Sermon 7/11/2021: The Influence of the Comforter (Pentecost 06)

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, 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/573494430

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

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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: 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

HYMN 526 What A Friend We Have In Jesus
Alan Jackson – What A Friend We have In Jesus [with lyrics]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCV5t8wRBI8

(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:
Day by day, day by day, O, dear Lord, three things I pray:
to see thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
follow thee more nearly,
day by day. Amen.

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 328 Surely The Presence Of The Lord
“Surely the Presence of the Lord is in This Place” – The Woodlands UMC Chancel Choir
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6ZOVBYxBJk

(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: The Influence of the Comforter
Text: 1 Timothy 2:1-4, John 14-16
Series: The Gifts of the Comforter

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

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SERMON NOTES

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. 3 This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 

John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. 

John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 

John 15:26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me;

John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me …

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HYMN 536 Precious Name
[Gracias Choir] W.H.Doane : Take the Name of Jesus With You / Hyemi Choi
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VI5BxfMZ46g
or
Take Thy Name of Jesus with You by Table Singers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oD4VVybpgjA

(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: 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.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about this park bench and the idea being that you and I are going to spend time with people, sometimes strangers, but most of the time, people we already know. And they’ll be at the other side of the bench. And you’ll be on your side of the bench. And God will love them through you.

Well, Pastor, how will God love them through me? Here’s the answer. If you will allow yourself to listen to God, if you will open up your heart to feel, you’ll have a sense that the Holy Spirit wants you to do something. Now, if you want to, you can call that a hunch. If you want to, you can call that your intuition. But if you listen to God, you’ll have a sense of when you’re supposed to say something or, perhaps, say nothing. You’ll have a sense of whether you’re supposed to do something or, perhaps, just be there with the other person.

As we smiled just a moment ago, as you heard me say, “in a moment, someone will feel the need inside themselves to stand up and collect the offering.” So I want to tell you honestly. It’s exactly like that. And, again, you can call it a hunch. You can call it an intuition. But sometimes, we know things. And we don’t know how we know them. But we just have a sense of what we’re supposed to do.

What I want to say to you this morning is sometimes, that’s the Holy Spirit because the wind blows toward you. And then the Holy Spirit helps the person you’re with because you’re in their presence. That is a very important thing, especially when it comes to reaching the goal which is recorded in scripture: 1 Timothy 2:1-4 “First of all then,” Paul writes, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” Different kinds of prayers are to be made for all people. “This is good,” Paul says. And it’s acceptable in the sight of God, our Savior, because – notice the fourth verse – God, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

This is the goal. And the way God has chosen to meet this goal is to minister to people you know through your presence and even more through what the Holy Spirit does when you are present with other people.

And you’re welcome to argue with God. Lord, are you sure that’s why? Shouldn’t it be the preacher who does the ministry? Well, yes. But the preacher can’t do it all by himself or herself. God has chosen to work through all of God’s people, even the people who feel the least able to be helpful. You’re welcome to try to change God’s mind. But I decided a long time ago that I would not try to change God’s mind. I have a certain way of doing things myself, and what I’ve learned over all the years of doing this work as a pastor, better things happen if when I am in your presence if I open myself up to try to be aware of what the Holy Spirit wants to happen. What the Holy Spirit wants me to say. What the Holy Spirit wants me to do. And that’s how I get my work done. And it’s also how God’s work gets done, I feel because God wants to work through every one of us so that this will come to pass. That’s the goal. brothers and sisters. Everyone is to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. This is what God wants.

Now, there are some problems with achieving this goal, and let me share some research with you. There is no county within the United States where the percentage of church attendance is higher than 10 years ago. This was published in 2004. I’m certain it’s still true today. But it’s been a long time since 1994 for the statistics to go down and down and down.

