Sermon 5/23/2021: Resurrection Instructions: John 20 (Pentecost I)

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/553810781

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/crh0cDVfPN5

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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 “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 57 O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing: Congregational singing (Shepherds’ Conference) Grace Community Church – Sun Valley, California
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nx0rCabJ16c

(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 334 There’s A Sweet Sweet Spirit
Gaither Vocal Band, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound – Sweet, Sweet, Spirit [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i73PZJugjTk

There’s a Sweet Sweet Spirit – sung by Kaoma Chende
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLOWWrm_Yjc

(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: Resurrection Instructions: John 20
Text: John 20:19-23, Matthew 9:2, 37-38
Series: Building Bridges from Easter to Pentecost

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

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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.”

Matthew 9:2 And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

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HYMN Spirit Song Maranatha Singers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iC7RDZP7tFw

(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

Since Easter Sunday, I’ve been talking about the fact that Jesus used the 50 days between Easter Sunday and the day of Pentecost, which is today, to give his disciples instructions on what would come next, on what they were to go and do. And friends, starting today, those same instructions apply to us. We need to understand them so that we can actually do them.

The problem with the church, the problem with your pastor, the problem that many of us have is if we understand something that Jesus wants, it doesn’t always become something that we actually do. So, therefore, we’ve been looking at the instructions. (And I went on vacation last week, so these were the instructions for last week!) But they’re not too late. And in fact, I feel that the ones for today could very well be the most important instructions of all of them. These come from John chapter 20.

But before we look at John chapter 20, let’s look for just a second at Matthew chapter 9, the second verse. Four friends brought a paralyzed man to see Jesus, and the house was full of people who wanted to watch Jesus. There was a giant crowd around the house of people who wanted to hear and see everything Jesus did. And in fact, it was a crowd of people that wouldn’t let them in. But these four friends had faith and knew that if they brought their friend, the paralyzed man, into the presence of Jesus, he could receive help and healing. So they actually opened up a hole in the roof. Now, in those houses, in the desert climate, that’s a matter of moving tiles and stacking them. It was easy to fix. I wouldn’t want to do that with a roof anywhere today, but it wasn’t very hard for them.

And they lowered this man into the presence of Jesus. And when Jesus saw their faith, the faith of the four friends – the faith of the paralyzed man was not what Jesus responded to – when he saw the faith of the four friends, Jesus said to the paralyzed man these words, “Take heart, my son. Your sins are forgiven.”

Immediately, there arose in the crowd a great argument as to whether or not Jesus could forgive sins. The argument didn’t touch for one second on what the paralyzed man needed. The argument also did not even notice that Jesus claimed a relationship with the paralyzed man. “My son,” he called him; someone in his family who he cared for. But at the end of that story, Jesus said, “So that you may know that the son of a man has the power and the authority to forgive sins,” he says to the paralyzed man, “Stand up and walk.” And he did.

But the reason I want to share this with you is that when you think about it, what Jesus said, what Jesus did, how Jesus lived every day of his life was as a person who gave forgiveness to people. And even at the close of his life, when he died on the cross, he made forgiveness possible for all people, everywhere, for all of history. Certainly, if you ask me what is the thing, the major theme that Jesus communicates, it’s this, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Your sins are forgiven. It is possible that you and I might think that we were so smart that we could win an argument with Jesus. When I was younger, I probably argued with Jesus quite a lot. But as I got older, I learned that I couldn’t win an argument like that because he is Lord, and he is savior, and he desires for people to hear about forgiveness. And that’s part of what we’re talking about today.

In the Great Commission, it says that we are to go and make disciples of all nations. That’s one of our post-resurrection commands. But in Matthew chapter 22, we find these words, a lawyer, a teacher of the law, a scribe came up to Jesus and as a way to test him, as a way to get him into an argument, he said, “Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law?” And He, Jesus, said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”

So what you and I do after the resurrection, what you and I do after Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit comes to guide us and empower us, what you and I do is love the Lord, our God, with all our heart and all our soul and our mind; and everything we do in some way falls under the authority of this command. God comes first.

And after that comes this tiny little command that a lot of people don’t think about what it actually means. Verse 39, Jesus goes on to say, “And a second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

There are three things that are important. We need to love God first. But when God has our attention, He’s going to point us to our neighbor. And if you kept track of everything you do this week to love your neighbor, you would be doing God’s will. If you kept track of everything you said this week that brought comfort and help to your neighbor, you would be making a list of how you have done God’s will. Because, as Jesus says in verse 40, these two commandments summarize all of the Old Testament law. Now, before I forget, there are some of us, like myself, who are codependent. We will love someone else and sacrifice ourselves. The commandment is not to love others and neglect yourself. The commandment is there needs to be a balance between the love we give ourselves and the love we give others.

