Sermon 06/28/20: Father John’s Three General Rules (Pentecost IV)

WORSHIP AT HOME for 06/28/20. 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 Larry Ford – What a Friend We Have in Jesus [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coO5Sl8Vnlw

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 Sow Mercy – Gaither vocal band (Lyrics)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoTtf5MzTOI

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:

Father John’s Three General Rules
Do no harm
Do all the good you can
Take good care of your faith and grow

Text: Galatians 6:7-10, 2 Corinthians 9:6, John 15:1-10
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.
(Sermon audio will be uploaded ASAP after the 9 am service concludes.)
Wesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

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HYMN Larry Ford – What a Friend We Have in Jesus [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qm3mKa2buhg

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
Amen

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

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

TRANSCRIPT

We didn’t really get a chance to celebrate Father’s day. Last week on Father’s day we were getting ready to come back inside, so I thought I’d talk just a little bit about fathers, or at least one aspect of fathers this morning. And as fathers seem to be the ones, in my opinion, typically, that bring the rules to various situations.

My father was an extremely patient man. I still remember the day that, having watch too many cartoons, I thought it would be funny to put a thumbtack on his breakfast chair. As he came in with his tie on, and his dress shirt on, and was ready to go to work as a high school teacher in Belleville, and when he sat on the tack it was very funny, but it wasn’t at all funny. He jumped up about two feet, spilled Cheerios all over the front of his shirt, and he looked at me, and he went, “Grr.” And then he said, “Your mother will have to iron another shirt now.”

My father set an example for me that day of a great deal of patience, but I think his main rule was, “Think.” But … Sometimes we don’t have time to think. And that’s when it’s good to have rules. And it’s especially good if the rules are clear, and easily understood.

And John Wesley, who is the father of the Methodist movement, also had rules. By the way, today is John Wesley’s birthday. How’s that for a coincidence? John Wesley’s rules, he had three. Three basic rules, and each rule came with a very long list of specific things that were against the rules. But they all were grouped under a category of three.

And the first rule was, “Do no harm.” Now you know what the commandment is, we’re to love our neighbor as ourselves, and at the very least that has to mean that we will do no harm. What harm is will change from century to century; it’s changed since John Wesley made his list, but to do no harm to ourselves or to our neighbor is an essential rule of the Christian faith.

There are times that we need rules just to tell us to, as the sign says, “Whoa, you need to come to a complete stop.”

Another rule, there’s a picture there of a smoke detector, if one of those babies goes off, you need to go find out why. One went off one day in the middle of the afternoon and the husband went up to his wife and said, “Let’s eat.” And she said, “Honey, it’s the middle of the afternoon, what are you talking about?” And he said, “Well, my mom said whenever that thing went off it was time to eat, because supper was done.” (That’s a joke.) His wife explained to him that that wasn’t true in their house, and he learned a good lesson from that. But it’s good to have rules that tell us when to stop because the stopping is for our safety and for the safety of people around us. It might not hurt you to run that stop sign or that “whoa” sign, but it might hurt somebody else. Sometimes, we have to stop.

The other side of the same rule was to do all the good you can. There is a Methodist version that goes on to say, “Do all the good you can, wherever you can, in every place you can, to every person you can, as long as you can.” But that is a Methodist principle.

I want to imply that this is sort of a mother thing because my mom always came to me in my youth with good things. And it was quite clear that whenever my mother was coming toward me was good – because it smelled good, and it looked good, and it tasted good, and it was quite obvious that I wanted that. Do all the good you can is to yield to something inside your heart that wants to do good. You will be tempted to do good. That is the temptation you can yield to. So that’s a good rule. Do all the good you can. For each one of us, the specific ways we do good will be different, but do all the good you can.

And then here comes the one that’s frequently misunderstood. These rules have been updated. John Wesley’s version said to attend upon all the ordinances of God. What in the world does that mean?

People who want to simplify that rule have actually said that what it means is that you need to fall or stay in love with God. Now, I am a wise old man, but I do remember when I was a stupid young man and as a stupid young man, I frequently fell in love and I expressed my love in not very wise ways. So I kind of think what John Wesley had in mind was a little more than just to have the feeling of love toward God. Because I’m not so sure that everything else that we should do toward God comes from that because the commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Well, what it actually means to attend upon all the ordinances of God is to show up at every opportunity to benefit spiritually. If you come to worship, you’re going to benefit spiritually. To attend upon all the ordinances of God means to show up for worship. Holy Communion … show up for communion. Bible Study or class meeting … show up for Bible study and class meeting. Or as I put it in my own words, take good care of your faith and do everything that will help you to grow up.

