Sermon January 9, 2022: Tool #1. Daily Devotions (Epiphany 1

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/663804047

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3VQVHVoZY1

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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 this prayer:

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. 
Help me to realize your worldview.
Lord, I obey. Help my disobedience. 
Clarify my reality. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow;  help me to stay on the path. 
Thank you for the path, for guidance, for providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge 
in every human situation. 
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine. 
May this be true for me! Amen.

HYMN How Great Thou Art
Josh Turner – How Great Thou Art (Live From Gaither Studios)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpyRCB7uy0o

(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 − 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.

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 Lord, I Want to Be a Christian
Lord, I Want to Be a Christian by the Grosse Pointe Memorial Church (Michigan) Virtual Choir with James Biery, director and organist.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M212opRGkEw

(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: Tool #1. Daily Devotions
Text: Mark 1:35, 12:28-34
Series: Daily Christmas Resolutions

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

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SERMON NOTES

Mark 1:35 And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.

Mark 12:28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’

31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; 33 and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any question.

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HYMN I Need Thee Every Hour
Randy Owen, The Isaacs – I Need Thee Every Hour [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfPZ9mRIKgs

(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

Last Sunday, the very last part of the celebration of Christmas, I suggested this to you as our New Year’s resolution, that we choose to be a Christian all year long. We go through the Christmas season, and we think to ourselves, “Why can’t people be like this all year long, drawn to God and loving that Jesus came at Christmas, kind to each other? Why can’t we be like that all year long?”

And the answer is very simple, we can. The problem is we have to work at it now.

Now, you are people who have worked hard your whole lives. Working at something is not something that’s difficult for you to do. But it doesn’t just happen unless all the advertising pushes us along. But it can happen if we are willing to work at it, to allow Jesus to come into our lives, not just as he did at Christmas so long ago, but to come and stay, to be present, to be a part of every day as Emmanuel – one of those names for Jesus we talk about a Christmas – which literally means God with us. So what do we do, and how do we work at it?

Well, tool number one, I would suggest to you is a daily devotion. A daily devotion can be an hour spent in prayer. But it can also be a minute. But the key part of that minute is that we realize and remember who we belong to and surrender … to ask Jesus to be Emmanuel, God with us.

Sometime later this month, certainly by the Super Bowl, I will actually watch my first NFL football game this year. I hate to tell you that’s the kind of quality sports fan I am. It’s only as it heads toward the playoffs that it starts to get interesting.

And you know how it works. The players are down on the field and the fans are up in the stands. All of the fans are so happy when their team is winning.

But let me ask you to contemplate for just a minute who is actually winning? It’s the team down on the field that is winning. And they’re working very hard to win. But all of the fans are along for the ride. They’re in the audience. They’re happy. They’re excited. But you know something? The team doesn’t win because of the fans. The team wins because of what they do.

Friends, I don’t know what the Super Bowl this year is going to be like, but it might look like this. This is the first major League Baseball game that was played without anyone, any fans in the stands. It happened on Wednesday, April 29, 2015. It was a regularly scheduled game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox. Articles have been written about how this was so unusual. The Orioles won eight to two, and four of those runs came– I think it was in the third inning when a player for Baltimore hit a home run and the ball soared up into the seats … in complete silence. The players ran around the bases and there were no cheers. But the score is still counted because whether there’s an audience or not, the players still do what the players do and they do their best.

Friends, it’s a wonderful thing for the audience to be full. Prior to this, the lowest attendance at an Orioles game was 600 fans. But whether there are any fans in the stands at all, the players will still play the game and do their best because that’s what players do.

And the United Methodists– the early Methodists, they were here to play. They were here to work. They were extremely serious and committed. In fact, they were so serious and committed, people made fun of them because of how committed they were. In fact, the word Methodist was one of the words that were used to make fun of them because they had a method and they were going to work their method all year long.

Like it says in the Wesley Covenant Prayer, the prayer believes that God is wiser than you and I, and so they literally surrender. Lord, do what you will. Let me be full. Let me be empty. Put me to doing. Put me to suffering. Let me be employed for thee. Let me just sit and do nothing and wait for thee. Exalted, brought low. Lord, whatever it is, Thy will be done all year long. I freely and heartily yield all things to Thy pleasure and disposal.

