Sermon November 14, 2021: Finding Hope (Pentecost 25)

Wikimedia: Dog_with_treat

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/645650891

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/crX2ezVIiAd

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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 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

HYMN 301 Jesus, Keep Me Near The Cross
Jesus keep Me Near The Cross | Kaoma Chende
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGA0Os3LhN0

(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 310 He Lives
“He Lives!” From the “Gospel Music Hymn Sing at First Baptist Atlanta” DVD.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpJfT4_COzY

(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: Finding Hope
Romans 5:2-5, 1 Corinthians 13:13, Proverbs 22:3
Series: Grateful

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

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SERMON NOTES

Proverbs 22:3 A prudent man sees danger and hides himself; but the simple go on, and suffer for it.

Romans 5:2 Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

1 Corinthians 13:13 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

PSYCHOLOGICAL TOOLS FOR PERSONAL WHOLENESS
Rev. David O. Kueker, Kinmundy/Wesley United Methodist Church
THE WAY DOWN: Ten Cognitive Distortions that can drive us into depression.

  1. ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
  2. OVERGENERALIZATION: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  3. MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire glass of water.
  4. DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
  5. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
    A. MIND READING: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.
    B. FORTUNE TELLING: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
  6. MAGNIFICATION (CATASTROPHIZING) OR MINIMIZATION:  You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities) or the other fellow’s imperfections.  This is also called the “binocular trick.”
  7. EMOTIONAL REASONING: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
  8. SHOULD STATEMENTS: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration , and resentment.
  9. LABELING AND MISLABELING: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: “He’s a g-d-mn louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
  10. PERSONALIZATION: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.

(Source: David D. Burns, MD, Feeling Good, and Feeling Good Handbook)

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HYMN 337 Only Trust Him
David Phelps – Only Trust Him from Hymnal (Official Music Video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRK-RyuqCMY

(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 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

During these three weeks before the Christmas season of Advent begins, we’re talking about being grateful, finding reasons to be thankful, and today, about finding hope. Let’s begin with a joke.

Dear God, so far today, I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped. And I haven’t lost my temper. I haven’t been grumpy, nasty, or selfish. And I’m really glad of that. Friends, I’ll be honest, I hope every day is like that for you. Here’s the problem: In a few minutes, I’m going to be getting out of bed. And from then on, I’m probably going to need a lot of help. Amen.

Laying there, having smacked the snooze alarm, telling myself, I’m going to say a prayer before I get up but honestly, just enjoying it, it’s not very hard to be a good Christian. But life gets harder when we get up and when we get going.

Let’s talk about holidays. Let’s talk about the holiday of Halloween. Do you know what Halloween is about for me? Chocolate for children because I find every year, it’s quite strange … after all the kids are done, there seems to be a lot of chocolate left for a couple days! [laughter]. And so I love Halloween because this sort of Halloween is not scary. If you look at Halloween that way, we kind of are making fun of being scared.

Well, I’ll be honest with you, friends. We live in scary times. And there are people who look at Halloween the other way. They can’t wait to turn the lights off and turn on a scary movie and be scared to death. I refuse to ever have that kind of Halloween. There’s not enough chocolate in the world … because no matter how much I tell myself those are just flickering lights on the screen, I feel the feelings as if the horrible things in a scary movie are going to happen to me any second.

Having said that, though, let me tell you about something that’s really scary. There’s a green sheet of paper – you’ll find extra copies over here and at the doors if you’d like to pick one up. In psychology, there is a branch of psychology called cognitive behavioral therapy. And in cognitive behavioral therapy, they pay attention to what are called cognitive distortions. And in the classic understanding, there are 10 cognitive distortions, 10 ways of looking at the world, perceiving the world around us in a way that is incredibly frightening.

And these cognitive distortions can be sort of like a black hole. They can kind of be like a whirlpool. They will suck you in. And you will perceive the world around you as worse and worse, scarier and scarier, terrible and frightening until– literally, if you let them take control, they will pull you down into, literally, the mental illness of depression. It will scare you to the point of high anxiety and panic attacks because your perceptions control, to a very great deal, how you think and how you feel. There are 10 of them.

I guarantee you every single one of us struggles with at least one of them.

Let me tell you about the one that’s the biggest problem for me. You might have the same one. It’s called jumping to conclusions. Let me give you the details here. It’s number five.

You make a negative interpretation, even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion. This has two forms.

Number one, mind reading. You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.

The second version of it is fortune-telling. You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact. That’s what I struggle with.

Now there are two other cognitive distortions that work on me, but this is the big one. That’s the big one. If you want details, ask my wife Kim to help you to understand how fallible and human I am.

But here’s how this cognitive distortion works. You see in the distance, a little teeny tiny cloud, and immediately, your brain begins to predict what’s going to happen. That little teeny tiny cloud is going to become a storm and a tornado and just destroy the whole world.

