Sermon 10/25/20: Team Up To Pray (Kingdomtide VII)

WORSHIP AT HOME for 10/25/20. 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 The Love of God
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5jQD8twNiA

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 God on the Mountain
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCTl4tUYIAg

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: Team Up To Pray
Text:  Matthew 18:14-20, John 20:20-23
Series: The Prayer Recipes
Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Sermon audio at Wesley UMC.

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SERMON NOTES

Matthew 18:14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

John 20:20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Matthew 5:23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

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HYMN You Can Lean on Me
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3iuPezrshI

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

In our society today, more than ever before, there is a deep yearning to be connected to the people we love and you can see examples of it all around you. If you’re ever in an airport, watch as people come off the airplane. Most of them will already be on their cell phone, but if not, when they’re standing in an open area, they will pull out their cell phone to connect with the people that they love. And in fact, among younger people, some would say this device is connected to their hand because you always see it in their hand. They’re continually connecting with other people.

When you’re looking at the picture on the screen, the giant thumbs up, that is the Facebook corporate headquarters sign. Some of you are on Facebook. Some of you may have no idea what Facebook means, but that thumbs up is a big reason why Facebook is a billion dollar corporation. Facebook started on the campus of the university as a way for people to learn the backgrounds of people who were in their class, people who were in their dorm. You could look them up and see a person’s picture and where they were from and what they wanted to say about themselves, and it greatly satisfied curiosity. But that did not make Facebook a billion-dollar company.

What made Facebook a billion-dollar company was that little button that you can click that shows that you approve and like what someone has said. Now, here’s the reality. People will go onto Facebook hundreds of times a day to see who liked what they said because that’s like a little pat on the back. That’s a little I like you back. And everybody wants to find out if someone, even if it’s someone they don’t even know from across the world, actually liked their picture of their granddaughter because whenever you see that thumbs up, you feel a little warmth inside because you like being connected with people who like you and, of course, usually, people you love develop out of the people you like.

Consequently, when there are problems of disconnection, we want to get back to where things were better. John Gottman identified from his scientific research there are seven principles, seven things that couples can do to strengthen their marriage, to keep love alive and two of those, in particular, have to do with feeling connected.

First one, number three is when tough times come … and, by the way, are we in tough times now? We certainly are. When tough times come, you need to turn toward the people you love and the tougher times get, the closer you need to get together to preserve the quality of the connection that you have with someone.

And the second principle– this tends to be a problem for men. You need to let your partner influence you. Now, you don’t need to do whatever they tell you. Some of us worry about that because we love bossy people. But you need to let them feel that you are willing to hear their side. You need to let them feel that you are willing to be influenced. Whatever the decision is, let your partner influence you. This strengthens connection between people.

Now, there are a lot of reasons why people pray. People pray for better health. People pray for a job if they don’t have one. They pray for a promotion if they have a job. But a great deal of human prayers rise up to God out of human difficulty and conflict with another person. A great deal of prayers are about your connection to another person and the trouble that’s happening in your life because there are problems in that connection.

And that leads us to one of Jesus’s recipes for powerful prayer. And it rises up out of this problem of human connection. In Matthew chapter 5 in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “If you are offering your gift at the altar, if you’re there in the middle of a worship service at the temple, and while you are getting ready to make that offering, if you remember that your brother has something against you, that someone you know is upset with you, that someone you know is angry about something you said or did or maybe in just who you are,” — by the way, I want to ask you to raise your hand. But I’ll guarantee you it is not possible that you are so wonderful that there is not someone in this world that doesn’t have a complaint about you, if you’re human. Some of you are human in a way that is very close to the angels. But even Jesus couldn’t make everybody happy. So Jesus says, “If you become aware of that in the middle of worship, what should you do?” Leave.

Please don’t take this literally. Please wait till after church. Because if we took this literally, pastors would be preaching to empty churches every Sunday. We would never make it back to worship.

