Sermon 4/18/2021: Sheltering In Place After Easter (Eastertide II)

At this time, due to Coronavirus concerns, many are not quite ready to return to face-to-face worship. If this includes you, 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:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/538184430

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/crfb0kVn7UO

———————————————–

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 “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate 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 420 Breathe on Me Breath of God
Breathe on me, Breath of God
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ph-t8P2r_I

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

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 177 He Is Lord
He is Lord with lyrics – Scott Riggan
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBgESXUwKzY

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

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: Sheltering In Place After Easter
Text: John 20:19-31
Series: Building Bridges from Easter to Pentecost

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

——————————————————————————————————–
SERMON NOTES

John 20:19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 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.” 24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

————————————————————————————————————-

HYMN 467 Trust and Obey
Trust and Obey
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0S8Z-dMM40

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

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

Sheltering in place after Easter: Last year it was before Easter when the order came from the government for us to begin to shelter in place. It was time for us to be careful and to take action to keep each other safe.

The disciples were doing the same thing, but not by order of their government, but because of fear for the Jewish rulers. Jesus had warned them that they would be persecuted. Jesus had warned them that the Jewish leaders that crucified him would come after them. And so when Jesus died upon the cross, their immediate concern was that they were next. And so they were in hiding on Saturday. They were in hiding on Sunday. They were in hiding when this confusing news came to them that the tomb was empty, that an angel said that he is risen, just as he said that Jesus was now alive. And they weren’t quite certain what to make of that news. So they remained in hiding because of the Jews.

All of humanity’s problems stem from a human being’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone. We don’t get into trouble if we just sit quietly. When we move around and do too many things, we can be caused by our fears and by our anxieties to act in ways that are cruel and hurtful to other people. In fact, there’s almost no harm that comes to people where there is not anxiety involved in some way. And that’s why good advice for the disciples, good advice for us this past year– Psalm 46:10a: Be still. Be still in the crazy times that make you so anxious, because if you be still you will come to know something very important. No matter how crazy the times are, God is still God. And it’s in being still that we come to let God be God, the Lord of all, and for anything that’s worthy, valuable, the solution for any sort of problem, you usually have to wait for that which is worth waiting for.

Sometimes a period of waiting is just a few moments. Sometimes, as it has been with this pandemic, it might take a whole year for the world to get over it. But thank God that is happening. And we’re getting closer to the time that we can come out of our place of being still. We can come out of our sheltering in place. We can begin to do what we have done before. We are almost ready. And in the same way, the disciples were still, waiting, sheltering in place after Easter because they would be in this place of waiting until the day of Pentecost.

Now, here’s why waiting is good, even if it’s very short, even if it’s a longer period. Rest is a weapon. Rest is what prepares us to fight the fight that may lie ahead. This little quote that’s on the right of the screen is– some people call it “a soldier’s creed.”

“A bad ride is better than a good run. Never run when you can walk. Never walk when you could stand. Never stand when you can sit. Never sit when you can lay down. Never lay down when you can sleep …” Because, as you accumulate energy through rest, you will be ready for whatever comes. This is one of the reasons why God instituted the commandment of the Sabbath day because, when you stop and come to a place of stillness, God can get a hold of you. God can get your attention. God can speak to you about what you’re doing that you should not do. God can speak to you about what you need to do, that you ought to do. God can aim you and direct you toward green pastures and still waters, a better life than life is today. Rest is not only a weapon. It is a way for us to adjust our focus on what God wants us to see. So I’d add to the soldier’s creed that never sit when you can kneel and pray through what is bothering you.

But what about Thomas? Well, Thomas has a lot of nicknames, Doubting Thomas is the main one. But really, there’s a lot more things we could call him. In this part of the scripture, John 20, he could be called Absent Thomas because, in John 20, verse 19, on the evening of that day, Easter Sunday, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were for the fear of the Jews, Thomas was absent. We don’t know where he was. We don’t know if he was running an errand to the grocery store. We don’t know if he went for a walk. We don’t know if he was watching a soccer game. We don’t know if he was walking toward Emmaus or some other thing. But we do know that Thomas was absent. And because Thomas was absent, he missed a miracle.

On the evening of that day, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands, “See the nail marks?” And he showed them his side where the spear hat gone in, to prove that it was him, not some ghost, not some figment of their imagination. And then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. I think so!

But Thomas wasn’t there. And the next time he got in touch with them, he was not a happy man. Verse 24, “Now, Thomas, one of the 12, called the twin, was the not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” And as you can imagine, they showed their happiness. But Thomas said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and unless I place my finger in the mark of the nails and I place my hand in his side where the spear went in, I will not believe.” This is where the term Doubting Thomas comes from.

