaning, let me tell you a terrible joke. A little boy came with his father to church on Memorial Day weekend. And the pastor found him looking at a plaque at the entrance of the church where there were 100 names listed. The little boy said, “Pastor, what are these names?”

“Son,” the pastor said, “those are the names of the people who died in the service.”

The little boy’s eyes filled with tears, and his voice was shaking when he said to the pastor, “Was it the early service or the late service?” [laughter]

But it is a reality that those of us who follow Jesus Christ sometimes have to do our duty in situations that are less than pleasant. But we’re able to do that quite often because of the inspiration of people who’ve gone on before us.

Now, my father was in the Navy. He did not give his life during the last weeks of World War II when he was serving. But he was an influence. He was an inspiration, particularly to me, because you did not have the privilege to know him. Next to him, by the way, is my mother. This is a picture from their wedding day during the few years when she was a blonde. On Mother’s Day, I paid tribute to my mother and her influence on my life. Friends, if you and I walk by faith, it’s because we’re following people who show us how to walk by faith and we need to let them inspire us and influence us so that we too can give our lives in the service of Jesus Christ by living for him.

Consequently, that brings me to what I wanted to talk about today, which is the reality that surrounds the experience of grief. Psychologists have studied grief. There are certifications in grief therapy. It is a specialty to help people deal with their sorrow. And one of the definitions that comes out of that research, one definition of grief is that you are adjusting to a change that was not what you wanted, and because of that, there has been a loss.

Now, when someone dies, it’s quite obvious what the loss is, but understanding the loss and all the variety of losses really helps us deal with the emotions of grief. We lost a lot in the coronavirus. When a tornado goes through a town, there’s a great deal of loss, not just in life, but in property. When Jesus died on the cross, that was a loss for the disciples. But a car accident that totals your favorite car, it might seem silly, but that’s a loss too.

The wedding day, what a beautiful and happy day that is, but you have lost the days that went before. I once knew a couple that woke up on the first day of their marriage on their honeymoon and the wife was crying and the husband said, “Honey, what’s wrong?” and she said, “Well, if we hadn’t married, I’d be home eating breakfast with my mom and dad right now.” You see, there are losses that are not quite obvious.

And the picture of the graduation there on the screen, well, my favorite elementary school teacher was Mrs. McGuire. But when I graduated from fourth grade to fifth grade, I was dealing with Mrs. Lampkin, who was the toughest, meanest teacher in our elementary school. She was in charge of the safety patrol where certain children viewed as highly responsible would help other children cross the street, and boy, she was known for almost being like a drill sergeant. So I felt a small amount of grief going from fourth grade to fifth grade, but I soon began to see the value of Mrs. Lampkin. And she added a lot to my life, too.

You see, we adjust to change. We overcome the loss, and that helps us deal with our grief. But every surprise, everything that takes us by surprise, every sort of change, can have with it a small amount or a large amount of grief. Because it’s not what we would prefer. And that means there’s an adjustment that we need to make.

Here is the psychology that’s most helpful to understand grief. You see, when you are grieving, you are looking in the rear-view mirror. Grief is always about the past. “Well, Pastor Dave, I worry about the future.” Yes. We call that anxiety. But grief is about the past and our regret for change that we did not wish.

And there are four tasks to heal from grief. Now, they don’t always happen in a sequence, but we talk about them as if one flows into the next. The first step to dealing with grief is to accept the reality that something has changed. That’s the R in the R-E-A-R, accepting the Reality of the change. For example, I began to tell you in 2014 that in 10 years, I would retire, 10 years ago. But this past summer, I began to say very plainly, “Within a year’s time, I’m going to graduate from church to retirement.” And there will be some grief with that. But I said, “I think for you, it’s going to be like graduating from fourth grade to fifth grade.” A new teacher is coming to town. A new sheriff is coming to town. And could be just like Mrs. Lampkin, that the new teacher will be beloved as much as all the former teachers. You would not want to stay in fourth grade your whole life!

So that’s accepting the reality. And in order to accept the reality of the change, you have to talk about it. And people were surprised, as if year by year I was getting younger instead of older. People were surprised.

But perhaps there was a period of pain with the loss, something that no one likes. Now, with the death of a person, that Experience of pain can be very deep and severe. But there’s always an experience of regret and pain in wishing that change had not happened. Friends, I’ll be honest with you, I have never traded in a car where I wanted to do it. It was always against my will because, over time, I fell in love with my car. And I never wanted to let go of it.

But I had to Adjust to life without my old car. It’s kind of nice to have a new car to adjust to it. But I was always nostalgic about the old car.

And then the last stage of these four tasks is to Reinvest in the new reality that comes after the change. Whether that’s fifth grade, a new teacher, whether that’s this church, a new pastor, or whatever else it might be, there is joy and good that lies ahead. And you cannot move forward guided by what you see in the rearview mirror. Over time, you have to turn your attention to what lies ahead and not be too captivated by what is in the past.

Hebrews 11:1 says it’s by faith that we’re able to do this. Now, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it, the men of old received divine approval. And then it begins to list the heroes of the faith and the lessons they taught. By faith, we understand that the world was created by the Word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear. And really, the word yet should be there. These things do not appear yet, except faith sees them coming. Verse 4, “By faith,” and it tells about Abel. By faith, Verse 5, it tells about Enoch. Verse 6, “And without faith, it is impossible to please God. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that God exists and that God rewards those who seek Him.” And it goes on to talk of other heroes who set an example who provided a way that we could see how we should live.

In Verse 13, it summarizes this list of heroes. These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on earth, for people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, verse 16, “They desire a better country that is a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” Verse 32, “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, tell of David and Samuel and the prophets. And time would also fail me … and the sermon would be very long. “But all of these, verse 33, “Who through faith, conquered kingdoms and forced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. By faith, they did their duty.

“Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned. They were sawn in two. They were killed with a sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated, of whom the world was not worthy, wandering over deserts and mountains and in dens and caves of the earth. And all of these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised. Since God had foreseen something better for us that apart from us, they should not be made perfect.” You see, my grandfather’s nephew died not seeing the war end, not seeing the victory, not seeing the world that we’ve built since he gave his life. But we have been blessed to see him.

My oldest son is very, very smart. He was about six years old on a Sunday morning … it might have been a Memorial Day weekend, when I was a pastor in Quincy, Illinois. And I went into great detail about the bravery and the courage of the early Christians … about how Nero had taken the Christians, put them on poles, covered the Christians with tar, and lit them on fire. And all of a sudden, my son in the middle row pipes up and says, “Thank God we’re not Christians!” When asked, he said, “Aren’t we Methodists?” He didn’t think it was a good idea to be a Roman candle.

Nonetheless, by faith, they did their duty. By faith, they were able to do what needed to be done. And so, friends, I want to say to you with regard to our church, with regard to almost any church, we don’t need to look very far to find heroes. In fact, there are a whole lot of churches out in the country where you walk out the door of the church on Sunday morning, and you can walk over up and down the lines with the names of the heroes, not on the wall, but on the gravestones — heroes of the church that made this place possible.

It’s not that they’re no longer with us. They are still with us– they are still with us.

I was reminded of that and quite humorously this week. I believe it was Tuesday morning. I woke up, opened up Facebook, and found that I had a friend request from Gerri Molina! I didn’t know that there was Facebook in heaven, but apparently, we have proved this now because I got a friend request from Gerri Molina. And I want to tell you if you had an opportunity to be Gerri Molina’s friend, you would be incredibly blessed.

In fact, I’ll tell you something. I am sorry for the pastors who will come to this church in the future. I am sorry for Carol and Mike because they will not meet Gerri Molina this side of heaven. Ditto for Keith Smith. Ditto for so many other wonderful people who have blessed my life.

And the last time I said this, I was in Caseyville. And I said, “I really feel sad for the pastor that will come because they’ll never get to meet Clara Merkel.” You never got to meet Clara Merkel, but she was the member of the Caseyville United Methodist Church that started the library in Caseyville, deeply loved by the whole town, and lived right next door to the church.

Every time I drive through Carlyle, I remember traveling from Caseyville to visit Juanita Perry in the nursing home there because you see you are– and I mean this with the greatest of honesty … You are my closest friends in this world. But I’ll be honest, as a pastorI have more friends in heaven than I have here today. We don’t have to look far for heroes to inspire us.

And if we had time today, I’d let each one of you take the microphone and say, “Here’s the person that touched my heart. Here’s the person that blessed me.” And you know something? We’d be here for days before you ran out of people to be thankful for. And in addition to that, many of them are people that I’ve never met. Glenn Dolan’s wife, never got to meet her. David Bookout’s wife, never got to meet her. Mike, your father, never got to meet him this side of heaven, but there will come a day, I believe, where we will be together again.

