Sermon November 21, 2021: Follow The Recipe (Pentecost 26)

Brian Kelley Cheese Soup Recipe 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:




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

HYMN We Gather Together…
THE HYMNS ENSEMBLE – We Gather Together… “Lockdown Session”

(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 This Little Light of Mine
Bruce Springsteen with the Sessions Band – This Little Light of Mine (Live In Dublin)

(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: Follow The Recipe
Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Series: Grateful

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


1 Thess 5:16-24

16 Rejoice always,
17 pray constantly,
18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

19 Do not quench the Spirit,
20 do not despise prophesying,
21 but test everything; hold fast what is good, 22 abstain from every form of evil.

23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.


HYMN Blessed Assurance
Blessed Assurance Christian Worship Song Lyrics

(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!


Today, I’d like to talk to you about the value of recipes. But the value of a recipe happens when we follow the recipe.

But let’s change the subject for just a moment. This is a football game: 11 men are lined up on one side of the football and 11 men are lined up on the other side of the football, and every single one of them is completely and totally focused on right now. A play has been called. Others will respond to what they see happening but each person is clearly focused, and dare I say it, each person knows what they are supposed to do because they’re focused on the present moment.

Last week, we talked about cognitive distortions and how they tend to pull us into dark places, how they tend to work on our emotions and work on how intellectually we perceive the world around us, often to the point to where if we allow the wrong perception to operate on us, we can be pulled into a chronic depression. But what you might not have realized is frequently the way that works is the cognitive distortion pulls us to focus on the past, every time we’ve failed before, every mistake we’ve done. Friends, if those players are focused on every bad thing that’s ever happened to them on the football field, they will not be able to play at their best. Cognitive distortions pull us into the past. Cognitive distortions cause us to imagine a painful and negative future. Cognitive distortions cause us to focus on our fears of what could happen. If these players focus on all the things that could go wrong, they will not be able to do their best. They have to remain in the present moment.

I don’t know if you’ve heard this term: mindfulness. But there is a practice, some call it meditation, that involves us just simply being in the present moment. Letting go of the past, letting go of what could happen in the future, and simply be right here, right now and then we’ll be able to do our very best.

Biologist, neurologist, research scientist Robert Sapolsky in his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers – that’s an odd title, isn’t it? The point of the title is that zebras don’t spend any time whatsoever worrying about the past, they don’t spend any time whatsoever worrying about the future, they’re entirely in the present and they can deal with it.

“There is no stress in the current moment.” Why? If we can focus on right now, it is probably a present – thanks be to God – that we can handle.

You and I can cope with what we need to cope with right now. When we become overwhelmed, it’s because we drag all the baggage of the past into it. We drag all the hurt and fear and pain we imagined could happen into the future into right now. And all of a sudden, we realize that there’s more than we can handle, and we feel overwhelmed. The present is a good place to be.

A few days from now, you will be cooking your Thanksgiving dinner. If you’re cooking it for yourself, well, that’s one thing. But maybe some of you are having 10 people, 20 people, 30 people coming to your house, and it’s going to be a stressful time. It certainly would be easy to be overwhelmed. And, in fact, the most stressful, joyful also, but the most stressful times of the year start with a holiday of Thanksgiving and marches right on up to Christmas. It is easy for us to be overwhelmed. And for that reason today, I want to encourage you to stay in the present moment. These football players, they’re not even thinking about the next play. They’re not even thinking about the play after that. They’re focused on what they need to do right now. If you have mashed potatoes on the stove, don’t let yourself be distracted by the turkey. It’s good to let one thing happen at a time because you can handle one thing!

Not only that, you’ll notice there are 11 of those players – I hope your Thanksgiving dinner involves 11 people all doing their part because if your sister-in-law brings her Jell-O salad, and your aunt brings the cheesecake she makes from scratch, if everybody on this team does what they need to do, there will be much less for you to do. One of the quickest answers, when we feel overwhelmed, is to let other people help. And hopefully, you can trust them to do what needs to be done.

If you find yourself overwhelmed in the coming days, I would like to encourage you to take a minute, perhaps sit down, take a deep breath – the mashed potatoes can wait long enough for you to take a deep breath – take a deep breath, and let yourself come to the present moment and do what needs to be done in that present moment.

