Sermon 09/27/20: Tiny Flocks (Kingdomtide III)

WORSHIP AT HOME for 09/27/20. 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 – More Than Ever [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GcihwpFWkE

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 – Gentle Shepherd [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej5cXox_50k

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 Flocks
Text: Mat 22:39; John 13:1-17, 34-35; John 20:19
Series: Tiny Habits for Growing Christians
Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.

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SERMON NOTES

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

John 13:12 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.”

John 20:19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

John 20:21 … As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

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HYMN Gaither Vocal Band – Where No One Stands Alone (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktjRlDYE3Gw

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

It’s a beautiful thing, if you’re a sheep, to be aware that you have a shepherd. It’s a beautiful thing, if you’re a Christian, for you to be aware – when times are difficult – that you have a Savior. To be aware when you’re not quite sure what to do, which choice to make, which direction to go, for you to feel the guidance of your Lord who will lead you, as Psalm 23 says, in the right paths. It’s a wonderful thing to have someone who loves you so much to be your shepherd in this life.

Now we’ve been standing in a grocery line for several weeks now, dealing with the reality that the way churches have always done it before, our way of having activities and programs and committees and mission trips where we get a whole bunch of people together and then we work together to do something … That, unfortunately, in a pandemic, we can’t do what we used to do.

But that doesn’t mean that you are helpless as a Christian. You can still do everything now with a pandemic, with your face mask on, that you did before in terms of what you do to do God’s work. Instead of doing it as an institution, however, now it’s just us. You and me. And Jesus is right there in that grocery line. He is ready to work through you out there on the mission field which is every place outside this building.

And so we’ve been talking about how to do that and I’ve encouraged you to ask the question, “Who is around me?” and, “What does God want to do?” Because sometimes the person in front of you at the grocery store line, or someone else you’ve seen somewhere, maybe there’s something about their groceries that’s like, “Oh, I got to pray for them.” But you will feel moved to pray for that person. Please do that. It’s probably the Lord Jesus Christ tapping you on the shoulder.

But not only that, you may feel moved to say something. Please do that. Because you may be the person who speaks with a voice of God into their life. Please do that.

But today I want to talk to you about another very interesting reality. The person in front of you in the grocery store line might seem like a stranger, but the odd thing about the person that Jesus draws us toward is you’re probably going to run into them again. And you’ll probably see them, maybe in the grocery store. Maybe it’ll turn out that you work with his brother; maybe it’ll turn out that they live a block over from you in the town where you live. When Jesus Christ draws us to pray for someone, it’s often because we’re already connected to them or, surprise, there’s a connection we don’t know even know about.

Because when Jesus ministered to people, you could read it all the way through the gospels: He created a relationship with them that continued. And God works through relationships.

Let me talk just a minute about mission trips. There’s nothing wrong with mission trips. Mission trips are a wonderful experience. We get together in a big group and we go, as this group has done down to the inner city. Maybe we go to another country. Maybe we go to Appalachia to work with the poor. But we’ve all gotten together to do something to help someone. We’re not able to do that now in a pandemic. And people who are a part of an adventure like this will honestly call it an adventure. They will tell you that it was a life changing event when they traveled to Costa Rica to build an orphanage where a missionary would help those orphans find Christ. That the people who received them were so appreciative and thankful. It gave them this huge, happy blessing to serve the Lord. And for the week, two weeks, however long they’re there, it would feel to them like heaven had come to Earth.

But you know what happens? They have to go home and that can be a problem, because Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors and we have this very human desire to love people who we will never ever see again in this life. To love people who are total and complete strangers.

Now, do you know why? First of all, they are so amazed by how holy and wonderful we are. You know why? Because they don’t see us back here at home. It’s a Christian thing to want to get up in front of a crowd of people and tell them how wonderful Jesus is, but hide from those very same people how much you struggle yourself back home. It’s a form of hypocrisy. And it feels so good to talk about Jesus in the presence of people who don’t know any of your problems, and so we’re drawn to that.

