Sermon 07/05/20: The Looking Glass (Pentecost V)

WORSHIP AT HOME for 07/05/20. 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: 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.

HYMN Larnelle Harris – America the Beautiful [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHnHEY8pHU0

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

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

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:
Title: The Looking Glass
Text: 2 Chronicles 7:11-16
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 for Wesley UMC
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SERMON NOTES

2 Chronicles 7:11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD and the king’s house; all that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the LORD and in his own house he successfully accomplished. 12 Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

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HYMN Terry Blackwood, Sue Dodge, Ernie Haase, The Talley Trio – This Land Is Your Land [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzpH3ZrLSEM

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!

Image: Solomons Temple-City of David.JPG From Wikimedia Commons. Silhouettes from Pixabay

TRANSCRIPT

Mirror, mirror, on the wall who’s the fairest of them all? You may have seen that movie. Nowadays the looking glass is telling us something different. Because we’re asking it something different.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s to blame for it all? Whose fault is all this mess? Who’s to blame for everything I don’t like about life in my world?

And you know something – if you ask your mirror that, your mirror will give you an answer – I shouldn’t actually say mirror. I should say looking glass. Because unless you are under the influence of illegal drugs, your mirror probably doesn’t talk to you. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a looking glass that talks to you.

Think about it. Where do you think you spend all day looking? Here’s your looking glass. It sits up there on the wall and tells you everything that you ought to feel miserable about. And then it tries to make you feel better. You know how it tries to make you feel better? It tries to make you feel better by telling you who to blame for whatever’s wrong. Good luck with that. Because if you listen to this looking glass, you’re going to find yourself living in a soap opera.

Now the one thing I can tell you without any dispute is I’ve rarely ever met anyone who was happy in a soap opera. But I guarantee you in a soap opera, if they’re unhappy, they can tell you who did it. And who’s at fault.

And the ironic thing is this. You never hear anyone in a soap opera take responsibility for what they’ve done. It’s always someone else’s fault. That’s human nature. And just like with Hitler and the Jewish people, and you and whatever it is that you’re upset about, you know exactly who messed everything up. Because your looking glass told you. Now some of us have that computer screen looking glass instead of a television screen. But we spend way too much looking in the looking glass. And certainly– and by the way when I say way too much time I’m talking about for the average family, probably more than five hours a day. That is our main influence on how we feel.

If you turn that screen off, it’s human nature for us to start finding someone to blame closer to home. You have a different glass to look through. You look through the window and by God, there’s that neighbor that’s the cause of it all. Look at their crabgrass. Look at their mole trails. Look at their teenage son and his loud music. And nobody’s washed that car in a month! Or I don’t know what it might be. But you know when you’re really upset and stirred up inside, you have to put those emotions somewhere. And it’s really easy to find someone to put it on when you look out your window.

I’m sorry to tell you, sometimes people put the blame on someone in their own family. That’s even more painful for us. Because as long as we’re looking for someone to blame, our feelings get stronger and stronger in a bad way.

If you want to notice what’s wrong, here’s where you look. You look at yourself. You ask yourself, “Is it my fault?” I am so thankful to have a loving wife who points out things like my belt buckle not being properly centered. During my single days, I once went to church with my tie coming out from under the collar and going over the button right here. And a whole churchful of people just stared at me for the whole service, and nobody told me until afterward that I looked like a goofball!

But the reason I looked like a goofball was that I didn’t look at myself. If you want to know who needs to change, the clearest picture of that person you will find is in your mirror. And the quickest way to have a better attitude and a happier life is to fix that person. Because you know something? They listen to you, and they’re willing to do what you tell yourself to do. Start with the person in the mirror.

God gave us a recipe to heal our country. And all around the United States today, there’s going to be sermons printed and preached on this scripture. This is 2 Chronicles 7:11. It comes from the days when they dedicated the first temple that Solomon built. Thus, Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house, he successfully accomplished. Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice.”

I’ve been talking about how the church is emerging from sheltering in place. Here’s a church that is emerging– and here’s what God said to the people of Israel. It’s good advice for us today as well. Now here’s the first peculiarity. It’s not, “If …” but “When bad things happen–“

I think it’s quite amazing that, given the human tendency to look for who to blame – God, right off the bat, looks at people and says, “You can blame me.” Because it says, “When I,” as if God did it. “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, when I command the locust to devour the land, when I“– this sits a little too close to home during the Pandemic — “send pestilence or disease among my people,” here’s how you fix it. There’s a threefold if and a threefold then. “If my people…”

Unfortunately, when this sermon is preached all across the United States today, most people are going to be told the reason that bad things are happening in our nation is because those bad people need to change their bad ways. And of course, whatever looking glass– because preachers provide a looking glass, too — Whatever one you’re looking into, they have their own list of who needs to change, who is evil in this world.