You go to the doctor and you hear those terrible words, “It’s cancer.” And instantly, your brain begins to work out all the details of what is going to happen. And you’re so upset you don’t even hear the doctor say, “This is a kind that we can cure.”

You see your brain tries to figure out the rest of the story before the rest of the story happens. All of a sudden, you think everything’s just great and your wife or best friend gives you an angry look that almost gives you a heart attack, and instantly you know, everything about your marriage and your whole life is totally going to be destroyed.

But if you have the courage to say, “What’s the matter?” … she might say she stubbed her toe. Because that’s the thing we need to keep in mind. We’re smart. But friends, we’re not that smart. You may know something about life, but you can’t predict every detail of the future. You’re smart but you’re not that smart.

So be careful of your perceptions, because this thing is happening in your imagination is not real. In fact, there’s a little acronym for fear: false expectations, imagined experiences appearing real. What you think will happen is not yet real.

But I will tell you something: if you take out a piece of paper and you write down everything bad that you believe is going to happen, the problem is, once you get that focused in your mind, it’s real easy for the thing you are afraid of to come true. Don’t do that. Don’t go there.

If the people in the scary movie could listen to the audience in the theater, they would hear the audience say, “Don’t go there!” … and the movie would be over. Because of a loving God, because of your hard work, for most of us, life is like that. And you know something, the stress that’s involved and what we’re dealing with right now, most of us can handle it. There’s a saying in psychology that suggests that there is no stress in the present moment. It’s what we imagine could happen that creates the stress, what we think will be true.

And again, I just want to point out; friends, you’re smart, but you’re not that smart, which is why we should let the Bible teach us about what it means to be smart.

A prudent man, a wise woman, sees danger and hides. Goes in the other direction. Doesn’t go there. But the simple, which is a very nice biblical way to say the stupid people, the simple go on and suffer for it (Proverbs 22:3). Life is going to give you things where, when you see them, you should go in the other direction. Particularly, don’t be tempted to fall into fear and panic by your own feelings or perceptions of reality. Don’t go there. Let the Bible make you wiser.

And here’s what I want to say about today: the very best way to be wise, when you’re scared, is to choose to have hope. Romans 5:2, Paul writes through him, through Jesus Christ, We have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope. What lies ahead? We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we can rejoice. We can even rejoice in our sufferings. Why? Because we know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, which has been given to us.

Consequently, at the end of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul reminds us there are three things that stick, there are three things that last, there are three things that remain. There are three things that abide. So faith, hope and love abide. When everything else is passed, those three will still be here. These three, but the greatest of these is love.

Friends, your hope has great power. And hope is a form of thankfulness. Hope is a form of gratitude. We can always choose to have hope. We can always look in the darkness for that little sliver of light that shows us the path to being grateful and blessed.

There’s a sociologist from Houston by the name of Dr. Brené Brown, who absolutely is a woman who is a genius. And she has this little phrase to deal with cognitive distortions: The story I’m telling myself … Because friends, we are always telling ourselves a story.

And she tells an experience of her and her husband swimming from one side of the lake where they were on vacation to the other. And it seemed to her that her husband was being a little distant, that he was being a little unfriendly, that he was being a little cold, distant from her. And she began to worry about what that would mean. And she began fortune-telling, mind-reading, figuring out what he was thinking. And she was wrong.

But the stories she was telling herself were such negative stories, that by the time she got to the other side of the lake, she was convinced that he was going to divorce her and leave her and the children because of some reason or another. She was all worked up like that.

So she looked at her husband and she said, “What’s wrong?”
And he said, “I don’t want to talk about it”.
And then he took off swimming to the other side of the lake.

Well, as you can imagine, the stories she was telling yourself as she tried to catch up to him, were not very happy stories.

And I’ve found this phrase to be incredibly useful. I don’t know that I’ve used it with anyone in this room, but I could say something like the story I’m telling myself is, I think you’re upset with me about something. Is that true? And I may find out that I’m completely wrong.

But if the story I’m telling myself is even a little bit true, it’ll be a lot better to find out that you stubbed your toe or something you ate disagreed with you, or maybe I did do something, and I can ask you to forgive me. And I can keep that bad story I told myself from becoming true.

Our stories that we tell ourselves describe our perspective, how we view the world, but we can always choose to view the world around us with thankful eyes.
We can always choose to be grateful.

We can always practice what I jokingly refer to as the Minnesota state motto, no matter how bad it is, you just look up at the sky or whatever and say, “Well, could be worse.” That’s a way of choosing to be grateful: “Could be worse.”

Being someone who is a mind reader and a fortune teller, if you’re not sure what could be worse, come and ask me. I’ll invent something that will scare us both to death because that’s the problem with a mind that’s creative. If you turn it in that bad direction, it will create bad things in your imagination. But don’t let them become real. Instead of that, choose hope.

The same scientist, psychiatrist David Burns, that is the main author in this area of psychology called cognitive behavioral therapy has also made this statement. You’ve heard me say it before. The reason I’ve said it before is because it’s true.

