Sermon at Kinmundy United Methodist Church on 1/06/2019.
Title: A Second Is Like It Matthew 22:35-40
Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: [Kinmundy] [Wesley]
Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: [Slides]
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’s a very famous French play by a philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, that contains the very famous line– in French, it’s this: L’enfer, c’est les autres. And it’s translated into English as hell is other people. The name of the play is No Exit. In French, the title is Huis Clos, which means Closed Way, or you could say Locked Door. In the play, three people are led by a bellboy into a room and they’re locked. And they realize as the play goes on that for the rest of eternity, they will be each other’s torturers. The point the play makes is that Satan has a budget. It’s much cheaper to have people torture each other than for him to have to hire demons to do it. Hell is other people. But the line in French doesn’t exactly mean that. The line in French says, “Hell is that other guy.” But what you don’t realize is that other guy is pointing at you and saying, “Hell is that person. I have to get along with that person.” Oh, well, not pointing at you directly [laughter]. Yeah, I see Cathy leaning away from him. To blame the other one is very human. But it is true. When there is hell on earth where people are suffering, there are usually people at the root of what causes it, or people at the root of the decisions that lead to it, or people who fail us with the help we need to deal with.
If there’s hell on earth, a lot of times it happens in relationships between people. And we can do better. Last week, we talked about what I suggested was the world’s most common forgotten resolution, the first commandment, to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Well, guess which one is the second most forgotten resolution? And we could do a better job of loving the people around us. And I think it would be a beautiful resolution for you to choose to try to do what God wants us to do, for you to resolve in this year, “Lord, I want to love my neighbor better.” Now there’s at least one person here who wants to say, “No, Dave. I do that. My resolution is to love my son better because he and I don’t get along.” If that’s you, I have to kind of look at you and say, “What about everybody else?” Certainly, there are relationships that we wish were better. But what about all of the relationships that we’re involved in? We probably need to be better at all of them. And, in fact, that’s the second half of the great commandment.
The second is this, Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love is what we need to do. And he points out, the two together, there’s no commandment greater than these. These sum up all of the Old Testament. All of the rules of God can be summed up in loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength. Oh, and the love you [need?]. This is a relationship that if we care about what God wants, we make a commitment to do it well, and we can always improve. Now, a lawyer asked him this question to test him, and when Jesus explained this, the lawyer sought to get out of it by saying, “Who is my neighbor?” And basically, Jesus pointed out, “Your neighbor’s whoever’s right there in front of you,” and then he tells the story of the Good Samaritan. Unfortunately, the way the Good Samaritan has come down to us is we come out of the front door of our house and we look around us, and there’s nobody dying, and we think we’re not needed. There are people around you without problems who need your love. And it is so– friends, it is so easy to love someone without problems because they don’t need very much. They just need someone to show them a little bit of care. And not the least of which, the person around you who needs love the most is the person who does not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. One of the unfortunate studies of the church is most church people can name many, many people who go to church. Oh, [look at?] that. They can name people who don’t go to their church but they go somewhere else, but if you ask them to tell you the name of someone who doesn’t go to church, who doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, they can’t think of one person because those people, quite often, are not on our radar.