Therefore, in the very next verse, Paul goes on to say this, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses …” And the picture he paints here is that up in heaven, there is this great colosseum that is full of people. And they are all tuned to the Kinmundy channel and watching what you and I are doing with the church that they left us. And by faith, they did their duty. And by faith, we do ours, because our heroes are watching over us.

We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. And because that’s true, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and let us run, let us go forward with perseverance, perseverance, to run the race that is set before us. The rear-view mirror will remind us of our grief. But the witnesses that lived lives of faith will draw us forward.

Because you see, grief as it heals draws us forward. Now, it is true, as Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” On the days that you mourn, you will be comforted.

One of the things that comforts us is a thing called a linking object. Now, I’ve been a part of a group called The Walk to Emmaus, where people come together for a weekend and lay people and preachers speak. They preach a sermon. What most people don’t know is that there’s a wooden hand cross that each speaker is given to hold while they’re speaking, to help them with their anxiety, to help them do by faith what they need to do. You see, it’s a linking object because every person at the weekend retreat holds the same cross.

But one of the things people do to deal with grief is they utilize what’s called a linking object, something that belongs to the deceased loved one, which are reminders of experiences and feelings. A bereaved son, for example, might wear his father’s watch. A bereaved daughter might serve the holiday meal on her mother’s dishes. And these things that link us with the people who are not here, they help us.

The overall goal, therapists suggest, is we need to relocate the address of the beloved, the place where they are, from the past and into the future; and so we move toward them.

In other words, someday we will be together again because, in essence, a church is a functional family of God where Jesus is Lord and people grow. And one of the things that helps us to be functional is to let the people in our past influence us. Because by faith, they did their duty. By faith, we do our duty.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, thank you for the incredible blessing that we did not suddenly appear out of nowhere, but that we were raised by loving parents. We were surrounded by good teachers. And in our church, many people inspired us and helped us. Lord, may the example of those heroes from our past lead us into the bright future that yu have prepared for us. They followed you, and so do we; but, Lord, it’s also a blessing that we follow them and are encouraged and helped by their example. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

Posted in Attend Worship at Home 2023-2024 | Leave a comment

May 19, 2024, Cooperate With The Comforter, Pentecost Sunday

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP
Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief. Help me to see my world as You see it.
Lord, I obey; Help my disobedience. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow;  Help me to stay on the path. Thank you for the path, for guidance, for Providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation. 
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine, as a means of grace, as a person through whom your Holy Spirit flows. Amen.

HYMN 420 Breathe on Me, Breath of God
Breathe On Me Breath of God (The Hastings College Choir)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8avdudzdpQ

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 393 Spirit of the Living God
Spirit of the Living God (with lyrics) – (Rosemary Siemens)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyZsVxUz7aA

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Pentecost: Cooperate With The Comforter
Text: John 14:11-12, 15-17, 23-26. John 15:25-27. John 16:7-8, 12-15.
Series: Instructions for Walking in Newness of Life

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

John 14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves. 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. … 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. … 23 Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. 25 “These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 15:25 It is to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.‘ 26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; 27 and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.

John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment … 12 “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

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HYMN 382 Have Thine Own Way Lord
Have Thine Own Way – Gospel Music Hymn Sing at Lee University
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8W4ChAKlpo

BENEDICTION

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

Today is Pentecost Sunday; consequently, I’d like to talk with you about how we can Cooperate with the Comforter. Now, there’s a Greek word. It’s called Paraclete. We’re going to talk more about it in a bit. King James Version translates it as “Comforter.” That’s my personal favorite. The RSV uses the word “Counselor,” but it also means helper. It means a variety of other things. And so consequently, you and I, in doing God’s will, can cooperate with God, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, to do God’s will.

As the church sign says out here in front, “Thy kingdom come.” That’s what we want, and it will happen as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Thy will be done. That will happen as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit. And it will happen right here and it will happen right now – because we want God’s will to be done right now. But today, I just simply want to emphasize that God’s will is done with the Holy Spirit’s help.

Now I’d like to change the subject to something that is really weird and I don’t know much about. So let me let you have a look at your new car. Kind of wild and crazy and racy and fast, right? This is actually a 2015 model. It’s called the Firefly, and it is Google’s invention of a self-driving car. Now, since then, there have been other versions of it. They all look a little racier. This looks like an ugly version of the VW Bug as I remember it from my childhood.

But that is a self-driving car. Google spun off the company. It’s called Waymo, and they currently operate commercial robot axis, where, on your phone, you call for a taxi in Phoenix, Arizona, or San Francisco. They want to set this up in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. You call, and a robotaxi comes by, and you get in it. And guess what? There is no driver. Now, that’s the idea.

Here’s what it looks like on the inside. You’re looking at Secretary of State John Kerry, who is six foot four inches tall. He fits in there pretty good. But when you look around, where’s the steering wheel? Where are the brakes? I think it’s got a radio, but it’s controlled by computers, linked up with GPS, linked up with cameras that are constantly monitoring everything around it. And you know something? It might be a nice place to read a book on a cool day, but I don’t know that I want this car taking me somewhere. Of the other pictures, I thought about showing it to you. It actually has a version with Domino’s Pizza on the side … where your pizza will be brought to your house by a robot.

The self-driving cars have had some real problems. They don’t always recognize people. They don’t always recognize pedestrians in a crosswalk, especially if the pedestrians are inebriated. In other words, if everybody else behaved, a robot car probably would run just fine, but the world is full of all kinds of difficulties. So if I understand it right, all self-driving cars up till recently required a driver to sit there in case the robot had a problem. And not only that, if I understand it, the person’s supposed to sit there with their hands on the wheel because when the robot has a problem and doesn’t know what to do, all kinds of alarms will flash. And all of a sudden, you’re driving. Better not be dozing off!

But there you are. You’re in a car, it’s moving down the road, and you have no control whatsoever. And you see, that’s my big problem with it. I don’t know that I’m willing to surrender control.

Back to the sermon. We’ve been talking about this verse for some time because it illustrates beautifully your life and my life now, because as we go through our day, as we encounter people on a path, in a park, at the grocery store, here in church, God is riding along with us and controlling circumstances so that God’s will is done on earth the way it is in heaven. Every person you meet, everything that happens to you in some way or another is an opportunity for God to bless you or to bless people. And today, I want to emphasize that what you will see … is God working … right in front of you. You’ll notice God doing things in the lives of people right in front of you and that God is going to prepare those opportunities for wonderful things to happen because God can work through you and me.

John 14:12, Jesus says to the disciples the night he was betrayed, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works, the miracles that I do.” And then Jesus says this, “And greater works than these will he do because I go to the Father.” And the reason that you and I are privileged to do greater miracles than Jesus did is because all of the miracles of Jesus were done by the Holy Spirit working through Him. And now the Holy Spirit can work through you and me, which is why Jesus could say this. Well, on Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit descends. This is 50 days after Easter. And all of a sudden, the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us. That’s the literal meaning of that word paraclete, that Greek word that is translated comforter, counselor, advocate, advisor, helper, and partner, the paraclete, the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us to provide in that moment whatever is needed. Sometimes, it’s advice. Sometimes, it’s strength. But it’s God who is coming alongside of us and working with us.

And we cooperate with the Holy Spirit as we go through this life. John 14:15, Jesus explained, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That’s how we do God’s will. We keep the commands that Jesus says. Verse 16, “And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another comforter, counselor, Paraclete, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” And you see on the screen there, I have the little symbol for internet, for Wi-Fi, because it occurs to me that what is happening here is that the Holy Spirit is connected to us. And the Holy Spirit connects us to God the Father, to Jesus the Lord. As Jesus said, “You know Him, for He dwells with you.” They’ve seen the Holy Spirit act through Jesus for years and the Holy Spirit will now be with you just as the Holy Spirit was alongside of Jesus.

So Jesus goes on to say this. “If a man loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” There’s now a partnership. Next to Jesus’ side, you should see the letters CPU. If you’re familiar with computers, you know inside the computer, there is a chip that is doing all the work, the central processing unit. And this little logo here that says Jesus Inside, it normally says Intel Inside.
But you see, rather than a computer chip inside you and me, Jesus is inside of us and is the one coordinating and controlling everything. And the Wi-Fi symbol reminds us that we are connected to Jesus in this way. In other words, we will make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words. And the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father who sent me.

So in the next two chapters, Jesus mentions four things that the Holy Spirit does when the Holy Spirit comes alongside of you and me. So I want to just briefly mention them to remind us so that when they happen, you can realize that God is working in your life.

