Sermon 05/17/20: Cleansed By The Word (Eastertide IV)

WORSHIP AT HOME for 5/17/20. If illness or travel prevented you from joining us for worship Sunday, or if you would like to experience the worship again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a new tab, and close that tab when finished.)

The songs sung today are partially or entirely drawn from bible verses.

CALL TO WORSHIP: Our call to worship is to pray the Wesley Covenant Prayer:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

HYMN Seek Ye First – Maranatha Singers – (Matthew 6:33, Matthew 7:7)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the words of 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 Maranatha Singers – Thy Word [with lyrics] Psalm 119:105

If you are blessed to have children in your presence this morning, take a moment to listen to them and give thanks for what they are thankful for this morning.


Special Music: Psalm 63:1-5 Song “I Will Bless You While I Live” (Esther Mui)

MESSAGE: Cleansed By The Word
John 15:3, 7; 8:30-34; Matt 28:19-20
Pastor David O. Kueker
Series: Worship In Place
Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.

HYMN As The Deer – Maranatha Singers (With Lyrics) – Psalm 42:1

BENEDICTION: Let us dedicate ourselves to the service of Jesus by joining in the Prayer of Saint 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

(If you wish, you can listen to this prayer being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis )

The photo by Ryk Neethling entitled “Open Bible with Pen” is from Flickr Creative Commons.

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


Good morning, friends. In the past few weeks since we’ve not been able to have worship at the church building, we’ve been talking about how we can do worship at home and specifically how can we take what we do in the church building on Sunday morning and bring it home so that we actually have a church in the home. It’s all right if there’s one person attending that church, maybe two or three. But if we can’t have church in the church building, let’s figure out a way to have church at home.

And we’ve been talking about how you find your place in that church in the home, how we do music at that church in the home, how we begin with a call to worship and surrender our life to Christ in the home. But today, I want to talk to you about something that keeps me very happy and keeps me very busy. I want to talk about how you have a sermon in your home. If you worship at home, where will the sermon come from?

Well, obviously I’m providing a sermon that you can listen to over the internet and in fact, everything you need to worship at home is provided. But let’s just imagine that you had to provide the sermon because in the worship in your home, honestly, the sermon comes from you. How exactly will you preach a sermon to yourself? What goes into a sermon and how do you prepare that message from God when you are the one talking to yourself? You’re both the preacher and the congregation.

Well, let me segue to something else first on the way to answering that question. One of the realities of being a human being is that we get lost. People get confused. It’s a part of being human to lose our way, to not know where we are, to not understand where we’re going, to not understand how to get there from here. It’s a part of being human to be lost.

So we want to start with the question, What’s the problem? There are problems that you and I struggle with. There may be someone we know and we think their life is perfect. Well, they have no problems. But that’s not me. That’s probably not you.

A man came to a New York City pastor, very famous preacher, and said, “I’m so tired of all the problems that everybody is struggling with. I would just like to spend the day someplace where there are no problems.” The pastors said, “Well, I know such a place.” And he and the man got on the subway and they went all the way out to the end of the line and the pastor got off the train and said to the man, “Here you go. Here’s a place where no one has a problem.” And there they were in one of the largest cemeteries in New York City.

If you have a problem, it means that you’re alive. If you have a problem, it means that you’re a human being if you. If you have a problem today and can name it, it means that you’re an honest person. What’s the problem? Because once we understand the problem, we’re going to bring that problem as a prayer to the problem solver, to Jesus Christ. So what’s the problem?

Back in about 2009, my problem was that when I wanted to go someplace, I would print the road directions off of Yahoo Maps. I’d set that printed sheet of paper on the passenger seat next to me and I would consult it as I was driving. And I was in Chicago at the time and I needed to go to a particular Walmart on my way to a particular restaurant and I printed out the instructions … and all of a sudden, I found something out. It’s not possible to drive in dangerous big city traffic and read the small print on a sheet of paper. I actually drove past the Walmart about six different times before I realized that it wasn’t actually on the street where Yahoo sent me. It was on a side street, facing a side street. But I finally got to the Walmart, thank God.