The 2nd problem. Sociologists Presser and Stinson, based on their analysis of census time diaries where people keep track of what they do during the week, just like the Nielsens keep track of the television they’re watching. They determined that the percentages of Americans who attended church the previous week plummeted from 42% in 1965 to 26% in 1994. Now in Morgan County, Illinois, when I was pastoring in Jacksonville, one of the pastors encouraged our ministerial association to try to verify this statistic, and we contacted every church in Morgan County and collected their attendance for five Sundays in October of 1999. Even the little tiny churches that met in houses. And what we found is the average over those five Sundays was 27% of our county was in church on Sunday morning.

Now think about what that means. You go and stand in line at the grocery store. Three out of four people in front of you were not in church. You go to a ballgame to cheer on your grandchildren, perhaps, and you look in the stands, three out of four people in the stands do not attend church every week.

In 2009, at a national conference for United Methodist on Evangelism, our former Bishop Gregory Palmer announced that that number had dropped to 18%. Wherever you are in a crowd of people, four out of five do not have a church that they attend every week, or they might attend every other week. They might attend once a month, but there’s a lot of people who are ready to respond to the gospel.

We have the sense that everybody we know already goes to church. Well, I want to tell you that they’re fibbing. My father grew up Lutheran, but he had trouble with the church he grew up in. And so he stopped going. He wouldn’t go to any other church … because he was Lutheran. So there’s a lot of people that’ll tell you the church they’re avoiding, but they still don’t go.

The 3rd problem, J. Russell Hale in 1980 published research that suggested that contrary to public opinion, the unchurched phenomenon in the United States may be primarily rural than urban. The public opinion that all country people go to church faithfully is not as true as we would think. And 41 years has unlikely changed that reported fact.

The 4th problem. Natural Church Development was an international study of churches to identify what made a difference in churches growing. What actually made a difference, according to a sample of over 70,000 churches that has grown into multiple hundreds of thousands of churches. That research indicated that the strongest negative factor to growing a church – the strongest negative factor to making disciples – is church size. What does that mean?

What that means is the smaller churches are much more effective at influencing people to come to Christ than the larger churches. In fact, as the church gets larger, it will have a tendency to draw in fewer and fewer new people. Overwhelmingly, the small churches have a far greater potential than larger churches to fulfill that goal of everyone to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, contrary to what you may have been told. Now, this is an unrealized potential in most small towns and open country churches. But it’s the truth.

What happens that makes a difference? You see, there is great hope. There are large numbers of people, all around us in small towns and in the country, that do not have a church family. And small churches are very able to reach out to them and help people become followers of Jesus Christ.

And here’s what I would suggest makes an even greater difference. When all of us use our influence, helped by the Holy Spirit’s influence, there is a very great power to help people realize that they need what Jesus Christ offers. So if we surrender to the Holy Spirit, I think that’s the biggest difference. And so we’ve been looking at the different ways that Jesus foretold that the Holy Spirit would want to work through you in the days of Pentecost which are still with us. And in the days after Easter which are still with us. What the scripture talks about has not changed. What Jesus said back then, Jesus still says today.

John 14:13, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it. That the Father may be glorified in the son.” Verse 14, “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another counselor.” King James uses the word, comforter. In the Greek, it’s the word paraclete which means one who comes alongside to help in whatever way that’s needed. The paraclete is to be with you forever, even the spirit of truth.

Jesus says, “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” Why? Because if you allow the Holy Spirit to influence what you’re asking for in prayers, you will be praying in alignment with the will of God. Then Jesus says, verse 26, “But the counselor, the comforter, the paraclete, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things.”

How will the Holy Spirit teach us? The Holy Spirit will “bring to our remembrance all that I have said to you,” Jesus says. So there you are talking to someone. And all of a sudden, you remember a particular verse of scripture. You remember a time when Jesus said something. And you know something? That could be a hunch. That could be your intuition. But it might be that the Holy Spirit is trying to explain something to you about what’s going on by reminding you of a scripture. And what are you supposed to do with that? Sometimes, we’re supposed to mention it. Sometimes, we’re supposed to think about it. But I think that since God wants to answer our prayers, I think we are to allow that scripture to influence our prayers. And the Holy Spirit, through our prayers, will influence the other person.