John 14:25, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you, but the counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things.” Now, how does the Holy Spirit teach us about God? How does the Holy Spirit teach us about what to do? How does the Holy Spirit teach us the difference between right and wrong? It’s very specific and very clear: “The Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance all that I,” Jesus said, “all that I have said to you.” The way the Holy Spirit teaches us is to remind us of everything Jesus said and everything Jesus did. The Holy Spirit shines a light on the Bible. All of a sudden, we can now understand what Jesus meant. Certainly, the most important question for us with regard to what we need to do, what maybe we ought to say, and a decision that we should make is, what did Jesus say about this? And the Holy Spirit is there to help us with that. That’s number one.

The second thing the Holy Spirit does … John 15:25, “It is to fulfill the Word that is written in their law. They hated me without a cause.” Jesus is talking about persecution that people are doing to him and about how there will be persecution that comes to us. There will be difficulties and conflicts and fights. Verse 26, “But when the counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness to me. And you are also witnesses because you’ve been with me from the beginning.”

Now you and I are interacting with people. And, Lord, we want to say the right thing. Lord, we want to do the right thing. And Jesus says to us in these words, it’s the Holy Spirit who’s going to say the right thing. You’re along for the ride. And of course, you’ll have things to say. But what you need to do is let the Holy Spirit influence that person. You need to let the Holy Spirit be the witness. It does not all depend upon you. But let the Holy Spirit interact with people. Because again, just like the Holy Spirit connects us with God, the Holy Spirit connects us with people. The Paraclete comes alongside to do the heavy lifting, to do the work of witness.

#3: And this week, I got into a fight with somebody – I’ll tell you that with some humility – about this verse. (And I’m talking about somebody on Facebook who you’ve never met. I don’t want you to think I’m fighting with any of you.) John 16:7, Jesus says this, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It’s to your advantage that I go away. For if I do not go away, the counselor will not come to you. But if I go,” and Jesus ascended into heaven, “I will send him to you. And when he comes,” now please notice this, verse eight, very carefully, please notice this, “And when the Holy Spirit comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

There’s a lot of wrong that is going on in our world. There’s a lot of evil around us in what people do to each other and what people try to persuade other people to do. And one of the saddest things is that when Christians start a war with other people, the church gets smaller. Here’s what this verse says very plainly as far as I’m concerned. If I meet you in the grocery store, it’s not my job to tell you that the colors you’re wearing do not match. And that it embarrasses God that you have such poor taste in fashion. If I meet you at the South Central baseball game and you weren’t in church last Sunday, it is not my job to say to you, “Why weren’t you there in church on Sunday?”

You’d be astonished at how often whenever I meet somebody out in the community I’m like, “Oh, I’m so glad to see you.” And the first thing they say, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I haven’t been going to church.”

And I almost feel bad when that happens. It is not my job to convince you that you are bad when God can do it so much better than I ever could and in exactly the right way to help you to decide to change your life.

I raised three boys, my youngest son, who was in third grade, and my oldest son, was a senior in high school. The youngest boy would sneak into his room and steal his candy. And there would be this huge yelling. And the boy who was 6’5″ would go chasing after the third grader, walloping on him, yelling at him, and then come and yell at me and say, “You should punish him.” And all I could say to my oldest son was, “You already have. And now, I don’t have a chance to teach him what not to do.”

Friends, the Holy Spirit is very capable of convincing people that they’re doing the wrong thing. The Holy Spirit is very capable of teaching people out there what’s wrong with them. And inside their hearts, to be honest, they know. The problem is when you and I think it’s our job to tell people they’re bad, they stop listening when we talk about how Jesus is good … because Jesus said that we were to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our neighbor as ourself. He did not come along with a third command, one, which said– he did not say that what we need to do is go out there and make people feel bad because they’re not good enough.

And sadly, that does not work. The church needs to talk about God’s love and let the Holy Spirit convince people that they’re wrong. Now, you know what that means. I can tell you what it means for me: Lord, smite him. Lord, I sure am looking forward for when you straighten that person out because they’re wrong. I’m honest that just– I want to tell them they’re wrong because if they were only more like me, they would be more like God … See the problem? Then I see the problem with me telling them that they’re wrong. The Holy Spirit is very able to convince the world about sin and righteousness and judgment. But all too often, we are too quick to get in there, and rather than cooperate with what God is doing, we try to take the place of God. Not a wise idea! It’s not our job to criticize and condemn others; we can let God do it.

The fourth thing the Holy Spirit does when the Holy Spirit comes alongside: “I have yet many things to say to you,” Jesus says, “but you cannot bear them now.” You and I learn as we go along. We can’t know everything in advance. But Jesus says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” A hundred years after Jesus rose from the dead, the Holy Spirit guides them further into all the truth. And 500 years later, guides them further into more truth. And 1,000 years later, guides them further into more truth.

And we can trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance. “For he will not speak,” Jesus said, “on his own authority, but whatever he hears, he will speak. And he will declare to you the things that are to come.

One of the things that parents are concerned about today is what is now called screen time. How much screen time should our children have? And I’m sorry to tell you, Jesus never said anything about screen time. But if you seek God’s will, the Holy Spirit will guide you into the truth about things that are not yet literally spoken of in the Bible. He will not speak on his own authority, Jesus said, but whatever he hears, he will speak and he will declare to you the things that are to come. This is like having God accessible to you by telephone. So you can say, “Lord, how much screen time is good for my children? And when should I tell them to put their devices down?” And the reason we can trust the Holy Spirit to guide us into the future, Jesus goes on to say, is He will glorify me. This is one way to know it’s the Holy Spirit. The center of what the Holy Spirit does … draws our attention to Jesus and how wonderful he is. And it will glorify Jesus “when the Holy Spirit takes what is mine,” Jesus says, “and declares it to you. All that the Father has is mine. Therefore, I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you.” So the Holy Spirit will not only remind us of what Jesus said in the past, the Holy Spirit will also teach us and remind us of what Jesus is saying today. And listening to Jesus is always the key.

Many, many years ago, I had the experience of driver education. Some of you took a class just like I did. And you sat next to the assistant football coach who was a very grumpy, oversized man who would get in that car where he did not have his hands on the steering wheel, and he would let somebody like me drive. And the only thing he had on his side of the car was a brake. And I still remember to this day, when it was my turn to drive. I signaled that I was going to pull out into the road. I very slowly, looking everywhere, pulled out into the road. And I drove ahead about 20 feet and all of a sudden, I realized that I, a 6’5″ teenager, did not adjust my mirrors from when the 5’2″ girl was driving before me. So I signaled a right turn to pull off on the side of the road. And over on the side over here, I hear, yelling … “What are you doing?” And I carefully and slowly moved over onto the side of the road, and all of a sudden, he hit the brake and we slid on gravel about one foot. Kind of hard to slide when you’re going 20 miles an hour. And I said, “I’m supposed to adjust my mirrors.” And he was not happy with that, but he could not argue because he had told us we needed to do that. But that led to three months of teasing.

But it helped me learn how to drive because I was driving with someone. Now I learned very early not to learn how to drive from my father because he was 10 times as bad as Mr. Matusik. I don’t know how you learned how to drive. You may have been on a tractor when you were eight years old, and you turned out just fine.

But you see, the Holy Spirit is riding with us. We’re driving. But the Holy Spirit has come alongside to help us to learn how to do what we’re doing, how to be Christian people in this world. The Holy Spirit has come alongside of us.

And I thought to myself, “I need to get really artistic about that.” So here’s my little work of art here. Do you see this cross and a flame on the screen? The idea behind the flame is the Holy Spirit needs to be a part of our life. It is the heart of what it means to be United Methodist. And it starts at Pentecost because the Holy Spirit connects us with Jesus inside of us so that we can understand, we can learn, we can grow.

And occasionally, Jesus will say, “Would you like me to take the wheel? Would you like me to take the wheel?” Because sometimes you and I need to let Jesus take control. We’re just not up to it. We’re not as smart as we need to be or as strong as we need to be. We’re not as good as we need to be. And this is when we find out: are we willing to surrender control? Are we willing to live a life where God has control?

And I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but I have these black shirts. And on them, they have the word Disciple Walk, which is a word I invented a number of years ago, which basically is the idea that when we’re disciples, we walk along with Jesus and let Jesus guide us. And sometimes, we let Jesus take the wheel because we’re in a situation where we need God’s help.

And this particular picture, I think, is such a beautiful example of that, how in the operating room, Jesus is there to guide the surgeon in the work of healing.

