Sermon March 27, 2022: Jesus Changes Our Prejudices (Lent 4)

Image by Eveline de Bruin + row of houses, both 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/692658487

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3eYn1VFHiP

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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 298 When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross [Live] – Gaither Music TV
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Aq9KISzaAo

(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 367 He Touched Me
Gaither Vocal Band – He Touched Me [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m–ptwd_iI

(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: Jesus Changes Our Prejudices
Matthew 9:9-13, John 3:16, 1st Timothy 2:1-6
Series: When Jesus Changed Our Mind

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 9:9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

1st Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. 3 This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time. 

“4 Children For Sale: Story Behind the Picture” – this story is told in the message.
https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/4-children-for-sale-story-behind-the-picture/


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HYMN 504 The Old Rugged Cross
The Old Rugged Cross (with Lyrics) – Brad Paisley – Fisher of Men
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11t8RFMlda0

(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

Christ began to preach, implying that he never stopped: Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. And so in Lent, we are given 40 days to repent, to ask ourselves, “What does Jesus want to change?” And I’ve shared with you examples of Jesus sort of laying down the law and saying, “It’s time to change.”
It’s time to change our anxiety and focus on following. Seek first the Kingdom of God.
Time to change our traditions where they interfere with us focusing on people’s hearts.
And today, it’s time to change our prejudices so that we can focus on real people.

Let me give you my definition of prejudice. There are all kinds of prejudice. There’s prejudice where we make assumptions about people who are from different countries, whose skin is a different color. We make assumptions about women. We make assumptions about men. We make assumptions that are unfair.

But I would like to tell you, when I became the pastor at Pawnee, Illinois, I encountered another form of prejudice. I was there for four years. It’s a town 20 miles south of the State Capitol Building. And because it’s so close to Springfield, one of the beautiful things about that town is children raised in Pawnee can commute to work in Springfield and stay in the same small town they grew up in and raise their children there.

And I remember one day sitting and visiting with one of our church members in Pawnee, an educated man, an accountant, very highly placed worker in state government, and we were talking about a child in the church that was having some struggles. He was having some troubles, this kid. And this man looked at me and he said, “Pastor Dave, he’s just like his father, and because he’s just like his father, he’s never going to amount to anything.” And I said, “What?” He said, “I know the family. I know what they’re like. This kid will never, ever overcome that because he’s just like his father. I went to school with his father. I had the same experience with his father.” And all of a sudden, I realized: that’s prejudice.

And you know something? You and I may discriminate against people. But let’s be honest. We really don’t know what it’s like to be in Africa. We don’t really know what it’s like to be a Muslim. We don’t really know what it’s like to grow up in China.

But I wonder if the prejudice we most greatly struggle with is the prejudice when we look at somebody, and because they grew up in our town, we think we know them, because what this man was saying to me was that Jesus Christ was powerless to change this young man’s life … because he was doomed to be just like his father, and there was no way that God could do anything … anything … about that.

Now, this is projection. You read into someone else what you think you see. “Oh, that person, they steal. They’ll always steal. They lie. They’ll always lie.” And it’s also a prediction. But as far as he was concerned, there was no hope for this young man.

And I began, ironically, to hear this again and again and again and again. Ironically, I heard it from school teachers. My kids were in first grade and third grade in this town. And I actually heard a school teacher say, “That little kid is always going to struggle. She’s just like her mom.” And I thought to myself, “What a horrible thing for a teacher to give up on a child.”

Now, it is true. Problems tend to go through generations. Children tend to have the problems that their parents had. Parents have the problems that their parents had. It’s true. But I do not believe, ever, ever, ever, that God is helpless to change someone’s life. I don’t believe it. But because we have this tendency to look down upon, to see as losers the people who live around us, I guarantee you the prejudice that most of us are not aware of are the ways that we look down on people who are just like us.

And see, here’s the problem about looking down on the people that live a couple of blocks away: Jesus told you to love your neighbor as yourself. So certainly, all kinds of prejudice are wrong. But this prejudice where we despise someone else– we’re white. They’re white. We got a job. Why can’t they find a job? And we look down on people instead of doing what Jesus said, which is that we need to love them.

And I want to remind us as the church of this great truth. It’s a famous saying. Lost people matter to God. People who are struggling with problems matter to God. And if they matter to God, then they should matter to me. We need to be very careful. I’ve talked about how as you go along your day, God will bring people in front of you so that you can remember to pray for them. Be very careful if in your heart you feel this feeling, “There’s no reason to pray for them. They’re losers. And even God can’t fix that sort of trouble.”

