Sermon February 13, 2022: Love Is Receiving (Epiphany 6)

Photo by Sharon Coyne

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/676674408

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3nIcYVbfEs

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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 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 Breathe on Me, Breath of God
Breathe on Me, Breath of God by SE Samonte (Philippines)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5keJHZdWYM

(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 − 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 Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
Alan Jackson – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKAPHjficIc

(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: Love Is Receiving.
Text: Matthew 22:36-40, 1 John 4:16-19
Series: Love Is …

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

Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

1 John 4:16 So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because he first loved us.

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HYMN Be Still, My Soul
Be Still My Soul – A cappella – Eclipse 6 – Official Video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqKVFYD8Obc

(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

For the past five Sundays, we’ve been talking about tools … I could call them power tools for spiritual growth, with the idea that it’s possible for us to take the high, beautiful spirituality that we feel during Christmas and help it to last all year. Having finished with the fifth tool last week, I prayed, ” … Lord, what do our people need to hear next?” And I prayed over that.

I began to realize that I had talked about only one part of the Christmas season, only one part of what makes it so special, and how we could hang on to that. And I had neglected what, certainly, could be the most important reason why Christmas is so powerful and meaningful as a spiritual reality. And that’s the reality, that Christmas is an emotional time. It’s an emotional season.

If you look at the famous Christmas movies, the Miracle on 34th Street, the little girl’s mother can’t access her feelings. Sorrow in her past has frozen her ability to feel. And she does not believe in God and does not believe in Christmas.

Even more familiar to all of us, Scrooge has no feelings. His heart is frozen. More recently, we have the story of the Grinch, who thinks that Christmas is about all the decorations and all about the presents. And if he can take away all those things about Christmas, then he will have ended Christmas. And every one of these stories reminds us of the very deep truth. Christmas is a time when we feel very deeply.

Our feelings toward God in gratitude for sending Jesus Christ fill our hearts with warmth. And that same warmth begins to be shared with other people. We are more willing to help. We are more willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. We’re more willing to forgive people. We’re more willing to forgive ourselves because of the feelings that are associated with Christmas.

Christmas is much more than going through the motions. It’s much more than putting up decorations. It’s much more than buying presents and giving presents. It’s much more than giving and receiving. All of those things are valuable. All of those things are important. They should be done in the right way. But that’s a little bit like tuning up your car. Perhaps, you are one of those people that restores antique cars, vintage cars. You work really hard to get everything exactly right but you know, there’s something– If you don’t put fuel in the tank, when you turn the switch nothing good happens.

Friends, our feelings are the fuel that our life runs on. Feelings provide the energy for us to do what needs to be done. And so for the past five weeks, we’ve talked about the how and what you should do. Today I want to encourage you to add feelings to it.

Something happened to me a few years ago. (A picture of my 2012 wedding is on the screen.) Ironically, it will be 10 years this June 16th. But this was a day when feelings were important. Now, if you’ve been through a wedding, you know that everyone’s greatly concerned about everything happening just the way it’s supposed to. Everything’s supposed to happen in exactly a certain way. No mistakes by the organist, no mistakes by the ushers, certainly no mistakes by the groom. We want everything to go just right. But you know something? Everything done right … going through the motions … is going to be insufficient to sustain the marriage that comes after the wedding. Because sooner or later, and we men complain about this greatly. Sooner or later, relationships involve emotions. And sooner or later, we realize if we take care of the emotions, the relationship will tend to take care of itself.

Now transfer that over to religion for just a moment. Have you ever heard the phrase that somebody did something religiously? Have you thought about what that means? That means going through the motions and getting all the motions exactly right. And generally speaking, doing it as a matter of routine without much, if any, feeling whatsoever.

But friends, if we don’t have feelings in our faith, in a lot of ways we don’t have fuel to do what we need to do.

We need to go back to something very basic. And of course, this is the Christmas story. Here’s the Christmas story in one verse: For God so lovedFor God so loved the world that he gave his only son. There’s the Christmas story in just a few words. When I was three years old, my mother says I preached my very first sermon. Three years old, I stood up in the Christmas program, and in this loud voice that went to every corner of the Church, I said, “The gifts we give and the gifts we receive remind us of the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ at Christmas.”

So here’s the thing I want to remind you about Christmas, friends: God is looking for a relationship. God is looking for a relationship with all those people in the world that God so loved. And here’s the secret. Here’s what brings power to this truth: Relationships involve emotions.

Now, it’s good for us to do what we need to do, and it’s good for us to do it well. It never helps a marriage or any relationship to burn the toast. Nonetheless, relationships involve emotions.

Now, when you talk about doing things religiously, there was probably no one in this world or in the history of the world that was ever more serious than John Wesley. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, was extremely deliberate and insistent upon doing things right and doing the right things. And he was always in a hurry. But he learned to slow down and feel. We’ll talk a little bit more about that in a bit.

