Sermons August 29 2021: Help Me To Notice My Neighbor (Pentecost 13)

Romel, “The Voice of a broken heart” via Flickr

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/593904175

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/crju3tVQXOe

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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 We Gather Together
THE HYMNS ENSEMBLE – We Gather Together… “Lockdown Session”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmR1JszAM1E

(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 There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy
There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy ~ Nate Macy ~ lyric video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5LN1ZvwWfs

(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: Help Me To Notice My Neighbor
Luke 10:25-29, 36-37, John 13:34-35, Galatians 5:13-14
Series: A Church Centered on Jesus

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

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SERMON NOTES

Luke 10:25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
28 And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.” 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”


… 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

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HYMN Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace – Best Version By Far! (Judy Collins)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDdvReNKKuk

(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 the service of Jesus as Lord with the words of The Prayer of St 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

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

Help me to notice my neighbor. Last week, we talked about the fact that each one of us is unique. God works through each one of us in special and unique ways. No one else can do what you do. And what that means is every single one of us is needed.

There are a couple of realities, though, that go with this. You have something to do. Let’s assume you’re a basketball player. It doesn’t mean that you would play basketball all by yourself. Basketball players get together, and they play as a team. The thing that God wants you to do is likely to draw you to be involved with other people who have the same gift, just like singers will gather together in a choir. So the gift that you have, which is unique and special, is going to draw you to other people. Because even though your bass voice or soprano voice is different, you will join with other people to make something beautiful because you’re serving together.

And not only that, a choir will draw an audience. Carpenters will get together to build a home for a family. People who work together in the business will serve the needs of customers. The next thing in what we do to serve God, to follow Jesus, to do God’s will– it’s going to draw us to be with other people because what we do, we do not do alone.

That’s part of that little request. I still smile when I say it. “In a moment, someone will feel led by the Holy Spirit to gather the offering.” Friends, in order for you to do what God wants you to do, you need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit tapping you on the shoulder saying, “This time, it’s you.” Because just as the choir has a choir director, the part that we play is directed by the Holy Spirit within us who nudges us to say, “This is for you.”

That’s especially important when we go out into our neighborhoods. Because you have a neighbor, and the neighbors you interact with could include people in the choir if that’s your gift, but they also could include other people. People you live next to. People you talk to during the week. You have a neighbor, and your neighbor is your mission field because you are a missionary to that person just as Katrina said about vacation Bible school. She was a missionary to her vacation Bible school class. That was her neighborhood at that point in time, and God worked through her.

So here is the next part in our prayer of how to follow Jesus. Help me to notice. And in this very distracting time of life, and also a very distracting time in history, there’s a whole lot that we don’t notice when we’re distracted. Help me, Lord, to notice my neighbor.

And once I notice my neighbor, Lord, work through me to help the people in my neighborhood. Work through me to pray for the people in my neighborhood … because when God answers prayers, people come to Christ. Marriages are saved. Children are helped. People repent of their sin, and lives change and become better. Work through me, Lord, to redeem my neighborhood.

This is my neighborhood. This is the corner of 2nd and Coal Street in Caseyville, Illinois. I was the pastor of Caseyville United Methodist Church for nine years and two weeks, and when I would back out of my driveway to drive to the church on Sunday morning around 8 o’clock, this is what I would see. That’s the street by which I ride to the church. Caseyville United Methodist Church is nine miles from the Mississippi River. You can see the arch from the parking lot. It is a safe little town, but just like you can imagine in a big city– you see all of those houses? Those are my neighbors. You think I know their names? I sure don’t. I’m embarrassed. I would put this picture on the slide show every time I preached about how we should love our neighbor, and I told the congregation, “I feel bad that I don’t know every one of the people who live in these houses. I don’t know my neighbors.”

Now, out here so close to the farms, I have a sincere and deep hope that we’re different, but that’s how it was in Caseyville. But I want to tell you about the Caseyville United Methodist Church prayer chain. One of the unique and beautiful things about that church is that they had an email prayer chain of friends and relatives of the church. There were over 90 people on the prayer chain, and two men, Rick Penny and Claude Cable, it was their ministry. They were the people who developed it and worked in it, and you could email either one of them and they would send out, within a few minutes, to everyone on that prayer chain, all the prayer requests that they had received. Usually, you’d get one or two a day. And then on Sunday morning, they send out a big one, which contains all the prayer requests from the week that were made in church that Sunday. And I said to myself, as I experienced this, “What a wonderful way that this church has to organize so that we pray for lots and lots of people.” I found it to be very inspiring.

