Sermon 09/20/20: Tiny Mercies (Kingdomtide II)

WORSHIP AT HOME for 09/20/20. 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 Gaither Vocal Band – Bread Upon the Water [Live]

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 Gaither Vocal Band, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound – Give It Away (Live)

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: Tiny Mercies
Text: John 13:1-17, 34-35; Mat 22:39; James 2:14-18
Series: Tiny Habits for Growing Christians
Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.


Mat 22:39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 

John 13:1 Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. 5 Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. 

6 He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “You are not all clean.” 

12 When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

James 2:14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. 18 But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.


HYMN Gaither Vocal Band – Sow Mercy [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!

Photo by ADimages via Pixabay.


We’ve been standing in this grocery aisle now for several weeks talking about how to be the church out there. And I want to tell you very honestly, it’s not possible for you to be the church out there in the grocery aisle, but it is possible for you to be a Christian out there in the grocery aisle. And as the song said, “Throw your heart wide open,” and what God puts on your heart, give it away … because if you can be a Christian out there, then the work of the church continues.

“What am I hereafter?” You’re going up and down the aisles. “Lord, where’s the coffee? Can’t remember where the coffee is. What am I hereafter?” Going up and down the aisles. “Oh, darn, the cookies my wife wanted me to buy. They don’t have them anymore. Wonder what she wants. What am I hereafter?”

Did it ever occur to you when you are going up and down the aisles in the grocery store, you might be there after something other than just the food you put in the cart? Because it could be in that place, the Lord Jesus Christ has a task for you to do beyond simply gathering the food for your own table.

“What am I hereafter?” Well, you know the quickest way to figure out the answer? Look not at what is there, but look at who is there because this is how God works. “Who am I thereafter?” is most likely going to be God’s focus. Sometimes God, needs you to minister to you.

But it’s very possible that there is a person who is in the grocery store at that moment. It’s not a coincidence because you will have the opportunity to provide a tiny little bit of mercy to them that will help them get through their day. It might be nothing more than a smile. It might be just a thank you. It might be something else you would say, particularly, if this is someone you know. Because you see, there are neighbors that you know, and there are neighbors that are strangers until you get to know them. But God’s will for your life, most of the time, involves a who more than a what. Because God loves people.

And more often than not, God chooses us to be the method by which God’s love is delivered. Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Oh, now that I have your attention, now that you’re going to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you know what God says? Now, I want you to pay attention to your neighbor. You, not the church, not the government not the social work agency. Not the Department of Children and Family Services. Not the soup kitchen or the food pantry. They may help your neighbor but you, you, you personally are asked to love your neighbor.

Every now and then I talked to my dad about people who needed help. I would talk to my dad about people who were poor. And my dad would look at me, and honest to God, this is a truth from my teenage years. My dad would look at me and say, “That’s why I pay taxes. And that’s all I need to do to take care of anybody who’s in need because I pay taxes. And it’s the government’s job to take care of my neighbor.” Well, this scripture would indicate that it’s my job and your job and we can’t delegate it to the government. We can’t even delegate it to the church. It’s our job.

Remember this TV show? (An image from the TV show “God Friended Me” is on the screen.) There are Westerns, here are cop shows, there are soap operas. There’s actually a name for this kind of TV show. It’s called The Good Samaritan Genre. Where someone is asked to be the Good Samaritan. And they always pick someone unusual, someone who doesn’t look like an angel that goes around helping people be touched by an angel. Or you’ve gotten Michael Landon and that guy who was with him (that didn’t look like he’d been in church his whole life), but God wanted to use them. And in this show who does God pick to love people? An atheist. Seems kind of ironic to me that the last episode that they showed was just as the pandemic was taking off. But this young man who’s an atheist would get a signal on his cell phone that he was supposed to help someone who most of the time he didn’t even know. But God would get his attention and point him to a person.

Now, it’s a part of the TV show genre that it’s an atheist because that seems interesting to us. But it’s worth doing just a little bit of thinking … why would God call on an atheist to do God’s work even if it’s on a TV show? What advantage might there be to that?

