Sermons September 19, 2021: Making Distinctions (Pentecost 17)

Photos – Champaign Urbana News-Gazette, 1973 Yearbook

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/608546880

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/crQF0gV6ooN

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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 WESLEY COVENANT PRAYER:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

HYMN 557 Blest Be The Tie That Binds, v. 1-6
Blest Be the Tie That Binds – Hymn Lyric Video – Darby Hughes
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_AYrlHRm5c

(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 − Reinhold Niebuhr: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference … living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; taking this world as it is and not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

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 “Sow Mercy” – Gaither Vocal Band
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoTtf5MzTOI

(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: Making Distinctions
Text: James 2:1-10, 13-17
Series: Doers of the Word

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

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SERMON NOTES

James 2:1 My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man with gold rings and in fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while you say to the poor man, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who drag you into court? 7 Is it not they who blaspheme that honorable name which was invoked over you? 8 If you really fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.

13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment. 14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. 18 But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

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 526 What A Friend We Have In Jesus
What a Friend We Have in Jesus by Acapeldridge
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LarFhGeE-ac

(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

“Making distinctions.” I’d like to ask you all a question. If you could live your life all over again, if you could become young at the price of going through junior high and high school all over again, would you do it?

Back at Champaign Centennial High School, the young woman is somebody who graduated this year, but the fellow on the right – with the guitar in the wrong direction because the photographer at the jazz band yearbook photoshoot insisted that I wear it the wrong way – that happens to be me in 1973. I think I’m really good-looking [laughter]. It’s funny, the older you get, the pictures of you in high school look better and better [laughter].

But I’ll be honest with you, I would not go back to live those days over again unless I could go back knowing what I know now, but there is no way in the world in heaven or hell that I want to make all those dumb, stupid, humiliating mistakes again. Once was enough.

But not only that, I am, at age 66, the product of all of those stupid mistakes. All the blessings that I have today are because of all the foolish things I did as a younger person. There is no way that I would wish to go back and be stupid because maybe I wouldn’t wind up a pastor. Maybe I would not have had my three sons. Maybe 12 years ago, I might not have fallen in love with Kim and married her. And there’s no way that it’s worth being young if it means I have to do without all those blessings. No, I don’t want to go back and be young. I don’t want to go back and be stupid again.

You remember junior high. Your situation might have been better than mine. What I would like to tell you is I was not one of the cool kids. You all know who the cool kids are, right? They’re the teenagers that everybody wants to be like and everybody wants to look like and everybody wants to do what they do. And part of the misery of junior high, part of the misery of high school, is all the agony that we feel if we’re not a part of that elite group, not a part of those cool kids.

Cool kids start early. They start in middle school. They start learning how to strive and fake it in order to be popular. And status becomes an obsession with them and they’re stuck. And what they found in 2014 study by early adulthood, the cool kids were 45% more likely to have criminal records, 45% more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, 45% more likely to have troubled relationships. And not only that, to blame everything that goes wrong in their life on their not being popular enough.

Friends, it’s not easy to be a cool kid. It’s probably better to be a nerd or a dork, which is what I was. It’s not easy to be a cool kid and strive constantly for the admiration of others.

This was my grandfather’s watch. So if you have heirlooms that you treasure that come from your grandparents … This was my grandfather’s watch, a young man said at a convention of pocket watch hobbyists. This was my grandfather’s watch, it worked perfectly for him. My father inherited it, and it stopped working. It didn’t work for my dad and now it’s mine. It still doesn’t work, but I treasure it. And I noticed twice a day, it’s perfectly on time. But I wish it could work as well for me, as it did for my grandpa.

Now at that convention of pocket watch hobbyists, he found a watch repairman. And the watch repairman said, “Let me look at it, there may be something that can be done.” And he tapped on the case. He took the back off and looked at the inside, and he said, “I see what the problem is. This watch has never been cleaned. This watch has not been taken care of. But the works are still good. And because of that, we may be able to get into work again.” He tapped on the case and he said, “What’s important … in this case … is good works.”

Friends, we understand that we go to heaven because of our faith, not because of works. Do me a favor and tap on your heart a couple times. You know what matters in this “case”? Good works. Because if you take care of yourself, if you take care of the machinery that is your life and action, it can last a long time. Faith is good. But works are also a part of faith.

James talks about that. My brethren, James says, Show no partiality if you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory. For if a man with gold [inaudible] and in fine clothing comes into your assembly and the poor man in shabby clothing also comes in. And you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while you say to the poor man, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet.” Which we can assume means, “Sit on the floor.” Have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in this world to be rich in faith? Why? They have nothing but their faith. To be rich in faith and heirs to the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him, but you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme that honorable name which was invoked over you?

In all my years of reading the newspaper, I have never known a poor man to move a factory overseas and take jobs away from hundreds of his neighbors. In all my years, I have never known a poor man to increase his salary to deny other people who work for him a living wage. I’ve never known a poor man to own a company that hires minimum wage workers but refuses to hire them full-time … because if he hired them full-time, he’d have to pay health insurance. And so when you look at that poor man, they’re usually working two to three part-time jobs without any benefits, but no poor man made that decision. Somebody else made that decision in order to have more dimes and more nickels, taken from other people who need it much more, flow toward him. Is it not the rich who oppress?

James is saying if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. But if you choose, if you show partiality, you break that rule. You commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors, for whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For judgment is without mercy to one who shows no mercy. Yet mercy triumphs over judgment.

If you wanted to flip over to Matthew chapter 7, you will see the chapter begins with these words, “Judge not lest you be judged.” And then comes an incredibly frightening verse in the bible that reflects God’s justice: Jesus says for with the judgement you judge you will be judged.