But make the connection, friends. If you’re Absent Thomas, you’re going to miss the miracle, and it’s pretty obvious that Doubting Thomas comes out of Absent Thomas. And so Thomas has these conditions. Now, let that sink in for just a moment. Jesus Christ, Lord of the universe, king of kings … “Oh, I’m not going to believe in you unless you jump through these hoops for me.” It doesn’t take us very long in life not to make conditions for our father or mother. It doesn’t take very long in life for us not to make these statements to schoolteachers or to bosses. “Unless you do this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this, well, I won’t believe.”

But that’s where Thomas was. His anxiety and his feelings were running everything. But eight days later, now, he’s not Absent Thomas. He’s Present Thomas. Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house and Thomas was with them and the doors were shut. But Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Same thing, no surprise, peace be with you.”

And then he turns to Demanding Thomas, Insisting Thomas, Protesting Thomas. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Put out your hand and place it in my side where the spear went in. Do not be faithless but believing.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God.” Now he’s Believing Thomas, and he’s no longer absent. Jesus said to him, “If you believe because you’ve seen me, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” And friends, that’s you and me. We’ve not seen. We’ve not touched, but we believe. And we are not absent. We are here to say to Jesus Christ, “My Lord and my God.”

And then Jesus says something for us. Actually, it’s in the book. Verse 30, Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in the book. But these are written— in fact, everything that’s written in this book is written so that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and that believing you may have life in his name. For those of us who come hundreds of years later, my Lord and my God starts with the words in this book because they take root in our hearts like living seeds, and faith grows. If we feed our hearts the word of God, we will be able to say as Thomas did, my Lord and my God. And so, now, Thomas is no longer absent. He’s there in the Upper Room with the others.

Every Sunday now, we are reading these words. It’s part of the Centering Prayer: “Help me to serve you as I’m gifted.” Thomas is now a believer. He’s now in the room, and he is someone who is in his heart saying these words to God, “Help me to serve you as I am gifted.”
And if you remember back to Mark, chapter eight, Jesus said to all of his followers, “If anyone would follow after me, let him or her take up their cross and follow me.”

And what is your cross? It’s not some suffering that you go through, like allergies or migraine headaches. Jesus’s cross benefited the entire world. Your cross, whatever it might be, will be some way that you benefit the people around you. Jesus called them your neighbors, and the command is for you to love your neighbor.

And however it is that God wants you to love your neighbor, God would not equip you with the skills that you needed to love your neighbor. Leslie’s cousin Barbara flies a plane into the wilderness of Alaska, but she’s a pilot, and she helps people who are sick. She’s a nurse. God will match up the mission that God has for you and give you the abilities that you need to do God’s will. One of the ways, then, for us to look and discover God’s will, seriously, is to look at the talents and gifts that we have, and whatever that is, ask God the question, “Lord, how can I use this for you?”

Now, friends, I’ll be honest with you. There are some people who are such beautiful singers that if they did not sing, it would almost be a sin. On the other hand, friends, there are some people who are such terrible singers that if they sing, it gets close to being a sin. I was in a Christian band once. The most beautiful part of the Christian band was that we did six-part harmony. And I did not know until I was transferred to another church and had left the band that whatever the sound man saw me coming up to the microphone to sing my part in the harmony, he had instructions from the others to turn my microphone down because … as good as my intentions were … I would always be just a tiny little bit off-key. And so they protected me from sinning by turning the volume down. Friends, there are some things you should not be doing, not because they’re bad but just because you don’t have the gift. And the smartest thing in the world for any of us to do is to get out of the way of everyone who has the gift, whatever it is, and let them get to work.

But also know, in all honesty, you might not have the gift that you envy in someone else. But God is not neglected you. There is something for you to do to bless God’s people that, quite often, nobody else can do. The word that the Apostle Paul uses for it is the body of Christ. The body of Christ has two arms. If the arm is trying to be a leg, the whole body of Christ has to get by on less than what it was designed to have. We need to figure out who we are and be who we are and do God’s work with all of our might so that we can have all the tools that we need to do God’s will.

So help me to serve you as I am gifted. You know what that means? It means that you have something to do. And here’s the problem. If I asked– now, by the way, this is in scripture. We know that scripture is true. First Corinthians, Chapter 12 says that to each is given the manifestation of God, a way that God works through that. No one is an exception. No one is an exception. So there’s no question that you have something to do.

But I would be honest with you. If I lined everybody up and spoke to them privately, can you tell me your spiritual gift? Can you tell me what God wants you to do? Most church members across the United States couldn’t tell me anything because this has not been a part of the preaching of their pastors. But I hope to be the exception. You’ve heard me say this many times. There’s something that you are supposed to do, and God has gifted you to do it. And part of my job is to help you come to know that and feel confident and able to do God’s will, to do the task that God has asked you to do.

There’s no retirement age on being a servant of God, and there’s no vacation. When most churchgoers throughout the United States of America don’t understand, deep down in their heart, that there is something that God wants them to do. And the only way for you to figure out what that is is to be still and let God tell you. You see, God will give you time to get ready. Now, bring that back to these days between Easter and Pentecost.

