Sermon February 20, 2022: Love Is … Giving (Epiphany 7)

John_Nature_Photos via Pixabay

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/679578289

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3nYc3VbTLy

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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, 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 Blest Be The Tie That Binds
Blest Be The Tie That Binds, led by Bill Gaither, Atlanta, 1998
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUUE9agdb_A

(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 Come, Ye Thankful People, Come
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come by TheNCrew
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsIKn_CC55Y

(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 … Giving.
John 13, 1 John 4:7-8
Sermon 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

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:19 We love, because he first loved us. 20 If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.

John 13: 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. 5 Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded …
12 When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

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HYMN When We All Get to Heaven
Bill & Gloria Gaither – When We All Get to Heaven ft. Terry Blackwood, Karen Peck (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ClwsynwVrI

(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 few weeks, we’ve been talking about tools to power up our faith so that throughout this entire year we might have the strength of faith that we have during the Christmas season. And last week I said to you that I had missed something important: that we needed to access our emotions because the primary characteristic of Christmas is that it’s an emotional season. When God says, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” that is calling for an emotion within us.

But the other characteristics of the Christmas season, of course, are the emotions we have toward other people. We are more patient than at other times of the year. We are more kind and friendly. It seems easier to give people the benefit of the doubt. And not only that, if we see someone in need, it seems like our heart is more willing to care. God’s commandment is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. And we’ll find it much easier to do that if we can access the emotions that fill the Christmas season and allow them to draw us toward others throughout the year.

And here’s my best suggestion about how to do that. Ephesians 2:10 – I’ve shared this with you several times – “For we are His workmanship. Christ Jesus is working through us. We are created in Christ Jesus for good works, to do good things.” And here’s the key verse, “Which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

And so these good works, when they involve people, I want to suggest to you that people you encounter along your way, as you go through your day, they are there on purpose. God puts people where you will notice them as you go through your day. Perhaps you need to pray for them. Perhaps a kind word or a greeting.

Just think how often we say to people, “Merry Christmas,” in December. There’s no similar greeting for the whole year. There should be something like, “Merry, aren’t you glad you’re a Christian?” Or something like that that we can say, but there isn’t. But just saying Merry Christmas is an emotional greeting that warms the hearts of people. God puts people along the way on purpose. Because you can love them as you love yourself. Of course, as you go by them, quite obviously, they are your neighbors.

M. Scott Peck once said, “Life is difficult.” But the hard part of life being difficult is when we assume that life should always be easy, that life should always go our way, that we should always get what we want. But friends, as you know, it’s not like that. Life can be difficult.

And part of life being difficult sometimes is that people can be difficult. As you encounter the people who are along your way, some of them will be in difficult places, going through difficult times, and they will have attitudes and feelings themselves that are difficult to deal with. Some of them just simply will be difficult people. How can we make a difference?

This past week I’ve been reading Brené Brown’s new book, Atlas of the Heart, where she talks about feelings. And she quotes this phrase from George Saunder’s commencement address, “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.” And as I think about the ways that I encounter people, not just this past week, but in many years past, I find that this is true for me. I regret the opportunities that I had to be kind, and then I missed that opportunity. I failed in one way or another to be kind. What Saunders specifically refers to, he goes on to say, are those moments when another human being was there in front of me, suffering, and I responded unemotionally. The words he uses are sensibly, reservedly, mildly. In one way or another, a failure of kindness, as he’s talking about it, is a failure to help the other person perceive that we feel with them. Feelings are powerful. Feelings can help us.

Am I the person I want to be? No, I’m not. But you all are familiar with the story of the grandchild that asked his grandfather around the campfire, “Grandfather, why is there so much evil in this world?” And the grandfather tells a story. “Grandson, inside of me, there are two wolves that are fighting with each other. And one is cruel and wants to do harm, and one is kind and loving and wants to help, and they’re eternally at war.” The grandson says, “Grandfather, which one will win?” And the answer in this story is “the one that I feed.

Friends, if you want to be a happier person, feed happiness into your life. If you want to be a kinder person, take opportunities to practice kindness. Let it rise up inside of you and flow out from you, and you’ll become a kinder person – what you feel you most wish to be. If you practice that, if you sow those seeds, they will grow in your heart and you’ll be more and more the person you want to be.