Friends, it’s important to not show partiality. And oddly enough, that’s what leads to this statement. What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill clad and in lack of daily food and one of you says to them, “Good luck,” or as the word says here, “Go in peace. May you be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? Surely, this is not loving your neighbor as yourself.

So James concluded, “Faith by itself if it has no works is dead.” But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith a part from your works.” But here’s a wiser position. And I by my works will show you my faith, because the two go together.

Your faith – what does God want from us? Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. But when it comes to the reality that God wants you all, wants me, to do something, the rule is this: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. And sometimes that requires us to do something.

Now, there are two problems in this section of scripture. The first problem is the problem of partiality and I want to suggest to you that here we are not talking so much about despising the poor. You and I get lectured a lot that we should not despise the poor and we should not turn our backs on those who are needy or who have less than we do. We hear that all the time. But I want to suggest to you that that’s not really the problem.

The problem is if you idolize the rich — which by the way breaks the 10 commandments — no one is supposed to be made into an idol. If you idolize the rich and the popular and the famous and the celebrities and the cool kids, whoever they are, whatever age you are, you’ll spend so much time and energy and money on them there will be nothing left over to help anyone who is poor.

And in fact, there’s been way too much of that in our society. You like to watch soap operas, particularly those primetime soap operas – what my wife calls drama? You know what they are? It’s like junior high for adults. It’s those same cool kids, dramas, over and over and over … will they finally realize how beautiful I am and elect me to be the homecoming queen?” Those same dramas are still with us, and they take so much of our attention, idolizing the rich. We think they have no problems at all, but I tell you, friends, they sure do.

There’s nothing left over for the poor after you pay all your attention to the rich. That’s the problem with partiality. They get it all, and there’s nothing left over.

The second problem that the Scripture discusses is something about faith … because we need to realize that a healthy faith naturally leads to healthy and holy actions. The two go together, and that has always been true.

Here is a picture of a homeless man. I’ll be honest with you, friends. You can’t even guess why he’s homeless because we don’t know the whole story. You can study the issue of homelessness and poverty, and you’ll know a lot, but you still won’t know the whole story of this person’s life.

But there’s one thing that you can know without any of a shadow of doubt. One thing that is true for this person’s life is that God so loved the world that he gave his Son for this man’s sake, no matter who he is, no matter what he’s done, good or evil. That’s true for him. God loves him that much.

It’s a tradition on the night of the Oscars for actors and actresses, celebrities to walk the red carpet in their finest gowns and outfits. These people were in some kind of Disney-something. I am so unfamiliar! I don’t even know who they are. I have no clue. What I do know is they’re part of the cool kids. They’re movie stars. They’re famous. They’re probably wealthy. They live a life about which you and I all too often are envious, and we wish the same for ourselves.

But you see here’s the reality. You don’t know the whole story. You don’t know what they’ve had to give up to be famous. You don’t know what cruel people have done to them, as basically, they’ve sold their souls and sometimes their bodies to be a movie star. You don’t know the harm that has come to them, but if you read the newspapers, you discover that that same truth about the cool kids, 45% drugs and alcohol, 45% abusive relationships, 45% terrible, terrible things have happened to them. But we don’t know the whole story. If you knew the whole story, you might prefer to be poor than to have suffered as they have suffered.

But there’s one thing that you can be certain is true. God so loved the world including them that he sent his son Jesus Christ to die so that they might have eternal life in spite of all they’ve done, in spite of all they have suffered, and that is the truth of faith.

This was my grandfather’s faith. It worked for him his whole life. But it didn’t work for my dad, you know why? Your faith requires maintenance. Your faith requires you to take care of it. Your faith requires you on Sunday morning to get out of a comfortable warm bed and come here and listen to me. Your faith requires you to work on your faith or pretty soon your faith will break down and it won’t work for you at all.

But here’s the truth, in this case, it’s good works that matter. Just like a watch that’s dirty, you can be cleaned up. Just like a watch that won’t function, God can bring oil to your joints. God can help you maintain your faith. But sooner or later, it requires you to do more than just be a lump with a good feeling about God.

Back in 2014, my third or fourth sermon was about how a church needs goals to move forward and in that sermon, I talked about the reality that you cannot balance on a bicycle that is still. You’re good but you’re not that good. If you try to balance on a bicycle that is still you’ll fall down, you’ll fall over. That a bicycle can only stay in balance while it’s moving forward.

And I find today the bicycle is a perfect illustration. You see, your faith is that front wheel. It’ll steer you where you want to go. Your faith will tell you how to get where you want to go but you won’t go anywhere if you’re not pedaling. You need the front wheel and the rear wheel … and you need to do the work if you want to get anywhere in the spiritual life.

And I meant it– I put it in the benediction that day because it was part of the sermon and I meant it just for that Sunday but Steve Fox, bless his heart, he left it in there every Sunday after and now we’ve ended our service every week for all these years remembering that faith without works is dead because sooner or later, God will ask us to do something and when we are obedient we’re going to begin to get somewhere and good things are going to begin to happen. When we start with our faith and we add to it our behavior, our works, our obedience, and the two working together will cause the church to come into balance.

Please, pray with me. Lord, we’re at a time where people are too busy. We have works but maybe not the faith that we need and being too busy a lot of times we make poor decisions. We go in the wrong direction. We do the wrong thing but, Lord, you can help us. But all too often, Lord, we’re not busy at doing the right things. Lord, I ask that you would help our faith grow stronger so that our faith would guide us in what we do and so that what we do would begin to matter and generate benefits, not just for this life but for all people and for all that is yet to come. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. 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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