Sermons September 05 2021: You Are Loved; We Are Loved (Pentecost 14)

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/597985358

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/crQf0YVQyYb

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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 Jesus Loves Me, #191
Gaither Vocal Band – Jesus Loves Me [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQVOld9XFkM

(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 Just As I Am v. 1-2 357
Just As I Am with Lyrics by Alan Jackson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAnSmJecnEk

(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: You Are Loved; We Are Loved
Text: Luke 18:9-14, 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.
Saturday Video Audio … Wesley Church Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

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.”

Heaven’s Surprise © 2004, J Taylor Ludwig

I was shocked, confused, bewildered as I entered Heaven’s door,
Not by the beauty of it all, nor the lights or its decor.

But it was the folks in Heaven who made me sputter and gasp–
The thieves, the liars, the sinners, the alcoholics, and the trash.

There stood the kid from seventh grade who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor who never said anything nice.

Herb, who I always thought was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine, looking incredibly well.

I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal? I would love to hear your take.
How’d all these sinners get up here? God must’ve made a mistake.

‘And why’s everyone so quiet, so somber – give me a clue.’
‘Child,’ He said, ‘they’re all in shock.
They never thought they’d be seeing you!’

You Can Sit With Me by Amanda Elrod
·
You got hammered at the bar on Saturday but came to church on Sunday….
You can sit with me, you’re right where you need to be.

You’re a drug addict but came to church on Sunday….
You can sit with me, you’re right where you need to be.

You’re divorced and the last church you attended condemned you for it….
You can sit me, you’re right where you need to be.

You’ve had an abortion and it’s slowly eating away at your heart but you came to church on Sunday….
You can sit with me, you’re right where you need to be.

You’ve been unfaithful to your spouse but came to church on Sunday….
You can sit with me, you’re right where you need to be.

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HYMN Just As I Am v. 3-6 357
The Celebration Choir – Just As I Am [with lyrics]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tdmQh-MIIA

(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

A lesson that every child needs to learn, a lesson that every person needs to know. You are loved and as we love one another, we know we are loved. This is a crucial lesson for human beings to truly be human. 

So where do we draw the line between those who should be loved and those who aren’t good enough to be loved? Well, here’s the reality. If you understand that you’re a sinner, you’re loved. If you understand that you’re able to ask Jesus Christ to be your shepherd, your Savior, and your Lord, you are loved because that’s what God chooses to do. 

Let me read a poem to you called Heaven’s Surprise. I’ve read this in many different forms as a joke, but this one happens to be a poem.

I was shocked, confused, and bewildered as I entered heaven’s door,
not by the beauty of it all, nor the lights or its decor,
but it was the folks in heaven that made me sputter and gasp,
the thieves, the liars, the sinners, the alcoholics, and the trash.

There stood the kid from seventh grade who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor who never said anything nice.
Herb, who I was always sure was rotting away in hell,
was sitting pretty on cloud nine, looking incredibly well.

I nudged Jesus. What’s the deal? I would love to hear your take.
How did all these sinners get up here? Surely, God made a mistake.
And why is everyone so somber and quiet? Give me a clue.
“Child,” Jesus said, “They’re all in shock. They never thought they’d be seeing you.

Perhaps we’ll be shocked at who we find in heaven.
Perhaps they will be shocked to see us there. 

About 30 years ago during the Gulf War, in a Bible study at Caseyville United Methodist Church where I was pastor for nine years, I said that Jesus Christ could forgive everyone. And I had this wonderful, sweet little old lady, Laura O’Neill was her name, she never, ever said anything unkind, glare at me, and she almost shouted, “NOT Saddam Hussein!” 
I said, “Excuse me?” 
“God will never forgive Saddam Hussein!”
I explained to her for a little bit longer that, maybe you can’t, maybe we can’t, but God can forgive Saddam Hussein because God loves even Saddam Hussein. 