In Acts Chapter 16, Paul and Silas are arrested. They are beaten. They are thrown into jail. They are confined by irons and stocks. If that was you or I, I’d be thinking about my wounds and how much it hurt to have been beaten. If that was you or I, we might be worried about what the judge was going to do to us the next day. But instead of worrying about the past or the future about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying. And they were singing hymns to God. And the other prisoners were also listening to them in the present moment. And all of a sudden in the present moment there was a great earthquake that shook the jail, broke open the stocks, released the chains from the walls. Which of course would allow all the prisoners to escape.

And the jailer pulled his sword and was about to kill himself because he’d be executed for allowing that to happen. And Paul cries out with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself for we are all here.” Now me I’d be telling Paul, “Let’s run while we can.” No. Paul stays in the present moment, “Do not harm yourself. We are all still here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas and brought them out and said, “Men what must I do to be saved?”

Friends, one of the most beautiful things that you can do, one of the most powerful things that you can do, is that when you feel overwhelmed, when you are in the midst of struggle, one of the most powerful things that you can do is demonstrate your faith so that people can see your faith helping you. Paul and Silas faced grave problems the next day but they set aside the future. And in the moment they began to give thanks, to rejoice and sing and praise God. And this made a powerful impression on the jailer. He wanted what he saw them experiencing.

Let me introduce you to my mother and father on the day of their wedding. I never forget the day of their wedding because they were married on November 18 and my mom’s birthday is January 18, so I remember. This is on their wedding day. By the time I was born four years later, my mother was no longer a blonde. (Apparently, small children just take that blonde right out of you!)

But my mother was one of four daughters, one brother, five children. She was the fourth child next to the youngest. And by the time she was growing up when she would go into the kitchen her mother was so busy getting food ready for everybody that her mother was unable to calmly teach my mother how to help her in the kitchen. It was easier to do it herself. And the times that my mother tried to help, I guess my grandmother was very impatient with her. Perhaps you remember that from your childhood, a parent being impatient because you don’t know what to do until someone teaches you. You don’t know how to do something till someone shows you. And my grandmother didn’t have time to do that.

So my mother got married. And she herself would tell you she had no idea whatsoever how to cook. Nonetheless, she had a secret. Thank God for Betty Crocker. For her entire life, my mother would follow the recipe. She would never cook anything without finding a recipe, following it precisely and carefully, because then if the food wasn’t good, it was Betty Crocker’s fault! Because she had done her best. And friends, when you think about it, that’s what a recipe does, if you follow the recipe. My mom always followed the recipe.

And to some degree, I’ll have to confess to you, I still do also. When a box of macaroni and cheese comes out of the pantry, I always look at the directions. Now, after all these years, I have to tell you, I think I know how to boil water! But I still always look at the directions. Frozen pizza comes out of the freezer – I always look at the directions. Even though I don’t need to, probably. Friends, it’s just not worth the risk. It’s easier to follow the recipe.

And there’s a Bible verse, and I like to talk about it at Thanksgiving, which I call the recipe.

There are two parts to a recipe. There is what you need, and there is what you do. And so here are Paul’s instructions from 1 Thessalonians 5. Here’s the recipe:
Number one: rejoice always.
Number two: pray constantly.
Number three: give thanks in all circumstances.

Now sometimes, it’s hard to find something to be thankful for. But you see, that’s the recipe. In everything, give thanks. Pray without ceasing. Rejoice always. Why? Look at the last line there: “For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

So there I am in the kitchen looking at that box of macaroni and cheese, or that frozen pizza. What is the will of God with regard to that pizza? Rejoice always, Pray constantly. Be thankful for the frozen pizza. Oh, and follow the directions.

Paul goes on to talk in the next section about situations where it’s not that simple to follow the recipe. When we need guidance, we need these three realities:
do not quench the spirit,
do not despise prophesying
— what’s that? That’s where the Holy Spirit speaks to you through another person. If the Holy Spirit isn’t speaking directly to you, they may speak to you through another person, which is why it’s always good to ask other people for advice.
But finally, verse 21, test everything. Hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. When the spirit is guiding you, test that guidance. Is this the right thing to do?

And what comes from the recipe is this conclusion: may the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly. Now, what does that mean? Sanctification is God moving us to be a better and better person. In the Methodist Church, we talk about going on to perfection. We’re not there yet, but we’re going toward it. God is working in our lives to make things turn out well. And may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, look at the last line there. Verse 24. He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Friends, we are blessed with recipes of many kinds. The very name of this church in history goes back to John Wesley, who believed in recipes. He and people who were part of his group would follow certain practices, follow certain habits and they were made fun of by people who said, “Look at those Methodists. They have a method.” Yes, we do. And for some things, all you need is a good recipe. A good method. So start with the recipe, but be open to the spirit in the right now, because sometimes God right now needs to help us deviate slightly from the recipe. And we need to be open to that.

