Sermon 11/22/20: Rule #1: Do No Harm (Kingdomtide IX)

WORSHIP AT HOME for 11/22/20.

At this time, due to surging Coronavirus rates, the United Methodists Churches of our Illinois Great Rivers Conference are not holding face-to-face services. Please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video

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If you would prefer not to view the video, 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 Give Thanks with a Grateful heart with Lyrics
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=047xtru0ZR0

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 Now thank we all our God | Lyrics
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePSfu0dF8JU

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: Rule #1: Do No Harm
Text: Romans 13:1-4, 8-10; Philippians 2:3-8
Series: Those Methodist Rules
Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.

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SERMON NOTES

Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.

Romans 13:9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

The General Rules of the Methodist Church
It is therefore expected of all who continue therein that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation, First: By doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced, such as
https://www.umc.org/en/content/the-general-rules-of-the-methodist-church

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HYMN This Is My Father’s World – with Lyrics
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEE5MvoT3oI

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

I’d like to begin with a joke. And like all jokes, it’s always a good thing to give you a bit of warning. The picture on the screen is the picture of the HMS Vanguard, the largest, the newest battleship in the British Navy, commissioned just as World War II was coming to an end. This large battleship was traveling across the ocean at one time, near the coast of France, when suddenly ahead they saw a light of an oncoming ship.

Now, you know there’s protocols in the Navy. The senior officer is allowed to move forward. But the lower ranking ship, the smaller ship, being more maneuverable, is supposed to turn to the side. So the HMS Vanguard shouts through the hailer, “Please divert your course 15 degrees to starboard.”

The oncoming light says, “No. Divert your course 15 degrees to port.”

“Absolutely not,” the captain shouts. “You divert your course 15 degrees.”

“No,” the voice comes back, “Divert your course 15 degrees to the port.”

“This is the captain of Her Majesty’s ship, Vanguard, the largest British battleship afloat. And I am the captain. What’s your rank?”

The answer came back, “I am a seaman first class. Please divert your course immediately 15 degrees to port.”

The captain of the Vanguard shouted back, “We turn aside for no one. We represent the might of the British Navy. I have three destroyers with me and countless support ships and we will take defensive measures if we need to do so. You divert your course 15 degrees to the starboard right now.”

Immediately the voice came. “Sir, I’m a lighthouse. You decide what’s best.”

Now I don’t know if that ever happened. But when a ship gets in an argument with a lighthouse, the ship never wins.

I’d like to give you just a little bit of history from the early Methodist movement. Methodism arose within the Church of England in the 1700s. A number of people came to John Wesley, a Church of England pastor, a professor of New Testament Greek at Oxford. And he said that they came to him because they had a desire to flee from the wrath to come.

They had a very deep awareness of their own sin. They had a very deep awareness of God’s judgment. They had a very deep awareness of the wrath that was going to fall if they did not repent from their sin. So they came to John Wesley to get his advice, and he began to guide them to be more serious about their faith.

And you know what he did? He gave them a number of rules. And Methodists today still have those same rules. We don’t do whatever we want. We follow the rules. We don’t wing it to please ourselves.

We are people who have a 300-year tradition of following what John Wesley called the General Rules. And not only that, following these rules was a requirement to be a Methodist. When you bring that down to today, I would like you to know that we pastors still follow the rules. Our leaders, the district superintendents, still follow these rules, and our Bishop still follows these rules. We’re not here to do what pleases us but to do what John Wesley called the task of being holy. So here was his first rule. Do no harm.

The General Rules of the Methodist Church, now the United Methodist Church, began with this statement. It is therefore expected of all who continue therein that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation. In other words, to be a Methodist, to be a part of this movement, is to continue to follow these rules. And the first rule is simply this: by doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind, especially that which is most generally practiced such as– and John Wesley went on to make a list of all the things that people in his century and time considered to be evil, considered to be wrong, and flat out they were expected to stop with that behavior. They were expected to do no harm.

Now the world has changed a lot since those days. Maybe a list of what’s evil might be different today, might be different this week than it was several weeks ago. But Methodist people, Methodist pastors, Methodist bishops, we’re still following the same rule. We have an obligation very simply to do no harm.

And out of that rule and out of that obligation comes this video that you’re watching. Earlier this week, considering and praying deeply over what it meant to do harm, our bishop issued the decision that we should not have worship face to face on this Sunday, or next Sunday, or the two Sundays after that. Why? Because we’re in a time of great contagious behavior related to the coronavirus pandemic … it’s getting worse, friends. We’re becoming aware of United Methodist people literally dying from this disease.

And so, therefore, our bishop says the rule is for us to do no harm. And if we come face to face, we risk our own people and their health. And what’s the rule? “Do no harm.” It’s not simply okay for us to sing hymns because we always have, to come together for worship because we always have. We’re not here to please ourselves because the rule is to do no harm. And so here’s a video … because, to the best of my knowledge, you can’t catch the Coronavirus from this video. You will not find yourself in the hospital because of this video. It will not put you on a respirator because of this video. And so our bishop has said that the rule is that we should do no harm.

Well, where is that in the Bible? Let’s turn to Romans 13 Verse 8. This is a New International Version. “‘Let no debt remain outstanding,’ Paul writes, ‘except the continuing debt to love one another for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.’