At the beginning of his ministry, as a lecturer in New Testament Greek at Oxford University, he preached a sermon in the Chapel at Oxford called Salvation by Faith. And he described what is the faith that will cause us to be saved. And he named a number of things that it’s not. And the third one he named is the faith of a devil. Because he pointed out, the devil knows with certainty that God is God. The devil knows with certainty the truth of all of the theology about God. The devil has no doubt.

But John Wesley says to the people in the Oxford Chapel that day and to the people all over England, the faith of a devil is not sufficient. And from the faith of a devil, the faith that saves us is fully distinguished by this. It is not barely a speculative, rational thing, a cold and lifeless assent, a train of ideas in the head, the correct belief, the correct theology, the correct ethics. Because the devil knows what’s right and what’s wrong. But the faith that saves us is also a disposition of the heart. The world has changed quite a bit since those days because people back then found it incredibly scandalous that a preacher would tell them that God expected them to feel something. That feeling something was necessary to be alive spiritually. The faith that saves us is something that is a disposition of the heart.

Here’s how Jesus put it. This happened several times in the Gospels in several different contexts. This is the one from Matthew 22. Jesus was asked, “Teacher, what’s the great commandment? What’s the highest priority? What’s important? What’s the great commandment in the law?” And Jesus said to him, “You shall–“ This is not a suggestion. “You shall love …” All of a sudden, everything got harder, because love can be mysterious and perplexing and astonishing. Every child instantly recognizes it, but we adults make it so complicated.

But Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God …” This is what God wants. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. That might take us a while to learn.

And with all your soul. Now, the Greek word for soul, translated, means to be a person of integrity. Your soul is your personality and you doing what’s right, to have character and integrity. God wants you to love God in a way that is filled with integrity and character.

And not only that, with all your mind. And when this comes up in the book of Mark, what’s added to it is, with all your strength. This is what God wants.

And somehow at Christmas time all of a sudden we become better at loving God. And if there was only one thing you could do all year long, I would have to tell you – in spite of the five things I told you to do earlier this year – it would be for you to focus on loving God in just this way.

This is meant to be an emotional day. I’m not sure all of you will be looking at this at 5:30 today. This is the stadium where the Super Bowl will take place. And I’d like to invite you to think about all the work that’s involved in getting to the point to where you get to play in this game. Because the two best teams are meeting today. How did they get here?

Well, I want to suggest to you that they played with all their heart. But they cared very deeply about the work that they did on the football field. You see, you don’t get to this game by being heartless. You get to this game by playing with all your heart.

In the same way, you don’t get to this game by being soulless. By being a cheater. By being someone without integrity or character. You have to learn to do the right thing on the football field. Game after game after game. And that’s what gets you here. To play with all your soul.

And of course, you cannot win anything if you play in a way that is mindless. It requires all your mind.

And certainly, since this is a contest of strength, it requires all their strength. I guarantee you these players got a good night’s sleep last night because that’s what leads to winning at this level.

And it also helps us to understand coming toward God because when you look at the game tonight, you’re going to see how much joy they have. Whenever there’s a touchdown or something to celebrate, you’re going to see the emotional celebration. Whenever a mistake is made, you’re going to see the disappointment. You’re going to see that this game is played in an emotional way and that will bring out the best in everyone.

Love is always more a who than anything else. God does want you to believe the right things. God wants you to do the right things, but God is more interested in you, and because God is interested in you, God cares about everything that is around that. God is looking for a relationship where God is loved with all your heart and God would not wish any of us to be heartless.

God is loved with all your soul and God would not wish any of us to be lacking in integrity or character, to be a phony, to be a cheat.

God wishes to be loved with all of our mind and God would not wish for you or I to be mindless or foolish.

God is looking for a relationship where we love with all of our strength, and in order for us to do that, we will have to not be in a hurry and occasionally stop, take a moment to feel the feelings. And as you watch the end zone celebrations today, I’m not so much saying that you should do that around your house when something good happens … but why not? When something’s good, give yourself a moment to feel the feelings that come with that because it’s a wonderful thing when our faith becomes emotional and out of that emotion, you will find yourself saying thank you, God.

In fact, isn’t that the truth? You’re driving home and the sunset is beautiful. Do you take a moment to say, thank you, God? A wonderful thing happens to you, do you take a moment to say, thank you, God? Because every one of those acts of noticing and responding, it’s like a Valentine.

This is one of my favorite cartoons of all time. It’s a New Yorker cartoon. It’s written by Edward Frascino. It’s entitled Not One Crummy Valentine. Now, please understand, this is imaginary. This is a cartoon. The whole purpose of it is to make us laugh, but the cartoonist is asking us to imagine Santa coming to the mailbox. Remember that mailbox stuffed with what everybody wants all Christmas season long?