Hope is the most powerful antidepressant.

I guarantee you, no matter what you’re afraid of that might happen in the future, no matter what’s happened in the past that has caused you to feel that there’s no hope, or that everything is going into the trash for the future, if you can find something to be hopeful about, it will pull you out of that dark place. Something that you can be hopeful about is that little sliver of light that will show you the way out? And if you can put it to words, if you can write it down on a note and stick it on the bathroom mirror to remind you that even though life is hard …

Why? Why is life hard? Because you got out of bed. But your little note will remind you that even though life is hard, God is still surrounding you with love and care and whatever that reason for hope is:
My daughter brings me joy.
I love the flowers.
I love the goofy look on my husband’s face when I make him macaroni and cheese.

Whatever it is, no matter how ridiculous, hope works. This is why this is so good, no matter how ridiculous … whatever the thing is that brings you joy, that gives you hope, that makes you ready to go on – well, it’s not Christmas yet – it will fuel and energize you to face every horrible thing that, honestly, you imagine.

Hope is the most powerful antidepressant.
Jesus inspired hope.
We can also inspire hope because hope empowers your faith.
Hope inspires energy and enthusiasm.

And I’ll tell you this too, hope doesn’t even need to be realistic. Ask any Chicago Cub fan! This year’s the one they’re going to win the World Series – Cub fans are like the world’s most beautiful example of hope giving them joy than probably anything I can think of because every single one of them has incredible amounts of hope. Hope doesn’t even need to be realistic to benefit you, to work for you.

Right now you can choose hope, the thinking cure – you don’t need a prescription, you don’t need any pills, you don’t need any money. All you need to do is begin to make a list of what can go right and then pray.

And if you need to do something, do that and let God work. You can try hope at any time, any day, in any situation. Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in your hope. Tell yourself a new story. And this story let it be one with a happy ending. Let it be one to where your team wins. Let it be one that when the final buzzer sounds, your shot is the one that is nothing but net and you win!

Friends never lose in your imagination. You can try hope, as Paul says, “Rejoice in your hope. Be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer and let hope fill your prayers.”

Now, having said that, I do need to ask you to be a little bit reasonable. Be hopeful, but don’t be stupid. The story you tell yourself should not be,” I can get away with this.” The story you tell yourself really shouldn’t be, “Other people get a traffic ticket, but I can drive through here as fast as I want.” Let’s not be foolish. As the proverb said earlier, be prudent. Don’t go there.

But no matter what your situation, you can always be hopeful, but hope often requires that you be able to patiently wait. Most of us do not have this much patience. I guarantee you if you set a people treat on my nose, it will not last a minute!

But sometimes hope requires us to wait for God to work and for the answer to prayer. It requires us to have a patient faith. Sadly, a lot of folks have an impatient faith. “If God is real, God’s got to do what I want right now!” they say. That kind of faith is often disappointed.

But if you have a patient faith, I believe that you will come to see when God says, “It’s time. Eat the biscuit. It’s time for your prayer to be answered.” You will find that it’s reasonable to hope in God’s love.

So Halloween is over … we probably still have some chocolate for little kids. But the time of scaring yourself, let it be over. We need to move on to the next holiday and not get stuck in the scary times of Halloween. We need to move on to Thanksgiving.

And I think it’s really interesting how the sequence of three holidays works. The time of being afraid is supposed to be replaced by a time of being thankful. It’s what’s supposed to happen. And the time of being thankful gives way to the arrival of Jesus Christ to help us in this life – because, brothers and sisters, in a little bit now you’re going to get up from this pew and probably life’s going to get harder, just like it got harder this morning when you got out of bed. But if we hang on to our hope, if we hang on to our faith, if we hang on to the belief that God loves us and God is working, we will be able to do what we need to do.

We won’t be able to deal with everything we imagine could go wrong. But if you keep your eyes focused on reality, most likely you will be able to deal with what you’re dealing with right now.

Now, if you’re sitting there and you’re thinking that’s not true of me, the doctor said “Cancer” to me, but didn’t tell me there was a cure. If you’re sitting here today and are feeling it’s really hard to hope, what you need is for people who love you to come around you and pray with you, because, if you don’t have enough hope, they can lend you hope. If you don’t have enough faith, they can lend you faith. And if God seems far away they can be God with skin on right here. Because if you let me know, if you let someone else in this room know that you need prayer, you will not be left alone.

Please pray with me, “Lord Jesus, from the minute we get out of bed and start going through life, we know that difficult things can happen. Life is harder after we get up. Life is harder after church gets over, but Lord being with you gives us strength to deal with whatever lies ahead. And so, Lord, help us to understand. Help us to perceive the world around us with eyes of faith and hope and love. So that cognitive distortions do not cause us to sink down into darkness. Help us, Lord, to see the world clearly as a place to where you love your people. And you are there to be with us. We ask for this gift 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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