I looked at the Yahoo directions and I just simply took those pieces of paper and tore them into many small pieces. I went into Walmart and I bought what I needed but I also went down to the counter and I bought a GPS. I have never regretted spending the money that day and they weren’t that cheap in 2009. I never regretted spending the money to get a GPS. Because if I’m in the big city, all I have to do is take the GPS then I press a couple of things on the screen and all of a sudden, this impatient, irritating woman is telling me to turn right or turn left or turn back around and sometimes she just mutters under her breath over and over again, “Recalculating, recalculating, recalculating.” But that voice that I hear in the car sends me where I want to go.

What’s the problem? Friends, for this life that we have to live, we need ourselves a GPS. We need that voice that gives us instructions, that gives us directions on which way to go. You and I know that as Christian people, we get our directions out of the bible. God has answers for our human problems in the bible. But as I’m driving down a busy street, it’s hard for me to flip through the bible and find the exact verse that speaks to the situation that I’m struggling with. I need something like a GPS version of the bible to where I hear a voice repeating the scripture to me that applies to the problem I’m dealing with. And we might call that being guided by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that the job of the Holy Spirit was going to be to remind us of things that Jesus had said (John 14:26). So if we have some form of spiritual GPS, it would be the Holy Spirit interrupting us to remind us of something that the Bible says so that we can, right here, right now, do what the Bible asks us to do. We need a version of the Bible that talks to us the way a GPS talks to a person.

I’ve looked through some instruction manuals in my life. I don’t start with the instruction manual. I always try to wing it. I always try to figure it out on my own, but I have a confidence that I can pick up and instruction manual if I have to and go to the exact page that tells me how to do the thing that I need to do.

Now, here’s the problem: the bible isn’t like that. The Bible isn’t like an instruction manual. The Bible is as if God took each individual sentence in the instruction manual and just scrambled it up, moved one instruction to Genesis and the next one to Psalms and the next one to the book of Matthew and the next one to the book of 1 John and then we’re back to the book of Proverbs. The instructions are mixed up.

And I can imagine in my mind an angel coming up to God and saying, “God, why did you create such a scrambled instruction manual?” And I likewise can imagine God telling the angel, “If I put the instructions in the book like this, that way they’ll have to read it all. And not only will they need to read all of it, they’ll need to become familiar with it all and they’ll need to spend time thinking about it all. And they’ll need to ask me what it means and they’ll need to take time to listen to me.”

And God might go on to say, “They’ll need to take time to decide what to do, thinking over the options, listening to the Holy Spirit.” Finally, I think God could say to the angel, “It will be obvious who is a reader of my word and who is not.” Wouldn’t it be great to have a Bible where our familiarity with it allowed it to speak to us? And we could bounce from one part to another because it would be in our head, not just on the page. The Bible would be in our head. The Bible would be in our heart. And it would just like that. It would remind us of what we needed to know when we needed to know it.

Let’s go back to my being lost in Chicago. What’s the problem? The problem of my being lost in Chicago is that I needed clear directions that were easy to follow that would take me where I needed to go.

So that’s the first question, but what are some other questions that would help us to understand the Bible? On the back of your church bulletin for many years now, there’s been a list of three questions, they’re called the S.O.W. Questions. The first S.O.W. Question is, “What does it say?” The second question is, “What does it say that I need to obey?” Because some Bible verses give us information and other Bible verses give us instruction. And the final question, “Who needs to hear this?” It might be you, it might be me that needs to hear this, but it might be somebody else we know. And we do missionary work when we bring a verse from the Bible to someone who needs to hear it.

And the way they use these questions on the mission field– this is how they do Bible study in tribes and cultures where no one can read. They take each verse and someone, usually, a child who might be going to school, a child will read one verse out loud and then they’ll ask these three questions, they’ll go verse by verse by verse and understand each verse thoroughly.

Here’s an example, John 15. John 15 is the chapter in the Bible where Jesus talks about abiding in Me and the benefits of that. John 15:3, Jesus says to His disciples, “You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.” You are already made clean. Now, that’s not clean as in the sense of washing your hands because this is the chapter where it talks about the gardener pruning the vines in the vineyard. Jesus says, “I am the vine and you are the branches and the Father’s the gardener and he’s going to prune you.”