Because our faith is something that lives within us. God sowed seeds in our hearts and they sprout and they grow, a lot of times underground, and you can’t see them growing. But we need to tend the ways that God is living in our hearts. Sometimes that means you have to take out your hoe and do no harm by taking out the weeds. Sometimes that means you have to take out the hose – you move from the “hoe” to the “hose” – and provide the good that growing things need to live and grow. But it’s God’s intent that we do everything that we can to become more spiritually fruitful.

Well, Pastor Day, where is this in the bible? Well, here it is.

Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the spirit will from the spirit reap internal life.” (Or you could say spiritual life.) “And let us not grow weary in well doing.” There’s that second rule of John Wesley! “For in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

You see, these rules are like seeds; results and consequences come from them. “So then.” Paul says, “As we have opportunity, let us sow good.” Or as he says here, “Let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul makes the point, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. And he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” So as we sow what is good, good comes back. As we take away the things that harm, more good comes. Those are good rules.

In John 15, which is my favorite chapter in the bible, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it may bear more fruit.” Then he says this, verse 3, “You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.” You’ve heard me refer to this, that as you read the bible it will clean you out of what does harm. It is the reading of the bible that does the actual pruning. It is the reading of the bible that cleans us up and sets us free.

Verse 4, Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. Abide in me, and I in you, as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine. Neither can you unless you abide in me.” What this means is that what’s growing within us is actually Jesus growing within us because, as it says there, “I am the vine. You are the branches. He who abides in me is connected to me, and I in him. He it is that bears much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers. And the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned “

“If you abide in Me,” Jesus says, “And my words abide in you,” (an essential part of this), “Ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this My father is glorified, that you bear much fruit. And so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you, abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” And out of that abiding will flow the answers to our prayers. Out of that abiding will flow goodness into our lives.

These are good rules that come to us from father John. It’s important that as you and I think through the decisions that we make that we do no harm. We’re certainly aware that there are great controversies and arguments raging all over the place. But you and I have to be aware and attentive and sort of find our way through those arguments to where hopefully we can find a place to stand where we do no harm.

As people try to stir things up, I’m finding that “doing no harm” is more and more difficult to do. But do no harm is a rule that we need in our time.

Well, Pastor Dave, how do we know what does harm? How do we know what does good? You tell us not to do harm, you tell us to do all the good, we can, but how do we know what to do?

I suggested to you several weeks ago, that you not let what you hear on the news determine the truth, but that you allow God’s Word to explain to you what is true. You might need to do some intellectual exercises to build a bridge between what Paul said almost 2,000 years ago, and what somebody on Facebook said yesterday. It might take you a while to connect the two together, but it’s worth doing. Because God’s word, as Jesus promised, prunes or cleans our life of things that do us harm and hold us back. Look into God’s word and let it guide you.

Finally, let the Holy Spirit guide you. I honestly think the Holy Spirit’s a little bit like that smoke detector. The Holy Spirit will sort of set off this little alarm, “Something’s not quite right.”

The phrase that I often use, if you remember it from Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi says “I sense a great disturbance in the Force.” There’s something that’s not right. The Holy Spirit’s kind of like God’s smoke alarm, there’s something going on. It’s just not right.

In counseling, counselors have a proverb. What they say is that if it feels icky, it probably is. And we need to be sensitive to how it feels within our spirit because sometimes that’s how the Holy Spirit talks to us. We just have this very deep sense that there’s something that’s not right. Or sometimes we have a corresponding sense of there’s something that’s really good here. We sense the Holy Spirit underlining what we’re feeling and trying to warn us in our hearts, to be aware.

Take good care of your faith, so that the Holy Spirit can communicate with you and show you the choices that lead to growth that lead to being fruitful. And in all things remember that you have a friend in Jesus, to whom you can turn when you’re not sure what to do, to whom you can turn when the rules don’t seem to apply. If you have a need, remember that you have someone who is your friend that you can turn to. And whatever that need might be, ask for it from the Saviour who loves you.

Please pray with me: Lord Jesus in this time of conflict over how we should live and what does harm and what does good, help us to keep growing spiritually. Help us to deepen our faith. Our faith needs rainy days and sunny days. In the same way, Lord, there will be both kinds of days for us. But we pray that you would help us to perceive you working through whatever is happening to us. And Lord, wherever we do not understand, remind us to turn to Jesus for the answers. We ask this in Jesus’s name.

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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