Friends, sometimes you and I need the presence of Jesus to guide us in what we do. And the presence of Jesus is there because the Holy Spirit connects us with Jesus. And because we’re connected by the Holy Spirit, we see so many things. The picture on the screen now shows what a self-driving car sees, a bicycle crossing the road, a pedestrian on the left. And the blue lines on the screen, that’s where the car is going to go. And there’s little blue boxes around the parked cars. Jesus goes with us and is going to help us to see what we need to see.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, thank You so much that when we go out of our houses in the morning, everywhere we go, you go with us. You promised that You would never leave us or forsake us. And indeed, Lord, You’re connected to us by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Lord, help us to see what you see. Guide us to do what you would do. Help us to let go of what we should let go of. Help us to grab a hold of what we should hold strongly. Help us to say, in every part of our lives, “Thy will be done.” And help us to see the Holy Spirit helping us and guiding us. Because, Lord, certainly, we do need that guidance. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

Posted in Attend Worship at Home 2023-2024 | Leave a comment

May 12, 2024, Resurrection Instructions for Mother’s Day, Eastertide 6

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP
The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

HYMN 206 I Want To Walk As A Child Of The Light
I Want to Walk as a Child – Trish and Ed
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QISk0oYYpuk

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Faith of Our Mothers, Living Still
Faith of Our Mothers – Bush Hill Presbyterian Church
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0V4MBqj1IE

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Resurrection Instructions for Mother’s Day
Philippians 3:9-10, 2 Timothy 1:1-7, 2:1-2, Ephesians 6:1-4
Series: Instructions for Walking In Newness of Life

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Philippians 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

2 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God whom I serve with a clear conscience, as did my fathers, when I remember you constantly in my prayers. 4 As I remember your tears, I long night and day to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lo’is and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you. 6 Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7 for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

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HYMN 445 Happy the Home When God Is There
Happy the home when God is there – Mike Burns
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ERrXbitgLg&t=17s

BENEDICTION

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

We’re talking about how God wants us to live after Easter because Romans 6 says we have the privilege of leading a new life. We have the privilege of walking in newness of life. Well, what is it God wants us to do? And I think Mother’s Day is a good day to talk about a higher level of love that the world desperately needs, and that’s how to encourage others to also do God’s will, because you see, mothering is a superpower.

Up in the top corner there is a photo of my mother and I 20 years ago. I look a little younger, but she looked the same for decades. But about six years after this, when she moved back to Texas to live in assisted living in Dallas, one day while I was visiting, we were pouring iced tea into glasses at my brother’s house, and I asked my mom because I was pouring, “Would you like some iced tea?”

And she said, “No.” And I said, “How come?” And she said, “Well, I was reading an article the other day that said that if you drink while you eat, whatever you drink dilutes your digestive juices, and it makes it harder to digest your food.” So she said, “I’ve decided not to drink anything when I eat.”

And I want to tell you, it was astonishing. All throughout that meal, I did not take a single drink of my iced tea, and in fact, I’ll be honest with you, it was years before I began to drink while I was eating a meal because mothers are just that powerful. I could not go against my raising. Just this offhand comment she made, all of a sudden, it became a rule that I just had to live that way.

And you see, friends, mothers have influence. Fathers do too. Friends do. Teachers do. Pastors do. But influence is a superpower, and we need to use it for good because the world needs the good that it can do.

As you know, we’ve been talking about this verse, how God wants to work through you, how you are created and formed and shaped by God to do good things, how God’s love flows into you and then flows out from you to your neighbor because you see, your neighbors– one definition, your neighbors are people over whom you have some influence.

And you see, neighbors are a gift from God. It is a reality. Unless you live way out in the country, you don’t really get to pick who your neighbors are. The priority is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and God’s love flows into us so that we can do God’s will, which is the second part of that, which is to love your neighbor as yourself. And God, as you go through your day, brings people in front of you, and they are your neighbors.

Now, some of them are neighbors you’ve chosen. Some of them are family members. But some of them are just the house that you walk by, when you go for a stroll and you see children’s toys in the yard and you think, “I need to pray for those children. I need to pray for that family.” Because you see, God chooses who your neighbors are. And God provides you with a way to love them because everyone you meet is brought in front of you so that they can receive your love.

Now, as any young child growing up knows, mothers are very loving but sometimes they also have a temper. But if you’ve ever had to be straightened out by a mother because you deserved it, you’ve also learned that that’s also a form of love. Sometimes the neighbors we meet are people whose lives are not together. And if nothing else, we can pray for God to mend what’s broken in their lives. Nonetheless, God will bring people in front of you as you go through your day … for you to pray for them and sometimes, sometimes to use your influence to help them live a better life.

I would also like to tell you that mothers are teachers. When I was in fifth grade and I did not understand it, she said, “Dave, it’s time for you to learn how to iron a dress shirt.” So here I am, a fifth grader. I’m standing at the ironing board. One of my dad’s white dress shirts is on the ironing board and my mother patiently shows me how to iron a dress shirt. And she stands there and she watches me until I can do it perfectly. You see, that’s what coaches do. I’m going to do it and you watch me. Now, do what I do. And then we do it, and we watch, and we learn. And then finally, I can do it. And the mother watches and says, “You missed a spot,” because I did.

I asked her, I said, “Mom, this is the weirdest thing. Why do I need, at the age that I am as a fifth grader, to learn how to iron a dress shirt?” And she said, “Dave, it’s just very, very simple. If I don’t teach you this, you’ll marry the first girl who will iron your shirts for you.” [laughter] True story. That’s exactly what she said. It caused me to wonder about my dad, but she taught me how to iron.

And my brother and I learned how to cook and we made supper on weekdays. She went to work and my father thought it would be a kind thing if she would come home and not need to cook. And so my brother and I, starting at sixth grade, seventh grade, we began to cook supper every weeknight. Now, I’m not really sure that was a kind thing to do. She never complained about the concoctions we made And in addition to that, we were not such good sons that we cleaned up the kitchen.

But mothers are also teachers. They form us. They teach us good manners because otherwise, little boys would grow up to be heathen, and I probably would be one of the worst. Mothers are a special kind of love. Now, again, sometimes it’s grandmothers, and sometimes it’s a teacher at school that provides this kindness. Sometimes it’s a Sunday school teacher. But we would not be the people we are today if someone had not mothered us.

There are two kinds of families in this world. On the left side of the screen are biological families. You don’t get to choose who your parents are. You don’t get to choose who your brothers and sisters are. But as you grow up, you get to form what is called a chosen family. And this idea is very popular because, as you become a grown-up, you’re going to choose friends, and they will be like a chosen family. And you’re going to sometimes have a family at work. That’s the secret of NCIS; Jethro is the dad, and nobody better mess with his kids! Two kinds of families.

And you see the same thing in the Bible where Paul says to Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and now, I’m sure dwells in you.” What we learn as children comes toward us, and we absorb it from our biological family. And that is a wonderful thing sometimes. And sometimes it’s not quite as wonderful because we absorb lessons from our biological families that aren’t very good, or ways of behaving that aren’t very nice.

And I’ll be honest with you, I still remember the day I walked down the hallway turning light switches off and saying to myself, “You’d think we own stock in Illinois power.” And all of a sudden, I just stopped and I said, “Oh, Lord, I’ve become my father.” Because we absorb things from our biological family. And sometimes they’re wonderful and sometimes they’re not. But the great joy is this. You and I can choose a family that will help balance whatever it was about how we were raised.

And Timothy was also a chosen child. 2 Timothy 1:1 begins with these words, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.” And then he says this, “To Timothy, my beloved child. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus, our Lord. I thank God whom I serve with a clear conscience as did my fathers, when I remember you, Timothy, constantly in my prayers. And as I remember your tears, I long night and day to see you that I may be filled with joy.” Paul felt God calling him to adopt Timothy and to care for him like a father. Then he says this, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Now, that’s two generations. There’s Paul and there’s Timothy. And then Paul says to Timothy, “And what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust the faithful people, faithful men, who will also be able to teach others.” And what you see here is a chosen family of four generations because this love that causes Paul to call Timothy his son, it goes on and on and on through the history of the church. A church is a chosen family. And the world needs that sort of family.

Why? Here’s the truth. This was on the wall in the YMCA in Quincy, Illinois. If you who are good don’t have time to teach children to do what is right, someone who is not good with lots of time will teach them to do what is wrong. Mothering is needed in this world. Somebody has to look across the park bench and say to a kid, “Come over here. Your shirt’s not buttoned right.” Somebody needs to care if a child doesn’t get enough to eat. Somebody needs to step up and be the chosen, caring person who chooses to care for someone who might not be their flesh and blood, but who needs someone to love them. And the person who does that will do that because they know that God put us here to love people. That’s why we’re here. God put us here to love people.