But the point that Jesus is making is your relationship with other people is very important. Because, if you become aware that there’s something not right in the connection, Jesus says, “Leave your gifts there before the altar and go that you may be reconciled to your brother. And then come and offer your gifts, because reconciliation has a very high priority with God.

Once again, there’s not a single person here who’s not been hurt. There’s not a single person here who’s not been harmed by the actions of another person. And you find yourself saying, “If they only understood me, they’d think differently.” So, friends, this is all of us. This is me too. If I took this literally, I couldn’t stand before you and preach because the list of people I’ve offended is a very long list. Now, by the way, in all honesty, they’re all wrong. (Joking!) Because I didn’t mean to hurt them, pretty much. But the flat reality is, as Jesus says very plainly, reconciliation is so important that their displeasure is a high priority to God to fix.

I don’t want to be that man and wife dealing with that teenager in the picture on the screen! Not fun. So I couldn’t even be here if I took this literally. But I want to share it with you in the way that I think Jesus meant it. We need to make healing, purifying the connection we have with other people, a priority for us. So here is the prayer recipe.

Matthew, Chapter 18, “So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

Now, this is not normal behavior. By the way, sin is normal behavior. But the normal behavior of human beings is if I am having trouble with someone, I go tell Joyce, because I figure Joyce will tell Charles Lee and Charles Lee will tell Jane Lowe and Jane Lowe will tell Patsy and Patsy will tell Susan and Susan will tell Glenn and Glenn will tell Wilk, and Wilk will be just bullheaded enough to go up to that person who has offended me and tell that person to their face. It’s true.

But it’s human nature to do what we call triangulation. I need to tell someone something. I’m going to utilize– I’m going to take advantage of someone else to deliver the message while I hide in the bushes. And one of the principles I tell myself constantly to help me with my problems, if I’m not mad enough to tell them to their face, what they did to me probably wasn’t that bad.

Nonetheless, Jesus says it very plainly, if you’ve got a problem with someone, you should tell them. The last time I preached on this very, very plainly in a church was about 16 years ago. We had big problems in this church and I was getting ready to move to another church, and I thought to myself, “I’m going to do whoever follows me a favor and preach on this.” And I said to them, “Folks, if you’ve got a problem with me, Jesus wants you to call me and tell me. Don’t have someone else call on your behalf.” That’s Sunday afternoon, the husbands of the two women who did it the most called me to tell me that their wives were upset!

The sermon didn’t sink in very far because this is a very human thing. But if talking to the person directly– you’re the one who goes to them– doesn’t work, you can bring two or three people to speak to them. “That if he does not listen,” Jesus says, “take one or two others along with you that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”

You need someone to listen because maybe you’re shading the truth. Maybe you’re being so emotionally upset that you’re not hearing what the other person says; you need two or three other people to listen with you so that you can hear. “But if he refuses to listen to them, then tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as” someone who is not worthy of your attention.

Now here’s the prayer recipe. We need to remember this recipe comes up out of the context of how to deal with human conflict. “Truly I say to you,” Jesus says, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. And whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in heaven, and we need to take that responsibility seriously. Again I say to you, if two or three agree on Earth about anything they ask, It will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”

So here’s the prayer recipe. When issues are critical and difficult, ask someone to pray with you. We understand about praying all by ourselves, and we do a lot of that. But if the issue is serious and critical, we need to team up when we pray. And that means I go to Wilk and I say, “Wilk, I’m really worried. Pray with me. Agree with me in prayer.” I go to any one of you and do the same thing. People will come here into the church to ask me to pray for them. I always ask if it’s okay, but I’ll actually drag Vervadene (my secretary) into the room so that when I pray for them, there’s two or three of us because Jesus says that works. So sometimes, we need to team up to get our prayers answered.