John 15: 26, “But when the counselor or the comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness to me. And you also are witnesses.” We need to understand that this influence, this persuasion that causes people to want to be closer to Jesus, it’s the power of the Holy Spirit acting on the other person. Now, you’re along to help, but we need to let the Holy Spirit do the heavy lifting. It’s the Holy Spirit that witnesses to people.

Probably the last thing we want to do is to develop these little tiny mini-sermons that some people recommend as a witness. And anybody who gets within 10 feet of us, they get a little mini-sermon. Instead, we need to let the Holy Spirit do the talking, and sometimes that talking is done without words. It’s directly into the heart and soul of the other person. It’s the Holy Spirit that will bear witness to Jesus. And sometimes, you and I are to be a part of that by saying or doing something.

John 16:7, “If I do not go away,” Jesus says, “the counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”

Brothers and sisters, you and I never, or perhaps I should say, almost never, need to convince someone else that they’re a sinner because given the level of guilt and sorrow people feel in their hearts, they probably already know that. You and I never need to convince someone what righteousness is. And certainly, there is a temptation in all of us to be self-righteous. It’s the Holy Spirit that’s going to convince people what is right and what is not right. You and I never, almost never, need to pass judgment on anyone because it’s the Holy Spirit that is working in people’s lives to turn things from the devil’s way to God’s way. You and I don’t need to do this, but we need to allow the Holy Spirit to work.

And also in our prayers, we’ve talked about this repeatedly, If you’re sitting on one end of the bench and you see that there’s something, sorrowfully, that’s not quite right in the life of the person next to you, pray for them. “Lord, forgive them. Help them. Bring them to you. Lord, forgive them. Help them. Bring them to you.”

Finally, John 16:13, “When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” When you need guidance, let the Holy Spirit influence you. When you’re not certain what to do, not certain what to say, not aware, with certainty, of what God’s will is, let the Holy Spirit guide you. And you know something, if you’re quiet … If you’re quiet, sometimes, you’re able to speak at a later time. We need to listen to God. If we listen to God and we miss an opportunity to speak, it’s not like we’ll never see that other person again. Let the Holy Spirit guide you into all truth because he, verse 14, will glorify me. Because he will take everything that God the Father has taught the Son and will share it with you.

So let’s consider what is possible if we allow the Holy Spirit to influence other people through us. Let’s do the math.

Jesus chose 12 people to follow him. He prayed all night long and he chose 12 of the people who had been with him for some time to be his disciples, and he called them apostles because that word means sent ones. These were the 12 that he was going to work with, and send them out to do his will.

And you know something? Just like little children grow up to be adults, just like little children grow up to be parents, if you’re a grandparent, you know exactly what this is. There are all those years you look at your children, and you say, “Where are my grandchildren?” It’s the same way with disciples. Jesus looks at his disciples, and says, “You’re not supposed to keep all of this just for you. You’re going to reach out and help someone else to follow me, too. And you’re going to be like the grown-up one, and they’re going to be like the little baby.” Jesus did not say, “Born again,” by accident. People begin from scratch, but they grow up. And they grow up because someone’s involved in their life that teaches them and helps them. So we have generations of disciples.

But for now, just consider the power of influence. Jesus chose 12. Let’s assume, as you look through who you talk to every week, who’s on a park bench with you every week, that there are 12 for you. Now, don’t let me stop you from praying for 120 people. Don’t let me stop you from praying for 1,000 people. Let me invite you, though, to notice the example of Jesus. How much influence spreads if 12 people pray for 12 people?

The influence, then, of a church of only 12 people can be 144 people … 12×12. Let’s assume that those 144 people also choose 12 people to pray for and to watch over, and the Holy Spirit uses them to reach out to that person. The influence of that church now extends to 1,728 people, far beyond the borders of our town of 700. Now, if we take 12 to the fourth power, the influence of a church praying for people extends to 20,736 people.