Saturday afternoon something happened, which caused me to deviate from my normal recipe. Kim called me on the phone, talked about how she had gotten a call from a guy who was in Farina, Illinois. He was headed from Effingham to Jackson, Mississippi, quite a little drive and he was very worried he’d run out of gas. So he stopped in Farina and started calling the churches. He had called his pastor down in Mississippi, and his pastor said, “Perhaps one of the churches will help you.” So he started calling churches, and I’m not exactly sure how he got the Parsonage phone number, but Kim passed that information on to me.

And so now I’m in Centralia. I had just finished the hospital visit with Louise Cheatum. What do I do? Well, the recipe is you come to the church office and you get a piece of paper and then you take it to the gas station in Farina and then they can give you some gas and they bill it to the church. That’s the recipe. Well, I didn’t want to drive another 20 minutes. Should I change the recipe? So I changed the recipe. We met at the Wal-Mart in Salem. And this is a picture of his back pumping gas into his tank.

I changed the recipe, but I decided that it was important to be kind, to be merciful, to be helpful, even if the reality was that he was taking advantage, even if it’s possible that he was lying to me. He probably was. But thanks to God and to you, wonderful people, he has some gas to get down the road to wherever he’s going.

You see, when we are overwhelmed, when we are struggling, sometimes we need to adjust our recipes. That’s when we need to let the Holy Spirit guide us. And that’s the whole lesson of Pentecost. We need to remain aware and open and able to hear God guiding us so that when we change a recipe, we change it wisely. Friends, we need to, in every situation, let God be our teacher.

But the other thing from that day of pumping gas is our witness and my witness to be a kind and good person. You see, our behavior when we are overwhelmed, our behavior when we are under pressure, is a powerful witness of the power of God. Friends, we need a faith that works. And what that actually means – because faith always works on an easy day – we need a faith that works when we’re under pressure. You see life comes with problems built-in.

Life comes with struggles and difficulties. They are built-in. But will you allow your faith to help? Because, if you let your faith help you with your problems, people all around you – just like those people in jail with Paul and Silas, they see what God is doing for you and they want that also. They see the light shining in the darkness. We talked about this last week where the light shining shows people the way out of troubles. If the light is shining through you to help people to hope and believe that life can be better, that is a powerful witness for them to go toward the light, to come to Jesus, and as the jailer said, “How can I be saved?”

It’s a truth supported by sociological research. People who convert to becoming Christians convert because they’re close friends with someone who shows them by their life what it means to live as a Christian person. Now, I don’t mean by that some kind of goody-goody, hoity-toity, a perfect person. I certainly don’t mean someone who will give you little lectures about theology and how to believe in God. I mean, someone who demonstrates in their life as they struggle that God is helping them because that shows the lesson. If God can help that person, maybe God could help me. So please let your faith help you today because that will be like a light showing other people around you the way out of their troubles and difficulties.

Well, back to the football game. Or the Thanksgiving dinner. I think everybody’s got the harvest out of the fields. There are big, major undertakings that we all have in this life, but every single one of them is one task at a time. Every single one of them is like one play at a time. And if it amuses you, look at Thanksgiving dinner like a football game, “Oops, I fumbled the mashed potatoes.” If it helps you to deal with the stress of it, you go right ahead. But it is still one thing at a time. And when you feel overwhelmed, when you feel frightened, when the past tries to remind you of every time you failed before, when the future tries to scare you about how you will fail this time, stay in the now.

Because if you can focus on what’s happening right now, you will be able to see, I think, in the calmness more easily how God is ready to help you right here right now.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, I thank you for easy days when everything goes perfectly. Lord, I thank you for those days and I wish they were more common. But Lord, every now and then, there’s a day that is difficult. Help us, Lord, to understand that these difficulties and problems and things that aren’t quite perfect, they are built into this life, and because of that, Lord help us to be able to live day by day, to surrender to you, and to live moment by moment, task by task. But Lord, we ask you for your help not only because people are watching, but because we need your help every day. But especially Lord in the storm, in the darkness, amidst the things that frighten us, Lord, we need your help. And we pray that you would guide us through these days and help us to stay in the present moment where there is so much less stress. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ.

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 )

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