Sermon 01/03/21: Jesus Is Here! (Let’s Get Started) (Christmastide II)

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:

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/crVenLPffD

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/kwumckueker/review/496493151/5ee6f080a4

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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 If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee
If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFfYKN6Jw1o

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 242 Love Came Down at Christmas
Love Came Down at Christmas – High Street Hymns
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=781BtAEu-mA

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: Jesus Is Here! (Let’s Get Started)
Luke 4:14-29
Series: Into A New Year … With Those Methodist Rules


Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.

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SERMON NOTES

Luke 4:14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; 17 and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20 And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Caper’na-um, do here also in your own country.'” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Eli’jah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; 26 and Eli’jah was sent to none of them but only to Zar’ephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Eli’sha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Na’aman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. 30 But passing through the midst of them he went away. 

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HYMN 245 The First Noel
The First Noel
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvAJqK9a6Bw

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

One of the realities of graduate school is if you make a statement that something is true, you’d better be able to footnote it. You’d better be able to tell your professor where that’s from! And there was one particular quote that I knew by heart because it meant so much, but I couldn’t find which book out of the hundreds of books that I had read where the author had made the statement I’m about to share with you.

The author of the book was quoting Win Arn, a seminary professor from Fuller Theological Seminary, and I could not find it anywhere … until finally, I found it in the last place I looked, of course.

Win Arn took a survey of church people, and he asked them What’s the purpose of the church? And he gathered their answers together and interestingly enough, two were the most common. So he put these two in a survey, and he shared it very, very widely. Two choices, what is the purpose of the church?

Choice number one was this: the purpose of the church is to meet my needs and the needs of my family.

The second choice was that the purpose of the church is to seek and save the lost.

The results that he got back were very surprising because they divided 90% of the people on one choice and the remaining 10% of the people on the other choice. So here’s the quite shocking answer. Purpose of the church for the laity– 90% of the laity picked choice number one, the purpose of the church is to meet my needs and the needs of my family.

Choice number two, the purpose of the church is to seek and save the lost, was the selection of 90% of the clergy, of the pastors, and those serving on church staff but only 10% of the laity.

Those are some distinct differences.

Today, we’re going to be looking at a problem that occurred in Jesus’s home church, in the church that Jesus was a part of throughout his life at Nazareth. What was the problem at Nazareth? I would suggest to you that it comes to these two choices and the conflict that they can create.

Luke 4:14. Jesus returned from his 40 days of fasting from being tempted by the devil. He returned in the power of the spirit in the Galilee and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. He was healing people. He was setting people free, and he taught in all their synagogues, the Jewish form of the local church, and he taught in all their synagogues being glorified by all. Jesus was becoming quite famous.

Verse 16 and he came came to Nazareth where he had been brought up. And he went to the synagogue as his custom was on the Sabbath day and he stood up to read. He stood up to read scripture and was handed a scroll by the attendant. They didn’t pick which book of the Bible.

Verse 17. And there was given him the book of the prophet Isiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written. The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the core. He has sent me to proclaim, “Release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind. To set at liberty those who are oppressed. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” This is a good scripture for the New Year because everything that was true in the past, now it’s a new year. And this is the acceptable year where God is going to answer praise.

Verse 20. And he closed the book and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. They stood up to read scripture; then they sat down to talk about what it meant. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled and you’re here.”

I’m not quite sure what would happen here at Kinmundy United Methodist Church or at Wesley United Methodist Church if I read some part of the scripture and then claimed that it referred to me. But apparently, at Nazareth, that was just fine. Look at Verse 22: And all spoke well of him and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” In other words, this is a hometown boy. This is someone we know. This is someone who grew up in our town. And look at him, he is now fulfilling God’s promises. They were impressed.

And then Jesus began to explain to this to them. Verse 23: And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Caper’na-um,” all those healings and miracles, do here also in your own country”.

Verse 24: And he said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is acceptable.” Another translation: no prophet is honored in his own country. Verse 25: But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah. And the heaven shut up three years and six months. No rain for three years and six months. When there came a great famine over all the land.

Verse 26: And Elijah was sent to none of them. But only to Zarephath in the land of Sidon to a woman who was a widow. A woman who was a gentile. A woman who was not of their religion. Verse 27, and there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elijah. And none of them was cleansed but only Naaman the Syrian, a Gentile, someone who wasn’t of their religion, someone who believed differently than they did.

What are the people going to say now?

Verse 28, when they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. That is kind of interesting. First of all, it’s not most of them or many of them. It says all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. When I look out over my congregation on a Sunday morning, every now and then, they might get a little irritated if the sermon goes too long. They might get a little testy if the sanctuary is too hot or too cold. But I’ve never in my life experienced a time when all in the sanctuary were filled with wrath.

What is the problem at Nazareth?

Verse 29, and they rose up and they put him out of the city and led him, probably dragged him, to the brow of the hill on which their city was built so that they might throw him down headlong, so that they might throw him over a cliff. I’ve had church people get angry with me from time to time. I’ve never had anyone try to kill me.