And that’s what it meant to the early Methodists to be down on the field. They were players and participants in what God was doing, and they were ready to work hard at it for God. And they were ready to trust God even when times were hard and did not seem to be going their way.

Friends, I want to suggest that that sort of surrender is the essential part of a daily devotion. As one song says, “God is God, and I am not.” And in this surrender, that’s what we acknowledge.

Well, if you’re going to have a daily devotion, what time? Well, I recommend that it comes first. In fact, this was Jesus’s habit. We believe Jesus’s practice: Mark 1:35. “And in the morning, a great while before day, he wrote that went out to a lonely place. And there he prayed.

Your devotion needs quiet. Your devotion probably needs for you to be alone, so that you will not be distracted. This is a picture of the sun coming up over the sea of Galilea. Jesus might have actually seen the sunrise just like this, on this day described in Mark 1:35.

But before Jesus did other things, he surrendered and made things right with God. And took this time to inquire– and to consider what God’s will was … for this day. That’s at the heart of a daily devotion.

Here’s what I think is the other part. Let’s call this the question. Mark chapter 12:28, one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another. For some reason, people wanted to argue with Jesus! And seeing that Jesus answered them well, one of the scribes asked Jesus – which commandment is the first of all? The rabbis would have this kind of debate all the time. They would say, “If you had to choose between– breaking this commandment, or breaking that commandment, which one would you choose as the priority?”

Jesus did not fall to the trick of trying to choose one over another. Here was his answer: “The first is: hear, O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall – in other words, what you need to do – you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. And with all your soul. And with all your mind. And with all your strength.”

And I think you could call this your daily emotion, because it may be possible for you to love like a machine. Or a computer. But the way God made people to love is with emotion. In fact, one author on the subject of change and getting things done says, “Emotion is the fuel. It’s the energy. To do what we need to do.” Let yourself feel. Let yourself feel the daily emotion.

And what follows that is, well, you could call it the daily direction. Where does God want us to direct our attention? The second is this, Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And then, he answers that question of priority, “There is no other commandment greater than these.”

These two statements summarize everything that God wants from us. Everything. And so, therefore, as you go through your day, your day of prayer, your day of work, your day of interacting with people, everything you do fits into these two. The emotion of love toward God, the direction of attention toward your neighbor.

And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is and there’s no other but He and to love Him with all your heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength and to love one’s neighbor as oneself – listen carefully here – is much more than anything that happens in the temple. It’s much more important than anything that happens in the church. It’s much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices, which was the heart of their worship. These two things are more important!

And Jesus says something very amazing to this man. And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, Jesus said to him, “You are not far. You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any question. Do you know why? His answer would have been the same. “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.” He had answered every possible question that they might use to trap him or debate him.

So here’s the thing about your devotion. There is a question, “How far are you from the Kingdom of God? What is your daily distance?” And the purpose of your daily devotional is to make that distance zero. It is analogous to taking the power cord and plugging it into the power of God. Because you take the time to have a daily devotion, there is no distance.

Let’s talk about that, however. How far to the Kingdom of God–? You see, when people think about churches, they have this question, “Does God want me to be a fan? Or does Jesus want me to be a follower?”

You see, fans have to make their way to the game, which is on Sunday. So you can see all the fans going down that wide level, easy highway to get to the game on time. And in the same way, I know on your way to church this morning, you saw all the traffic jam as everybody competed for the closest parking spot to get to church this morning … Or well, maybe it wasn’t like that as you were coming to church. But wouldn’t it be great if it was that way?

The road is always emptier if it’s the road of following. And our daily devotions … which help us to focus our emotion on God, focus our direction on our neighbor … help us to go down that road less traveled, that is the road of the follower rather than the fan. And that leads to the difference.

When you think about it, here you have thousands of people in the stands at a professional football game. They love the game. But there is a vast difference between a fan and a player. They view the game completely differently. They see what is going completely differently. And what makes that difference?

What makes that difference, literally, is their practice. You see, the fans show up on Sunday. And then they’re done for the week. But the players go out to practice every day. They spend more hours in practice than they ever spend on the field in the game. And day by day, friends, that difference seriously adds up.