Now, I should also tell you, there is one sin in the Bible where Jesus says, “That’s the unforgivable sin.” It’s something we need to look at and understand very carefully, so it belongs to another sermon. It is an unforgivable sin to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, but it’s a very specific thing. It’s not something you are likely to do by accident. And so I want to save it for another time – and say that with the exception of that, God can forgive anything you have done. God can forgive anything that anyone has done. We may not be able to forgive, but God is better than we are. 

Nonetheless, within us human beings, there is a tendency to draw a line and to say, “These people are good enough to be forgiven, and these people are not.” We draw a line and say, “These people are welcome, but those people are not.”

I’ll be honest with you, we live in a better time in history because 50 years ago, 75 years ago, 125 years ago, statements like what you see on the screen were quite common, “Help wanted. No Irish need apply.” We’re all too young to remember the discrimination in the United States against the Irish. “They’re not good enough to work here. They’re not good enough to live here,” and now we might simply consider that to be foolish, but at one time it was true. At one time, that’s where people drew the line. 

You are in a Methodist church. I’ll be honest with you, in 1906 and before, the understanding was simply this: “Good girls don’t wear makeup. Good girls don’t wear earrings. Holy people don’t play card games, and they don’t read the Sunday newspaper, and certainly, they never work on the Sabbath.” Methodists have drawn those same lines ourselves, and in fact, people got very busy drawing lines. 

Besides, you see, again, 75, 100, 150 years ago, “Mineworkers wanted, familiar with soft coal mines. No colored or Italians need to apply.” A sign in a restaurant, “We serve whites only. No Spanish or Mexicans.” Or “This park was given for white people only. Mexicans and Negroes stay out.” 

They used to call it a sundown town where you’d see signs like in the top left-hand corner, warning anyone who wasn’t white, if you’re here after the sun goes down, you’ll be arrested. Caseyville, that was such town. Not now, but you see, we have a past where human beings draw lines between those who are good and those who are not good enough, and we basically say, “You’re not welcome.”

And every one of those signs prevents people from seeing Jesus Christ. They obscure the path to the cross because, in a sense, they say, “You’re not good enough for God to love you. You’re not good enough for us to love you. You’re not welcome.” 

Now, here’s the really odd thing about those signs. It’s not funny, but it’s almost funny. Here are some more signs. “Jews not allowed.” Or “The privileges of the swimming pool are extended only to approved gentiles,” as if a Jewish person walking into a swimming pool did something bad to the water. “Christians only, Jews not welcome.”

Do you think that obscures the cross when you consider the reality that Jesus was Jewish? 

At one time, more than a hundred years ago, we drew lines just like this to differentiate between those who are welcome and those who were good enough and those who were not. Well, friends, let’s be honest. You can’t be good enough, but God can love you just like you are. Now, that doesn’t mean that God won’t change you, but God’s love comes first. And then God’s love begins to change us. 

Let me tell you something else about history that you may not realize, but if you want to read the book of Galatians, you can rediscover it. The Jewish people of Jesus’s day drew these same lines with regard to the Gentiles, the people who weren’t Jewish. “Those people who weren’t Jewish, they’re not good enough. God hates them. They’re not welcome.” There was actually a sign at the temple that said if a Gentile wandered in, they were responsible for their own death, which would immediately happen. So you see the Jewish people of Jesus Day, were no different than any of us have ever been.

And so here’s Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, the apostle to the people who are not Jewish, and Jewish Christians come out of Jerusalem to the churches he started in Galatia, a region of Turkey. And they say, “Now, you do remember that Jesus was Jewish. If you really love Jesus, shouldn’t you be Jewish, too?” They said to the people that Paul had converted: “If Jesus was Jewish, that meant that he kept all of the Jewish law. Don’t you think you ought to become Jewish and keep all of the Jewish rules and regulations?” Jesus was Jewish, they would say, “if you want to be more like Jesus, it’s obvious. You should become Jewish like us. You need to celebrate those Jewish holidays. You need to eat according to the Jewish kosher regulations. You need to do what good Jewish people do because then, God will love you more.” 

And Paul had to respond to that kind of thinking to say, “No!” 