One of the most powerful examples of loving people – I told you this story a few weeks ago – the church in Korea that I find so inspiring, they organized their 700,000 members into 50,000 small groups. And they say to each group, “Find someone to love. Find someone who needs your love and reach out and love that person.” And so they select someone who’s not a Christian, one of their neighbors. And they pray about it. Lord, is this the person? And then they pray for that person. They love that person. They do things to take care of them and serve them. They bring meals, sweep out the person’s store, whatever it takes to show them that they really care for them. And of course, the person says, “Why are you doing this? Why are you treating me so well?” And our people answered, “Jesus told us that we’re supposed to do good all people. And we want you to know that we care, that we love you, and so does Jesus.”

And the pastor of this church says after three or four months of such love, the hardest soul softens up and surrenders to Jesus Christ because they feel the love of Jesus flowing toward them and then it fills them where they are empty. And then you know what happens? They sit down with the group and pick the person to be loved next.

Now, you don’t have to pick the person, if you want. You can let God bring people in front of you and there will be someone you’ll be drawn to. There will be this feeling of adoption: “I care for that person.”

But this is why we’re here. God puts us in this world to be a church. And the best definition of a church I’ve ever heard is this one: We are a functional family… A church is a family. Now, not all families are functional. Some families are dysfunctional. Some churches are like families that are dysfunctional. But ideally, a healthy church is a functional family of God. And a child or an adult who becomes a part of that functional family begins to repair anything broken that’s leftover from their childhood. They learn in this new family whatever they didn’t learn from their biological family, and it heals them where they’re broken and hurting.

A church is this. We are a functional family of God where Jesus is Lord and people grow. People grow up. And so you see, God is a chosen Father because people who don’t love God choose to love God. And a church is a chosen family because people who don’t have a church feel drawn to it because they hunger for that sort of family. A church is a chosen family, and what causes those family things to happen are the parental influence and the caring that today I want to call mothering.

And it’s my hope and prayer that each one of us will be a good influence in a way that is natural to us for the people around us because that sort of caring, that sort of mothering is needed here because people are loved into the family of God. Sermons are good. Worship is good. Potlucks are good. Advertising is good. The church sign out here, it’s good. But what draws people into the family of God is they feel the love of Jesus pulling them towards something they have always wanted. So when you have the opportunity to be kind to a neighbor, when you have the opportunity – should it happen – to feel that you need to adopt someone just like Paul adopted Timothy, let what’s in your heart flow out to people who need you.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, I thank You today for everyone who ever loved me. Starting with my mother and grandmothers, starting with good friends that they had who sort of became unofficial aunts and uncles, and Lord, all the people down through all the years, including all the church members that have loved me. I thank You for all that love that has made me whatever it is that is good today in me. Lord, help me and help us to choose wisely and to love others, and we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

Posted in Attend Worship at Home 2023-2024 | Leave a comment

May 5, 2024, Priority 1 Learning to Love God, Eastertide 5

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP
The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

HYMN Abide With Me
Abide With Me – Audrey Assad
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84YASWe3_2Q
or
Abide with Me – A cappella – Eclipse 6 – Official Video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IB-q8dO_svw

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus
Natalie Grant & Sandi Patty: Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QsvQVeVHTk

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Priority #1: Learning to Love God
Text: Mark 12:28-34, 1 John 4:15-19, John 6:56-58
Series: Instructions for Walking In Newness of Life

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio

——————————————————————————————————–
SERMON NOTES

Mark 12:28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; 33 and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any question.

1 John 4:15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because he first loved us.

John 6:56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”

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HYMN 348 Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling
Softly And Tenderly (Live At Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN / 2017)
Reba McIntire, Kelly Clarkson & Trisha Yearwood
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjeMu6qeV5c
or
Alan Jackson – Softly And Tenderly (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkRTfrLBii0

BENEDICTION

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

These words have been on the church sign since Easter. They reflect our desire as a church, that we’re a church that prays for God’s kingdom to come. And what that means is that what Jesus said is what the king says. So when we pray, “Thy will be done,” we’re referring to what Jesus asks us to do. And not someday, but we would like to do God’s will here and now. And in these days after Easter, we’ve been talking about how the power of the resurrection helps us to walk in such a way as to do God’s will.

Last week, we talked about the second most important priority, which is that we are to love one another. We are to love our neighbors and also love ourselves. But today, we move up to the first priority, which is that all of us are still learning how to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. And so we want to say, “Lord, how do we do that? Since that’s your will, how do we fulfill that task?”

So let’s look at Mark chapter 12. There are four places where Jesus speaks of this. This is a one from Mark. And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing, debating, arguing with one another, and seeing that he, Jesus, answered them well, asked him which commandment is the first of all. And just so that you would understand, this is a normal, typical way for Jewish rabbis to debate. They would set up situations where, in order to keep one of the Ten Commandments, you had to break one of the other commandments. And the idea was to figure out which one had the greater priority. So this is a typical question, and the scribe would probably have dozens of different answers ready to argue with anything that Jesus said.

And here’s how Jesus responds. The first is, “Here, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall–” this is not a suggestion. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” or you could say, “With all your body.” That’s the number one priority. That’s what God wants. That’s what God wants for you and for me and for us. But how does that come about?

And so I want to suggest that we go back again to this verse that we’ve been talking about in different ways all year. Ephesians 2:10, “For we, you and I, are his workmanship… God is fashioning a people who are obedient. He is making us into the people God wants us to be. We are created in Christ Jesus for good not just for good but for good works, for good things to happen. And then here’s the verse that speaks so much to me, whatever it is that God wants for me to do today, God has prepared beforehand for me to have those opportunities. And I need to focus on what God has prepared in my life today because if I get a good grade today, if I get a strike or a home run today, then tomorrow, I can try again … because God prepares beforehand for you and I to do God’s will. God has prepared things beforehand for us to walk in them. And in learning how to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, there are lessons waiting for you throughout the day today. Now, of course, the sermon is probably the longest one! It’s quite easy for you and I to miss a lesson because it might be a commercial on television. It might be someone you see standing in line at Walmart, and all of a sudden, there’s something in your heart that says, “I need to pray for them.” In all the different ways we listen to God, the lessons will come in different ways for each one of us, which … isn’t that wonderful? God is speaking to you right at the level of what you need to learn.

But because Christ Jesus goes on before us to get everything ready for us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, that means we’re people who will always be learning. We will never have learned everything there is to learn. We will be people who are always growing because we never will be fully mature. Every now and then, we’ll have that two-year-old level of understanding followed by a tantrum. It’s part of what it means to be human but also because this is God’s desire to change our hearts, to be people who love the Lord with all our hearts, soul, mind, and strength at different levels and in different ways. What’s consistent is that we will always be loving— we will always be loving. But as you go through your day today, what you’re supposed to do in terms of loving God, what you’re supposed to learn in terms of loving God, it will happen in front of you because you will have an opportunity to love God at different times during the day.

So last week and this week, I used this scientific research by Psychologist John Gottman to talk about what science says about loving people in a committed relationship. In other words, these are principles to have a healthy relationship between married people, but they also work between children and parents. And if they work between children and parents, as I said last week, they probably would work between us and our neighbors. And today, I want to say most definitely, they also apply to you and I having a healthy, loving relationship with God. So let me connect each of those seven principles with scripture and how we live our lives.

The first one is, if you’re going to be in a loving relationship, you need to build love maps. You need to understand what the person you love likes, their preferences. You need to understand their dislikes. And friends, if you and I are going to please God, if you and I are going to please our Lord, we need to understand what the Lord values. We need to understand what the Lord likes and dislikes. And all too often with human beings, we kneel and we pray and we say, “Lord, please talk to me.”

But what we’re really wishing for and hoping is that when God speaks, God will say, “Dave, I agree with you about everything.” When I was younger, I would lay in bed at night waiting to go to sleep. And I would pray. I would say, “Lord, please speak to me. I want to hear your voice,” because I did have a desire for the heavens to part and for God to speak to me in an audible voice. And I would pray that, and then I would immediately turn over and go to sleep because I was afraid of what God would tell me if God did speak to me. But you see, however, you want God to speak to you, you need to watch out for that human tendency to choose the news channel that tells you what you like to hear, to choose the pages on Facebook that tell you that you’re right in every prejudice that you might have. You want to be careful of that.

But the reality is if you open the Bible and think about what Jesus is saying to you … because some things require some interpretation. Some things require some thinking. If you open the Bible, you will be learning what God loves. You will be learning what God wants. You will be learning God’s likes and dislikes. And I would like to– and by the way, these are the small New Testaments we have. If you don’t have one, you are welcome to take one with you today because it’s a good thing for us to learn what God loves. And it’s extremely helpful.