My favorite definition of who your neighbors are is simply this: if you talk with someone typically every week, they are your neighbor, and that conversation can become a way that God helps them come closer to Jesus Christ. You have four neighborhoods. We’ve talked about this. There’s a neighborhood of your family and friends. There’s a neighborhood of people that you have a hobby or an interest that you share. If you go to a baseball game or a basketball game at a high school, all of the people in the gym are your neighbors. If you go to Walmart or Kmart or Target or any place else where you like to stand in line, people in line in front of you are your neighbors. People in line behind you are your neighbors. You know what the statistics are? Four out of five of the people in the gym were not in church the previous Sunday. Not only that, if you would look around here in the church, the people in this room are your neighbors. How do we love them? Well, see, here’s the problem. We aren’t always very good at loving people. It’s not something that always comes naturally to us. And we need to love people in an appropriate way. Friends, it is not appropriate for you to give your car keys to someone who’s drunk just because it’ll make them happy. Would you agree? It’s not appropriate for you to give your house keys to somebody who will steal your stuff. It is not appropriate for you to love someone such that it gives them another opportunity to come closer to you and abuse you or harm you. Sometimes, the most loving thing you could do for someone is to not see them. To let them go their go their own way. Sometimes, that’s the most loving thing that you can do for someone. But you have to think, not just that we need to do good, but what if the right way to do good? John Wesley put it this way, “You’ll always be doing good if you do no harm, and, by the way, you’ll know when that’s happening with your neighbor because there will be conflict between the two of you. Do no harm.” He also said, “Do all the good you can.” Why not? But the other thing he said that helps you to know how to love someone is you need to draw near to God. Now, Wesley’s exact words were, “Attend upon all the ordinances of God.” And what he meant by that was to be sure to attend worship, be sure to attend that private worship where you’re sitting in your chair. Be sure to pick up the bible and read it. Be sure to come and take communion because all of those things give us guidance and help to love our neighbor. Because if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, God will help you love others. God will give you the intelligence to know what to do because you love God with all your mind. God will give you the emotions of caring because you love God with all your heart. God will give you the strength to put up with people who are hard to put up with. Because certainly, God puts up with us and we are hard to put up with. God is our source of everything we need to love our neighbor. On the other hand, as we talked about last week, maybe the scientific research on happy marriages, happy families, can help us understand how we can love our neighbor in a healthy way. Last week, we talked about how you could use these seven principles to love God more. It occurred to me we probably ought to point them at your neighbor and apply them in that way, maybe they would help. Here’s the first one. Build love maps. If you know the little things about your neighbor, what they like and dislike, you will be able to love them. If you know the little things about Jerry Milena, you will not say anything bad about the Chicago Cubs around her[laughter]. Would that be true, Jerry?
That would be right.
That would be right. Now, it’s probably okay to say something nice about the cars because Jerry’s a very nice person, but if you understand her, you will not do things that hurt her feelings. But in addition to that, when you see her at the salt potluck, you can make sure to bring your dish in a little Chicago Cubs plate or something because that would make her happy and why shouldn’t we make Jerry happy because she’s our neighbor. But it’s appalling how little we know about the people around us. It’s appalling how, quite often, we know a whole lot more about a family on TV, that we know about a family that lives next door. if we know them it’ll make it easy to love them because little ways you can show that they matter to you. And of course, here’s my big problem. I found out that Jerry was a Cav fan, but I did not write it down. But there’s other things. If you don’t write it down [inaudible]. You need to make an effort to remember what’s important to people so that you don’t– let’s face it, friends. When your foot is in your mouth, it doesn’t taste good. You don’t want to do that. Here’s a second one. Share fondness and admiration. Your neighbor goes to work each day. You know what happens at work? Their boss yells at them all day long. The customers come in, and the customers yell at them all day long. And most people, when they get home from work, no one has said anything nice to them all day. Share if you have a job like that. Some of you may still have that kind of job. If you’re the person who is kind, who says something nice, sometimes that’s like a little bit of water in the desert. And it’s possible that if you say something nice to someone you will then the first person who said anything nice to them all day.
In order to say something nice to somebody, however, we have to do the most important thing which is we have to notice. And if your neighbor looks unhappy, maybe there’s something nice you could say that always is true. If you just simply are kind and share fondness and admiration, that can really help someone feel good about life when life is hard. How do we respond to bids for our attention from a neighbor? There are all kinds of ways that people indicate to you that they want to talk to you for a minute. I have become aware that I am so focused on what I need to do next that sometimes I actually turn away from somebody to go do the next day before I realize that you weren’t done talking to me. That’s one of my resolutions, not to do that, this coming year. But I have become aware or pressed, I should say, the Lord has cured me with a fork of awareness to let me know that I could be a better person. But the principle here is very simple. If you want to show someone love, turn towards them and then you’ll know what to say or what to do.