We’re about to look at a scripture where the Pharisees basically say that to Jesus. “Why are you wasting your time with people like that?” And I tried to think of a situation that was just so wrong that you and I could have a sense of how the Pharisees might have felt. And this is the one that I remembered. This is a true story.

In 1948 a woman put a sign in front of her apartment, “Four children for sale.” Her name was Lucille. And the picture on the screen, she has her head turned away, not because she’s crying, but because she doesn’t want to be identified in the picture. There are some people who think this was staged because it’s a very high-quality photograph to be taken by accident. And all of a sudden, it was in the newspapers in Chicago, and then across the nation.

And Lucille and her husband began to receive money mailed to them from all over the United States. Here’s the very sad truth. Six months later, the husband had left her and the four children. She was pregnant at the time. Shortly after he left, another baby arrived.

And my assumption is the husband left with all that money. Because within two years of August 4, 1948, she did sell her children, the little girl to the right side there, her name is Rae. She later said as an adult that she was sold for $2 so that her mother could have bingo money and because the new man her mother was dating did not want anything to do with the children. The little boy at a diagonal from her, Milton, was standing nearby, crying. And so the family that bought the little girl took him, too. My impression is he was a freebie.

Sadly, the new father was horribly abusive. The new father was a farmer, had five other children, literally wanted more workers for the farm. And when this little girl and her brother caused trouble, he would take them out to the barn and whip them and then tie them up to sleep in the barn like a dog. The little boy was hospitalized for schizophrenia as a teenager and was in mental hospital until he was 23. He finally got over the anger at how he had been treated. And little Rae had a pretty awful life, too, until she ran away at age 17. I’m guessing he forgot to tie them up one night.

Isn’t this just about the most horrible thing you’ve heard? The little baby that was born didn’t see this. He was taken out of the house by social services because of how many bedbug bites he had. And he was adopted by a good family. Now, if I’m going to be prejudiced, if I’m going to judge somebody, that stirs me up. So maybe I can understand how the Pharisees felt.

So let’s go on to the scripture here. Matthew 9 verse 9. “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew, also known as Levi, sitting at the tax office because he was a tax collector. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew rose and followed him. And that evening, as he set a table in his house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners, his friends came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.

Now, something to keep in mind about tax collectors, these were men who collected taxes as a business. They would bid on the right to collect taxes within a regional area like a county or a township. And whatever they bid, that’s what they paid to the Roman government.

And then they went out to people just like you, and they looked at you and said, “Here’s how much tax you owe. Pay up. And if you don’t pay up, I’ll take your house. I’ll take your savings. And my soldier friend Guido here will introduce you to his spear …” because they were representatives of the Roman government. I need you to understand this. Tax collectors were evil people. This was like a protection racket. You dare not get on their wrong side.

And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, with good reason, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And the implication is, “Why is he wasting time even talking to them?”

And I think you can assume there might be just a little bit of envy. “Why doesn’t he spend his time with us? Why doesn’t he have us have Bible studies with him and tell us how smart we are as we argue with him about everything we believe?”

But here’s their main question. “Why does he bother with this kind of people?” And friends, that’s something that needs to change wherever we find it.

Here’s what Jesus said in response. But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick.” Jesus is here to help the people who need his help the most.

And not only that, here’s what he says to the Pharisees, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.'” Now, just so that you understand what sacrifice means, when they would go to worship in the temple, it was very fancy. Everything was done with great pomp and ceremony. And a sacrifice had to be done exactly right. It was always a part of their worship. What Jesus is saying is, “I don’t desire your beautiful worship or your arrogance about it. What I desire is mercy. For I came not to call the righteous,” Jesus says, “but sinners.”

Now, as if the Pharisees are righteous? Not exactly. “But I came to focus on sinners.” And when the Pharisees are willing to admit that they are sinners, I’m sure he would have focused as well on them. But until then, “I desire mercy” is what he says to them. I came to call sinners to a different and a better life.

And just in case you wonder who that is, in First Timothy 2:3-4, it says that God, our Savior, desires all people. God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Jesus Christ does not look out on the crowd and say, “Not you, not you, not you.”
But he looks out and he says, “You and you and you and you.” And no matter how much trouble somebody’s in, God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

That’s why Jesus says to us that what he would love to see is mercy. Because see, here’s the truth. Jesus Christ looks down upon all of us. But when Jesus looks down upon us, he looks down upon us from the vantage point of the cross where he is giving his life for you and I. Friends, you and I are not qualified to look down on anybody. I’m glad you’re good. And you are. But you’re not that good. None of us are so clean and special and awesome and beautiful that we are qualified to look down on anyone.

