Sermon September 4, 2022: Preparing The Soil In Prayer With Jesus (Pentecost 14)

Photo by David Kueker

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/746217771

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3QfnvVTLLE

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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:

Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief. Help me to see my world as You see it.
Lord, I obey; Help my disobedience. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow;  Help me to stay on the path. Thank you for the path, for guidance, for Providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation. 
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine. Amen.

Amen

HYMN Blest Be The Tie That Bind
Blest Be The Tie That Bind. Four-part singing led by Bill Gaither
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 − 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.

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 Let Us Break Bread Together
J.D. Sumner, The Stamps Quartet – Let Us Break Bread Together [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QoolEJe6a0

(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: Preparing The Soil In Prayer With Jesus
Luke 8:4-15, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Matthew 9:35-38
Series: Praying With Jesus For The Harvest

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

Luke 8:4 And when a great crowd came together and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell along the path, and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew, and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.   – Howard Thurman

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HYMN Pass It On
Pass it on- It only takes a spark (with subtitle)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tadZ8nCLBsI

(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 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.

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

Preparing the soil. What could that possibly mean? If you’re a farmer, you understand about preparing the soil because you spend a lot of time getting the field ready for the seed. You spend a lot of time getting the ground ready so that it can produce.

You see a picture here on the screen of a man following a path through a field of wheat. It’s not very hard for him to stay on the path because it’s pretty clear where the path is, isn’t it? But you have to wonder, does he realize as he’s trying to get from one place to another and his hands are out and running over the grain, does he realize the purpose of the field that he’s walking through? Food that will feed hundreds, if not thousands of people. Because the path that he walks has a purpose, and on either side is the harvest.

In Matthew 9:37, Jesus said to the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Now that time of harvest is coming very soon, but people who labor in the harvest have already put a great deal of work into getting the ground ready.

But let me introduce you to a laborer in the harvest. (A picture of a farmer driving a combine on a rural road appears.)I spent nine years before I came here, living nine miles from the Arch. Every time I would leave my home in St. Louis– In one of the suburbs of St. Louis, every time I would leave my house, I’d be in a traffic jam.

I’m so thankful to live in Kinmundy where this is the only kind of traffic jam we have, aren’t you? But there are people who get behind a combine like this and they don’t understand what’s going on. That’s why we pray: Lord, help me to see my world as you see it. Help me to understand the people that I meet. Help me to understand their life and then maybe I can understand my life a little better.

These are the words of a person driving a car behind the combine, and here’s what it says, “I see you. Not the flashing lights or the giant tires. I see the farmer. I see you looking back every three seconds trying to get over to the side of the road because I’ve been following you for three miles and you worry that I’m getting angry and impatient. I see you look back twice as fast because the oncoming traffic is gone, but we’re coming up on an intersection and you hope that I know that. You hope that I know there’s already two crosses on the southwest corner of that four way because the car in front of me didn’t know that, and they flew by you right into the middle of the intersection. Well, I see you, and I see the standing water in the fields, and I see that it’s a quarter to 7:00, and you’re still at work while I’m on my way home to see my family on a Friday night. You’re not in my way. I’m in the middle of your office and your work and your livelihood. I’ll follow you all the way home. I don’t mind. It gives me time to slow down and breathe.

Everyone can benefit from a few minutes spent behind that combine. Now, these words reveal a person who understands what’s going on in the mind, in the heart of people around them. But all too often, too many people, we are completely unaware of what other people are feeling. We’re completely unaware of what other people are thinking. We are only aware of what we want and what seems to be frustrating us from getting what we want.

That’s why we pray, “Lord, help me to see my world as you see it,” because God sees 360 degrees all around us. When we see the world as God sees it, we understand the people who are around us on the path that we take. You see, we are so unaware of the people around us these days, and we are so disconnected. Something what I think is beginning to happen is people are losing the ability to make friends. And one of the reasons they’re losing the ability to make friends is because the advent of technology. Our cell phones, for example, allow us to stay friends with people who live far away from us. And not only that, when do you and I talk to those friends?

We’re friends with people on Facebook who live 100 miles away, 1,000 miles away, even on the other side of the world. This week I’m praying for a friend of mine who lives in Ecuador. I’ve never met him in this life, but in that electronic world, he and I have been good friends for over 10 years.

And now we seem to be less and less able to understand the people around us. We seem to be less and less able to understand and connect with people who live close to us. And so, consequently, what happens when something goes wrong in your life, those people who live 500 miles away can’t do anything to help you and you don’t know anyone who is here.

Now, Jesus told us to love our neighbors. And my friend in Ecuador is still a neighbor, even though he lives that far away. But Jesus wanted me to love the people around me and not neglect them. But I’m not sure that we know how to do this. Well, let me give you an example that, in some ways, is actually kind of ridiculous. What you’re looking at now is an orca, also called a killer whale. And you’re looking at the orca’s best friend who, at SeaWorld, is standing on the back of the killer whale pretending that the whale is a surfboard. Now, how in the world do these people train those animals to do these tricks that are so unnatural to them?

