Sermon 05/31/20: What Do You Need … To Believe? (Pentecost)

WORSHIP AT HOME for 5/31/20. 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.)

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 Randy Owen, The Isaacs – I Need Thee Every Hour [Live]

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 Kim Hopper – Love Lifted Me [Live]


Title: What Do You Need … To Believe?
Text: John 20:19-29
Pastor David O. Kueker
Series: A Church Comes Alive (After Sheltering In Place)
Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.

HYMN Bill & Gloria Gaither – Majesty (Live)

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 )

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


What do you need to believe?

John chapter 20 verse 19, On the evening of that day, Easter Sunday, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side, and then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

Thomas was not there that night. But the other disciples were. It was Easter Sunday. They had heard something about Jesus being gone and not being in the grave. They were still filled with doubts, and then all of a sudden Jesus is there, “Peace be with you.”

But what I’d like to draw your attention to is the fact that the disciples are hiding. They are in a room where the doors are shut, in a sense, because of their fear of the persecution of the Jews, the fear that they would be the next ones to be crucified.

Because of their fear, in a way, they were sheltering in place. They were afraid to go out. They thought if they went out and mingled freely with other people, they could die. Strange, how that matches our current situation. The disciples were sheltering in place for fear of the Jews, and all of a sudden Jesus is there and Jesus is alive.

We are in the time of Pentecost, the time when the disciples become visible. There’s an incredible miracle on the day of Pentecost. Peter stands up and preaches a sermon. But you know something, they hid and sheltered in place for 50 days. And during those 50 days, Jesus Christ got them ready for what they would need to do later, but it took 50 days of prayerful, spiritual preparation.

I can only imagine what it must have been like for them to watch Jesus dying on the cross. Crucifixion is one of the most brutal, painful, barbaric ways for a human being to die. And I wonder if the experience of him dying, and all of their hopes that they had given three years of their life to see come to pass for them all to end in that horrible suffering death. I wonder if it would be true to say of the disciples that they had what we call PTSD, which are letters that stand for the words Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

You can read stories of what it was like for the prisoners of war to come home from North Vietnam, where they were tortured, where they were beaten, where they were starved. The horrible experience they had wounded them in their hearts and minds to the point that even though they were home, they found it very difficult to believe that they were home. There are stories of former prisoners of war hiding food under the bed because they were certain that any minute now, the guards would break in and their entire nightmare would continue. It was as if they believed that the nightmare was still going on and that their life at home was the imaginary dream. Difficulty Adjusting to Change happens, even when it is beneficial to change.

I had a good friend who was a former Marine, about four years older than me, a veteran of combat, a pastor, and he told me once that he struggled with PTSD. He once said, “Last week, I was walking down the sidewalk, and all of a sudden I woke up, and I was shaking and cowering in the bushes by the library because,” he said, “I thought I was back in Vietnam on the battlefield. I was unable to remember that I was here and I was safe. I thought I was back there and without my even realizing it, my body took cover and hid from enemy fire.”

It’s kind of ironic. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder … for these survivors, it’s not “post” for them. It’s still present. The World Trade Center bombing was a horrible, traumatic event. But when we got up the next day, we could see the changes in the rubble. But for a person with PTSD, the trauma hasn’t ended. For the person with PTSD, the fires are still burning because they cannot believe that they are “post” the trauma because, in their hearts and mind, the trauma is still going on.

And this is going to be a challenge for us in dealing, as a church, with this whole coronavirus epidemic. The potential is there for a church to perceive the coronavirus epidemic as a never-ending trauma. The potential is there for you and I, as people, to perceive the coronavirus epidemic as a never-ending trauma. To perceive that the fires are still burning because we’re unable to believe, we’re unable to perceive, we’re unable to accept that even now, the whole situation we are involved in is changing. But if we’re traumatized by it, it’s going to be difficult for us to see that it’s changed. The potential is there for churches and people to develop PTSD.

Let’s go back to the Upper Room. John 20:24, Now Thomas, one of the 12, called the twin, was not with them when Jesus came and so the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” And he could not believe. Because for him, the fires were still burning. To him, Jesus was still upon the cross. There was no reason whatsoever to have any hope. He was not able to believe.

And he blurts out, he said to them, the Scripture says, “Unless I see in His hand the print of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, in the wound in his side, I will not believe.” That’s a hallmark of PTSD. The person has made up their mind. If you try to ask them to change their mind, they will fight you for the image that is on the inside of their mind and heart. And because of these words, Thomas has always been called Doubting Thomas. But I personally, I don’t think that’s accurate. I don’t think it’s doubt. I think, after a shattering experience of emotional suffering, that he was still feeling that pain of experiencing Jesus as dead. Thomas was not interested in their joyful claim that Jesus was alive, that they had seen Him, and the heart of Thomas cries out, “I won’t believe.”

Or if you want, you can look at it a slightly different way. “This is what I need to believe. I need to put my finger in the wound in His hand, inside of His wounded body, and then I’ll believe. Then I’ll be willing to hope.” I think Thomas’s feelings are crying out in horrific pain.

A few days went by. Then all of a sudden Jesus was there again. He said the same words. “Peace be with you.”

