Sermon 11/29/20: Rule #2: Do All the Good You Can (Advent I)

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 Worship 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.)

WORSHIP AT HOME for 11/29/20. 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 211 O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel (with lyrics)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xtpJ4Q_Q-4

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 402 Lord, I Want to Be a Christian
Lord, I Want to Be a Christian | St. Cecilia Choir
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a14hbMd3L1U

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 #2: Do All the Good You Can
Text: Ephesians 2:4-10, Galatians 6:7-10
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

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God– 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Rule #2: from https://www.umc.org/en/content/the-general-rules-of-the-methodist-church
Secondly: By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all men:
To their bodies, of the ability which God giveth, by giving food to the hungry, by clothing the naked, by visiting or helping them that are sick or in prison.
To their souls, by instructing, reproving, or exhorting all we have any intercourse with; trampling under foot that enthusiastic doctrine that “we are not to do good unless our hearts be free to it.”
By doing good, especially to them that are of the household of faith or groaning so to be; employing them preferably to others; buying one of another, helping each other in business, and so much the more because the world will love its own and them only.
By all possible diligence and frugality, that the gospel be not blamed.
By running with patience the race which is set before them, denying themselves, and taking up their cross daily; submitting to bear the reproach of Christ, to be as the filth and offscouring of the world; and looking that men should say all manner of evil of them falsely, for the Lord’s sake.

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HYMN 246 Joy to the World
Joy To The World (Live At The Helix In Dublin, Ireland/2013)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDmIddF7DfQ

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

As I shared with everybody last week, we as United Methodists are guided by three rules out of our history. The first rule we talked about last week, which is to do no harm. The early Methodists were greatly concerned about the punishment that would come upon them from unholy behavior, as a consequence of unholy behavior. And so their entire motivation was to flee from the wrath to come. In this coronavirus season, we are fleeing from a different kind of wrath, a different kind of wrath that is coming toward us like a flood, if not actually a Tsunami of illness in this pandemic.

So the first rule was to do no harm. The second rule, however, is another way to flee from wrath, to flee from the storm, to seek a place of safety. And that is to do good. Here’s the way the rules put it: it is therefore expected of all who continue therein in the method of society, that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation, secondly, by doing good.

There is a phrase that people think John Wesley said, but he never actually said it. But it sums up the way the early Methodists practiced this rule. It’s as simple as this:

Do all the good you can,
by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can,
at all the times that you can,
to all the people you can,
as long as ever you can.

I can’t imagine a more appropriate way to say that phrase from the Serenity Prayer.
The Methodists, in the early days, had the courage to change the things they could. And we, likewise, need to have the courage to change the things that we can, all the things, by all the means, in all the ways, in all the places, at all the times, to all the people that we can, and then on, on, on, as long as ever we can. That takes some courage at a time when we might be tempted to be afraid.

There is another saying; it’s true in these days of the coronavirus, too. A person looks up at God and thinks, “Sometimes I would like to ask God why God allows poverty, why God allows famine, why God allows injustice in the world.” Or perhaps today, someone might say, “Why does God allow the coronavirus when God could do something about it?”

But then, there’s a second thought that follows right after, “I’m afraid he may ask me the same question.” You see friends, we are not helpless. We are not unable to do something that keeps us safe and people we love safe in this stormy time with the coronavirus. We are not helpless. There are things that we can do about it. And if we do those things in every way that we can and every place that we can, for every person that we can, we’ll not only keep ourselves safe but we’ll keep people safe all around us.

There are things that we can do. They may not be comfortable. They may not be what we would prefer to do, but there are things that we can do about it. And we should keep our mind on those things.

There is a scripture that informs the church for centuries, in fact, it was at the heart of the Reformation. Ephesians 2:4, but God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses made us alive together with Christ. Hear this phrase. By grace you have been saved. Out of God’s love, out of God’s kindness, out of God’s mercy, we have been saved. And not only that, as verse six says, and raises us up with him, with Christ and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Verse seven, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of His grace and kindness toward us in Jesus Christ. For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God not because of works lest any man should boast.

On the screen there is a picture of Martin Luther, a New Testament professor at the seminary in Germany who gravely protested the belief of his church, that people went to heaven not because God was kind and merciful but because of all the works that they had done that were good. The church at that time portrayed God as something like an accountant who would tally up all the good deeds. And if you didn’t cross that magic line of good enough then according to the church of that day, you would not encounter God as a merciful God, not encounter God as a kind God, but as an angry God full of vengeance and judgment for sin.

And so Martin Luther declared it’s not because of works, it’s not because you’re so good that you can brag about it. It’s by grace, it’s by God’s mercy, it’s by God’s kindness. Let go of the idea that good works matter. And that was the reaction of the Reformation to what the church was teaching in those days.

But take a look at the very next verse, the 10th verse. For we are his workmanship, Paul writes, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. It’s not that we do good to go to heaven, it’s not that we do good to earn God’s love. But once God is merciful and kind to us, we realize the message that’s being taught in verse 10. We are God’s workmanship, and we have been created in Christ Jesus not to do wrong, not to ignore right, but to find the courage to do the things we can that are good. We are created for good works.