The reason I share with you the prayer requests we share in worship on Sunday morning is so that you and I can agree as a whole church in prayer because sometimes, for prayers to be answered, we need to team up and agree. And certainly, when we pray together, it’s a test, and it is able to help us to more deeply understand what is God’s will here that we should pray for.

Verse 20: We always take this out of context, but it comes out of, particularly, conflict with other people. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them in the midst of them, ready to answer prayer.

On Easter Sunday evening, Jesus looked at the disciples, and he said this very specifically – you’ve heard me say this many, many times, but the reason you hear me say this many, many times is this is part of scripture that I honestly would have to say: “We do not practice this.” And we need to take it seriously.

“As the Father has sent me,” Jesus said, “I am sending you.You now get to do what I did. You’re going to carry on my ministry with the people who need me.” And with that, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit because you need the Holy Spirit to be able to help people the way that Jesus did.

And then come these words again, which we need to take them seriously, “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” When you are I pray for whatever it is we might be praying for, if there are people involved, it is wise for us to add to that prayer, “Lord, forgive my sins and forgive their sins.” Because Jesus said that you and I are the means by which sin are forgiven. I know we expect that other person to ask for forgiveness for their sins, but Jesus told you to do it. And Jesus told me to do it.

So how do we do this prayer recipe? Well, friends, if you bothered to write it down, you will have a list of imperfect people that is quite long. And due to pandemic exhaustion, which is a very fancy scientific way to say that none of us like this thing that we’re doing through, as the little Winnie-the-Pooh thing says, “I’m tired of this.” We’re all tired of this. And because of the way other people behave and because of the way we’re exhausted, we’re less patient, we’re less kind than we would normally be. We’ve had it up to here or higher with what other people are doing. (I’m not even going to mention politics. But we have it up to even higher with stuff that’s going on with politics. We are exhausted with all the stress that we’re going through. But here’s the reality, friends. When you want to confront someone for their wrongdoing, your name should be at the top of the list and you should be that one person who comes first to your mind. Lord, forgive me … because certainly I’m as bad as anyone else and I need your forgiveness as much as anyone else.

This, by the way, is the school teacher. Just look at those eyes. I can’t wait to be home. When is Christmas vacation? We’re going through hard times. But when you get to the next name on the list, it’s of another person. Did you try to go to yourself first? Did you try to speak to yourself directly first? Remember the Lord’s Prayer which we say all the time: Lord forgive us our trespasses, as we pray, and forgive the trespasses of others. The conversation where you go, one on one, may last all of two seconds when the other person says I don’t want to talk to you. But God notices your heart. Would you try to reach out? And then, if that was you.

But once you’ve gone by yourself you need– or, it would be wise for you to say, “I probably need someone to share the burden and I probably need someone to join me in this prayer. I need a team of people praying. I need to ask two or three– as Jesus said, two or three to join with me.” Some needs require us to form a team. So I want to tell you, if you feel that God needs two or three to pray with you, I’ll always be your number two. You can always call me and ask me to pray with you for a third person. And if you feel this is a situation that even needs another, we’ll find someone else to partner with us and we’ll pray as a team.

But I want to say to you honestly if your prayers are not being answered you may want to link up with another person or two other people and begin to pray together for the particular need that is on your heart.

And not only can those people pray with you, they might help you to understand how to pray better. So one recipe for stronger prayers, prayers that are more quickly and rapidly and effectively answered, is for us to team up. I found myself saying to myself last Monday when somebody brought a prayer need to me– I found myself saying, “We need to have two or three people praying together.” And so I wanted to share that with you.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, we pray for many things because we have many hopes for a better life, for a happier life, for better and healthier connections between people in what is perhaps the most stressful year in this entire century. Lord, when our prayers are not immediately answered, help us to think of this prayer recipe. That what we may need to do is to choose one other person, or perhaps two other people, and team up and they can pray with us for our concern and we can pray with them for their concerns. And the three of us together can have faith that you are a God that answers our prayers. 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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