And we must never forget the mercy, where Jesus looks down, from the cross, on everyone. Because you will never meet someone, as you go through your day, for whom Jesus Christ did not die.

You will never meet someone, as you go through your day, for whom Jesus Christ was not willing to give his life so that they could find forgiveness and wholeness and cleansing.

You will never find anyone whom Jesus rejected because they were sinners.

We say these words – you probably have them memorized, but sometimes we forget what they actually mean – “For God so loved the Church,” oh wait, excuse me, that’s not what it says. “For God so loved the religious people,” no, it doesn’t say that either. “For God so loved the world,” in all of its misery and all of the terrible, cruel and evil things that people do to each other. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, Jesus, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” We are not qualified to look down on anyone.

Because, you see, as John 3:16 says to us, there is a reason why we call God, “Father”.

There is a reason why we call God, “Father”. This past week I’ve been reading a little bit in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. It’s very interesting. He is describing in these books reasons why certain people are successful that we find surprising. It’s very interesting. But there’s one point he makes about the difference between people who grow up really poor and people who grow up with some advantages of being middle class or upper-class. Routinely, the people with advantages teach their children how to live. “When you’re in this kind of situation, son, there’s certain things that you do. Here’s what you do,” and a father has that conversation with his child. A mother has this conversation with her daughter, “Honey, when somebody acts like that here’s what you do.” And Malcolm Gladwell says sociological studies have shown that this is very common. If you take two people who are almost exactly alike … it’s the parents involvement with the children to teach them right from wrong, to teach them what to do makes all the difference in the world in what they’re able to achieve in their life. There’s a reason why we call God Father and that’s because we need a good father to help us.

And sadly there are so many children who do not have that kind of parenting. Just like the man that took the little girl that he bought for $2, tied her up in the barn, she didn’t learn much good from him. And see here’s the reason we call God Father because God the Father can make up the difference from whatever we lose in our own childhood. Because God the Father will help you to know what to do, what to say, how to live, right for wrong.

And that’s why God decided to work through families. You’ve heard me talk about this before but we still need to remember it. A church is like a family and can be a second chance for people who did not get a first chance because they can learn from God the Father and from the people in the church what they weren’t able to learn from their own parents.

I’ve shared this truth with you too. Sociological research by Rodney Stark beginning in 1965 proven, again and again, year after year after year, study after study after study. When you study conversion that sticks, that lasts, it is always, always, always the result of a close relationship with a genuine, caring, practicing, and because we’re talking about Christian conversion let’s put the word Christian there.

And there’s a two-edged sword with regard to this, unfortunately. If the closest caring relationship you have in your life is with a person who’s an abuser, they’ll convert you to becoming an abuser. If the closest loving relationship you have in life is with someone who’s an addict or an alcoholic, they’ll convert you to those same behaviors and it will stick.

And so consequently, in studies on how to help people in poverty change, what people need to let go of destructive, evil patterns of living is they literally need to step into a new “family” who gives them a different way to live. Where adults notice good behavior and reward it and encourage it instead of tearing down people.

And so, brothers and sisters, honestly, I’ll tell you, if you want to live in a better world, if you want to see people change, to become better people, if you want to be a better person, begin to consider the fact that what a church at its best can be is this: a functional family of God. Because by loving people, we encourage them to come closer to a better way of life. And they’re drawn to it. Because their lives are so broken and empty, they hunger for healthy, caring relationships.

And so if you and I, towards each other and towards the people we encounter, can be a caring, loving family, the people who associate with us will learn how to be a part of a caring, loving family. And they’ll become converted to being caring, loving people. And God the Father will help them learn that lesson. If you want to change the world, this is the best answer I know. For people to become a part of a church that acts like a family, where Jesus is Lord, and we help people grow.

We need to repent from turning our backs on people. We need to repent from judging people. We need to repent from this idea that nobody can help them and begin to realize that Jesus Christ can work through us and change the lives of everybody around us.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we get upset with people. We get on our high horse. We know that what we see is wrong. It’s so easy for us to look at people and see every wrong thing. It’s not so easy, Lord, for us to see how beginning as children, people get twisted and warped and turned into the broken people they are today. But Lord, we know that you are the mender of broken human hearts. You are the mender of twisted lives. You are the one who mends emotionally crippled people so that they can live a life of wholeness.
Lord, help us to be people who love our neighbor, and through that love, give them a yearning for the wholeness that you can offer to them. That if they are willing to seek first your Kingdom and your righteousness, Lord, everything will be provided. Help us, Lord, to look at people the way you do and believe in your power to make a difference. 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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