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit will fall, multiple thousands will be baptized, and the church literally goes from 120 people praying in the Upper Room to multiple thousands of people. There is not going to be a lot of stillness after the day of Pentecost. Jesus built in the 49 days between the holiday of the Passover, Easter, and the Jewish holiday of Pentecost, which is coming. Jesus built in these seven weeks for them to pray and to get ready to do God’s will.

I was very blessed back in 1994 – when the bishop assigned me to be the pastor at Pawnee United Methodist Church. Pawnee is a rural village south of Springfield, Illinois, that’s become a bedroom community for people working in Springfield. And the little church there had about 125 people when I came, and when I arrived, they came up to me, and they asked, “What should I be doing?” And I said, “You need to tell me because God has a plan for you to be doing something.” And they said, “Well, I have some ideas,” or they said, “I have some ideas.”

And I said, “Well, let’s pray about that, because here’s the thing: if you have an idea and could find two other people who also think it’s a good idea and those two people, other people will help you make it happen, I think God has shown us that it’s time for us to do that. But if you have an idea and literally everyone you know thinks it’s stupid, that doesn’t mean it’s stupid. It means it’s not God’s time yet.

So I said, “Here’s my rule; I call it the rule of three.” Told them this in 1994. I said that when three of you know that God wants you to do something, I’ll back you. I don’t care what it is. I don’t care if everybody else thinks it’s crazy. But if you and two other people want to do it, we’ll find a way to test it out.

And you know something? They did some crazy things, but you know what else happened? Within three months, the attendance at church, after not changing for four years, went up 18% because the lay people got excited. There’s a study, a scientific study that says that every church grows, any church grows, no matter where it is, no matter what problems it faces, any church grows when one condition is met. And that one condition is this: the laity are excited about what is happening in their church. And when these people heard that what they felt God wanted them to do, that there would be a way for that to happen. They began to get excited, and their excitement began to draw people into the Church. Within a year, their attendance was 50% higher than when I arrived. After I left, the growth continued until they had doubled in size. But it all came back to — setting them free to do God’s will.

So I’m thinking that during this time between now and Pentecost, when — essentially, because we’ve let things lie fallow for a year — we can pray over and design the Church that we feel should happen in our midst. We have the freedom of doing something new. We have the freedom of doing the same old thing that we’ve always done before.

But here’s the test that I would like to ask us to think about because I think this is what they were doing in the Upper Room as they were praying. Let’s hear your ideas. About what a church should be. And let’s see if there are two helpers, who will help you make it happen. And then let’s take a step out in faith. And get excited.

We have this time, as coronavirus restrictions are easing, to pray. And to think about what we would want to be doing in the Church as of the day of Pentecost, 2021. What we would like to be a part of. And so I want to give to you the Rule of Three as something to think about. What is it that I am supposed to do? And who will help me?

Again, I will be your helper. And if you don’t know yet, it’s okay to continue to be still until you hear from God. But I want to assure you that if I have what I most want in my heart, this will be a Church to where what you want to see happen will be an important priority for us. Because what God wants, I think we want. It’s for every single person to be able to fulfill God’s will for their lives.

And we have to shelter in place a little bit longer. But when it’s time to come out of our shells and come out from under sheltering in place, we will be ready to act. Because during these days, we have been thinking. And you know, if you’re making plans to do something, you have a lot to think about. Lord, this thing, that we want to do, is it something that can’t be changed? Lord, is it something that should be changed? And if so, do I have the courage to try to change it?

Oh, this, by the way, is the original Serenity Prayer. Because when you think God is telling you to do something, you need to think it through and plan it out. God, give me the grace to accept the serenity, the things that cannot be changed. Give me the courage to change the things which should be changed. Lord, give me the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time. Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is. Not as I would have it. Trusting that you will make all things right, if I surrender to your will. So that I may be reasonably happy in this life. And supremely happy with you forever in the next. Amen.

Thomas was absent, and he missed the miracle. But he came back, and there was still time to catch up. And he became a believer. He became a worker. He fulfilled God’s task. God’s will for him. As a result of being present with the others during the days between Easter and Pentecost, now in these days, between Easter and Pentecost, in 2021, we have the opportunity to be still. We have the opportunity to know that God is God. And we have the opportunity to ask God, “Lord, what do you want from me?” We have the opportunity for Jesus to ask us, “What do you need right now?” and for him to meet our needs. We have the opportunity to ask Jesus, “What do you need? From your servants?” And we have the opportunity to think through how that could happen.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we are people who decided to follow here. And so we got up on Sunday morning, and we got dressed, and put on masks, and drove to Church, and we’re sitting six feet apart. And we are obeying all the rules that are designed for our safety. We are the obedient people. We are people who are willing to submit our own wishes to your wishes. But we now ask, during this time of stillness, during this time of preparation, during this time of becoming ready to emerge from the safety of sheltering in place. Lord, help us to understand what you are calling us to do. So that when the door of opportunity opens, your people will be ready. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
And all that I just said, friends

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.
 

This entry was posted in Attend "Worship at Home". Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.