Unfortunately, there are a whole lot of people who, without studying carefully, are certain that they know what God loves and God wants. And one of the ways that you can tell that that’s possible is when, as they explained, God loves everyone they love. God likes everything they like, and God dislikes everything they dislike. You kind of have to wonder where they got that. Because I know I’m not done growing. I’m not done learning. And every time I open the scripture, I learn something new that I need to do … that I’ve not been doing that well. If we learn what God wants, what God loves, it will help us.

The second principle is in your communication. In your communication, you would want to share fondness and admiration. Now, the reason that’s important is in our relationship with God, but also in our relationship with anyone, the relationship is made out of communication, how we live with and relate to and talk to one another. So consequently, Billy Graham has said that prayer is simply a two-way conversation between you and God. And if you want to be in a loving relationship with God, you are going to have those conversations, and by the way, if you don’t hear God in an audible voice, this is how God will speak to you, through the New Testament. But communication with God, communication to a relationship is like oxygen to life. If you’re not communicating with God, it’s probably unlikely that you’re learning much. It’s probably unlikely that you are loving much.

And the quality of the relationship you have with another person is from the communication that the two of you have. So consequently, start thinking about your prayers. There are a whole lot of people who bring God their prayers the way children sit on Santa’s lap at Christmas. “This is what I want. This is what I want. This is what I want.” And they don’t say much else. But to be honest, as we go through our day, we can communicate with God about everything.

I remember driving a church van full of nuns in Louisville, Kentucky, when I was a student at the Baptist Seminary. And I don’t know how many nuns you know, but one of the interesting things about nuns is, as they’re driving down the streets of Louisville, Kentucky, I will hear them behind me as we come up to a stoplight, they will be saying, “Come on, St. Patrick. Come on, St. Patrick. Come on, St. Patrick.” Now, do you know what that means? They’re praying for a green light. But you see, here’s the point. Me, I don’t pray for lights to change. Lord, whatever it is when I get there, that’s fine with me. But these nuns were continually praying, “Lord, let it be a green light. Let the taco not be too spicy. Let the iced tea be just the right amount of sweetness.” They had a conversation with God about everything. And there’s no reason why you and I can’t have the same thing.

You see, when we have these conversations with God, in order to know what to say, we are seeking God, we are trusting God, we are loving God, we are calling out for help for ourselves or someone else, and we’re also praising God. Now, I don’t know if you’re like me, a whole lot of times, my prayers are also like this, “Phew, that was close. Thank you, Lord.”

But when you think about praise, when you think about noticing what God has done to help us, when you think about praise, what is it but noticing the goodness of God and letting God know that you noticed? Thank you is a form of praise. How many times do we share our fondness and admiration for God through the day with prayers of thankfulness? So this strengthens the relationship with other people to say things that show fondness and admiration. But it also strengthens our relationship with God … because it doesn’t matter how much you admire God; God does more than you can even conceive as worthy of admiration. So when you tell God, “Thank you,” you’re letting God know what you noticed. But again, seriously, brothers and sisters, there’s even more to notice.

In your relationship between a parent and child, between a husband and wife, between you and a neighbor, there are times that there are bids for attention. And when a relationship is healthy, 86% of the time, people notice when someone’s asking for their attention. Now, what’s the biggest problem here? You and I know what it is. We get distracted.

But all throughout the day, because God has put before us lessons to help us to learn, to love, to notice, to give thanks, all throughout the day, God is bidding us for attention. And the principle that leads toward a healthier relationship is to turn towards the one you love rather than away. And so throughout the day, we can turn towards the Lord Jesus Christ and spend a large part of every day with him. And in fact, that’s what he wants.
Because what is it that Jesus asks of you and me? Follow me. And the first part of follow me is to pay attention to me. Because when Jesus says, “Follow me,” Jesus is saying, “We’re going to take a turn here, in this direction, and I don’t want you to get lost.” So throughout the day, Jesus is bidding us to pay attention to Him and to turn towards Him and follow Him. That will strengthen the loving relationship you have with God.

The next one, and this is a big one, maybe not so much for United Methodists as for others, is to assume positive intent. As you are engaged in your relationship with your child, as you are engaged in a relationship with a husband or wife, as you are engaged in a relationship with your neighbor, from time to time, it could be easy to think that your neighbor is out to get you. Why does someone drive 50 miles an hour in a 55-mile-per-hour zone? It’s because they’re out to get me. Now, friends, this is normal. That person over there looks angry. I never did nothing to him. What’s he going to do next? We look with suspicion and fear in order to protect ourselves.

If you want to have a healthy relationship with someone, you want to first give them the benefit of the– well, the phrase is the benefit of the doubt, but maybe it should be the benefit of faith, which is I’m going to believe that you don’t mean me harm. And I guarantee that will help you become, especially if you were right and they do mean you harm, might as well start out believing in the best!

But you see, we have a problem in the church. And it goes all the way back years and years and years. There was a preacher in the early United States, Jonathan Edwards, who is very famous for a sermon that is called Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. So the picture on the screen that you are looking at is a father with great happiness and glee reading a book to a baby: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God for Babies. And if you look at the expression on the face of the baby, you could see the baby’s just a little bit afraid here. But, see, here’s the question: should we teach people to be afraid of God?

I want to tell you, there’s a whole– it’s not a minority. It might even be a majority. There’s a whole bunch of folks that think that until you’re afraid of God, you don’t really believe. But it’s ironic when an angel appears in the Old Testament, when Jesus appears, when God does something, frequently, the very first thing that Jesus ever says is, “Don’t be afraid.” Yet there’re people who assume that what we need to do is to make people be afraid of God because, “God is out to get you. God is watching every little thing.” And there’re some churches, and I know some people, I won’t say which denomination, but they kind of teach people, “If you trip, it’s because God’s punishing you for something you did.”If a person in front of you is driving 50 in a 55-mile-an-hour zone, people in that denomination are trained to believe, “I must have done something bad because God is out to get me.”

Now here’s what the Scripture says. Please let it sink in. 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love.” So the more you learn about how to love God, the less you will be afraid of God … I want to suggest. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear for fear has to do with punishment.” Isn’t it unfair for you to always blame God or to think that God wants to harm you? “For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.” You see, we are overcoming this. And the way we’re overcoming it, look at verse 19, “We love because God set the example. We love because He first loved us.” So I say to all the people who want to teach people to be afraid of God, I say, “Let’s you and I sit down and listen to what Jesus says in this book, the Bible.”

One more scripture. Can’t help it. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” And there was a meme that was going around a lot just before Christmas. If God did not send Jesus into the world to condemn the world, I don’t think He sent you or me. The more we understand about how God loves us, the more we will be talking about God’s love and the less we will be talking about how we should fear God. Because, you see, people go away from what they’re afraid of, and they go toward those who love them. And we want others to go toward God rather than away.

And that leads right into the next principle. The next principle is this one: Let your Lord influence you. Now, when you’re a parent and you have a child, you can’t always let the child make the decisions. But you want to let the child influence you. You want to hear from them. You want to understand them. And it’s the same way in the relationship with God. You and I want to let God influence us.

“Judge not,” Jesus said in Matthew 7:1, “that you may not be judged.” How can anything be more clear than that? And the explanation for why this is important, Jesus goes on to say — by the way, Jesus said this — “For with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” And so we’re reminded of the parable of the tax collector and the sinner, how the tax collector is kneeling in the shadows, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” And the Pharisees praying out loud, “Lord, thank you for how wonderful I am because I do this and this and this and this. And thank you that I’m not like that tax collector.” Someone who prays like that just doesn’t understand. We do not do God’s will when we are unloving to others. And so Jesus says in Luke 6:46, “Let your Lord influence you,” although Jesus says it this way, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you?” Because what Jesus tells us to do in this book will tell us how to love God and to love each other, in great detail.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t going to be conflict. There’s going to be conflict between what I think God wants me to do and what I want to do. That’s pretty hard to deal with. There’s going to be conflict between what I think God wants me to do and what you think God wants me to do. That’s not so hard for us to deal with, because we know the other person is just wrong, right? But whenever there’s conflict about what the right thing is, what we want to do is let our Lord Jesus Christ influence us. We we want to dialogue about the problems we’re having. And that means we want to dialogue first with Jesus because this is the priority: to learn how to love God first. And when we understand how to love God, then we can love our neighbor. Then we can love the person we’re married to. Then we can love our parent or child. But understanding what God wants needs to come first because if it doesn’t, then what we’re doing is forcing our opinion on others.