Why were they so angry? What is the problem at Nazareth?

Verse 30, and passing through the midst of them, He went away.

Let’s talk about Nazareth for just a moment.

Rick Warren, who is a pastor in Southern California, wrote a book called The Purpose Driven Life. It’s been a gigantic bestseller. It’s honestly probably true that you have a copy somewhere on your bookshelf, somewhere in a box, perhaps in your basement or your garage, but so many people have bought this book. And the first sentence in the book is this: it’s not about you. I want to suggest to you that’s the problem at Nazareth.

Rick Warren goes on to say, “I chose those four words, ‘it’s not about you,’ to start The Purpose Driven Life because that’s the most countercultural revolutionary message that you could give in today’s world because nearly everything in society, songs, video games, TV shows, news stories, and advertisements, everything in society says, ‘You’ve got to think about yourself first.’ Sometimes I wish I hadn’t put that sentence in the book because I had no idea that for the rest of my life I was going to be constantly tested on that phrase. I have to repeat it to myself 20 times a day. When someone praises me, when someone criticizes me, when someone misjudges me, when someone disagrees with me, I have to remind myself, it’s not about me. Why? Because when I focus on me, I’m going to get discouraged.”

Friends, whatever church is about, it’s not about me. It’s not about me. Whatever it is that God wants to do in this world, it’s not about me. Whatever it is that I want to happen, well, it’s not about me. And maybe you’re fine with that. But when it goes around to where it’s also not about you, you might be filled with wrath. Because the point that Jesus was making was just this simple. God had chosen now to heal the blind, to set free the oppressed, to heal the sick, to do all these wonderful and beautiful miracles. But it wasn’t necessarily true that he was going to do them at Nazareth … first.

Jesus mentions two Gentile people and everybody goes crazy, “What do you mean you’re not going to take care of us first? You grew up here. I gave you cookies when you were a little boy. What do you mean you’re going to help someone else first?” And when you look at the two answers to the survey, pretty clear which side the people at Nazareth were on.

The purpose of the synagogue is to meet my needs.
The purpose of Jesus is to meet my needs.
The purpose of God is to meet my needs and the needs of my family …
because we all know, everything revolves around me being happy.

And if God doesn’t understand that, God better wake up and smell the coffee because I’ll go down the street and find a different synagogue if I’m not the person who’s the center of everyone’s attention.

Right.

Choice number one, 90% of the laity, 10% of the clergy. The purpose of the church is to meet my needs and the needs of my family because of the person for whom this was their first choice. That’s what’s really important. It’s all about me.

But then there’s the other choice. If you look at Luke 19:10, you find the source of that second choice. Jesus says, “For the son of man–“ Jesus, in other words, “came to seek and save the lost.” It’s not even all about Jesus.

Look, the purpose of the church is to join Him in the task that God has given Him to do. But if we’re willing to do that, that means we have to let go of what our own human nature says should be the most important. Because our own human nature is crying out, “It’s all about me. It’s all about me.”

Now maybe you’re a higher-level Christian than other people. Maybe you don’t think to yourself, it’s all about me all the time. But you probably know someone who has that sort of understanding. Where, from their point of mind, everything in the church is all about, “What I want.”

And here’s the difficulty, brothers and sisters. When a coronavirus pandemic comes along, it’s all about the pandemic. You don’t get to have what you like. You don’t get to have worship in the sanctuary. If you are in the sanctuary, you don’t get to sing, because that causes other people to get the coronavirus. You don’t get to have a potluck. You don’t get to have your ice cream social. You don’t get to have Sunday school, or Bible study, because, literally, for you to come together to do all of your favorite church things could be deadly. You don’t get to have church the way you like it. You don’t get to “have church.” It’s all about you.

Because here’s something I’ve been saying to you repeatedly ever since last March. There’s nothing in the restrictions that come to us because of the pandemic that prevents you from being a good Christian.

There’s nothing in the restrictions that come to us from the pandemic that prevents you from being a person who follows Jesus. We are asked to pray for others. Nothing in the pandemic stops you from praying for others. We are asked to read and study the bible. Nothing in the pandemic keeps you from reading and studying the bible. We are asked to show love to others. Nothing in the pandemic prevents you from showing love to others. You just can’t do it the way you always have before. You can’t do it as part of a big group.

And now it simply comes down to, if you have to be a Christian all by yourself, are you willing to do that? There’s a definition of integrity that says, “Integrity is what you do when nobody’s watching.” Since the pandemic has prevented us from getting together to do all of our favorite Christian things, here’s the reality. If you keep doing those things, keep singing along with the music, keep praying the prayers, keep reading the scriptures. And of course, you want a sermon? All of these are online. If you keep doing all of these things even when there’s no one to see, I think you definitely are proving that you are a follower of Jesus Christ.

We have one church member whose wife is quite famous as a baker. He tells us that he’s gotten rather fond of enjoying the sermon with a mug of coffee in one hand and a muffin that his wife has made just that morning, warm, melted butter on it. It improves the sermon. I’m a little bit jealous of him because I think one of those muffins with melted butter on it would be just about perfect whenever I’m listening to a sermon.