Let me remind you of a pet peeve. You’ve heard me say this before. A lot of preachers will talk about these verses and they’ll talk about how when pruning happens, it’s so horribly painful.

Let me ask you to think with me just for a minute. With pruning, God takes the sheers. God takes away the excess. God takes away what you don’t need or want. Pruning is a little bit like waking up the next morning and finding that you are 100 pounds lighter because God did all the heavy lifting. Any pain is in the past, but God took care of it.

Now, John 15:3, “You are already made clean … clean. That word in Greek that’s translated made clean, literally means – you’ve guessed it – pruned. It is the verses of the Bible that prune us. It is the verses of the Bible that take away what leads us astray. It is the verses of the Bible that clear out the garbage that we don’t need in our life. “You are already made clean,” Jesus says, “by the word which I have spoken to you.” And not only that, take a look down at the seventh verse. Jesus says, “If you abide in me,” and he goes on to say, “my words abide in you,” look at this next beautiful promise, “ask whatever you will, and it shall be done to you.”

When you let the Bible clean you out, prune you of what you don’t want or need, straighten your life out, when you let the Bible take up a place to where it dwells inside of you, it abides inside of you, guess what happens? All of a sudden, your prayers become very powerful to change the lives of people all around you, and to change your life, too. That’s what it says.

What does it say that I need to obey? Well, obviously, I need to let the word come into my life. I need to let it do its work to prune me and clean me up. I need to let it stay in my life and keep doing that work, and then my prayers are going to start to be answered. Friends, that’s something.

The third question, Who needs to hear this? I need to hear this, and I’m probably not the only one. The word of God, the verses of the Bible have a powerful effect to clean up our lives.

The next example comes from John chapter eight. Let’s read from the beginning of the 30th verse, “As he spoke thus, many believed in him. Jesus then said to the Jews who believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.'” What does this verse say? We don’t have a relationship with God’s word that’s occasional. We don’t want to have a relationship with God’s word that means that we pick it up once a month, we pick it up once a week, even picking it up on Sunday. We want to have a continual relationship with God’s word because that’s how we will know that we’re truly disciples.

I’ll be a little risky here, I’ll be a little dangerous! If you don’t have a continual relationship with God’s word, you don’t meet this definition that Jesus gave of what it means to be a disciple. You may be a wonderful Christian, you may be a holy person, you may be a moral person, but if you want to be a disciple, you will have a continuing relationship … a relationship with everything that Jesus said, because it’s going to work on you.

The very next verse talks about one way that it works on you. Verse 32, “You will know the truth.” God’s word reveals the truth to us no matter how confusing and crazy the world around us can get to be. Right now, the greatest frustration many of us have is the reality of fake news. All kinds of information that stirs us up, gets us really upset and goes on all day long.

Here’s the recipe for dealing with fake news, friends. This statement that somebody makes – does it match up with what Jesus said in the Bible? Because you know if it matches up with what Jesus said in the Bible, it’s far more likely to be true than if you can’t find a single Bible verse that supports what someone is suggesting. Not only that, in Verse 34 Jesus says that, “If you don’t know the truth, it’s really easy to commit sin, it’s really easy to make a mistake, and it’s really easy to commit sin to the point where you’re a slave of sin.” What sets us free are the verses of the Bible.

Oh, by the way, we talked in John Chapter 15 about how we need to abide in Jesus, and how Jesus’ words need to abide in us? Here’s the interesting thing. You know that word continue? It’s the same Greek word. “If you abide in my word”, Jesus says.

“What does it say that I need to obey?” You need to find some way to bring the Bible into your daily life. To put it in your head, to put it in your hearts. So that just like a GPS, when you’re tempted to take the wrong turn, it will tell you to turn around. That’s what it means to abide in the word.

Who needs to hear this? I need to hear this. You probably need to hear this. And you and I aren’t the only ones.