Here’s one explanation. In the dissertation I did way back in 2007 I called this the Institutional Two-Step, implying that it was like a dance like the Texas two-step. That when Jesus gives a command to his followers like you are to love your neighbor, we do with that command something that we shouldn’t do. There are two steps.

First step is this, Jesus told me to do something. What I need to do is create an institution that will do God’s work. I need to create an institution that will fulfill the commandment that Jesus Christ gave. Why? Isn’t it more efficient if we work together? Isn’t it more efficient if we get organized? Because we can hire staff, and we can rent buildings, and we can just do a whole lot more of this God stuff if we do it as an institution.

And then once they create an institution, step number two, they delegate the fulfillment of God’s commands, they delegate obedience to what Jesus asked us to do to the institution, and then support the institution. It’s no longer my job to love my neighbor. That’s why we have the church. And while the church loves the neighbors, the pastors who’ve been to seminary and staff members who are brilliant at youth work and children’s work– as the church loves our neighbors, all I’m asked to do is to support the church. It’s no longer my job. I’ve delegated it to the institutional church. And, friends, here’s the problem with that. What has the pandemic done? It has interfered with every institution doing its job. And it’s interfered with the institutional church as well.

But it’s not the institutional church that is asked to obey Jesus Christ, even though it should. The command comes to us. And we cannot delegate it to the government, to the Department of Children and Family Services. We can’t even delegate obeying God to the church. The command comes to us.

But some would say, “You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I, by my work, will show you my faith.” At some point in time, your faith is going to require you and me to actually do something, not just a matter of believing, not just a matter of showing up for worship, not just a matter of supporting the church financially or even getting involved. From time to time, our faith is going to require you and me to be the one to wash feet.

Now, where does that come from? John 13, at the conclusion of Jesus’s ministry, when he’s drawing everything together and explaining really important things to the disciples, he does this. Jesus rises from supper. He lays aside his garments, and he wraps himself with a long towel around his waist. And then he pours water into a basin and begins to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the very towel with which he’s clothed, the task of the lowest, humblest servant in the household. Philippians 2, which we looked at a couple of weeks ago, says that Jesus humbled himself and took the form of a servant. And when he had washed their feet and taken his garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you – take a look at verse 13 – “You. You call me teacher and Lord, and you are right for so I am. If I then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet for I have given you an example that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master. Nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.” If you know these things, blessed are you, if you do them. You and I will have an opportunity to do a tiny kindness, a little mercy, to people around us.

Jesus commands us to do that. In verse 34, he makes it very explicit, “A new commandment I give … not to the church! A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another even as I have loved you. That you also love one another.” In other words, as you read through the scripture, whenever Jesus did something, we get to do that. He did it in a big way; maybe you’ll do it in a tiny way. A tiny mercy. But we get to do that. He has set an example for us. Such that, verse 35, “By this, all people everywhere will know that you are my disciples.”

You see, in the picture on the screenl somebody is washing feet. Well, it’s Jesus. But it just might also be you.

And you see, here’s our problem with that. We’re used to the idea that institutions take care of details. Somebody is going to say, “It’ll be a whole lot more efficient if we organize a foot-washing agency, a foot-washing ministry. We can rent that empty storefront downtown. We can put it in new water pipes. We could wash 10 times as many people’s feet in an hour. We could have times posted on the door when they could come by and get their feet washed. We could hire an administrator to run this thing. We could just do a whole lot more if we made it an institution.”

But that’s not what Jesus wanted. This was meant to be something not for you to organize, not for pastors to institutionalize, but for you and I to do as a small kindness, a tiny mercy directly to specific people. Because here’s the problem: when we institutionalize anything, the institution will fail to accomplish the task. Because there they are in that building down on Main Street, whereas if every Christian everywhere was doing God’s will, God’s will would be done everywhere. On earth as it is in heaven.

