Sermon October 31, 2021: The Rabbi’s Gift (Pentecost 23)

Replace Me

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/640759858

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cr6v0nVlO56

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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 Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus
Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus (11 am, webstream)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGf2fTIa0zo

(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 Kum Ba Ya
KUMBAYA MY LORD African Spiritual
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFffX-3wGLc

(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 Rabbi’s Gift
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:3-7
Series: Doers of the Word

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

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SERMON NOTES

1 Corinthians 12:3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

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HYMN Amazing Grace
Gaither Vocal Band – Amazing Grace (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERANWPVBm8

(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

Every week we begin our worship with the prayer that is known as the Wesley Covenant Prayer. Early Methodist people would pray this prayer on New Year’s Eve where they would have a service and dedicate the entire coming year to be a year where they would give everything to God and trust God for everything. They would yield in every way. 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.

And one of the reasons we’ve been saying this prayer in these weeks is, to me, this is the clearest explanation of what it means to be a United Methodist pastor.

In 1978, I became a youth director. 1979, I was sent to a little tiny church in the worst neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky, and I was their pastor for a year. And since 1980, I’ve been up here in Illinois. United Methodist pastors yield to God’s will. We are sent where we are most needed. We don’t pick the church we serve. We are sent. We don’t choose the house we live in. We accept and live in whatever home is provided. Thank you, by the way, for the wonderful way that you have taken care of us with a home.

The only person I knew before I came here was Duane and Marti Ambrose. We are sent to be with people we have never met before. And we are people who make our home in this new place, we put down our roots because that’s what it means to be a United Methodist pastor.

And as we have been celebrating Pastor Appreciation Month, that’s something I would like to ask all of you to appreciate. We step out in faith. And go believing that the people that we are sent to are kind and good people who will join us in serving God and living our faith.

But there’s another side to this. For some reason, and I cannot tell you why, this entire month of October, it has been in my heart, it has been in my mind that I need to tell you a story in this sermon called the Rabbi’s Gift. You may have heard it before, but I need to surrender to what it seems like God is saying to me because it seems to me that it has something very important to say to us today.

The story concerns a monastery that had fallen upon hard times.

Once a great order, as a result of waves of anti-monastic persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the rise of secularism in the nineteenth, all its branch houses were lost and it had become decimated to the extent that there were only five monks left in the decaying mother house: the Abbott and four others, all over 70 in age. Clearly, it was a dying order.

In the deep woods surrounding the monastery, there was a little hut that a Rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a hermitage. Through their many years of prayer and contemplation, the old monks had become a bit psychic, so they could always sense when the rabbi was in his hermitage. “The Rabbi is in the woods, the Rabbi is in the woods once again,” they would whisper to each other. As he agonized over the imminent death of his order, it occurred to the Abbott at one such time to visit the Hermitage and ask the Rabbi if by some
possible chance he could offer any advice that might save the monastery.

The Rabbi welcomed the Abbott at his hut. But when the Abbott explained the purpose of his visit, the Rabbi could only commiserate with him. “I know how it is,” he explained. “The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore.” So the old Abbott and the old Rabbi wept together. Then they read parts of the Torah and quietly spoke of deep things. The time came when the Abbott had to leave. They embraced each other. “It has been a wonderful thing that we should meet after all these years,” the Abbott said, “but I have still failed in my purpose for coming here. Is there nothing you can tell me, no piece of advice you can give me that would help me save my dying order?”

“No, I am sorry,” the Rabbi responded. “I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is
that the Messiah is one of you.”

When the Abbott returned to the monastery his fellow monks gathered around him to ask, “Well, what did the Rabbi say?”
“He couldn’t help,” the Abbott answered. “We just wept and read the Torah together. The only
thing he did say, just as I was leaving – it was something cryptic – was that the Messiah is one of
us. I don’t know what he meant.”
In the days and weeks and months that followed

the old monks pondered this and wondered whether there was any possible significance to the Rabbi’s words. The Messiah is one of us? Could he possibly have meant one of us monks here at the monastery? If that’s the case, which one?

Do you suppose he meant the Abbott? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant Father Abbott. He has been our leader for more than a generation.
On the other hand, he might have meant brother Thomas. Certainly, Brother Thomas is a holy man. Everyone knows that Thomas is a man of light.
Certainly, he could not have meant brother Elred! Elred gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even though he is a thorn in people’s sides, when you look back on it, Elred is virtually always right. Often very right. Maybe the Rabbi did mean Brother Elred.
But surely not brother Philip. Philip is so passive, a real nobody. But then, almost mysteriously, he has a gift for somehow always being there when you need him. He just magically appears by your side. Maybe Philip is the Messiah.

Of course, the Rabbi didn’t mean me. He couldn’t possibly have meant me. I’m just an ordinary person. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah? Oh God, not me. I couldn’t be that much for you, could I?

As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah.