But I want to tell you that about three years later– about four years later, I noticed something that greatly troubled me. It makes perfect sense when you think about it, but almost every single person put on the prayer chain was someone who was already going to church somewhere. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Who’s going to ask a church to pray for them, but people who are to go to a church? And so week after week, we prayed for this person’s cancer and we prayed for this person’s heart surgery. We prayed for this person who lost someone in death. We prayed for children who fell off a bike and broke their arm. And every single one of them went to church somewhere.

And this began to really, really bother me. Because the statistics are that on that street that you’re looking at, in every town all across the United States, 80% of the people don’t go to church. And the assumption in the prayer chain was, here we are, praying for people who go to church as if they’re the only ones who need prayer. We’re praying for someone who has cancer as if no one who did not go to church ever got cancer, in a sense.

Now please understand these two men were replying to the prayer requests they received. But the only requests they received were from churchgoing people for churchgoing people. And so if you looked at who was on the prayer chain, you would think that only Christians got cancer. That only Christians suffered. That only churchgoing people grieved.

And I said to myself, “This town is right next to East St. Louis. It’s a big city. But surely there are people who gossip in this small town. It’s a small town.” Why isn’t anyone putting on the prayer chain their next door neighbor who doesn’t go to church but who just found out they had cancer? Why isn’t that happening? And believe me, friends, that’s where this phrase comes from, Lord, help me to notice my neighbor.

What do you notice, Pastor Dave, when you are driving down this street on your way to church on Sunday morning? Do you think about the people in the houses? Do you wonder what’s going on in their life? No, I’m in a hurry to get to church. And I’m embarrassed. So I began talking about this, and still what sort of prayer requests lined up on the prayer chain still, still probably true. It’s people we know because they go to church. But a tremendous burden came upon my heart during that time that when we know that someone– let’s just use cancer as an example. When we hear that someone at work has cancer, when we hear that someone living down the street has cancer, when we find out sitting at the ball field watching our kid play Little League, that one of the other kid’s mom is sick. The church should be praying. The church should be praying for their neighbors.

And all too often we’re focused on what the church is doing and missing this very important reality of what the church should be doing. And so I began to say silly things like it’s not gossip if you tell the pastor. And, as I had people’s permission, I began to speak in church of who needed our prayers, whether or not they came to church. But I’m afraid I was one voice.

Why is this important? Jesus told a parable. You’re familiar with it. It’s called the Good Samaritan. There is a road from Jerusalem down to Jericho. It’s very steep. And you go down when you leave Jerusalem. You go up when you go toward Jerusalem. The temple is in Jerusalem. All kinds of Jewish people were on this road because they were going to the temple to worship, just like I was going down that street to my church. And it just so happened that a man going down that road was attacked by robbers and left for dead. Now, by chance, a priest was going down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Why would a priest cross the road and pass by? Well, if he’s going up to the temple, if he is in the presence of a dead body, he cannot serve in the temple. That’s part of the Jewish law. So some people say, that priest must be going up to the temple. And he had to make a choice between serving God and helping this wounded man.

On the other hand, some people say that the priest is going down. He’s finished his service. But he still crosses the road because he thinks serving God means not to get close to that dead body. So likewise, a Levite, a church leader, somebody like the president of the church council– so likewise, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him pass by on the other side, had to make a choice. Am I going to do what God wants and stay holy and not touch that dead body? Or do I do something to help that person? There’s no question that they noticed. But it falls to a Samaritan to do the right thing, somebody who most people would say in the Jewish nation is not a religious person at all.

Now, this parable is told in order to explain a situation that came up. And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” And the lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” Another way to say the same thing is what God wants should be the highest priority. And then he says, “And your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have answered right. Do this, and you will live.” But the lawyer desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

And embodied in that phrase is the idea that I get to choose who my neighbor is. And so Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus talks about a priest and a Levite who seem on the surface to choose God’s priorities over other priorities. But it’s a Samaritan who does the right thing. And at the close of the parable, Jesus asks this question, “Which of these three do you think prove neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” And the lawyer said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

And Jesus says to us, “Go and do likewise.”

What does God want from you and me? At the end of the day, when God looks down upon us, “Did you put me first today, Pastor Dave?” You know what God is really asking? “Pastor Dave, did you show mercy to your neighbors today?”

