October 2, 2022: We Are A Connectional Church (Pentecost 17)

Images from ChurchArt

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/756209449

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c36n0tVt6gZ

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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 Hymn of Promise
Hymn of Promise — by Soli Deo Gloria Choir; Michael Fuchs, director
First Lutheran Church – Duluth, MN
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrpSwFniCpQ

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 One Bread, One Body
One Bread One Body with Lyrics by John Michael Talbot
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z01zrrOFkNE

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: We Are A Connectional Church
Hebrews 12:1-2, Romans 6:4-9, John 6:47-58
Sermon Series: “We Are”

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For he who has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. 9 For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”

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 Blest Be The Tie That Binds
Blest Be The Tie That Bind. Four-part singing led by Bill Gaither
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUUE9agdb_A

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

Since the beginning of Pentecost last June, we have been talking about how the Holy Spirit comes to us, how Jesus is with us, and how, as we go through our day, the Holy Spirit and Jesus will guide us in everything that happens. And not only that, God prepares our day in advance for us to meet certain people – because we can do something to help. God prepares in advance for us to deal with certain situations, because we, with the help of Jesus and the abilities of the Holy Spirit, we can help. We can make a difference.

During this month of October, I want to shift gears a little bit and talk about some of the unique things about the United Methodist Church, our church, our history, our tradition. And one of those, for today, is that we understand that we are a connectional church, and we do things out of being connected to each other and connected to God.

Because here’s the reality, brothers and sisters, you and I are connected! When I was in seminary many years ago, one of the professors talked about the younger generation. He said, “This is the most connected generation ever. You watch. They get off the airplanes at the airport. The very first thing they do, they whip out their phones because they immediately want to be connected with the other people in their life.”

In fact, people want to be connected so much, if you look around in restaurants, you can see four people sitting at a table, and they’re all on their phones because they want to be connected! I want you to understand that I am no different than that. I want to be connected too. I have a curiosity. Anytime somebody brings up a topic, I have to immediately go look on the internet and research it. I almost cannot help doing it. I have to do that even to the point to where my wife has given me a new name: I have a superpower; I am known as Google Man!

But being connected, I also want to tell you, has saved my life. This is a Fitbit. It’s connected by Bluetooth to my phone. And last June, I downloaded the monthly report and noticed that my pulse rate was over 130 beats a minute for over 40 straight days. I called my doctor, and my doctor said, you need to get to a cardiologist. The cardiologist said, “We need to put you in ICU immediately.” And another cardiologist said, “We’re going to do surgery and fix this.” And they did. But you know something? It was because I was connected. I have to tell you, I’m not terribly happy about this, but that same doctor sent me a present that arrived last Friday. I’m supposed to wear a heart monitor for 30 days. The only time of day I’m not wearing it is in the shower. And then I have to put electrodes back on myself. I think I’m going to feel like Frankenstein before the 30 days are over! But we are connected, even now, in ways to save our lives.

And that makes it particularly difficult, as you know if you live up in this part of Kinmundy near the church, because you see a little red light in the picture? That means there’s no internet. Every picture you’re looking at, I had to get on my cell phone and then somehow get it transferred to the computer. It was so frustrating. It is so frustrating not to be able to email people. For the past few days, we have not been connected. Our AT&T landline phones are actually over the internet. So if you live in this little area without internet, you’ve also had no telephone. Friends, I miss it so much. I’m really hopeful that later on today, I’ll have my Internet back, and then I can be Google Man. But right now, I just have to do the best I can. But it just reminds me how important it is to be connected.

Do you see the difference between the two pictures? In one, the power cord is connected. In the other one, the power cord is not connected. I’d like to invite you to go home today and gather in front of the television set and get ready to watch a movie or a football game, get the popcorn out, get all ready, and then unplug the TV and see how much you enjoy watching the blank screen.

And here’s the sermon that goes with that. Friends, if you and I are not connected to the power of God, if you and I are not connected to the Lord Jesus Christ, if you and I are not connected to the Holy Spirit, sharing what God wants us to know with us, church is like watching a television that’s turned off, hoping that something will happen.

And if somebody tells you that church is boring, if somebody tells you that church is meaningless, if somebody tells you that church and God are no help whatsoever, you can be certain of one thing. And I don’t mean this as a criticism; I mean it as understanding why someone would feel like that. If you’re not plugged into God’s power, that’s what it’s like. Friends, what an amazing difference it is when we become connected. So how do we do that?

Well, first of all, as I mentioned in the prayer a few minutes ago, I realized that God makes a connection with us. Jesus came to us at Christmas. One of the names for Jesus is Emmanuel, which means, “God with us.” And I want to suggest to you that that is God connected to us. So God is seeking to connect to us. Jesus connected with our world at Christmas.