And so the church fails. The church fails people. The church inadequately fulfills God’s commands, and people out there blame the church, and people inside the church blame the church for something that’s not really the church’s job.

And so Christians say, “Somebody needs to be washing those feet. Isn’t that what we pay the pastor to do? Somebody needs to wash those feet. Why don’t we have a foot-washing committee? Somebody needs to wash those feet. The government ought to provide that service.” In one way or another, we say, “What Jesus asked us to do is not my problem.” Friends, what Jesus asked us to do is asked of us. And we cannot delegate it. It’s meant to be not an organization but a bunch of tiny people doing tiny things to fulfill God’s will, and they all mount up and pile up and more gets done.

But you know something? We’re can feel a little bit like this little kid in the Superman outfit going down the road. You see the plane crashing up ahead. We feel like God is asking too much from us. We feel that God has asked us to do things that are incredibly difficult and beyond our ability. We think to ourselves, “Who does God think we are? This problem needs a genius. I’m not a genius. This person needs a therapist. I’m not a therapist. This person needs a miracle, and I’m certainly not a miracle worker. Who does God think we are to expect this of us?” And I’ll be honest with you. It’s not the best question.

The better question when you feel overwhelmed by life, or that God wants you to do something, is this one; who do we think God is? Because … if the tender mercy is for you to give a cup of hot coffee to a homeless person when the windchill in Minneapolis is 40 below, who do you think God is? Somebody else will bring the coffee. Somebody else will pay for the coffee. Somebody else will make the coffee. Your part in the mercies of God may be as small a thing as simply being the hand that holds the cup.

If we trusted God to take care of everything that felt like it was beyond us … to where we were willing to do our little part, whether it’s to buy the coffee or make the coffee or pour the coffee. If we trusted God to handle the complexity, how much good would happen if you and I were simply the hand that gives the cup of coffee to the person in need. God will take care of everything that’s beyond us, if we’re willing to do the tiny mercy. The part that belongs to us.

But the problem, I think, is not so much that the mercy is tiny. I think we’re very capable. The problem, I think, is more of the fact that we don’t realize that here and now is the time for us to do that tiny mercy. It would be wonderful if a notification would go off in your cell phone and you get this message and it would say, “You see that guy in front of you, he’s having a hard day. He had an argument with his wife. His children are upset with him. I want you to smile at him and tell him that God loves him.” Wouldn’t it be great if it was that explicit?

But if you throw your heart wide open and you’re ready to give away what God has put into your heart, to show kindness, to sow mercy, I don’t know that you need God to send you a message on your phone, unless you’re an atheist.

Maybe if you just open your heart, you’ll get a sense that this guy, this guy’s the one. And maybe all you’re supposed to do is pray for him. Pray for him when you have lunch, pray for him later that day, pray for him tomorrow morning. Maybe that’s all you’re supposed to do … today. Because – guess what? You may find out he lives down the street. And you’ll get to show him another tender mercy. And then another.

When we ask ourselves, “Lord, what is Your will?” I pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” When we say to ourselves, “Lord, what is Your will?” the answer might be more about a who than a what. And then, when we throw our hearts wide open and when we look at who is around us, we may realize in our heart who needs the word of kindness, who needs a little bit of mercy.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, certainly, it’s important that we get everything into the cart that we need. Certainly, Lord, it is important that we buy everything that’s on sale before the store runs out of it. But in the midst of all the things that we are focused on, help us to remember that You ask us to love our neighbors. And that includes the person in line in front of us and the person in line behind us. And in fact, Lord, the people all around us, no matter where we are. Help us Lord, to be able to throw our hearts wide open and have the sense that we are being drawn perhaps only to pray for a specific person. Help us Lord, to understand that as we pray, You will do the heavy lifting and everything we feel that is beyond us. But Lord, if we can simply be a Christian in that place at that time, Your will will be done. Because Your will is focused on the people that You want to reach. And so we pray Lord that You will teach us how to experience and be a giver of tiny mercies to people who need them most. And we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. 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 Road, 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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