There’s an old story. I don’t know if it’s true or not. The very famous concert pianist, Patirowski, was on the streets of New York City and was approached by a young man who had tickets to a performance. And he asked the conductor– he asked the pianist, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” You may have heard this. The conductor looked up in the sky, and he shook his head. And he looked at the young man, and he said, “Practice, practice, practice.”

Now, I have always known my entire life that I was never going to be a professional football player. I was never going to be a professional basketball player. And I’m sad to tell you I had to realize I was also never going to be a professional guitar player because I didn’t practice.

In fact, they’ve studied this. They’ve studied high school basketball teams. Typically, they’re divided into the first string, the second string, the third string. Psychologists actually studied this. What is the difference? And while some young men had natural talents, what the study showed is that the most profound difference was this: the young boys on the first string spent significantly more time practicing, more time than the young men on the second string. And the young men on the third string, literally, they never had a basketball in their hands until it was time to go to practice all week long. The more practice time, the more a person achieved. And the first string, they would come home from practice, have supper with their family, and they’d be out on the driveway shooting baskets until it was too dark to see. And over the years, thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of more practice made a better, more skilled player because the things that we do as regular practice add up.

And so you and I have to consider as a part of our faith … it’s a wonderful thing to come here to Church and hear a brilliant sermon. Someday, that will happen. But the truth is, friend, it’s when we practice our faith that our faith gets stronger. We can be inspired and worship. We can turn on Christian radio and listen to songs that move our spirits. But when we practice our faith, our faith, perhaps inspired by what we hear, our faith gets stronger.

You may have heard the name … Tony Dungy became the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, perennial losers in the National Football League. Within a year of him being there, they were in the playoffs again and again and again and again. And the team that he built– he actually got fired, but the team that he built won the Super Bowl the year after he got fired.

He was hired by the Indianapolis Colts and led them to the playoffs, immediately, the year he was hired. He soon led them to their first Super Bowl in 30 years. And he had one philosophy– by the way, Tony Dungy is a very deeply devoted Christian man, but his philosophy was this, my players are making too many decisions on the field during the game. And so he guided everything in practice so that a player would automatically understand what was needed and begin to do that before they even consciously understood what was needed on the field.

Here’s what Tony Dungy said. He said, “Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking; too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”

Tony Dungy simplified the offense from a giant playbook down to just a few plays. When they hiked the ball, the other team always knew exactly what they were going to do, but they did it so well. They did it so quickly. They did it so automatically that they were ahead of the other team’s attempt to stop them. And friends, this is what won Super Bowls. By doing what they needed to do, they got better and better at it until they became unstoppable.

So how can our church be a Christian church all year long? How can we practice our faith all year long? Well, simply, we need to get started. And as we do what God wants us to do, we will steadily improve and gain in strength.

So I want to suggest to you this reality. This year, shall we practice what we preach? Shall we do all week long what we talk about on Sundays? Why not? But it will start with our daily devotion. Again, whether you spend an hour or you spend 1 minute, will you begin by giving your life to God?

And from that devotional moment of surrender, whether it’s the Upper Room, or that you add to it, or something more challenging, will you build on that? And strengthen your faith to act not just as a Christian for an hour a week, but seven days a week listening to God and doing God’s will?

And what is God’s will? It’s that we let our hearts feel love for God, all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Love God and let God love you all year long. And this will build within our hearts and lives.

And as you listen to God, let God give you direction. Part of your devotion is to ask, as Ben Franklin did, “What good shall I do today?
“Lord, what do you want me to do today?”
And you know what the answer may be? “Just go out there and have a nice day.”

But if we begin by asking our Lord and Savior, “What’s my direction? What are the instructions for today?” – God will send us out to live in our neighborhood and to love our neighbor, and day by day, the benefits and the results will pile up.

Please pray with me: Lord Jesus, thank you that we can be in the audience, that we can hear a good sermon, that we can be inspired by the songs that we sing. Thank you, Lord, that we can sit and listen. But, Lord, I thank you even more that you want people to get into the game. That you invite us, not to be the audience, but you invite us to be on the team, to be the players, the people who are doing your will. And so, Lord, help us to show up for practice, to increase our skills, to increase our faith so that the quality of what we do as we do your will builds throughout the year. Help us, Lord, to use the tools to be faithful participants in all that you’re doing. And 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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