Now, there are three ways — there are more than three, but there are three specific ways I want to suggest to you that we are connected. Here’s the first one. We are connected to God through baptism.

The picture you’re looking at is a soldier. I’m assuming this is in Iraq, some desert war area, but the chaplain is baptizing soldiers who want to be baptized, and if you look closely, you see he’s being baptized in a bucket from a bulldozer. Romans 6:4. Here’s what the scripture says is the result of baptism. We were buried, therefore, with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united — I want to suggest you could use the word connected. For if we have been connected with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. So … no matter how old the person is, no matter how much water is used, no matter where the baptism takes place, in a tractor bucket, in a church building, what does God say happens? You and I are connected with the death of Jesus Christ in a way that lets us live a new life. Now, what does that mean? If you have never been baptized, you might want to consider it and come and talk to me.

In the United Methodist Church, you have the privilege of being baptized by immersion, if you wish. You have the privilege of me making the sign of the cross in water on your forehead in the worship service. You have the opportunity to choose how you wish to be baptized because we don’t believe it’s the amount of the water. We believe it is the promise of God’s word that says what happens when someone is baptized. Now, something else that’s uniquely United Methodist. We believe that if you already have been baptized, whether that was in a Lutheran church like I was when I grew up, when that was in a Baptist church, when that was in any other church, if you were baptized already, we believe that God was there. If you were baptized already, we believe that the promise of God is still true.

Consequently, one thing about United Methodists, we don’t think you have to redo baptism — because it took the first time, because God keeps his promise made in his word, but here’s the problem we have: just like plugging that TV in, sometimes you have to wake it up and turn it on for it to work. If you’ve already been baptized, you may need to wake up that connection so that the power of God can help you to live a new life. Baptism connects you, once, for all time.

The other way God connects with us is through Holy Communion. If you look at John, chapter six, Jesus says some very specific things about Holy Communion. And he actually shocks the Jewish people when he mentions this because they don’t understand about how on the night he was betrayed, Jesus took bread and said, “This is my body.” And they said, “How in the world are we supposed to consume the body of this man, Jesus?” Jesus says, John 6:53, so Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” In other words, you’re not connected. Verse 54, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” You see, newness of life begins now. And I will raise him up at the last day.

And the Jewish people are going, “What!” But it all makes sense later.

Jesus goes on to say, “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood” – notice these words – “abides in me, and I in him.” Or you could say, “is connected to me, and I to him or her.” Taking Holy Communion strengthens the connection you have with God.

We take communion once a month. But if you came to me and said, “Pastor Dave, I need to take communion more often than that because I’m kind of messing up,” – you meet with me, and we’ll take communion every week. You come by the church office every day we’ll have communion, you and I — because the Scripture says that communion connects us with Jesus and helps us to abide in him. Communion strengthens the connection. Now, with regard to both of these two, I think the scripture very plainly makes these statements.

The third way we’re connected is a little bit different, but I still think it’s important. And that’s this verse from Hebrews. Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses …” Let that sink in for just a minute. The author of Hebrews here is talking about the people of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11, talking about the heroes of the Bible who, with great faith, lived their life. And the author of Hebrew says very plainly all of those people who have been gone before are in heaven watching you. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which cling so closely and let us run with perseverance … And you could run if you want, but basically, you’re following Jesus. Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

Friends, I want to suggest you and I are connected with everybody who’s gone before. I don’t know why people think in heaven it’s nothing but singing and going to harp lessons. It’s quite clear. This scripture says that on whatever they have up there for cable TV, there is a Kinmundy channel! And your grandma is still watching you, shaking her head and saying, “I can’t believe he’s doing it again,” or, “Doesn’t she know she’s supposed to stir that while it’s on the stove?” Now, you just think for a minute. Do you think if you were in heaven you would not be interested in the lives of your children? Do you think if you were in heaven you would not be interested in the lives of your grandchildren? Do you think if you were in heaven you would not care about the people you spent your life with? I want to suggest to you that this scripture suggests something else.

Quentin Butts lost his sister Laverne this week. Other people have passed away. One of the saddest realities is over the eight years I’ve been your pastor, I have seen quite a number of wonderful, wonderful people go to heaven. But I want to suggest to you, in the deepest of honesty, you are still connected to them — you are still connected to them — because when you come down this aisle, when you take a piece of that bread for Holy Communion, guess what? It not only connects you to Jesus. It connects you to everybody else who is connected to Jesus. When you come down that aisle and you take that cup and you drink what Jesus said was his blood, guess what? You become connected with everybody who’s ever drunk that cup. You are blood brothers. You are blood sisters. You are one great family of God that continues.

So friends, we here today are surrounded by a great crowd of witnesses. And I’ll be honest with you, I can look to certain places in this sanctuary because — God bless you. You are so rigid and such creatures of habit. I know where the people sat who are not here, but they are watching us from heaven. And I remember them. I cannot look over here to the pews to my left and not remember Gerri Molina. She sat there. But we are surrounded, we are connected, we are watched over by so great a cloud of witnesses. I think that’s the truth.