Galatians 5:13, Paul writes, “For you were called the freedom brethren, and thank God we have a great deal of freedom. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. And opportunity to do what you selfishly want. An opportunity for you to please yourself and ignore everyone around you. But instead, through love, be servants to one another.” For the whole law, for everything that God wants from us, the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

That’s what God wants. That’s what we need to be doing. That’s a wonderful thing if you’re a priest on the way to church. It’s a wonderful thing, everything is happening in church. Everything we do is wonderful. But what God asks us to do is to notice our neighbor. And to love them. And you know what the big problem is? We’re so busy, and we’re so distracted, and there’s so much going on. To be honest, we don’t notice something going badly in someone else’s life.

Billy Graham’s daughter, Ruth Graham, wrote a book in 2004. The title of the book was this, In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart. Ruth Graham, Billy Graham’s daughter, lived a horrible life that was full of suffering. And she wrote this book to explain to the church people, if you look around you in every single pew, you will find people whose lives are not perfect but who are pretending that it’s perfect so that no one will know. Maybe it’s true this morning that this room is full of people whose hearts are breaking. Yet we have the blessed hope. We have the love of God and each other. We encourage and we pray for each other.

But just think a moment, friends. In every street, there are people with broken hearts. And no one notices. It takes a long time for a marriage to fail. It takes a long time for cancer to take someone’s life. It takes a long time for a child to grow up in an abusive home until it’s so bad that everyone notices. And in every street, there are houses where people have broken hearts. And we’re in a hurry to get to church and don’t even notice.

I often thought to myself what I really should do on Sunday morning. It’s only four blocks to church from this corner. I thought to myself, I ought to walk those four blocks and pray for every house between my house and the church. I thought that was a good idea. When do you think I ever was early enough to do that? You see, that’s the truth, friends. We’re in such a hurry. If there are broken hearts in every pew, we ought to remember there are four times as many broken hearts on every street because four out of five people don’t come to church. So who is your neighbor?

I wonder if you’ve heard the phrase, six degrees of separation. The idea of six degrees of separation is, for you to send a message to anyone in the entire world, it takes six people … for you tell this one, and that person tells that one, and that person tells that one. And people are connected by friendships such that within six people you can send a message to anyone in the entire world.

I used to think this was crazy until I was talking to Gene Simon, who was the executive director of Chaddock in Quincy. And he said to me that his cousin was Kate Capshaw, who is married to Steven Spielberg. It just kind of wakes you up. And I shared that story in a UMW workshop in Springfield. And a bunch of ladies at one of the tables started laughing. And I asked them, why are you laughing? And they said, well, Steven Spielberg’s wife, her mother goes to our church.

So you don’t know the power that you have. But within the United States, they’ve actually calculated this back in 1973, it takes only three connections to reach anyone in the United States.

Now, here’s what that says to me. I may not know the people who live in those houses on my street. But my church people probably do because they’ve lived in this town their whole life. And anyone they don’t know, they know somebody who does know. So the people in this room this morning, either you or someone you know, knows every single person in this whole town. And either you or someone you know knows every broken heart and why it’s breaking. You or someone you know knows every hurt that people are feeling. So if you will pray for the hurts you know – and you will ask people you know, do you know anyone who needs prayer? – every single hurt will be prayed for.

All of us have neighbors. We need to pray for them. Sometimes, we need to do more than just pray. Not saying that shouldn’t happen. But certainly, the simplest and easiest way for you to love someone is to pray for God to bless them and help them, to keep them safe, and, when something’s wrong, for God to help make it right.

And if we begin to reach out and pray for our neighbors, God will begin to answer those prayers. And all of a sudden, that person will realize that God is real. And God has touched their life. And they’ll begin to seek the blessing that we have of knowing Jesus Christ.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we ask ourselves each morning, where are you? What are you doing? What are your plans for today? And, Lord, if this scripture is right, your answer could very easily be, I’m out with your neighbors. I’m out helping them. I’m healing them. And I’m helping them to see that God is real. Lord, help us to understand that when we follow you, when we arrive where you are, we will find that you are with our neighbors. And, Lord, especially our neighbors who we do not see in church, Lord, I ask that you would open our hearts to notice the hurts that people deal with all around us so that we can pray for all of the people who are hurting. And when things are going right, we can rejoice and be thankful. Help us, Lord Jesus, to notice our neighbor. And work through us to redeem and heal and change all of the people that you love in our neighborhood. Help them, Lord, to discover that experience of amazing grace. We ask this in Jesus’ name; 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.

(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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