You see how, if we commit ourselves to be an influence of the Holy Spirit on people we know, that influence spreads and multiplies.

On the other hand, if the thought of having 12 children totally horrifies you, maybe we can cut it down a little bit to 6. Some of you are going to say, “Pastor, six is way too many.” But you see, baby Christians grow up to be grown-up Christians, and grown-up Christians make baby Christians. If only 6 people committed themselves to influence others for Jesus Christ, they would influence 36 people … 6×6. If 36 people committed themselves, each, to pray for 6 other people religiously, their influence would spread to 216 people. If all of those people committed themselves to pray for 6 other people their influence would spread to 1,296 people, and you see the influence of the Holy Spirit would begin to change those people’s lives. Now, if they grew up Catholic, they might go back to the Catholic Church, but the odds are, from the studies you’ve seen earlier, most of them simply do not have a church. It’s very likely they’ll come to church here.

Marion County has 36,853 people estimated in 2021. If Bishop Gregory Palmer is right, more than 30,000 of them do not have a strong and living faith. The influence of the Holy Spirit, the seed is going to fall on very, very fruitful ground — because, you see, this is a lot of influence.

But if somebody wants to say, “Pastor, six is too many. I can only pray for one person. That’s all I can do, just one person.” But if each one found one to pray for, on average, over a year’s time, 6 people could influence 12, 12 people could influence 24, 48 people could influence 96, 96 people could influence 192 people, and 192 people could influence 384 people in six years.

You’ll notice this is a picture of the Wesley Church. It’s surrounded by cornfields. It’s located in Foster Township, a very rural area. But according to the population figures, there are 405 people in Foster Township and if Gregory Palmer’s percentage is correct, 332 of them don’t go to church. Even one person– if you allow the Holy Spirit to work through you, even one person can be a way for the Holy Spirit’s influence and blessing to flow out to many, many people who need it.

But see, here’s the fact– and if you’re a farmer, you understand that. If you don’t work the ground, nothing good comes up. And, brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit wants us to go out into God’s harvest and work the ground. And how we work the ground is we pray for the people we’re in contact with because the presence of the Holy Spirit flowing through us, flowing past us, flowing around us will change the lives of people to bring them to the light, to bring them to a knowledge of the truth, to bring them to be people who are saved. You see, that’s the goal because God desires all people to be safe and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

So here’s my question. Who have you prayed for in the past week? And if you’re like most of us, we pray for people who are in a horrible crisis. You probably prayed for Gerri Molina. You probably prayed for other people who are in the hospital. You pray for people who are dying. But you know what happens if those people get better? We stop praying for them. If we only pray for people when they’re suffering and only pray for them once a year, we have limited the power of the Holy Spirit to change their lives.

Who have you prayed for this past week? God is drawing you to pray for certain people, and you’ll know that’s true because you’ll have a burden on your heart. You’ll have a concern– it might be a hunch, it might be your intuition, but it might just be the leading of the Holy Spirit that this person might be your person to pray for. Don’t wait until they’re in trouble. Just like your own child, pray for them whether they need it or not, because if you do that, the Holy Spirit will influence people through you.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, 12 committed, praying people can make an enormous difference in the influence that you have on our community. 12 people can make a gigantic difference because they can multiply that influence out into thousands and thousands of people. But, Lord, 6 people can also have a great influence. And, Lord, even one person who’s willing to pray for other people to come to Christ, even 1 person, with your help, working to do God’s will, can have a great influence to help people to come to Christ. And so, Lord, as you look over our congregation, and you look over the people we are in the presence of as the week goes by, Lord, we just ask you through the Holy Spirit to influence all of those people to come closer to you, and we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

We’re going to sing “Take The Name of Jesus With You.” When you’re sitting on that park bench, you can, under your breath, say the name of Jesus, and make that moment a holy moment where Jesus is present. Let whatever is in your heart, become a prayer for whoever is near you that day. Let’s stand and sing. Take the name of Jesus with you everywhere we go! [music]

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.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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