But you know something? We have to take care of the connection. Here is the problem that we have with what people think is normal for church. What people think is normal for church is I go to church to get connected to Jesus. But even though that person is connected to the power of God, they don’t think about the reality that they’re disconnected from other people because the way it’s not supposed to be is church where all of your needs are met. And it doesn’t occur to you that what God wants to do is to meet the needs of all of God’s people. And the way God chooses to do that is by connecting us to each other. You see, when God works through us, it connects us to other people. And you hear back from them, “Thank you. Wow.” You hear them asking for help, sometimes out loud, sometimes you can just tell they’ve not had a good day.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “A Christian servant is one who perpetually looks in the face of God and then goes forth to talk to others.” When we realize we’re connected to God, God reminds us of the people we’re connected to. Who are you connected to? Because the love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay; love isn’t love till you give it away. The presence of God, the power of Jesus Christ, the guidance of the Holy Spirit wasn’t put in your life to stay just within you. God is not the way God wants to be until we give God’s presence to others.

So, a little bit of a history lesson. I’d like to invite you to pray about how you could strengthen your connection not just to God, but to other people … because we are a connectional church. And that means we want to get connected and we want to stay connected.

Let me give you an example from the history of the Methodist Church. In 1742, John Wesley, by accident, stumbled on a way for people to be connected to each other. It actually was the idea of a sea captain who came to John Wesley and said, “Give me the names of 12 people, and I will go visit each one of them every single week to see how they are doing in the faith.” And John Wesley said, “That’s great.” So they started what they called Methodist Class meetings. And basically, the class leader was assigned up to 12 people. And that person would individually visit each one of those 12 people every single week to ask them one question, how is it with your soul?

Now, a more modern scholar has suggested that the question might better be said, how is your life in God? But I would like to just simply suggest that the very best way is to just say, “How are you?” Because you don’t only want to understand how things are with their soul. If they stub their toe, you want to find out about how their foot hurts. If you love God with all your mind, soul, heart, and strength, you are going to want to learn so you can pray for other people about what’s going on in their mind. What they think in their soul, the decisions they make. In their feelings, in their heart, as well as the illnesses they struggle with in the body.

Now, the class leader soon found it took a whole lot of time to go visit 12 people every single week. So guess what they started doing? They started meeting together once a week. And that was good because not only did the class leader connect with each one of them, they started connecting with each other. And if people had a problem, they started doing things to make things better. My husband is sick. My child is sick. And people would start bringing meals to the house. Men would come out and weed your garden. They took care of each other. They were connected to each other because the purpose of the class meeting was to watch over one another in love.

And friends, back in those days, Methodists were the poorest of the poor, they needed a lot of that. But they found that they could take care of each other and rise above their problems. Because every single week, they’d be in the presence of people who cared enough to ask them, “How are you?” and listen.

Now, there’s been a lot of scientific study on this about how we need to be connected to other people. I’ve got a dozen amazing statistics, but let me just simply share one with you right now. If you join a group where people care for you, you will cut the odds that you will die in the next year in half. Being connected to other people will increase your life as well as your quality of life. Like God said to Adam in the garden, “You’re not meant to be alone,” and it’s the same truth for every single one of you.

You are not meant to be alone. You’re meant to be connected to other people. And you should have somebody each week ask you, “How are you?” where you know they really care. That’s what it means to be connected. Now, we gave that up back in 1872 in the United States, 1912 in England. We gave this up. Because to be a Methodist up till 1872 meant you participated in a group like that every single week. And they made a conscious, deliberate choice to move from that, to become a very ordinary church where people came together and sang hymns. Not that there’s anything wrong with singing hymns. A church where people got together and heard a sermon. Not that there’s anything wrong with hearing a sermon! But we are people whom God created to need to be connected to other people. And so I want to heartily recommend it to you.

There are likely 7 to 12 people you see each week, and you look at them and you can say, “How are you?” Maybe you should consider that those are your people. Maybe you should pray for them. And before you pray, ask, “How are you?” And let that guide your prayers because church, as Wesley had it as an idea, church, I think, as Jesus understood it, because this is what he did with his disciples, is a network of people who care for each other.
And I think it would do us a great benefit for us to plug that back in to the source of power that is God.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, I am so thankful that you’re in my life to empower me and help me, but please help me to understand. Please help everybody around me to understand that your power comes into me so that it can flow through me to bless all the people I’m connected to. And, Lord, I may pray a prayer. I may pray for everybody. And I know you hear those prayers, Lord, but help me to notice my neighbor. Help me to notice the people around me. Help me to be drawn to pray for them so that you’re will may be done on earth just as it is in heaven. 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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