Here’s how Jesus put it. John 13, the night that he was betrayed, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, Jesus poured water into a basin and he began to wash the disciples’ feet and wiped them with the towel with which he was girded. After he had washed every disciples’ feet, he sat down again and addressed them. And he said, “If I then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

Now, that might mean that you might actually want to take water and wash someone’s feet, but the reality is washing someone’s feet in our day does not have the same meaning that it had in Jesus’ day. To wash somebody’s feet means to do something that cares for their needs. We have different needs today. There are different ways that you and I can humble ourselves to help someone else.

And the point that Jesus was making is that this is a part of what it means to follow him. Verse 15, “For I have given you an example, that you should also do as I have done to you.” Two verses later, he says, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” A little later, in the same chapter, he says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.” Because loving one another is characterized by acts of caring, by acts of loving people, not the what we want or what we think, but loving people at the point of their greatest need as they would define it. “Even as I have loved you,” Jesus said, “that you also love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” It is the certification that the faith we have is genuine.

In 1 John, the theme is repeated even more bluntly, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and the one who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” So when it comes to living out of our faith, it’s a matter of learning how to be active, loving people, and here’s the fact that helps us do that: In this, the love of God was made manifest among us that God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. And this is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another. A few verses later, the secret is shared: we love because He first loved us.

You see, the supply of love that we have, however much it is, it comes from God, and there you have it. And as you go through your day, you give away from the store of what you have that has come to you from God. And then you’re continually resupplied so that you can give again. We love because he first loved us. It’s a slogan, but it’s still true. The love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay. Love isn’t love until you give it away.

And so, friends, as you go through your day, as you encounter people – and here you are Sunday morning; you are encountering so many people in this room that you’ll encounter down by the coffee or maybe on the steps as you go out! And as you go through the day over the phone, on Facebook, in person, you will encounter other people. And you will have the opportunity to give to them some of what God has given to you, and then you get more.

On the other hand, remember, life is difficult. People are difficult. I have a few suggestions that I think will help us to love more wisely.

As you come up into somebody’s presence, there’s a saying from the world of counseling that may be helpful: If it feels icky, it probably is. You see, feelings are often a form of a warning system. Sometimes feelings will tell us … without us being aware of exactly why. Be careful here, this moment. Sometimes it’s the person you’re approaching. This is not very safe. There’s something wrong here. And the reason it feels icky is you know there’s something wrong, but you don’t know what it is. It’s a time to be cautious when you interact with other people.

Perhaps when it’s not quite safe, what we most need to do is pray because God is giving us a sense that there’s something wrong here and that what we need to do is to bring God closer to solve the problem. Consequently, you may find that you don’t say anything. You may find that if you force the issue and try to talk, the results aren’t good. All that feeling tells us is that prayer is more powerfully needed.

Because you see, here’s the reality. There are some people that you just can’t help. The individual pictured on the screen coming as if to grasp and take, that’s probably something he needs, something that you can’t give. He’s probably someone that you cannot help, no matter how much you want to. There are people who will take advantage of us because they feel so desperate.

If somebody needs a medical professional, friends, you and I should not try to do surgery. Some things are beyond us.

Some people’s emotional states need a professional counselor. and it’s a wonderful thing for them to feel our compassion. But perhaps we need to let them find the person who can really help them.

And that’s the beautiful thing about the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. There’s a balance there. I’m to love someone, but I’m not supposed to gratify their desires to the point to where it harms me. You love them, but you also love yourself and don’t allow yourself to be harmed.

As we love our neighbor as ourselves, we need to keep the balance in place because there is a temptation for us to imagine that we are like Jesus, because Jesus loved us by climbing up on a cross and suffering and dying so that we might be well … but friends, I don’t believe that it’s God’s will that you suffer and die so that someone else has a better day, you and I. Well, God is God, and we are not. Jesus is Jesus, and we are not. We need to learn how to love our neighbor as ourselves.

And in my lifetime, I have felt this temptation, and to some degree, it’s because some people expect it from pastors that when the machinery of life is working on someone, I am tempted because they’re in pain, to stick my arm into the gears to stop the machinery of consequences.

I have done that.