What you do when no one’s watching shows the world who you are, and everything Jesus Christ would want you to do, you can still do. You just may need to do it on a slightly smaller scale.

Last week, we talked about the wise men. And certainly, you and I need to be wise in how we practice our faith. I reminded you that they needed to turn to God for guidance. They needed to correct their course. And when they did that, in Matthew chapter two, all of a sudden, they saw the star return to them, to guide them to where they could be with Jesus Christ. Friends, you will be guided in this pandemic if you are listening. You will hear the voice of God guiding you.

A week before that, we talked about what we could give God. The shepherds in the hymn, in the bleak midwinter, say, “What can I give Him, poor as I am?” Well, all they had to give was a lamb. You can only do what you can do, and God is aware of this. In a pandemic, there are some things we can’t do, but God is aware of this. But nothing with regard to a pandemic can keep God from achieving the purpose that God wants to achieve. You can only do what you can do. But if you listen to God and obey, you will see miracles happen.

This was the Sunday that I talked about the gallon of milk. Such a small thing. Just a couple of dollars. But in the story, it was exactly what a young and poor family needed, and it was God’s answer to prayer. And I said to you, the thing that I most wanted to do with my life was to be the person standing on the front porch with a gallon of milk because I had listened to God. And because I had heard what God wanted me to do, and because I was obedient, people came to understand the great beauty and wonder of God. I can only do what I can do. I can’t do more than that. You can only do what you can do. You can’t do more than that. But when God asks you to do something, you will find that it’s within your power. And if you obey, you will see miracles happen. Little miracles. The miracles that change lives, nonetheless.

I’ve also talked about when we’re not sure what to do we have the benefit of the Methodist rules, the first one of which is do no harm. Do no harm, love your neighbor, and protect them.

The second rule is to do all the good you can. That’s also a wonderful rule. But if you’re not sure what your resolution should be about this year, let them be about doing less harm to yourself and others. Let them be about doing all the good you can, because even in a pandemic you are not helpless. Because worship services face-to-face might not be happening but worshipping online is not canceled. Your quiet time with God is not canceled. Your ability to pray for the sick is not canceled. Your ability to check on a friend just to pick up the phone and call and say, “How are you?” That’s not canceled. And whether it’s a gallon of milk or a plate of cookies or something else helping others is not canceled either. Being the church now happens in small ways for many many people including you. We are not helpless. Please do all the good you can please stop doing any harm whatever that might be.

And then this rule which seems mysterious but really isn’t attending upon all the ordinances of God, which is a fancy way of saying anything that you can do that helps you to grow as a Christian, that helps you to grow as a disciple that’s a good thing. Do more of that.

And John Wesley had a list of these tools for spiritual growth and unfortunately, the public worship of God … a pandemic interferes with that. But it doesn’t interfere with all the other things that can help you grow. The ministry of the word. You could still read the Bible for yourself and you can still hear sermons online. In fact, a never-ending quantity of sermons online.

Partaking in the Lord’s Supper Holy Communion. If you want to take Holy Communion you get in touch with me and we’ll find a way to help that to happen. You’re still able to do family and private prayer and we’re still able to learn how to be more powerful in our prayers. You’re still able to search the scriptures to find something in the Bible that applies to a particular need that you have, so that God guides you through God’s word. And then this thing that maybe you never thought about: fasting or abstinence, which is where we add power to our prayers by going without food or something else.

In the next few weeks, we’re going to talk about these different spiritual tools and how we can use them and how they can help us. If you’re making resolutions, these Methodist rules can help you identify what would be a blessing, to be different in this new year.

But I like to invite you as wise people– as wise men who are seeking Jesus only he’s no longer a baby now He is the Lord of all, but if you want to find Jesus listen to God. And there are many destinations many things that you can do in obedience to God. I used the star as an example that guided the wise men toward God’s will for their life. You can do the same thing. You could pick a star. And then move toward it. Move forward to do God’s will. Move forward to do what you can. Don’t worry about what you can’t do. But do what you can

Why? Because in this new year, Jesus is here. And because Jesus is here, it is now a different time than it was before. A time when God answers prayer. And nothing, not even a pandemic, can stop the church from being effective. If our purpose is to do God’s will– if our purpose is to do what Jesus told us to do, nothing can stop us from that. So in this new year, I plead with you, I beg of you, because Jesus is here: Let’s get started. Let’s get started.


Lord Jesus, you live and move through your Holy Spirit all around us. Preparing the scene, getting everything ready, and then all of a sudden we appear at the front door with a gallon of milk. It is the answer to prayer. Lord help us to perceive and understand that you’re working all around us every day, in the people around us every day. So that these little miracles that happen when Christian people do your will might continue in this new year. And so I pray Lord that you would reach out through the people of your church at a time when the building of the church must remain dormant. At a time when the activities of the church need to temporarily stop. Lord now, now you can reach out through your people. And I pray and I believe Lord Jesus that you will find them ready and willing to do. We ask these things 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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