But after everybody unwraps every present, after every toy is played with, and perhaps when Valentine’s Day comes around, nobody remembers the giver of all the gifts. When you think of your prayers, sometimes (if we focus on things too much) our prayers become a long list of things we want, either for ourselves or perhaps, more nobly, for other people.

But when it comes time to send up a prayer that’s a Valentine, are you and I lacking in appreciating God for all the different ways that God has loved us?

You see, to have a faith that is living and powerful today, we need to go beyond thinking about what we believe. We need to go beyond thinking what we ought to do. We need to go beyond being religious in a religious way, doing faith religiously.

We need to start thinking about who, and of course, the who that comes first is the God who loves us.

And when you start thinking about who, you’ll start thinking the way God thinks. You’ll start seeing the world around you the way God sees it … because who comes first.
Lots of other things are important, but who comes first. God is focused on who.

And that leads me to say, without any doubt whatsoever, God is focused on you and cares deeply about every part of your life. And it’s so easy for us to get anxious and get busy and forget who is our greatest friend. What a friend we have in Jesus is a great truth! And you know something? When we begin to recognize God’s acts of love toward us, we’ll begin to feel some emotions, and that’s a good thing.

Now back to John Wesley. Remember, he was the guy who did everything right. He was very, very busy. Back in those days, when there was no television or radio, what would they do for fun? They would go to somebody’s house and a person there would read a book.
So listen to John Wesley here. This is in May,

“In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans.” Very unwillingly, yet he did what he should do. And look what happened, “About a quarter before nine, while the reader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.” See, prior to this moment, John Wesley was an expert on what God did in everybody else’s heart. But it had never happened to his heart.

And it’s from language like this that we come to talk about Jesus coming into your heart. And you can say it like that, or you can say it like John Wesley said, “My heart, all of a sudden, unfroze and warmed up.” Or, you can say, “All of a sudden, my heart opened up, and I began to feel.”

“I felt,” John Wesley writes. “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for Salvation.” And because he began to feel something, he could then write this: And an assurance was given to me – a feeling! – that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

Friends, I want to suggest to you what gives Christmas its power is during the Christmas season, is that we are willing to feel.

And what will give your faith power today, tomorrow, next month, all year long, all life long will be if you allow yourself the freedom to begin to heal and begin to feel, because God is looking for a relationship with you. A relationship that involves all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength, because … see what it say in 1st John 4, God is love. And he who abides in love, rests in love, remains in love, abides in God, and God abides in him.

The relationship that God wants to have with us, the relationship you want to have with God, it begins when love begins to happen in that relationship. And verse 17, “And this is love perfected …” It gets better and better as you and God learn to love one another! And here’s the point, just a few verses later, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love cast out fear, for fear has to do with punishment. And he who fears is not perfected in love.”

And here’s the verse that we’ve been leading up to all through this message. You and I love … We love because He first loved us. God goes first, and we respond to that love.
As we notice it, the feelings well up within us. We love because he first loved us. It’s not that you are to obey God and believe in God and love God, but God is going to go first, and as a result, you love God back. God gives you the power, the energy, the fuel, and you use that to love God back. God loves you. You love back. God loves you. You love back.

As this week went on, I dreamed about this sermon, and I woke up one morning far too early, and this phrase was running through my mind, “Thy love … unknown … hath broken every barrier down.” And I could hum the tune, but I did not recognize it. Of course, I was still half asleep. Thy love unknown hath broken every barrier down. God’s love flowing toward you and I will break every barrier down. Thank God for Google, I was able to find the hymn that’s from:

“Just as I am, thy love unknown
hath broken every barrier down …
O Lamb of God, I come. I come.”

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we are so thankful that you are looking for a relationship, because we are not always the best of servants. We are not always the best of Christians. We are not always even what we would call good people. Nonetheless, you are looking for a relationship with us, and to make it possible, you sent Jesus to this earth so that we could learn what it means for God to love us. And Lord, with your help, we could learn to love you back because you loved us first. You’re the one that began this relationship. You’re the one that calls us to walk with you because you want to be the friend of sinners, the friend of us.
And so, Lord, I pray the love that you have planted within the hearts of people would deepen and strengthen and grow, and that as we notice again and again and again all around us, evidence that demonstrates that you love us, Lord, help us to respond by loving you back, to pray a prayer that is like a Valentine, that acknowledges with gratitude the love you sent toward us, by saying back in a prayer: “Lord, we love you.”

Thank you for loving us. Help us, Lord, to let the faith we have grow as love within our hearts toward you in all the seasons of this year. And we ask this in Jesus’s name. 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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