There’s one United Methodist pastor. He’s retired now. His name is Michael Slaughter. He built an astonishing church near Dayton, Ohio, and he’s someone who, whenever he could, he took the Bible literally. What that meant is if his kids got new shoes, he bought identical pairs of shoes for children in poverty. If he bought another car, he bought a car of equal value to give away to someone who desperately needed one. He tells a story about coming home from a trip, and his wife was just really, really sad. And he said, “Honey, what’s wrong?” And she said, “Our kids need braces.” Mike Slaughter says, “I had no other choice. I had to buy braces for four other kids.”

You may not take this commandment that literally, but this is what we’re supposed to do – it is to genuinely love people. And so, therefore, as it says in the Great Commission, you will find yourself going to your neighbor, to other people to find out what they need, how they are feeling. How are you doing, by the way?

You know how you do that? You just walk up to somebody and you say, “How are you?” And instead of moving on, you actually listen to what they say. And if they say something that you can pray about, then you offer to pray for them. If the Lord tells you to do something to help them, well, you just go right ahead. That’s what it means to go out there and love your neighbor.

One of the problems we have in our church is we expect people to come to the church. By the way, thank you so much, all of you, for coming to the church today! But if you and I wait for everybody else to come, it’s likely we’re going to wait a long time. Churches that are shrinking are churches that expect other people to come. But churches, where people go out to their neighbor and do God’s will, are churches that tend to grow because if someone is out there and they know they have a friend who is here, they’ll go to church where their friends are.

So when Jesus says, “Go out and love your neighbor as yourself,” he’s building up the church because the command is for us to love one another.

Now, another scripture where Jesus was asked this question, the scribe challenged him after he told the parable, “Who is my neighbor?” And Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan to answer that question.

You have four neighborhoods in your life where you interact with people.

First, there’s the neighborhood of your family and friends.

There’s the neighborhood of your interests and activities where you spend your time. Maybe you’re out at the ballfield watching the high school baseball team play. Maybe you can be found at Walmart endlessly shopping. I don’t know where you might be found, but you’ll find friends and neighbors there. And in fact, you’ve got friends and neighbors here at church because this is one of the activities of your week.

The other neighborhood is the place where we serve, the place where we work. Some of you your work is going to school, and you’re doing very well. Some of you, your work is to work for a paycheck and some of us are retired. But we still find ourselves busy volunteering and in some way or another, helping our neighbors.

And then, of course, there’s the place that the dictionary says is your neighborhood and that’s the area surrounding your geographical home place. You probably know the names of your neighbors. You may already be praying for them. And the church that goes out to love their neighbor is the church that finds that their neighbor comes into this place to be with the people who have shown love to them.

John 20: On the evening of that day, Easter Sunday, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews… (They were afraid that just as Jesus had been crucified, their day was coming to also be crucified.) On that first Easter Sunday, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when he said this, he showed them his hands and his side, the place where the nails went in, the place where the spear went in. And that proved who he was. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

And then came three instructions. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, even so, I send you.” And you know what that means?

Kim and I are going through NCIS. We’re up to season 10. We are watching the entire season in order. It’s called reruns. You’ve probably done the same thing. You’ve probably found yourself watching reruns, saying to yourself, “Well, I’ve seen this before. I know how this story ends.” Well, Jesus says to them, “As the father has sent me, remember those three years, you remember everything we did, you remember everything I said, we’re going to go out and do it again. We are going to repeat everything you and I did together. Only this time, you’re going to be doing it, as the Father has sent me, the exact way the Father sent me. Now you get to go out and do that.”

That’s why when Jesus tells them to go and make disciples, he doesn’t have to explain anything. They are to take what they read in scripture that Jesus said. And when they find a matching situation, if the shoe fits, they apply that story of Jesus. As they went through those three years, everything that Jesus did, when they find themselves in a situation that matches, they need to do what Jesus did.

Therefore, when you read the Gospels, you are reading the blueprint for what Jesus wants his people to do. When you read the Gospels, you are reading the plan of what Jesus wants us all to do to build his church, because everything Jesus said and did was for our benefit, so that even now, thousands of years later, you and I can read what Jesus said and did and we can practice it as a part of our life.

As the Father has sent me, even so, I send you – now if that’s true, brothers and sisters, you’re going to need to take some time to read the scripture because when you come across a situation, it will remind you of what Jesus said and did, and you’ll know what you should do in the same way.

Here’s instruction number two in Verse 22 and instruction number three in Verse 23, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'”

At the beginning of his ministry, the Holy Spirit came into Jesus Christ, and everything that Jesus did from then on was through the power of the Holy Spirit acting through him. Now there is no question that Jesus is smarter than we are, that Jesus is stronger than we are, but nonetheless, when Jesus emptied himself to become a human being (Philippians 2:5-11), the other half of that is that everything that God did through Jesus, he did through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And consequently on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit comes into the disciples, you would hope – because the principle indicates it’s true – they have all the power that Jesus ever had, to the degree they’re willing to allow the Holy Spirit to live and act through them. Consequently, when you pray for someone to be healed, you’re not the healer. God is the healer, and the Holy Spirit does the work. When you pray for someone’s life to turn around, you are not the person who can fix everything that’s wrong, but you know the person who can repair everything that’s broken, you know the person who can heal every illness, that can help people’s hearts change by the power of the Holy Spirit as you pray. He can do that.