And then He turns to Thomas and He says, “Thomas. Put your finger here. That’s what you said you needed. And see my hands. That’s what you said you needed. Put out your hand and place it in the wound in my side. That’s what you said that you needed. Do not be faithless, but believing.” And Thomas falls to his knees and cries out, “My Lord and my God.”

I can imagine what it might have been like if you and I had been in the room when Thomas made these demands. We might say to him, “Thomas, who do you think you are? To expect Jesus to do this for you? Get over it. Get over yourself. Grow up. Trust us!”

But what’s the heart of Jesus? Thomas, you asked me to show you so that you could see. You asked to touch me. You asked to literally put your hand in the wound in my side. This is what you need … here. Jesus brings you what you need.

We talked last week, we talked in previous weeks about my helicopter ride the day I went to the hospital on Good Friday and how I dealt with my emotions. And the reasons why I would not give my emotions the freedom to rule what was happening, I told you that I just kept repeating to you, the words of a sermon that meant a great deal to me. This is just Friday. It’s only Friday. Nothing that happens on a Friday with regard to suffering, a Good Friday, like the day Jesus was on the cross, nothing that happens on a Friday is the end of the story. We have to wait until Sunday to find out the truth. It’s just a Friday. I just have to wait and see.

And so when the doctors came in with one bit of traumatic bad news after another, I said to myself, “It’s only Friday. We need to wait and see what’s going to happen.” When they loaded me into the helicopter, I thought to myself just a little bit, “I wonder how much this is going to cost.” But very quickly, I said to myself, “It’s only Friday.” I told myself again and again not to be upset but to remain calm and have faith that God was working through even something as difficult as this.

And I’ll tell you, having been a pastor for 40 years, I have a lot of experience in setting aside my emotions. You see, when a firefighter runs into a burning building, when a police officer walks up behind a traffic stop not knowing who is in the car, not knowing if they might have a gun pointed at the police officer as they walk up, as soldiers run toward the sound of cannons, as surgeons and the trauma team in the emergency room get ready to treat a patient, they have to set aside their emotions so that they can be there for the people who need them.

And for 40 years as a pastor, I’ve been called to the Emergency Room and sat in the room with family while a patient died. Sometimes, I was called after the patient died, and I would come and sit with the family until their loved one was taken away by the funeral home. I had to set my emotions aside and wait for the benefit of other people.

So I was able to also do this for myself. I could, in a sense, pastor myself. I was able to choose temporarily to be in denial: It’s going to be okay. Let’s just wait, because it was better for me to choose denial over panic. I was able to choose acceptance: Whatever this is, God knows. It’s going to be all right. I was able to choose acceptance over what was happening in the present instead of letting my fear take over. You are able to choose to wait and see before you panic. And if you have to do that again and again and again, eventually, you get used to it. You can wait to grieve until you’re not needed. You can set aside your panic until you have answers. You can have this faith that God will work it out.

I don’t want the Coronavirus to become a matter of PTSD for our churches, or the people who are a part of our church, or the people who are a part of our community. And maybe I’ve just been a little naive in assuming that everybody would get that and not feed the fires of panic in themselves, but to calm themselves down and look to Jesus for peace.

But I absolutely don’t want us to deal with the pain of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as the Coronavirus epidemic continues. As I said last week, grief is a healthy adjustment to loss and loss is always a change to our life. But today I want to ask you this, are you willing to make that adjustment actively, consciously, deliberately? Because if you are able to be the ruler of your own mind, if you are able to be the counselor and comforter of your own heart, you will adjust faster with less pain and suffering, less harm to you and people around you.

Because beyond this person’s pain, there is a future and that future is filled with hope because Jesus Christ is still Lord of all. We can’t see the future, but by faith, we know it’s there. But I do want to ask you this question, what do you need to believe? What do you need so that you could hope in that future? Because here’s the possibility that comes with our faith: If you’re able to articulate in a prayer to Jesus Christ, who loves you, if you’re able to put it into words, it’s possible that your prayer will be answered just as Thomas received what he needed.

Do you know what you need to believe? Are you able to bring it into focus? Are you able to define the future that you hope you and I will live in? If you can pray it as a prayer, would Jesus answer that prayer? You might be surprised. Thomas certainly was.

The hard part for us in the middle of a crisis, in the middle of stress, in the middle of fear and panic … the hard part for us is to know exactly what to pray, to know what to ask Jesus for. But it will likely involve knowing what you need to do, knowing what you need to accept the reality of how life is changing. We can’t go back to the good old days. To know what you need in order to bear up with whatever sort of pain may come from accepting that, to know what you need to adjust to life because the old ways are going to pull you down and you’re going to find yourself needing to say no to that temptation. Life is different now. I can’t live in the good old days.

Do you know what you need to find yourself able to reinvest in life, in the living, to reinvest in the new reality, in life, in love and happiness? Do you know what you need? If you don’t, and you sit for a while with Jesus Christ, perhaps it will come to you. Do you know what you need in order to believe that God is with you, with us today and always?

Please pray with me. Lord, help us to know what we need to believe. Help us to bring it into focus so that it’s clear. Help us to be able to say the words even as Thomas said the words about what he needs and then, Lord, to let you work in our lives. We ask that in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus

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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