October 9, 2022: We Are A Learning Church (Pentecost 18)

Image by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/758342593

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c36j0rVtUo3


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.)


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.

HYMN Wonderful Words Of Life
Allison Durham Speer, Wesley Pritchard, Sue Dodge, Larry Ford – Wonderful Words of Life

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 We Are The Church
We Are The Church

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 Learning Church
Proverbs 8:1-9, 33-36, Hebrews 12:5-11, Matthew 11:28-30
Sermon Series: “We Are”

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


Proverbs 8:1 Does not wisdom call, does not understanding raise her voice? 2 On the heights beside the way, in the paths she takes her stand; 3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: 4 “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the sons of men. 5 O simple ones, learn prudence; O foolish men, pay attention. 6 Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right; 7 for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8 All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. 9 They are all straight to him who understands and right to those who find knowledge.

33 Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. 34 Happy is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. 35 For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD; 36 but he who misses me injures himself; all who hate me love death.”

Hebrews 12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? –“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Matthew 11:28 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.”

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


HYMN 156 I Love To Tell The Story
I Love To Tell The Story (Live At Studio C, Gaither Studios, Alexandria, IN/202)

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!


Last week we talked about how we are a connectional church. And that’s a very particular Methodist sort of phrase and I tried to explain it, because it means that we’re all connected to each other. And because we’re all connected to each other, we are also a learning church. Because to be alive means that you’re learning and I want you to stay alive.

And what that means is, as the picture says, never stop learning. Never stop learning.

This little quote that’s in the picture really gives me a great deal of comfort. W. Edwards Deming said that every system, every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets. Now, what does that mean? It means that results are not random.

If you look at ancient Greek philosophers, they said everything is random. Everything is chaos. There is no rhyme or reason to the universe. But the Christian religion says that God created the world. In fact, literally in Proverbs, it says that the very first thing that God created was wisdom. And then God used wisdom to create everything else. So what that means is, underneath the lives that we are living, there is wisdom. Now, that doesn’t mean that you and I understand it. I never made it through organic chemistry, for example. You and I may not understand everything about the universe but the universe is based on wisdom.

And what that means is every system is perfectly designed. Consequences are not chaos. God does not roll the dice and go, “Oh, she’s going to have cancer.” God does not roll the dice and say, “Oh, you’re going to hit a deer on the way home and break your leg.” God does not roll the dice. What happens, happens for reasons, perhaps reasons that we do not understand.

Now, every system is perfectly designed. I didn’t say that every system was perfect. I didn’t say that every result was good. What I said was God has not picked you out to harm you or hurt you. But what’s happening in your life is a result of reasons that you very likely don’t understand. And what that says to me is that if I change the way I live, the results I’m experiencing will change.

In 2003, I took my dad’s blood sugar monitor out. He passed away earlier and I tested my blood sugar and it was in the 300s. And I said to myself, well, obviously I’ve had too many sweets so I very carefully did not eat anything sweet or with carbohydrates in it. And I tested it the next morning and it was higher. It was time to go to the doctor. I talked to a couple of members of my church who were diabetic and they looked at me and they smiled and they said, “Welcome to the club.”

God did not choose for me to have that disease. But 40 years of drinking sugary soda pop had its way with me. And in particular, you see all the DNA that comes because my dad was a diabetic, all the DNA that comes, the reasons are likely there. But if I change what I do, if I change what I eat, if I listen to my doctor, if I do the right thing, I can change the results I’m getting because every system is perfectly designed and what causes something can be changed, and you can get different results.

That’s one reason why, throughout the COVID Pandemic, we prayed this prayer that’s on the screen, the Serenity Prayer. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. I could not change my DNA. The courage to change the things I can: I could turn down thirds. I haven’t quite learned how to turn down seconds yet, but I could learn! And here’s the most important thing to learn; the wisdom to know the difference.