So the second instruction is this, you need to receive the Holy Spirit. The implication is that you breathe in the Holy Spirit, then you breathe out prayers that change the lives of people. This is what the disciples had been doing for three years with Jesus, so they just continued to do what they’ve always done.

Now Verse 23 is the strange part of this because it’s very questionable if you have ever heard a sermon that actually talked about this. But the job that Jesus Christ wants you and I to do is to help other people be aware that they are forgiven, to help other people become aware that God loves them and wants to forgive them. Just like the paralyzed man Jesus saw, his true need was to know that he was forgiven. And friends, I’ll be honest with you, the true need of all of us, the true need of people all around us, that they need to know that they’re also forgiven.

Now I told you that you were supposed to love your neighbor. Do you know what people do when you tell them to love your neighbor? They say, “Well pastor, let me tell you about my neighbor from hell,” and believe me, the minute you think about it, you will know who that is, the one who is a great and enormous this trial to you, the one that is so frustrating, that is so obstinate, that is so stubborn. If you’re lucky, you are not married to that person! But we all have that neighbor that is hard to get along with. Sometimes it is someone in our family, sometimes it’s someone else. But you know something? It may be hard for you to love one person. But since you’re supposed to love all of them, why don’t you start with the easy ones … because what happens is that we get focused on the ones that are hard to love, and nobody gets any love.

In the same way, you have the task of forgiving people. You have the task of choosing for them to be forgiven. You have the task of announcing to them that God desires to forgive them. And every single one of us has someone in their life who is very, very hard to forgive. And of course, your brain instantly goes directly to that person and gets stuck there. But if everybody else in your life is easy to forgive, maybe you want to warm up on the easy people. And as you build up your strength, you can build up your strength with that other person who is hard to forgive.

I have to confess my sins to all of you. Every now and then, Pastor Dave gets upset. And I found myself yesterday when I got upset saying under my breath, “I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you.” I’m still not sure it’s true yet, but I’m working my way up to it. I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you. And when you ask someone, “How are you?” And they share their story of woe with you, perhaps in some way, you can say to them, “Because in Jesus Christ’s love, you are forgiven, and I forgive you too.”

You see, people out there, they struggle with shame. “God can’t love me,” they think. “I’m terrible. I’m worthless. I am worse than useless,” they think. So many people out there feel like that. But to be told you are forgiven … You are appreciated … You are loved by God … can be so kind and helpful to someone whose constant inner language is one of self-criticism. You can be the one that announces that they are forgiven.

But I think about what it means if we take this 23rd verse literally, it actually is perhaps even a little more stark than that. There is the impression that when someone stands before God, it could be true that God would look at them and say, “David Kueker never would forgive you.” It could be true that God would say to that person, “David Kueker decided that you would retain your sins.” I hope that’s never true of me or of you!

There’s a saying – boys and girls, please close your ears. There’s a saying sometimes when adults look at someone and they’re really angry and they say to them, “Go to hell”. And something that should sink into our awareness is that could just come true. We need to be givers of forgiveness, not people who assign guilt and blame and shame.

Matthew 9:37, then, this is at the end of the chapter where Jesus said that the paralyzed man needed forgiveness. Then he, Jesus, said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”

In this town, in every town, in every county, in every state, in this nation, there are people who want to come to church. There are people who want to have God’s help. There are people who want to become faithful Christians. But no matter how high the corn gets up in the field, somebody has to go out and get it. And this is why Jesus looks at you and me, part of the instructions after the resurrection, the crop is ready to bring in, and Jesus says to us: I need you to go out and get it.

And in fact, there are only two times the Lord Jesus gave the disciples a prayer request. There are two times he told them what to pray other than the Lord’s Prayer. And one of them was this in verse 38, pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, because it’s God’s harvest, to send out laborers into his harvest.

And the people who go to do the will of Jesus Christ are the people who go into the harvest to do this labor.

What am I supposed to do, Pastor Dave when I go? Love people, forgive people, tell them what Jesus said and do what Jesus did. That’s all we have to do, to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Ephesians 4:32 puts it this way, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you. And if you act in this way, people will sense that the church is a place that welcomes them.

We pray this phrase of the Centering Prayer every week, but we pray for a reason … to let it sink in because you have a neighbor. And so we pray, Lord, help me to notice my neighbor, because if you just simply notice, that will get you started doing what God wants you to do. And once you notice, then we pray, Lord, work through me to redeem my neighborhood.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we are people who are less than perfect. But you have shown us through what you said to the first disciples, which is available to us any time we open the New Testament to read the Gospels. You have shown us through what you said and did how we can be better people and better Christians. Lord, we ask that since you’ve given us a job to do, that you would help us learn how to do it, that you would help us to move forward, that you would help us to fulfill your will, because, Lord, without your help, there’s not much we can do. Thank you, Lord, for bringing us through the resurrection in this time between the times, for the crop is now ready. Lord, we pray that you would send us out to do your will, filled and empowered by your Holy Spirit. 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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