And every good work that you do today, every good work that you did yesterday, every good work throughout the past week and the week yet to come, Christ Jesus has prepared that beforehand. As you go through your day, there are good things for you to do waiting for you to see the opportunity. God has prepared good things for you to do so that you could walk in them. He’s prepared a path. And that’s what we need to do. There are good things that we’re supposed to do.

Now it’s going to be December in a couple of days. It’s not exactly the right time of year for us to plant flowers no matter how beautiful flowers are. But when you think about it, good deeds can be planted to beautify the world much like flowers. Take a look at Galatians chapter 6:7, “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh for his own selfish purposes or needs only concerned with his benefit, for he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the spirit or from the spirit reap eternal life.” As we go down the path that God has created beforehand for us to walk, we scatter the seeds of holy and good deeds to either side. We are sowing good. We’re going to also reap good.

Verse 9 reminds us. “Let us not grow weary in well-doing for in due season we shall reap.” The day is coming or where what we’ve sown will be growing up all around us in abundance. In due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Friends, do not lose heart.

And now look again at the 10th verse, “So then if we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Your future as intended by God is a future that is filled with you taking advantage of every opportunity to do good. And there are all sorts of ways to do good.

But sometimes doing good means for you to take a giant step back so that somebody you love doesn’t catch the coronavirus. Sometimes, the good opportunity you have is not to go forward but to step backward to keep other people safe, to keep the fire of the storm of the coronavirus from spreading past you into the lives of people that you love.

In the forest fires, they call it a firebreak. They clear an area where the fire can’t pass. And maybe you are doing a kind and good thing when you take a giant step back. And you are, in a way, a firebreak to protect everybody downstream, to protect everybody down line from the harm that is coming. As we have opportunity, Paul writes, let us do good to all and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Here’s the full rule, secondly, by doing good, by being in every kind merciful after their power – in other words, to the extent that you can be merciful – as they have opportunity, John Wesley writes, doing good of every possible sort and as far as possible to all people. Friends, every good deed is a seed.

I found two things this week that meant a great deal to me. If you’re one of those people who has decided that the fire stops before it gets to you, I want you to understand something about your faith. I want you to understand something about your church. We may not be able to do what we’ve always done. We may not be able to gather where we’ve always gathered. We may have to cancel some events, including the face-to-face worship service. We may have to worship in a different way than we prefer. But like this little sign that is on the screen, not everything is canceled.

Church online, not canceled.
Quiet time with God, not canceled.
Praying for the sick, praying for the people who are in trouble, praying for the people who are suffering, praying for your neighbors, not canceled.
Checking on a friend, well, you can’t go down the street, perhaps, but that’s why God gave you a phone. That’s why the US mail comes to take a get well card. Praying for the sick, checking on a friend, not canceled.
Helping other people, you might have to do it in a slightly different way, but helping others, not canceled.
And because we understand our faith this way, being the church, it’s done a little differently, but it’s not canceled, and it’s more needed today than ever.

There is every opportunity for you to practice your faith, to do everything that Jesus did in this day and time. Following Jesus Christ has not been canceled by the pandemic … you may simply need to be a little creative about how you follow Jesus Christ.

Barbara Brown Taylor also had a beautiful quote that I found this week. The only clear line, she says, I draw these days is this: “When my religion tries to come between me and my neighbor, I will choose my neighbor.” She goes on to say, “Jesus never commanded me to love my religion.”

Jesus never commanded you to love the style of worship that you enjoy. Jesus never commanded you to do what you’ve always done before, but Jesus asked you to love God with all your heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. And then right after that, to love your neighbor as yourself. Friends, these are days where sometimes we have to draw a very clear line when it comes to loving our neighbor because we’re in dangerous times for our neighbors. And to follow Jesus means we’ll figure out how to love them because it’s not about us, it’s not about what we want, it’s not about you or I having our way, as if this was some kind of argument.

What it is is very simple. We love God first, we love our neighbor second, and we find a way to worship and be the church that does not transgress those two commandments.

Sometimes, we have to take a step back from the way we’ve always done it before, from the way we would like to do it from this day forward because this is a time between the times that calls for a slightly different way of worship, or following Jesus, than what is our preference.

And every time we do a good deed, in my mind, I like to think of that row of lights along the path there as being a row of seeds that people have sown as being kindness, and mercy, and good deeds. So that even if it’s dark, you can find your way across the uneven ground to the front door of the house because somebody has set out the lights to show you the way in this season to be able to follow Jesus.

Every good deed is a seed, and God gives you many opportunities to sow those good seeds in the lives of people all around you. Please pray with me. “Lord, Jesus, help us not to become trapped and mired in the quicksand that is thinking only of ourselves, thinking only of our safety, thinking only of our well-being, thinking only about what would please us. Help us, Lord, Jesus, just as you went to the cross. Help us, Lord, to take up a cross in this coronavirus season, and do things that might be a little uncomfortable. Nowhere near as painful as a cross, but to do things that are a little uncomfortable to us so that we can be sowers of good seeds. We can be doers of good deeds in the lives of people all around us so that they might see this light shining, and that they might see you alive and at work in their midst. Lord, we ask that you will help us to be doers of good deeds, to do all the good that we can in the name of Jesus Christ. 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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