I have done harm to myself in order to try to help someone else because I felt so badly for what they were going through. But you know what I began to observe when I did this? (And I’m mainly talking about 20, 30 years ago.) What I noticed is that, after I had suffered greatly to rescue someone from consequences, life would reorganize itself and the whole lesson of consequences would start up again as if I had never hurt myself in the misguided desire to help someone.

Friends, God works through consequences. And sometimes the wisest thing we can do as parents, as friends, as neighbors is to let consequences happen. But certainly, loving your neighbor as yourself does not demand that you prevent people from experiencing consequences. Loving your neighbor does not demand that you give them the keys to your truck the day after they wrecked theirs because they were drinking, and many other versions of the same thing.

Sometimes God is teaching people to stand on their own two feet. And sometimes, well-meaning people interfere with that and then the lesson they’re supposed to learn just starts up all over again because they make another mistake of the same type and in another place. Because they won’t stop until they’ve learned the hard way.

I’m 67 years old. I’m so thankful I finally decided that I, in my life, did not need to learn things the hard way around the time I turned 30! And I learned this lesson the hard way.

Nonetheless, a person who’s going through consequences … if they feel that somebody cares, if they feel that somebody loves them, if they feel that somebody’s praying for them, that can make all the difference. To know that they’re not alone. But you and I cannot fix every problem in every person we encounter. Sometimes the best we can do is to pray and let God work in their lives. But if we’re caring, if we’re loving, they won’t go through it alone.

Well, Pastor Dave, those warnings are great, but what actually could I do? Well, there is a thing called the fruit of the Spirit. Paul says, where the Spirit is working, you’ll find these things growing: Love and joy and peace.

And here’s the truth of the farm: If you sow corn, corn grows up. If you perform an act of love, love begins to grow in that person’s life. If you’re joyful with them, some of the joy will rub off and grow in their life. If they’re filled with anxiety and you bring a calmness to them, peace will begin to grow in their life. You can sow the seeds of the fruit of the Spirit by acting in a loving, joyful, peaceful way.

You can sow patience and kindness and goodness, and those things will begin to grow in a person’s life. You can sow trustworthiness, also known as faithfulness. You can sow gentleness. And then that one that’s so hard, self-control, and self-control will begin to grow in a person’s life.

We can do that sowing of seed in those conversations where we notice our neighbor. Sometimes, God wants us to just pray and to be aware that they have a need. Sometimes, God wants us to have a conversation because in that conversation you can sow love and joy and peace. You can give them those feelings, and they’ll begin to take root, and grow.

Sometimes, God may want you to lend those car keys. But you’ll want to be wise when you begin to interact to not interfere in the lives of people you encounter. But please, keep this in mind: the people you know, the neighbors that God puts in your path, they are there for a reason. God has a plan.

You don’t want to over-function, which means to do far more than what you should.

You don’t want to under-function, to do less than you should. “Good luck. I wish all this solves itself. Don’t look at me.” You don’t want to do less than what you should.

But there is a right place in the middle for you to love your neighbor as yourself as you go through the day. And please keep this in mind. If you’re handing out little bits of patience and kindness and goodness as you go through your day, don’t underestimate what God can do with those seeds that you bring into a person’s life!

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we’re surrounded by people. And sometimes, there’s so many people that surround us we feel a little overwhelmed. Sometimes, the people who surround us, they have problems and the awareness of those problems is a little overwhelming. Sometimes, Lord, it might feel that there’s just too many people. But Lord, however many people you put in our lives, help us to see them not as problems to solve or as people who are difficult for us to deal with. Help us to make that little change of perception to say, “Lord, I notice my neighbor. Now help me to know, Lord, how to love that neighbor.” And maybe, Lord, you’ll just tell us to pray, and we’ll write that person’s name down. We’ll write down the need they have for prayer, and we’ll just start praying for them.
Sometimes, Lord, you want us to say something to express our sympathy, to wish the best to them. We do this all the time at Christmas, Lord, but we certainly can do it all year long. Sometimes, Lord, loving our neighbor as ourselves means that we actually extend ourselves in some loving way to do good, knowing that the good that we give into their life will take root, and grow, and can then – from them – flow into other people’s lives. But, Lord, help us when we encounter our neighbor to feel the love that you have for us, and to feel the love that you have for them flowing through us to bless them. And so, Lord, I ask that you would use your people to bless the people you want to help. 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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