We admire someone who gets up on an airplane – I would hate to try to do that today – and gives a sermon to the people on the airplane: You need to ask yourself, “If this plane crashes, where will you spend eternity?” I actually read in a book how that was the recommended way to do evangelism! But you see, here’s the problem, the commandment is not to witness to strangers. The commandment is to love your neighbor. And I don’t think that you can love without creating a relationship.

So the problem, and it’s a temptation for preachers too because we’re up here in front of people. It’s a temptation to feel all that love and appreciation but not be honest about what you’re going through. And so consequently, there is a temptation to prefer to reach out to strangers who will never see again than to reach out to our actual neighbors who actually know us even at our worst.

This temptation is one that I’ve talked about for over 20 years. I call it stranger evangelism. It’s so much easier for us to talk about our faith with someone we’ll never see again. And conversely, so difficult to talk about our faith with someone who we will see every week, if not every day. It’s a human thing. But you see, here’s the problem, random acts of kindness to total strangers that we will never see again where no ongoing relationships develop where that person would never expect us to be kind to them again because what if we weren’t in the mood to be nice. We’re kind once and then we turn our back and walk away leaving that person who’s been blessed, saying goodbye and dealing with, “Wow, they’re so wonderful. I will never see them again.”

As I said, the command is that we need to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. And that implies a relationship grows. If you, as Jesus did, wash the feet of people … if you do a kindness at the right time, if you do something that really helps them, a relationship develops. And if you do it because Jesus told you to do it, it becomes a relationship in which faith is a part. And so Jesus says to his own disciples, I’m the teacher, I’m the Lord, but I wash your feet; if I wash your feet, you ought to wash the feet of other people. Because a servant is not greater than his master and I’m among you, Jesus said in another place, as one who serves. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. That’s a little bit more than thinking about them. That’s a little bit more than planning to do them. That’s a little bit more than having good intentions. Blessed are you, if you do them.

Jesus then says later on in the chapter a new commandment I given to you that you love one another even as I have loved you. And if you do this, everyone will know that you are my disciples … because this is how people who don’t know Jesus recognize someone and realize that they do know Jesus as Lord and Savior. And because love creates relationships, they develop not only a relationship with you, but also with your Savior, as they want the same relationship for themselves. And so Jesus washed his feet. Jesus loves people, and he says to the disciples, “I want you to do the same thing. I’ve given you an example.”

And Jesus is even more explicit in John 20. In these words that come from Easter, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” We’ve been talking about this for a year. The basic reality is that everything Jesus did, Jesus is now sending you to do … in small ways, but the same thing.

And now with those tiny things, He is going to help you. Look at verse 22, “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.‘” The Holy Spirit will go with you and do the heavy lifting.

And notice what you’re supposed to be doing. Look at verse 23! “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven. If you do not forgive anyone’s sins, they are not forgiven.” I would be very surprised if, throughout this past week, you’ve been thinking to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I forgave the sins of every person I came in contact with because Scripture says they would be forgiven?” Not to just forgive the people who harm you, not just the people who act rudely around you, not just the people who are mean to you (because there are people like that), but to be someone who, when you walk into a place, you say, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” And under your breath, perhaps not out loud, you look at everyone who’s there, and you say to yourself, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus is sending you to do the exact same thing that he did in a small way, but the exact same thing.

“I came,” Jesus said, “That they might have life, and they might have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” And now, Jesus says, “I’m sending you to be a shepherd.” And the tiny mercies you do – that was the sermon last week – as you shepherd, people will begin to create a tiny flock because kindness and love create ongoing relationships.

Now, we pray this Centering Prayer every week. And I have taught this prayer for over 20 years. And I have said to people in online classes … tell me about the people who have blessed you in your life. Who have been the ones to help you spiritually when you have felt alone and in great need? And as people tell me who has been that person for them, well, I frequently discover it is a great empty vacant place in their lives. There weren’t people like that in their life. And so when they read this 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... They want to be the little kid. Who feels the comfort of walking with the Savior. And they become aware that they want someone in their life to be that big brother that they can trust. Who will take care of them?