And then finally, because none of us ever get everything we want, we also have to practice self-soothing. We have to say, “Lord, instead of punishing that person who’s driving 50 in a 55 zone, please help them to learn the truth about how to drive.” We have to soothe ourselves. Calm down. It’s not that important. We’re not in that much of a hurry because, friends, we’re never going to always get our way.

And a lot of times, letting the Lord influence us means that you and I will be asked by God to change our minds. If you think you’re perfect, you don’t believe that. But if we know ourselves better, we know that God will want us to change our minds. But when we do, God begins to work to help our dreams come true. Because you see, in a loving relationship that is healthy, people help the other person that they love. They help the dreams that they share to come true. And friends, God and Jesus have dreams for you. Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans for welfare and not for evil. To give you a future and a hope.” John 10:10, Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, not punishment, not judgment, and have it abundantly.” Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” So you see, a loving relationship with God will help your dreams and wishes to come true. Oh, and they’ll also help what God wishes to come true. .

Finally, when you have a relationship with someone that’s loving, you will spend the time in ways that create shared meaning. You’ll use rituals, roles, goals, and symbols to create shared meaning. You will use a sermon to deepen the meaning of what it means to love God. You will use the singing of hymns to deepen the relationship and what it means to love God. And you will also do things like take holy communion because it deepens the relationship with God. And there’s a quote there on the screen from John 6, which is also in your bulletin, that literally says that taking communion deepens our relationship with God. And that’s why we do it. That’s why we come together here on Sunday mornings.

But friends, here’s the reality. As we learn to love our Lord, the best days are ahead of us. No matter what happens, as we learn to love our Lord, the best days are ahead of us. Whether it’s the best days of the Kinmundy United Methodist Church or the best days of the Wesley United Methodist Church, which you see on the screen across the cornfield. Right after Jesus said that God wants us to love our Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, the scribe says to Jesus, “You are right, teacher. You’ve truly said that he is one and there’s no other but he. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with the strength and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifice everything that’s happening in the temple.”

And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, thank You for walking with us through each day, from here to there. And as we go through the day, Lord, providing us with opportunities to learn what it means to love, to learn what it means to love our neighbor. Opportunities, Lord, to learn what it means to love You. And so may we be good disciples, good students, and may we grow every day in our ability not only to love our neighbor, but Lord Jesus, to love You with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

Posted in Attend Worship at Home 2023-2024 | Leave a comment

April 28, 2024, Priority #2: Be Neighborly, Eastertide 4

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP
The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

HYMN 557 Blest Be The Tie That Binds
Blest Be The Tie That Binds; First United Methodist Houston, 1/15/2023
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xYTkrCp_O8

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 585 This Little Light Of Mine
JJ Heller – This Little Light of Mine (World Vision)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8ezdfuZgT4

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Priority #2: Be Neighborly
Text: Matthew 22:35-40, Galatians 5:13-14, 1 John 4:7-11
Series: Instructions for Walking In Newness of Life

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Matthew 22:35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.


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HYMN 593 Here I Am, Lord
Here I Am Lord with Lyrics – John Michael Talbot
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnO5B_G505w
or
HERE I AM, LORD – Collin Raye
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_v9JKi4Ajo

BENEDICTION

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

There are two priorities that God gives you and I. Next week, we’ll talk about priority number one. But I thought we’d talk about the smaller thing, about priority number two, which is to be neighborly. This is something that small towns and rural areas really understood well. But in the last 20 years, in the last 50 years, people have largely forgotten how to be good neighbors. It’s very tragic.

This is the church sign out over here in front of the church. It says that our wish is for thy kingdom to come, thy will be done, and not someday, but right here and right now. But that then leads to the question, what is it that is God’s will? What is it? And this is where what Jesus said makes so much sense.

You have been seeing this picture and I’ve been explaining it for quite some time now. I just think it’s key. Ephesians 2 says that God is working in your life to help you to be the kind of person that God wants you to be. For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus so that good things happen, for good works. And not only that, God will go on in front of you before your day begins to prepare everything that you’re supposed to do. In other words, when you ask the question, “Lord, what is it you want me to do today? What is God’s will?” The answer is as you go through your day, you will see opportunities materialize in front of you.

Today, I want to add to that that the opportunity that will materialize in front of you will be connected to a person who is your neighbor. Because what God wants us to do is to love our neighbors. So what exactly does God’s will look like? It looks like your neighbor. And here’s where Jesus brings that instruction to us. Matthew 22:39, the this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Verse 40, “There is no other commandment greater than these.” If you play spades, you know there’s such a thing as trump. This is the king of spades. No other commandment greater than these.

But what exactly does this look like? And what I want to suggest today is that your relationship with your neighbor is intended to be a committed relationship. A relationship that we are committed to. Now, I know if you’re married, you are committed to your spouse. I know if you have children, you are committed to your children. I know as a dedicated person who’s a part of this church family, you are committed to your church. But I don’t know how often we realize that the relationship that God desires us to have with our neighbor is one of commitment.

Another scripture about what a priority this is: “For you were called to freedom, brethren,” Paul writes in Galatians 5:13. “Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, be servants of one another, committed to one another.” Verse 14, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, one phrase. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So in the parable of the great Samaritan, Jesus tells a scribe, a lawyer, this truth. And the lawyer very quickly seeks to defend himself by saying, “And who is my neighbor?” You see, there’s a tendency in our society today to make sure that we’re only surrounded by people we like and people will even live in walled communities.

But frankly, I think a good definition of your neighbor is anybody who’s within 10 to 12 feet of you. Or maybe it’s better to say within sight. All of you are my neighbors. I am committed to you. God wants me to love you. And every day, I’ll figure out how to do that. Because see, again, every day, God’s going to prepare the opportunity for me to love you as my neighbor.

As John says in 1 John chapter 4, “Beloved, let us love one another.” Why? For love is of God and he who loves, she who loves, is born of God and knows God. Love awakens us spiritually. Not only that, look at verse eight. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. And in this, the love of God was revealed, made manifest among us that God sent His only Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” And we’ve also talked about John 20:21, which says, as the Father has sent me, even so, Jesus says, I am sending you. Jesus is sending us to love people.

Now, that still comes to the question, exactly how do we do this? And if being neighborly lately has fallen on hard times, it’s very likely that we have something we need to learn here about how to love our neighbor as ourself. John goes on to say, and this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins … God sent Jesus to love people through us. And we don’t want to stop what God wants to do. So verse 11, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

And this is where I think that the Prayer of St. Francis is so helpful. The call to worship where we began our worship today, where we prayed, “Lord, help me not to be so concerned with my being understood. But Lord, help me to understand” … because if I understand, I will know how to love. “Help me not to be so focused on somebody loving me, but to be able to love someone else.”

Now, here’s the reality. Science has studied this. There is a psychologist by the name of John Gottman. He started out at the University of Illinois, moved to the University of Washington. He spent his entire career studying how relationships remain healthy. And he’s identified specific things which are indicators of a healthy relationship and specific indicators of a problem in a relationship. And all the way back in 1992, he created what he called the love lab, where they had this one-bedroom apartment and they would wire married couples up. They’d put electrodes all over their heads and over their heart and they would measure them electronically as they interacted with each other, married couples.

And from this research, they were able to determine the characteristics of a relationship that got better and better and a relationship that did not. To the point where, after a brief conversation, Dr. Gottman and his associates could predict in this study in 1992 with a 93.6% accuracy, whether two years later, a couple would be together or whether they would separate.

So in other words, when it comes to loving your spouse, they’ve studied this. And loving your spouse, that’s about sort of like a level 10 in importance. And loving your neighbor is nowhere near as serious, perhaps, or as tragic if it goes wrong. But the same principles will help you love your neighbor. And it’s good for you to know these principles because you’re in a committed relationship with a spouse. You’re in a committed relationship with children. You’re in a committed relationship with parents. You’re in a committed relationship with church members and a committed relationship with God. It’s good for you to know what leads to a better relationship.

And Gottman created this image. He called it the Sound Relationship House, the seven most positive and beneficial characteristics of a committed relationship of love. So today, I want to apply them to the relationship of loving your neighbor.

Here’s the first one: Build love maps. And that’s defined as knowing little things about your neighbor’s life. Things they like and things they dislike. There are people who simply cannot deal with you saying, “Go St. Louis Cardinals!” There are people who simply cannot deal with your love for asparagus. And this is something that Gottman says, “We need to know the people around us.” And so, you’ll notice down on the bottom of the screen, I’ve invented a misspelt word to “know-tice” because we need to know by noticing in our neighbors what is valuable and meaningful and important to them. That’s the first thing, understand your neighbor because you know them, because you notice them.

