Sermon February 27, 2022: Love Is … Learning (Epiphany 8)

Photo by giselaatje from 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/682348569

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3ntcQVbmU5

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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 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 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.

HYMN Just As I Am
Just As I Am by Acapeldridge
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8dnUns2dIw

(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 Open Our Eyes – Maranatha! Music
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmbCu9AvReY

(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 … Learning.
Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 11:25-30
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 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

Matthew 11:25-30 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; 26 yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. 27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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HYMN Open My Eyes That I May See
Open my eyes – Fountainview Academy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XSN7aVTAFU

(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

At the beginning of this year, with a desire to help us keep our faith strong and warm and loving throughout the whole year. Because what do we say at Christmas? I wish we could feel like this all year long. I shared five spiritual disciplines, five things that you can do to keep your faith strong.

And then as I prayed, Lord, what do I need to say? It occurred to me that I had missed something extremely important about Christmas. That is the power that makes Christmas work. And I started talking to you about the emotions of Christmas. Emotions are gasoline that powers the engine of our lives. They provide us with the energy to do what we do. And we talked about feeling emotions toward God. We talked about feeling emotions toward other people.

But today I wanted to talk to you about the fact that love, which is emotional, is also tied in with learning, and it’s tied in with what is probably the most emotionally powerful reality of Christmas, and that’s that at Christmastime, we yearn for family.

I know I’m telling you something you already know, but let’s look at it. There is built into the way God made people a yearning for family. And that yearning is extremely emotional because families are emotional, aren’t they? Every Christmastime, you’re drawn to want to be with other members of your family … and tell the truth now, even the ones you have trouble getting along with. And you’re drawn to be close to the ones who make you so happy. And you wonder, why are those people unhappy and these people happy, but I yearn for my family? And not only that, at Christmas, we look at people who have no family, people in trouble, people who are hungry, people who are struggling, people who are homeless, and we show a little love toward them like their family.

Families are incredibly powerful, incredibly emotional, but incredibly powerful because God created people to hunger for connection, to be a part of a family. And because of that, to be honest, families teach us everything. Here’s an example of a family on the picture there. I’d like to draw your attention to the little girl down in the center. She is not happy. You can tell the serious man by the Christmas tree is the oldest son, because the oldest sons, like me, tend to be pretty serious. But you can probably see that second son in the back there having fun with his boys. And you see, here’s the thing, families teach us everything.

If you fall in love with somebody, and something they do really bothers you? You can look at them and say, “Who in the world taught you those bad manners? Where did you learn to behave like that?” And you know, if they’re honest enough to know, they’ll look at you and say, “Well, I learned that in my family. Cause that’s how we always did it. What’s wrong with you, that you don’t think that’s a great way to do things?”

And if you look at somebody and go, “Wow, that was kind, that was noble, that was wonderful. Where did you learn to treat people like that?” To be honest, they’ll look at you and say, “Well, I learned it from my family.” Because families teach us how to live. And here’s one of the most wonderful realities, brothers and sisters if your family taught you well. If your family was one of those really nice families, really kind families, really smart families, they gave you good ideas to live a good life.

But not every family’s perfect.

And sometimes children are raised, what we would call it, they’re “raised wrong.” And they struggle through their whole life to overcome the way they were raised. But as the old saying says, “It’s hard to get above your raising.” What we learned from our family, that’s where we start out. And it’s very deep and powerful.

This past week, I was reminded of a story about Leo Buscaglia. I’ve since learned the story that I heard was not accurate. But I want to tell you it the way I heard it because it meant so much to me. Leo Buscaglia was a Ph.D., professor of education at the University of Southern California. Brilliant man … grew up as a part of a poor immigrant family. His father and mother were Italian, his father if I understand it right, did not even graduate high school, but highly valued learning.

And the story that I heard is that, at bedtime, he would go to the room of each child. Go to Leo’s room, and they would sit there in the dark, and the father would have a conversation with each of these children. And he would ask Leo every night, “Son, what did you learn today?”

And Leo figured out very early on that he’d better learn something every day so he’d have something to say every night to his father. And he credited all of his learning and success in life to his father wanting to know what he learned.