You know what’s astonishing. It never occurs to them. That they can be that person for someone else. Now, of course, at the center of everything, it’s all about us until we grow up and realize that we’re not the only ones who– I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life — but we don’t realize how we can help someone else find Jesus and He can become the center of their life.

We still yearn for someone who will guide us. To all that is good. To help us to turn away from everything that is not good. When we fall in the mud to help us get clean. We yearn for that person to be in our life. But we seldom realize that we can be that person in someone else’s life.

We yearn for someone to teach us to do what we don’t know how to do. But we rarely realize that God might wish to use us to help others to learn. Teach me your ways, Lord. Form in me your nature. If Christ forms in you his nature then you will realize that you are to be like Him with others because this is exactly what he did.

Help me to serve you as I am gifted. We’re all gifted in different ways. Friends, I want to tell you with all the honesty in the world, you don’t want me weeding your garden. I want to tell you with all the honesty in the world, you don’t want me working on the engine of your car. I’m the kind of person who thinks if we took this tube and hooked it up over here instead of over there, what would happen? (By the way, you know the answer to that question? Nothing good!) You don’t want me mowing your yard. My mom asked me to mow the yard, and I went out and mowed it, and she said, “Dave, you see those long strips where you missed places?” “Well, I see them now!” You don’t want me helping you.

But each one of us has something that we’re good at, and we want God to show us what it is and help us to develop those gifts. But it rarely occurs to us that if we’re going to be like Jesus, then we’ll help other people to understand what their gifts are. Oh, you have a beautiful voice. I love to hear you sing. Oh, you are so good with that lawnmower. I would love for you to mow my yard. Or at least “You really know what you’re doing!” Do you understand how few people ever get appreciated, how few people ever get thanked for the good stuff they do, how rarely people are told, “Wow. You really did a wonderful job there.” If you want to see somebody smile out there in public, a waitress, a cook, the person checking you out at the grocery store, tell them what a great job they do. You may be the only person that day who actually appreciated them.

Help me to notice my neighbors. See, that’s what we’re talking about. And work through me to redeem my neighborhood. You know when the innkeeper turns away Mary and Joseph, who is it that God sends to be with them? The shepherds. God is still in the business of sending shepherds and asking you to be those shepherds to help people.

We all need that hand that reaches up that holds us steady. When I see a kid standing on a car like this, I want to run over there and be that hand, but, of course, you don’t want to put your hands on somebody else’s child. But you can be the hand that holds someone steady. And God wants you to use you. Or God wants to use you to help someone in that way.

I am a sinner, Lord. Please be my shepherd and help me to be a shepherd to others. Please be my Savior and help me help others know that there is a Savior. And please be my Lord and help me to demonstrate by the way I live that there is a Lord who will help us every day. Amen.

You see, we are not only people who receive in a major way, but we are also people who give back in little ways. And God can do miraculous things through all the little ways that we love our neighbor. So I like to invite you just to consider: Who did you possibly shepherd this past week? Who had a better life or a happier day because you spoke to them? Who did you pray for? Who did you say, “Lord, forgive them their sins,” just like Jesus said from the cross, “Father, forgive them.” Did that happen?

Well, if it didn’t happen last week, why don’t we consider causing it to happen on purpose this week? Because if you are kind to people, you will find that they will want to hang around with, and you’ll draw this little flock of sheep that will follow you everywhere you go. If you shepherd them, they’ll come with you.

I love this final slide because, if we do what God wants us to do, there will always be someone riding along with us. There will be someone in our back seat on the journey of faith with us.

Lord Jesus, help us to notice our neighbor. Help us to be people who realize that we are sent to be a blessing in the same way that you came to be a blessing to us. And in little ways that are appropriate for the situation, in little ways that are a perfect fit for how you have made us as people, help us to be this shepherding loving influence to the people around us who literally are our neighbors. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Friends, let us let the Shepherd live through us. 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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