Here’s number two. Your mother probably said something like this to you. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” But the flat reality is the more you can say something nice, the deeper and more meaningful your relationship will be with anyone, whether it’s a spouse or a child, but also with your neighbor. So notice and say something nice. Be kind in what you say. Or as Gottman calls it, “Share fondness and admiration.”

It’s astonishing how uncommon it is for a spouse to say to someone they’re married to, “You look really nice today.” It’s funny how we just kind of go right over that. But it’s very worthwhile for us to notice and say something when we see something that’s wonderful. All of your relationships will improve if you share fondness and admiration. And remember, God’s going to give you opportunities throughout the day to do that, to share fondness and information with people.

The next one is an important one. How do we respond to bids for our attention from a neighbor? One of the realities of today is that we are so distracted. We are totally focused on information that’s coming toward us from our telephone, coming toward us from our computers, coming toward us from the television set, that sometimes we don’t even have an awareness of what’s happening with the people we’re around.

I’ll be honest with you, my wife has a favorite nickname for me. She calls me GoogleMan. My curiosity is insatiable. We’ll be watching television and all of a sudden, I’ll see an actor on a TV show and I’ll think, “I’ve seen that person before. Who is that person?” Out comes the phone. And that doesn’t bother her so much, except when I try to explain to her everything I found. But I will also say she particularly dislikes it when she’s talking to me and then I have to Google something … because she would like to have my attention. People around you with whom you’re in a relationship would like to have your attention! So consequently, as you’re going through your day, there are people who will walk past you and something will tell you, “Lord, I need to pray for them.”

But there are also people who will walk right up to you and say something like, “How are you?” Or, “How’s that buying a retirement house thing going?” Or some other sort of thing. That person is asking you for your attention. And sadly, we are so distracted today that we often don’t even notice that somebody wants to interact with us. And so consequently, a very powerful help to strengthen a relationship is to turn toward rather than away. And in particular, if you’re under stress, if you’re having a difficult time, if somebody at your job is just bugging you, you want to turn toward the person you love rather than away because that will strengthen your relationship.

And by the way, this 94% accuracy has been confirmed in test after test, psychological test after test after test. One thing that they found in couples, the ones that stayed married, happily married, would turn towards each other in hard times 86% of the time. But the couples that didn’t make it averaged only a third of the time. So in other words, two-thirds of the time, when someone’s upset, they would turn away from the person they love rather than turning toward them for support. Turning towards is very powerful. When I have a problem, I need to turn toward the people that love me and let them in and let them help.

The next thing is to assume positive intent because one of the most destructive things you can have in a relationship is what’s called a harsh startup. Now, what that means is if you’re walking down the sidewalk and someone comes up to you smiling, you look at them and say, “I know you hate me.” In other words, you start a fight when a fight hasn’t even started yet. It’s very easy to lose your temper before there’s a reason to lose your temper. And in fact, sometimes– I think it’s fair to say this because this is probably true with neighbors, too. You can have a fight and then you make up but underneath the fight is still going on. So the minute you get provoked again, it’s like you instantly go from 1 to 10 on the anger scale. Now, why do people do that? Because they don’t feel safe. Because they perceive that other person as a threat. Because they perceive that other person as an enemy. If you had a big brother or sister who was mean, you know exactly how that is. It’s like you need to protect yourself.

But in a loving relationship, it’s very beneficial for you to give the other person the benefit of the doubt and assume that they mean you no harm. Now, every relationship has some negativity in it. Every relationship has some conflict. And it’s funny, they’ve also studied this. The healthiest relationships have one negative comment, one negative complaint for every five positive statements. Now, there’s a few conclusions you can draw from that. The first one is if you lose your temper, you’ve got to say five nice things for every mean thing you say in order to make up. That might really help you not to say them.

But the other thing is– and I always will remember the very first time this happened. I had a couple in premarital counseling. We were talking about relationships. And they looked at me and they said, “Well, you know, the two of us have never even had our first argument.” And I looked at them and I said, “Well, in therapy, we have a name for people like that.” And they were all like, “Tell us how wonderful we are.” And I said, “Yeah, we call them liars.” [laughter] Because here’s the reality. There is always something that will irritate us. But we don’t need to let it take over. There is always something that will bother us, but we don’t need to let it take over. So it’s good to be honest. If somebody’s standing on your toe and it hurts, it’s all right to say ouch. But if we assume positive intent, it is easier for positive feelings to grow.

And consequently, a main point for a relationship that is growing, is to realize there is always going to be conflict. But the insights to manage conflict are basically this. Allow your neighbor, the other person, to influence you. Accept that person’s desire to communicate.

The other day, I was walking aross the street at the end of the day. I was tired. I could not wait to get home. In my mind, I was totally focused on my La-Z-Boy recliner. And a young man, I won’t tell you who, came down the street and he said, “Pastor, pastor!” And I thought, “If I run, can I get to the door before he gets here?” But I knew the right thing to do. So I just stood there because this was my neighbor. And he came up to me and he said, “I shot a turkey this week.”

Now, I’ll be honest with you, friends, I have never gone hunting in my life. I do not have the patience to go hunting. Literally, I would go out with my deer rifle, and I’d be there in the woods, and I would look at my watch and say, “Where’s the deer? The deer is late.” I just am not made to do that.

But as he was telling me all about the turkey he shot, and the turkey his sister shot, which was a bigger turkey, but he wasn’t jealous because she had a bigger turkey than his. But the turkey he shot … and I thought to myself as I was looking at him, “Jesus loves him. And I need to love him, too.” And I told him how wonderful he was, and how wonderful his turkey was and how good it was that he wasn’t jealous of his sister. And I thought to myself, “Jesus loves him, and I can love him, too.” Now, about the third time he said the same thing, I went on inside the house because I had heard him.

But you see, we need to let our neighbors influence us. It’s okay if they don’t want to talk about the things that we’re interested in. We can show love to them. And if there is a problem, we can talk about it as long as we don’t lose our temper. And if we get upset, we can soothe ourselves. It’s all right. It’s okay. The La-Z-Boy chair will still be there. And it was. Let your neighbor influence you. That will grow a loving relationship with your neighbor.

And then this one – what kind of neighborhood do you live in? Do you live in a neighborhood where people’s dreams come true? I want to suggest to you that people’s dreams come true when we pray. But how can we pray if we don’t take time to know our neighbor and to know what would be their dream come true? If we have a sound relationship with our neighbor, we’ll rejoice when their dreams come true and we’ll pray for life to be a blessing and better. Everybody has hopes. And I want you to know when I discover something you hope for, I begin to pray for you that God would answer your prayers. I’m invested in helping my neighbor’s dreams come true.

And so consequently, because of these things, the time we share with a neighbor, even if it’s just a conversation on a sidewalk, that conversation creates shared meaning through the use of rituals, through the use of roles, maybe you’re kind of a parent figure to a young person, goals and symbols. And what we do here in worship with prayer and music and singing is full of rituals, roles, goals, and symbols. But it creates shared meaning with our neighbors. And that relationship deepens. And God can use that better relationship to help that neighbor to have an experience that Jesus Christ also loves them.

We live in a time where there are people who want to make the world a better place. And of course, you know what that often means: They want to make the world a better place by having their side win the political battle. They want to make the world a better place by making everybody else think just like them. They want to make the world a better place by arguing with people.

And there are people who think that the reason the world’s not a better place is because the church is not doing its job. And the really odd thing, they try to make the world a better place by manufacturing a better church. But friends, Jesus did not tell you and I to fix the church. If you want to make this world a better place, remember that Jesus said that the priority is that you and I love our neighbors. Now, I happen to be married to my closest neighbor. She’s about three feet away most of the day. But whether it’s three feet or 10 feet or 20 feet, God is going to bring the people that you are to love into the area right around you. And if you will learn to love your neighbor, their lives will be changed by the power and the grace of God flowing through YOU.

Please pray with me. Lord, it’s such a temptation to us to point out what’s wrong with the world. It’s such a temptation to us to give a list of what other people need to do to fix what’s wrong. Whether it’s a little handwritten list or a post on Facebook or whether we actually even hand out books to people that say, “This is how you’re messed up. This is how to fix it. Now you go become a better person and stay away from me until you are.” Lord, we’re not quite that bad, but we’re not quite as good as we should be. We’re not quite as loving as we should be. We’re not as much like Jesus as we should be.
Lord, help us to remember that what You asked us to do was to love the person right in front of us. And Lord, I ask You to help us not only to see the importance of that, but simply to be able to live our lives in that way, loving our neighbor day by day. We ask that in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

Posted in Attend Worship at Home 2023-2024 | 1 Comment