And as I thought this week about the power of families and all the feelings that are wrapped up in being a family, it reminded me of this story. Because in my younger days, what I would do as I waited to fall asleep. It’s always my whole life long, taken me a long time for me to fall asleep. I would have a conversation with my Heavenly Father and we would talk about the day.

And I had never really thought about this, but what a perfect way to summarize that conversation of prayer, where your Heavenly Father stops by to ask, “Dave, what did you learn today? What did you learn to do? What did you learn not to do? What did you learn the hard way?” Now, I’ll be honest with you, brothers and sisters, I had to learn a lot the hard way in my life. But I think that’s what God does with us. What did we learn today?

Matthew 11, “At that time, Jesus declared, ‘I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes.” The wise and understanding are always trying to figure out things out of books. But the point Jesus makes here is that the deepest truths are revealed when God reveals them and in this context, to little children. To us as little children.

“Yea, Father,” Jesus goes on to say, “For such was thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. And no one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

What you really need to know … to live the best life you can live, if you allow your Heavenly Father to reveal it to you, that’s how you’ll learn. Because Jesus Christ the Son is ready to teach you what you need to know, if you will take that time, perhaps at the end of the day, perhaps at the beginning of the day to listen to Him and learn from Him.

And here’s the very next verse. This is the invitation that is made to each of us. “Come to me,” Jesus says, “All who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you.” And what does it say next? “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

What do I need to do? I pray for serenity for the things that I can’t change. “Lord, what are the things that I can’t change?” I pray for courage to change the things I can. “Lord, what can I change and how could I possibly change?” Jesus says, “Learn from me, learn from me, and I will teach you all you need to know.”

If you look at the Great Commission, the conclusion to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” These things happen once.

And what comes after that? Look at verse 20. What comes after that for the rest of eternity? “Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

You see, we are learning from Jesus Christ and from the people that Jesus Christ has sent to us to teach us. We are supposed to be learning how to live everything that Jesus Christ said to us. You see, love is learning. And Jesus Christ wants to help us to learn.

We celebrated a birthday for me back in January, but I want to tell you, my real birthday happens the day after February 28th, because on Leap Year Day in 1972, that was the date of my conversion. And I want to just briefly say to you that my life was incredibly difficult until that day. But Jesus Christ came knocking at the door of my life, and I invited him to be a part of my life as my Lord and Savior. He wrapped me up in his arms and he comforted me. And then he began to teach me by teaching me what he had told the disciples to do. I have to be honest with you. Jesus Christ really, truly was my best friend and helped me turn my life around.

And this is the principle we need to remember. Jesus Christ comes to us. We love because he first loved us, but he does not come to us to teach us a religion, to give us a list of rules or a list of the ideas that we have to agree with or believe in. It’s a relationship, and because it’s a relationship, it grows.

And as it grows, we develop a deeper understanding of the three families that human beings experience. Because, again, like I said earlier, we learn through families. There’s your family of origin, the one you start out with. Perfect or imperfect, it’s the one that shapes you.

But an interesting thing happens psychologically when you hit those early elementary years. You start to pick friends. Psychologists call it chumship. And you literally build a second family among your friends. You literally choose people to be in a second family that goes on into the teenage years. And parents, if you’ve raised teenagers, you know exactly how it is. There’s the family you’ve got at home, and then there are those wild, crazy people your teenagers are associating with, and they want to argue with you about how their 13-year-old friends are smarter than you are. You see, that’s one of the purposes of the chosen family, it balances out the family of origin.

Sometimes it doesn’t do a very good job of that because kids choose friends who lead them in the wrong direction. They choose to believe and follow and love people who harm them. And in fact, sometimes the problems of the family of origin, that’s who children pick as their friends because they’re comfortable with those exact same problems.

But quite often, a child who doesn’t have a very loving father will find in a coach or a scoutmaster a healthy adult man and it will balance out. Sometimes a daughter whose mother is distant and not affectionate will find her inspiration in a schoolteacher. And that need that’s within the child will be met by someone who they choose to be in their chosen family. And you’ve heard me talk about chosen families before. If you watch television shows, whether it’s the series Friends or NCIS, which is about a work family, people are always looking for a team for someone who is like family for them.