And I read a book about this once. It was very interesting. The very first thing they do is they get in the water and they play with the killer whales. You can imagine what life is like at SeaWorld for a killer whale. They’re in, what, in effect, is this very small place and they’re bored to death. So all of a sudden somebody comes by and wants to be friends.

It’s really interesting if you Google “friends” to look at the pictures. More pictures of people with their dogs will show up than pictures of people with other people. There’s a wonderful Canadian television series called Heartland, which is all about how a teenage girl can become best friends with a horse by teaching the horse how to care, and that the teenage girl cares about the horse and says things like, “Easy.” I have no idea if I would be able to say to a killer whale, “Easy, now.” I think I’d be a little worried. But they make friends and they have fun.

And if you notice a little bucket down in the right-hand corner, they bring food. We can learn from this. But one of the trainers was asked, “Why do you spend so much time — wasted time – playing with these animals?” And the trainer’s response was this, “The first thing we have to teach them is that we mean you no harm.”

Friends, Jesus Christ asks us to love our neighbor, and these words are still true. But the first thing we have to teach anybody is that we mean you no harm. And the way we do that is we take time, we act like friends, we bring food, and we take time to play. Because when you do that, people begin to calm down, feel safe, and then they begin to open up.

So what’s the soil? Here it is. Luke 8:4, “When a great crowd came together and people from town after town came to him, he said, in a parable, a sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path, and it was trodden underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold. As he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you, it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God. But for others, they are in parables, so that in ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'” Now let’s take just a minute to comment about that. It’s not that God does not want people to understand. It’s that the truths about God, as Jesus teaches in parables, are supposed to come to us because we spend time thinking about them, we spend time pondering them, we spend time praying over them. And then you come into this awareness at a time where you will remember it. Not only that, the parables are revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, and for every one of us, there is timing in our life, the perfect timing for a lesson. And so it’s not that God doesn’t want people to understand. It’s that God does not want to dumb the lesson down, only to find that people forget it or become so used to it that they ignore it.

But to you, the disciples, those who are paying attention, Jesus wants them to understand. Look at verse 11. “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.” But this parable is not so much about the seed, it’s about the soil that is waiting for the seed.

“The ones along the path,” Jesus says, “are those who have heard. Then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved.” You see, the seed sometimes lands on the surface of people and it’s a hard surface. In fact, it reminds me of an acorn. These people are surrounded with a shell and it’s just sitting there on top and it can’t get in. And so the seed does no good. It’s just sitting there for the birds to come and eat it.

“And the ones who are on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy.” There’s a layer of soil– not very deep, but there’s a layer of soil and the seed can take root and you can see amazing changes in people’s lives. But because of the conditions where they find themselves, Jesus says these people have no root. They believe for a while and in time of temptation, they fall away. When faith becomes difficult, they don’t have the resources that deep roots bring to them to endure a difficult time. You see, there are people around us who are hard and the seed can’t get in. There are also people around us who are shallow. And the seed can’t grow strong enough to deal with hard times.

“As for what fell among the thorns,” Jesus said, “they are those who hear, but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life. And their fruit does not mature.” Underneath all those weeds there is good soil. But the weeds are taking out of the soil everything that the seed that God sows needs to grow. The weeds are keeping the sun from from reaching the growing seeds so that it can flourish. There are people around us just like this, and sometimes it’s us. There are people around us who are distracted by the things of this world and the things of this world– the cares and riches and pleasures of life grab their attention. And as a result, the seed doesn’t get what it needs to mature, and it’s overwhelmed by how distracted people are by the things of this world.

As you scroll down, Facebook doesn’t take very long before an ad will interrupt you. As you watch television, it doesn’t take very long before an advertisement says, “Pay attention to me. Pay attention to what you don’t have yet and go out and buy it. Feel bad about your life because the reason your girl broke up with you is you’re not wearing the right brand of blue jeans.” Now, we can smile at that. But, friends, that’s the way the world works. And there are so many people and the commercials have a greater influence on them than what God wants them to know. They’re distracted. They’re distracted by the world. There are people like that. Sometimes we’re like that.

But Jesus says verse 15, “And as for that, in the good soil, they are those who hearing the word hold it fast in an honest and good heart and bring forth fruit with patience.” You see, good soil is not a hard surface. It’s open so the seed can get in. Good soil is not a shallow little bit of dirt, but the seed can get in and grow deep. Good soil allows the seed to be safe and to grow and bring forth fruit.

So here’s the reality, friends. I know you know this is true. The seed is what’s important. But if you do your work with the soil, you can make it into better soil. You can make it into good soil. And if, as you walk through the harvest, you can do what Jesus says, which is that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, you can do what Jesus says and watch people begin to hear, begin to open up and welcome God’s truth because they have been loved. When you and I love our neighbors, they open up to the faith that will save them.