And on the off, off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.

Because the forest in which it was situated was beautiful, it so happened that people still occasionally came to visit the monastery to picnic on its tiny lawn, to wander along some of its paths, even now and then to go into the dilapidated chapel to meditate. As they did so, without even being conscious of it, they sensed this aura of extraordinary respect that now began to surround the five old monks and seemed to radiate out from them and permeate the atmosphere of the place. There was something strangely attractive, even compelling, about it. Hardly knowing why, they began to come back to the monastery more frequently to picnic, to play, to pray. They began to bring their friends to show them this special place. And their friends brought their friends.

Then it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. After a while, one asked if he could join them. Then another. And another. So within a few years, the monastery once again became a thriving order and, thanks to the Rabbi’s gift, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in the realm.

Friends, there is a way of looking at our reality that changes everything. What does it mean that one of you is the Messiah? And I would turn to this Bible verse to explain it, one of my great favorites. 1 Corinthians 12:7, “To each,” no exceptions, “is given–“ it’s not from you. It’s a gift from God. “To each is given the manifestation of the spirit” – the way that God shows up to do God’s work – not to make you look amazing or impressive but “for the common good.”

Would it astonish you to discover that God chose you to actually be an instrument of grace in someone else’s life? You see, each monk began to wonder, “Is it me that God is going to use?” And it changed everything.

And here’s the change it made. Each one of them began to respect the others.

You see, friends, there’s a problem in the world. The spirit is going out of the people. During this pandemic, we have seen the pressure of all the stuff that’s happened. And what do we see? We see the spirit going out of the people.

The rabbi says, “It’s the same in my town. No one comes to the synagogue anymore.” “I know how it is,” he says.

And we do know how it is because you and I can feel that pressure upon us. But the rabbi says, “I have no advice to give, but I will tell you this. One of you is the Messiah. One of you is the answer. One of you is the medicine. One of you is the person that God will use to make this different. One of you.”

Here’s the secret that isn’t quite mentioned. When God goes to work, it’s probably going to be through all of you. But nonetheless, are you willing to be someone whom God can use? Because if you think of yourself this way, if you think of other people this way, you will begin to respect the people around you.

And you will recognize that what is evil in the world today are the forces of disrespect. Consider what we are constantly surrounded with, the scorn, the criticism, the arrogance, the tearing down of every person around us. What is missing in our world today is respect. And so each one of the monks began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect, and treat the people around them with deep respect.

And you know something? That’s something that people want. Because that deep aura of respect creates a sense of calmness and peace. It creates a sense of safety and well-being, and people hunger for that. And they hunger for themselves to receive respect, which is a gift that you and I can give to people. They are drawn to it. And over time, that aura of deep respect, if it’s found in a monastery or a local church, will draw people in and they’ll want to talk with the people who respect them.

And friends, that’s how we fix this problem. We yield ourselves for God to use us. And we realize that if God could use us, God could use anybody. And we realize that if God can use anybody, maybe God would choose to use us so that in the midst of our weakness, the awesome power of God might be shown.

So I want to thank you for Pastor Appreciation Month. Today is the last day of October, and Pastor Appreciation Month is almost over. And now we get back to normal because you know what normal is? Normal is Congregation Appreciation Year. Because I honestly have to tell you that one of you is the Messiah. One at a time. Sometimes all at once.

And I want to tell you something very deeply from my heart. I don’t know that I’ve ever said this, but again, it’s something that I feel I’m supposed to say. My brother and his family live in Texas. My son and my grandchildren live in Austin, Texas. Other than them and a couple of pastors, I honestly have to say to you, I may get a little emotional now… My closest friends are the people in this room. The people I respect most deeply are the people in this room. The people I love … and I’m so thankful that I get to serve them … are the people in this room. The people I most respect in all the world are the people in this room, every single one of you.

When pastors get together, they complain. They often complain about church people they don’t get along with. And I honestly get to say to my pastor buddies, “I serve two churches, and there’s not a single clinker in the bunch.” Because I respect you and I want to honor you and I want to tell you that — if there is hope for this community and for this church and for the people you love — it’s the fact that God can and will and does and will choose to use every one of you — kids, too! — every one of you, every one of you.

And that’s the beautiful future ahead – when we respect each other and allow God to work through every one of us.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, I thank you so much for these last six and a half years in this beautiful and blessed place. I thank you that my closest friends and my partners and all that I do are right here and that I would not wish to be anywhere else in the entire world because, Lord, you have blessed me by allowing my wife and I to put down roots here. And so, Lord, I thank you for how they appreciate me, and I thank you, Lord, for how I appreciate them.
Now, Lord, help us in this age of disrespect to respect and love one another. Help us in this age of cruelty and criticism, help us to show love and respect. And Lord may that draw people in who’re looking for a shelter from the disrespect and the evil of this world. Lord, may they find that within our congregation. And I ask this in the almighty 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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