And when they build this chosen family, it begins to help them to heal; they work out the problems of their childhood by learning new lessons from their chosen family. That’s the story played out in almost every book, television series or movie that we watch. It’s what we want to watch, learn and see. We yearn for family.

Consequently, I want to remind us all … God also teaches by helping you and I form a third family, a spiritual family, because even though Jesus was my best friend, God began to bring other people in my life who helped fill empty places that until then, I did not know how to cope with. God brings people into your life and my life because God chooses to heal us by creating a spiritual family where healing happens. Because what we do here really is not so much about a religion, it is truly about a relationship.

Now, having said that, let me tell you about a bit of sociological research started back in 1965. Rodney Stark, who at the time said that there was no way that he was in any way a Christian person, became very curious about what were the factors at work when people had a religious conversion.

And he began to study– you have to be a little bit old to remember this. He began to study a cult called the Unification Church. They were also called the Moonies. They started in Korea. They came over to the United States and a whole lot of people became interested in the Moonie cult and a whole lot of people had dramatic conversion experiences. And Rodney Stark thought, “If I figure out how that works in the Moonie cult, maybe that’ll help me to understand why people have conversion experiences.”

And what he found all the way back to 1965, and what’s been proven to be a fact again and again and again in multiple studies ever since right up to the present day, is if a person became interested in the Moonie cult, but their best friend wasn’t a Moonie, they would eventually lose interest and drift away.

But if their closest friends were a part of the cult, the cult would become more and more the center of their lives because they would begin to feel a sense of family with people of that faith.

Now I would want you to understand that the Holy Spirit prepares us to believe in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit helps us to truly convert to be a follower of Jesus Christ. But I would want to say to you that the way that God created the world and created us is that when we have a spiritual family, it draws us closer and closer to God.

And the point that Rodney Stark made so long ago, the modern version of it, is simply this. There are thousands, if not millions, of people who have no close relationship with a genuine, loving, practicing Christian person. They literally don’t know someone who is a Christian, who is not a hypocrite. They don’t know someone.

Now, some of these folks who don’t know someone are in church every Sunday. So let me say this to you with the deepest amount of humility that I can. If you don’t have someone in your life to love you in a Christian way, if you don’t have someone in your life who will explain to you how Christ can help you, I want to be that person for you. Because I was this very lonely person until I was 17, and it was an awful, awful way to live.

But I’ll be honest with you, God may be shown to be even more powerful if you can be that person to someone else. I wouldn’t want to intimidate anyone. If you’re willing to love your neighbor, God will do the heavy lifting to draw a person to Christ. But are you willing to be the person that is the beginning of a spiritual family to someone who is all alone? Because at Christmas time … we say Merry Christmas to this kind of people. We show a little bit of love toward them, and sometimes it dramatically changes people’s lives. How sad it is when January comes, we go back to minding our own business and turn away from people who need a spiritual family more than anything on this Earth.

A number of years ago, I answered the question, what is it that I believe is the essential purpose of a church? And here’s been my answer consistently since 1990 or so. Some 31 years now. A healthy church would describe itself in this way.

We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.

We are family to each other. And not only that … we’re not a dysfunctional family. [laughter] We’re healthy and loving and nurturing and kind. And we want, no matter where you are, for life to get better as you get closer to God … so that you’re able to sing that same song: Just As I Am. And you can look at other people and you could say to them, “I’m coming just as I am. Will you come with me just as you are?”

That’s what it means to be a functional family of God. And you’ll find two other things that are always present. First of all, Jesus is Lord. We want our church to function as Jesus designed it to function. And as a result of us doing what we’ve learned from Jesus, people grow. But every now and then I smile because I am tempted to change that to say people grow up.

And for today at least, I’m tempted to change it to say and people learn.

Please pray with me, Lord Jesus, help us here as this church to be a functional family of God. Help us, Lord, to learn from you what to do and how to do it. To be guided by your teachings and your Word. And not simply to be aware of them, Lord, or memorize them, but actually do them. So that as a result of doing what you’ve asked us to do, Lord, we would be a functional family of God … because families exist to help people grow up. Help us, Lord, to be a church where people learn and grow and grow up. To be better human beings and better Christian people. 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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