One more example, in Matthew Chapter 28, Verse 20, the very last verse in the Book of Matthew, the verse that sort of sums up everything. The disciples have been following Jesus and he’s been instructing them. He’s been giving them instructions. And they’re supposed to listen to his words, to go through them repeatedly, to remember them. And here in the 20th verse, you find these words. “You’re supposed to be teaching them, the new disciples, the new people, all that I, Jesus, have commanded you.” If you want to help people become disciples … if you want to help people turn their lives around. If you want to help people be born again and start a new life, they need the scripture. They need to be taught, not to know, not discuss, but to observe and live all that Jesus commanded them. That’s what it says.

Now, what does it say that I need to obey? I am a part of Jesus, giving these instructions to people around me. First, I follow those commands myself, but I teach them to others.

Who needs to hear this? I do, because the word in your heart wasn’t put there to stay. God’s word is not really fulfilled until you are willing to give it away. So how do we put the word our hearts? How do we put the word in our minds?

Ancient Benedictine monks had a spiritual discipline that they called Lectio Divina. The words Lectio Divina in Latin literally mean Divine Reading. But when you look a little bit closer at the practice, it actually means A Divine Reading.

Please understand who these monks were. Some of them were priests who knew how to read, but most of them were illiterate, unable to read, laboring folks. They would work with the animals in the monastery herd. They would milk the cows. They would work on the monastery farm to grow food. They were common working people, and they did not know how to read. But during the meals, as they ate their food, one of the monks who knew how to read would read to them from the scriptures and sometimes from other spiritual books.

Now, these were not people who could memorize entire chapters of the Bible. They didn’t know how to read. But what they would do is that they would listen sentence by sentence, verse by verse, and all of a sudden, a verse would be said. And it would be like bells would chime. It would be like God would say to their heart, “This is the verse that I want you to pay attention to.” And, of course, then they would ask themselves, “What does it say? What does it say that I need to obey? What problem does it address?” And they would take time with that one phrase, that one verse. It really didn’t matter whether they meditated on it for an hour, for a whole day, for a whole month. They had heard from God what was supposed to be their agenda.

Lectio Divina as words in Latin also literally means A Divine Selection. We need to listen for our own personal verse. We need to listen for this specific thing that God is wanting to say to us.

Now, we need to read the Bible in context because the only way we’re going to hear it all is if we read it all. We want to read the Bible in context. We want to read it a chapter at a time. But when it’s time for us to think, we want to focus in on one particular verse that we feel in our hearts God is telling us, “Pay attention to this.” We need to focus on one particular verse that our mind wants to understand. And then as the day goes on, we think it over. We take our hoe and go out in the garden and weed the garden, but while we are weeding, in our minds, we’re saying that phrase from the Bible over and over.

And in this way, these Benedictine monks would memorize the Bible but one verse at a time. They were not in a hurry. They had heard from God, and what they heard was the solution to the problems they were dealing with, “There’s something about this verse.” And so they would think it over and over and over and over until they had drawn out of it every little bit of nutrition for the soul that was to be found there.

And then it’s time for the next verse.

Friends, I want to suggest to you, this is how we allow the Word to dwell in us, how we continue in it, how we let it abide to us. Pick up the Bible and open it to a chapter and look for one verse, maybe two, maybe three, because God’s in charge of this. Not me. But look for one verse that you feel is what God is saying to you today.

And then think it over and think it over and think it over until you feel that you understand it. Ask it these questions. The Bible can be questioned because God wants to give you an answer to your questions. And I’d also just simply like to say this as well if you’re stumped, I, as your pastor, would love to hear your questions. Put them on Facebook. Call me on the phone. Text my phone. Send me an email. However you want to communicate with me! If there’s a question and you don’t know the answer, ask me. I would love to be involved in understanding a verse of the Bible with you.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, you said that our prayers would be answered if we took time to abide in your Word. You said that you would show us right from wrong if we took time to abide in your Word. You said that you would set us free and that we would be your disciples as we listen to your words and sought to obey them. I pray, Lord, that as we have worship at home, that you would help us to be taught by your Holy Spirit through your holy Word and it would dwell richly both in our hearts and minds, 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 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.

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