And see, now, here’s the problem. It’s a blessing to be married. I’m married, but anybody who’s married will also tell you sometimes it’s really hard work! People are challenging! How are you and I going to learn how to love people so that we can love all the people around us and let God work through that love?

Well, there are a number of principles. One of my favorite ones is this, walk slowly through the crowd. If you’re married, your spouse has a priority. If you have children, your children are a priority. If you have a best friend, they are a priority. But Jesus did not ask you to only love the people who are of the highest priority. He asked you to love the people who are around you. And as I suggested earlier, I think in our culture today, we don’t know how to do that. So let me give you a suggestion.

I read these words this week. They struck me as being very, very profound. They come from a book entitled How To Be An Adult In Love by psychotherapist David Richo. But he’s talking about how to love.

“Love is experienced differently,” he writes, by each of us. But for most of us, five aspects of love stand out. We feel loved when we receive these five: Attention. Acceptance. Appreciation. And affection. And the fifth one may be the most important. And when we are allowed the freedom to live in accord with our own deepest needs and wishes. These five things help us to feel loved. And we also show love in the same five ways.

He goes on to say this: “Love, or any deep connection with another person, however brief, does more than just satisfy us in the present, it ripples back in time, repairing, restoring, and renovating – fixing, in other words, an inadequate past. You see, you and I are people who are a collection of everything that’s happened to us. And some of what has happened to us has not helped us. People have hurt us, sometimes by mistake or accident, sometimes very much on purpose. We are a collection, you could say, of hurts that have not healed. But if somebody loves us in a true and meaningful way, it ripples back into time and begins to heal all those old past hurts.

“Sincere love,” David Richo says, “also sets off a forward moving ripple and a resultant shift inside of us. We begin to change, to feel more calm, more confident, more trusting, because when you’re loved, that’s how you feel. And as we have been healed and helped for the past and on into the future by love, that person is now ready to love someone else.

So five things. Now, you can apply them in the most meaningful relationships in your life. But, to be honest, there’s no reason why you can’t practice these five things with everybody or, as one church put it, walk slowly through the crowd.

Now, here’s a crowd. This is Geri Molina’s funeral meal. The people who are around us are God’s soil, and God wants to prepare them for a changed life. And what you and I can do to help God is to understand that we have choices, because here we are in this room with all these people.

The reality is I have an opportunity also to bless them by practicing what Jesus asked me to do, which is to love my neighbor because, you see, in this room, there are people whose hearts are hardened. But in a time of grief, even the hardest heart is a little more open.

In this room, there are people who are shallow. They’re not very deep. There are people who are distracted by the things of this world. But at a funeral dinner, they’re kind of shaken up, and perhaps they are open to the spirit.

So if I can walk slowly through the crowd of these people, I have choices. God will allow me to notice – to pay attention to other people. One of the things I continually am trying to pay attention to is somebody wanting to interact with me. Well, if that’s so, I want to pay attention to them so that they feel that I’ve noticed.

If somebody does not feel welcome, I want to tell them how glad I am that they’re there, because that’s acceptance. “I’m so glad to see you.”

I have the opportunity to show appreciation; “Thank you so much for bringing that dish to the meal. Thank you so much for helping with this. Thank you so much.” We can always show appreciation because we can notice when people do something good, and we can tell them, “I noticed.”

We can simply show affection that is honest, simple and genuine.

And in doing those four things, we can show love in a way that helps people able to understand that they are loved as they are and they are welcome and loved to be who they are because — even if they need to be forgiven — they need to realize that God loves them. And so we also allow people to be who they are.

I wonder if we’ve forgotten how to love people in very simple ways because, quite often, as you walk through the crowd, you’ll have an opportunity to give attention. You’ll have an opportunity to show appreciation. You’ll have an opportunity to show acceptance. You’ll have an opportunity to show affection. And let’s not be around people the way sometimes we are behind a combine, to where we don’t understand the other person because every single person craves to be understood.

The Apostle Paul put it this way, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels and preach incredible sermons that are hours and hours long but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, if I’m the smartest person on the face of the earth, and if I have powerful faith so as to do miracles and remove mountains but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give away all that I have and if I deliver my body to be burned as a martyr to my faith but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Maybe you’re someone like me that makes out a list of things that I have to do each day, and I’m getting to be a little convicted because at the very top of my list of things to do today should be to love my neighbor, and perhaps that should be the priority because love opens people up. Love helps people to become good soil for the faith in Jesus Christ to take root in them and grow.

Please pray with me: Lord Jesus, am so thankful that everything does not depend upon me. I am so thankful that everything does not depend on me to notice or to show love or affection. I’m so glad that it’s not up to me only to show appreciation or to welcome people. Lord, I know that your love is flowing out to people all day long, but Lord, I also know that the best world that I can live in is one where your love flows out to the people around me, all of those people, because, Lord, you can use that love to open people up so that their lives might be changed by the truth of the gospel. And so, Lord, even though it’s not all up to me, I ask that you would help me to be useful by helping me to focus on the most simple of tasks that prepares people’s hearts to open up, and that is for them to be surrounded by love. 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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