Last week, I shared the statistic that when the scientist John Gottman did this, they found that in marriages that flourished and were happy, people turn toward each other 86% of the time. When they had a choice, they turn toward the other person. And in marriages that ended in divorce, marriages that ended very unhappily, two-thirds of the time, when the other person wanted to talk, the other person turned and walked away. That is not a recipe for happiness. One of the ways that you can love your neighbors, again, just pay attention. Don’t be in such a hurry. If they turn toward you, take a minute and turn toward them. Now if they turn away from you, should you chase after them? No, don’t do that or when people turn toward you, respond to them appropriately. And the other one is to keep things positive. The last thing that other person needs when they come home is a whole lot more complaints, a whole lot more irritation or grumpiness or irritability. The CEO of Pepsi basically gave credit to her rising to the highest position in the company to one thing that her father taught her. She said that, “Whenever someone comes toward me, I assume positive intent. Even if they’re frowning, I assume that they mean the best. Even if they look angry, I assume that they’re coming toward me for a positive reason because,” she said, “most of the time, if I think they’re coming toward me to hurt me or attacked me, most of the times,” she says, “I would be wrong.” Assume positive intent. Assume the other person feels positive toward you even if they’re upset about something else or someone else.
A lot of fights start between people because you think they mean you harm, and you do what they call a preemptive strike. “Well, they’re mad at me. I’m going to show them first.” Assume positive intent. Keep it positive until you have a reason to be negative. Let your neighbor influence you when there’s actual conflict. When there’s actual conflict, you need to take time to let the other person talk, and they need to take time to let you talk. There needs to be sharing. Also, you need to calm yourself down. I don’t know of any disagreement that was made better because you lost your temper. Now, sometimes, the other person loses their temper. You’re not in charge of their temper. But you will generally not make it better if you lose your temper or get upset. So it’s good to calm yourself down. That’s what self-soothing means. Calm yourself down. But, generally speaking, if you show that you’re willing to listen to the other person and take their opinion into account, that will go a long way. You don’t always have to do what they think. But if you show you’re willing to hear their side, that will mean a lot when there’s a conflict. Let your neighbor influence you.
The next story in the sound relationship house is to create a relationship where dreams come true. And whether you’re dealing with a child, whether you’re dealing with a parent, whether you’re dealing with a sibling, whether you’re dealing with your best friend, when you’re dealing with people at the ball game or in the line at Kmart, it’s a wonderful thing for you to help their dreams come true, and for them to help you where sooner or later it will be your turn to be helped. This requires you know what the other person hopes will come true. And you may know that somebody is a Cub fan. You may know that somebody is looking for employment. You may know someone is struggling with illness. But sometimes, people are very shy to tell you what their hopes are. They have to trust you first. But I hope that your neighborhood is a place where dreams come true, including yours, because that will bless everyone.
And finally, this is a picture, by the way, of a block party. There are ways that you can create with children, with parents, with neighbors, with co-workers, with people in church, events and symbols and things that create shared meaning. That’s why we have a salt potluck. We want people to come together and be with each other. That’s why we have the FFF lunch and we want neighbors to get together and visit with each other. That’s the reason why we go on trips, not because we just have a bus. We want people to remember the fun they had when they went here or there because it increases the quality of the caring between people. I know that I will live a better life if I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and if I work to strengthen my relationship with God. And in churches, you all know we talk about that almost every Sunday. But God says that your life will be greatly improved if you work to strengthen the quality of your relationship with everybody around you.
So please give some thought to your neighbors this week. Whether it’s the neighbor you see most, the person you’re married to, someone you live with, or somebody you don’t see quite as often such as the person at the gas station where you buy your gas, listen to God and notice when you can say or do something that will help your neighbor to find some joy.
Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, you told us to love our neighbors. That’s a little bit like telling a fish to pay attention to water. We take it for granted so often, Lord, all the people around us. But you’re aware of what they need. You’re aware of how a kind word from us might make all the difference. Lord, help us to notice our neighbor and to love them. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen
Worship was canceled due to bad weather on 1/13/19 and 1/20/19.
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 Raod, 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.