What does God want from us? Does God want us to become Jewish? What sort of laws and regulations should we follow? You saw this scripture last week. Please let it sink in. “For you were called to freedom, brethren.” Paul said that If you accept the Jewish law, you will no longer be free as you are now. But you’ll be obligated to keep all of it. “Only,” Paul says, “do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, be servants of one another. For the whole law, the whole Jewish law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” That’s what God wants from you and me. God loves our neighbors. God wants us to join God in loving our neighbor. That’s how we be more like Jesus.

This is probably my favorite parable. He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others. That’s what drawing all these lines means. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself.” Let that sink in. How often do you pray not to God, but with yourself?

“God, I thank you that I’m not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.” Aren’t I wonderful? There are people who pray prayers like that with themselves.

Now, here’s the thing you may not realize. The Pharisee is probably right because tax collectors in Jesus’ day did all kinds of horribly evil things. Generally speaking, their behavior was horribly evil.

So in regard to patting himself on the back, he’s probably right. He’s probably a much better person than this one: “But the tax collectors standing far off … standing far in the back. Standing in a corner, standing almost out of sight, would not even lift up his eyes to the heavens, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner.'”

And you see, here are the two kinds of people that we find churches. There are people who are very proud of the good they do. But there are people who understand that if it wasn’t for God’s love, they would have nothing.

And here’s the point that Jesus makes, most people don’t get this: I tell you, this man, this tax collector, this terrible sinner went down to his house justified, forgiven, made right, saved, destined for heaven rather than the other.

Because, you notice, he was so busy congratulating himself, the Pharisee never bothered to ask for forgiveness. Friends, please do not make the mistake of being here and not asking for forgiveness.

So the tax collector, who does not deserve anything good from God, is forgiven. Jesus says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled. But he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

It’s very useful and important for us to remember that we are still sinners, but it’s important that we dare not obstruct the cross so that people will always be able to see that it’s because of Jesus that they are forgiven. It’s not about our standards of ethics. The cross is about God’s mercy, and everyone needs to see it without anything in the way. It’s for sinners. It’s for people who need it desperately.

Heaven is not for people just like us. John 3:16 is preceded by this verse, “God so loved the world that whosoever, whosoever, whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life.” And as the old hymn says, “Whosoever surely meaneth me.” Surely includes me. And when people see the cross, they realize how much God loves them while they are still sinners.

Let me read you another poem, and I don’t read poems very much. This one is called You Can Sit with Me, by Amanda Elrod,

You got hammered at the bar on Saturday but came to church on Sunday.
You can sit with me. You’re right where you need to be.

You’re a drug addict. But you came to church on Sunday.
You can sit with me. You’re right where you need to be.

You’re divorced. And the last church you attended condemned you for it.
You can sit with me. You’re right where you need to be.

You had an abortion, and it’s slowly eating away at your heart.
But you came to church on Sunday.
You can sit with me. You’re right where you need to be.

You’ve been unfaithful to your spouse. But you came to church on Sunday.
You can sit with me. You’re right where you need to be.”

Friends, that poem could go on and on and on. But what people out there need– what people out there need is to know that they can sit with me because they’re right where they need to be. If, because of seeing the cross unobstructed, they know that mercy is available here. They know that forgiveness is available here.

So where do we draw the line between those who are good enough and those who aren’t? I think what Jesus would say to us is there are no lines … that should separate people from the forgiveness and the mercy and the grace that is found in Jesus Christ because you see, everyone should have the privilege of praying:

I am a sinner.
Please be my shepherd, my Savior, and my Lord.

Everyone should have the privilege of knowing that even if no one else on this earth loves them, they are loved by God who gave his son, not just for us but for all of us. So that they can see the cross unobstructed and know that they are welcome to come to Jesus.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, just as blood flows out of the human heart to flow out toward every single cell in the body, I am so thankful, Lord Jesus, that love flows out from you toward every single person in this world. People might reject you. People might turn away from you. People might run away from you. But Jesus on the cross you show that they are loved whether they know it or not, whether they admit it or not, whether they accept it or not, whether or not they turn to come toward you. Lord, I pray that you’ll help us to be a church that not only follows Jesus Christ but, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is a church that helps other people follow Jesus Christ. And 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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