But God’s promise here is he doesn’t ask the evil people to change, he asks God’s people to change. Do you know why? Even God would grow impatient waiting for evil people to want to change but there’s some hope that you or I would be willing to change if we loved God. So this truth is focused not on the sinners out there but the sinners in here, inside the church.

God says, “If my people who are called my by name”– here’s the first if. “If they humble themselves and if they pray and seek my faith and if they,” God’s people, “turn from their wicked ways.” When that happens, here’s what God promises. “Then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land.”

That’s the promise that comes to us that we can fulfill if we look in the mirror and work on the person that God wants us to work on. “If my people.”

Now, God says, “My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place, Solomon’s temple, and all the churches that have come after. For now, I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.”

So brothers and sisters based on this promise from the Old Testament, we have our work set before us. “If my people,” God says. Here’s a word from John Wesley: Beware that you are not a fiery persecuting enthusiast. Do not imagine that God has called you. I have to lift this up to read. That God has called you just contrary to the spirit of him you style to be your master. Do not imagine that God has called you to destroy men’s lives rather than to save them. Never dream of forcing men into the ways of God. Think yourself and let think. Let other people think. Use no constraint on matters of religion, even those who are farthest out of the way. Never compel them to come in by any other means than reason, proof and love.

I was watching a Youtube video last week that was talking about research and how to change people. And the scientist said the most certain way to fail at changing people is to try to push them to change. The most certain way to try to change people and fail is to scare them, to threaten them, to warn them of harm that is going to come upon them if they don’t change. Because you know what happens? Their minds begin to look for something more pleasant. And they figure out some kind of shortcut that makes them happy and from that moment on they ignore everything you have to say.

[That video: How to motivate yourself to change your behavior | Tali Sharot | TEDxCambridge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xp0O2vi8DX4&t=620s ]

I wish I could intimidate people into doing the right thing. But what psychology says and John Wesley warns, if you try to compel people to do the right thing you will always fail. But ironically God offers a cure for our land that does not require that. It requires three things:

If my people who are called by name humble themselves. I have to watch myself because every now and then, even though it might seem otherwise, I get a little testy. I get a little irritable. My wife knows all about this, right dear? She’s nodding her head. Sometimes I get angry but what I’ve learned– and it’s because of this little saying here which I saw on the looking glass of Facebook one day and saved it because I thought it told a great truth. I sat with my anger long enough until my anger told me her real name was grief. And when I realized that what I’m truly feeling when I get angry is sorrow.

And I want to suggest to you, if you find yourself feeling angry, allow yourself to look underneath that anger and see if what’s not really happening is that somewhere deep down inside you’re very, very sad.

Because I find that when I’m angry there is no way that I can humble myself. There is nothing humble in my anger, but when I’m sad about the choices people make and the harm that can come from them, whether it’s my own decisions or the decisions of others, it’s a lot easier for me to fall to my knees and humble myself. So look for what you’re sad about, and it will teach you to be humble.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face.” Again, consider, when you’re angry, when I’m angry, are we angry at God? We’re angry at all kinds of other people. If we humble ourselves and are sad, we can turn to God with open hearts as we pray and seek God’s face.

And finally, finally, God asked us to turn from our wicked ways because that’s the beginning of everyone around us turning from theirs. It always starts with Christian people being more like Jesus Christ. To turn away from anger and to turn toward humbling themselves.

You may not believe this, but when I was a younger man, I loved to argue with anyone who would provide me the entertainment of disagreeing with me. And my arguing would go on for days. Now, my dad loved to argue too, but I even wore him out. But there came a day I was walking down the stacks in the seminary library – I did this all the time – and a little book caught my eye, and I pulled it off the shelf, and it was a book of little poems. Not limericks, but poems just about that same length. They were by a Dutch mathematician by the name of Piet Hein. He called these little poems, Grooks. And at random, which lets you know it wasn’t random at all, it was the hand of God. I opened it to one page and read this little poem which changed my life.

“In view of your manner of spending your days,
I hope you may learn before ending them
That the effort you spend on defending your ways
Could better be spent on amending them.”

If I look in the mirror and see where I have gone wrong, if I turn away from everybody else including the shouting that comes through the media of who to blame, and simply look at myself and let God show me where I could change, my whole life could change in a moment, and the whole world around me could change over time.

Please pray with me.
Lord Jesus, help us as we see the great need that is in our land on these difficult days, these days where the looking glass of the television set gives us one kind of bad news after another. These days when the looking glass that is the computer screen shows people going to war over what ultimately are foolish things. Help us, Lord, to look in the mirror, and beginning with us, bring us up out of the grave. Bring us out into the light. From the Winter, help Spring to begin. And as we humble ourselves, Lord, we pray that you’ll change our lives and change our world, and we ask this in the name of 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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