Jesus said, ‘The great command is this. You should love God with all your heart soul, mind, and strength, oh, oh, oh, and a second just like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” The Commandments – Paul lists several of them here – are summed up in this one command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

And then we see this tenth verse, “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of law.”

The image you see on the screen is one that I found back last March when I had COVID myself. It vividly illustrates a row of matches that have burned out. And then, we see a match. There’s no other way really to put it. There is “duck” – and because it’s stepped back, because it’s pulled itself down, because it’s not put itself in a place for the fire to catch it, there are six other matches in that row that are not burned down.

I remember putting this picture on my Facebook page and on the church Facebook page and making a very solemn vow to every one of you that I would not, because of my actions, do anything to the best of my ability such that anyone else would ever catch this illness from me. And you know why I made you that promise? Because the rule is, “Do no harm – the Methodist rule.

That’s how we live. Do no harm. And sometimes, that means we’re not able to do what we want. We’re not able to do what we please. We’re not able to do what we find familiar and comfortable and pleasant, because you know something? Sometimes, we have to take up a cross and do something to please God, not please ourselves.

That’s the example that Jesus sets for us. This scripture is from Philippians 2, beginning with the third verse, where Paul writes, “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit. But in humility, count others better than yourself. Let each of you look not only to his own interest but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves,” Paul writes, “which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.”

Friends, you and I have freedom because we live in this beautiful country that is free. We believe in equality. But Jesus Christ encourages us not to grasp at our equality, not to grasp at our freedom, but to be like Him. “Though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. But instead,” verse 7, “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” And so, you and I are encouraged to empty ourselves of what we want and take on the form of a servant.

Maybe, if we are to love our neighbor, we need to do something that helps our neighbor but doesn’t please us. We used to use the letters WWJD, which stand for, “What would Jesus do?”

Friends, these verses tell us what Jesus did. He took upon Himself the form of a servant. Do no harm. The image on the screen is Jesus on the cross. You can’t get more of a servant than that. But the image of Jesus on the cross is wearing a mask. Wearing a mask is how we take upon ourselves the form of a servant these days. Verse 8, “And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” We’re all asked to take up our cross, just as Jesus did, to put the needs of all of us ahead of our own, and to use our freedom to serve, not to insist on getting our own way.

And being like Jesus is the greatest need that we have, as we deal with this current crisis, that is, the coronavirus pandemic. You see, here is the reality: You can’t win an argument with a lighthouse. You can’t win an argument with a pandemic. You’re good but you’re not that good. All you can do is adjust.

All you can do is adjust. And so the United Methodist churches in our annual conference are taking this week to not worship face to face because we know that people will be traveling. We know that people will be with their families. We know that people will do what people have always done. We won’t be meeting face to face for worship next Sunday because we know that some of the people who are traveling will get the coronavirus. They can’t help it. It wasn’t their choice. And we know that some of the people who have it … because so many have no symptoms that they’re aware of yet … they’re contagious, they’ll be coming to worship.

And you know something, it’s a good Sunday for us not to have face to face worship.

And you know something, of course, if you’re exposed, they want you to take two weeks of quarantine so the Bishop’s not only asking for two Sundays. There’s four. So that when we come back together … Lord willing, I hope so … when we come back together we can be safe and the act of coming to worship and loving one another will not lead to anyone dying in this holiday season.

You know younger people, they still are at risk but they do better. But so many of us are older. I’m 65. So many of us are overweight or have other conditions like diabetes … like me … perhaps like you. We want to protect you during this time. Why? Because we have a rule and the rule says, “Do no harm.”

We want to flee the wrath to come which is to ignore the harm that the coronavirus can do. The image on the screen is of a person petting a bumblebee. Every time I see this photo, it just amazes me. But I also know that there are people out there that are doing things with regard to taking risks that are not that different than petting a bumblebee. You may get away with it once. You may get away with it twice. But friends if you keep trying to pet the bumblebee, bad things are going to happen, and they’ll happen to you.

It’s a very hard thing to say to people, “For your own good, for the good of your neighbor, for the good of your own family stop patting bumblebees.” Because – you know what people say? “It’s a free country. I get to do whatever I want. You can’t stop me from petting bumblebees. We’re supposed to be friends with nature!”

And about all you can do is say, “This is not going to end well.”

But the reason we ask you not to do stuff like this is because the rule is do no harm. We are called by God to do no harm. We are called by God to love our neighbors and to protect them. And sometimes that means whether you do that out of concern for your own safety or whether you do that because someone you respect like a Bishop tells you to, sometimes the wisest and kindest thing that you can do is be just like this match in the middle.

You can duck, and when you duck, you keep everyone around you safe and healthier than if you exposed yourself and went on to expose them.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we love our families. We love our church family. We love people and it’s so tragic, Lord, that we get this coronavirus from people. And so I simply pray, Lord, that you’d help us to be wise and to know when to duck, to know when to take a step back, to know when to stay home instead of going out, to know how to keep ourselves safe. Lord, to know how to keep others safe, and to have the courage to do the right thing, even if the whole world is telling us to do something different. Even if the whole world is telling us to do what we want to do what we’ve always done before because no one can make us be wise.
Lord, I pray that you’d give us serenity for this pandemic which involves so many things that we cannot change. I pray that you’d give us courage to do the tiny things that we can do to protect ourselves and to protect others. And, Lord, I pray that you would give us the wisdom to know the difference. And we ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ who took up His cross and gave His life for our sins. 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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