In every emergency room, on every battlefield, medical treatment begins with triage. And it’s this prayer, and action. Is this person injured in a way to where if we provide medical treatment, we can help them? Is this person so horribly wounded; there’s nothing we can do to save them? If this person is not need help right now, then we’ll let them wait while we take care of this other person who desperately needs help in this moment. This is the triage that emergency rooms do. But we do the same sort of triage when we pray this prayer. Lord, is this something I can do something about? And God will show you, out of 100 different things, maybe one or two that you can do, and you can trust that it will make a difference. But for all the other things, you may just have to have serenity and trust that God will help you through it. But what’s happening to us is not random.

Now, some of you have done this. I have never been brave enough to do this. And thank God I live in parts of Illinois where it doesn’t get cold enough for this to be a problem. But whether you saw it in the Christmas Movie or whether you saw it on the playground, supposedly, if it gets cold enough, and you touch your wet tongue to a metal pole that’s cold enough, supposedly your tongue will freeze right to that pole, and you won’t be able to get away. Friends, don’t do this at home. Once is enough to learn not to do that. Man goes to the country doctor. “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” What does the country doctor say? “Don’t do that.”

But you see, here’s the problem. There are some people who never learn. Well, it’s been 60,000 miles since the last oil change. But I’m really kind of busy this week. There are some people that never learn. And I’ll be honest with you … if you refuse to learn from your mistakes, you’re going to have a very hard life. So … tongues frozen to metal poles? don’t do that. There are lots of things that we learn not to do.

But see, here’s the truth. If you only make a mistake once– if you only make a mistake once, you will live an almost perfect life. But if you look around you at the people who are really struggling, you know what you’ll quite often see? And I don’t really mean to be critical, I just mean to be honest. What you’ll quite often see is a person who makes the same mistake over and over and over and over again. And each time, they say, “This time, there will be a different result.”

That’s not the way the world was created.

This is one of the reasons why we pray this prayer as our call to worship – it’s really a “Call to Learn.” It is a call for us to learn from our created reality.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Help me to know what’s possible. Help me to know what’s possible when I pray. Help me to see my world as you see it … because then we’ll see everything in the truth. Because what underlies a whole lot of human mistakes is the fact that people don’t see the truth when they look at the world. And in fact, to be honest, this has been more and more true in the last ten years. People prefer to believe something that’s not true because that’s what they’d like to be true. And every time they bump into that reality, it hurts them. But there are people who will hang on to what’s not true rather than learn from the pains that happen to them.

The next half of it though – you know this one, “Lord, I know this to be true, I just don’t do it,” “Lord, I know what I should do. I just always do the opposite.” Paul said, “Wretched man that I am, for I do what I don’t want to do. And the things that I know I should do, I don’t do.” That’s what it means to be human sometimes.

So learning is the second one here: Lord, help me to learn how to obey. I want to do the right thing, but help my disobedience. Help me when I go astray. Help me not to be confused. Help me to focus. Lord, help me not to be lost, guide me. Lord, help me not to be overwhelmed by the cares of the world; prune me. Because you see, these prayers are about us learning from reality. Because here’s the deal: when you understand the reality that you’re in, you are going to be able to stay on the path that leads to the best life possible. Now, that doesn’t mean that a deer won’t run out in front of your car, but it does mean you’ll pay attention when you go down the road at night.

Lord, help me to stay on the path. Why? There is a wise path for us every day, to go through the day. And God will guide you, if you listen to God. God will provide for you. God will protect you. But the main way that providence and protection happens is God saying: “Here’s the best path to take.” Now, I would argue with you that the best path, if you want to learn what it is, you will find the truth in the Bible, which is an encouragement to read some of it every day. But you will also find the truth requires you to pay attention. Now, I’ll be honest with you. I’ve never tried to put mascara on in my life. Also, I have developed a tremor, so I’m pretty sure I would do a very poor job of putting on mascara! Thank God I’m a man, I don’t have to wear makeup! Thank you, Lord.

But you see, here’s the reality. You, and I’m speaking to you, ladies, you may be so good that you can put mascara on without looking, but I know I’m not. I wore contacts for about 30 years. I never learned how to put my contacts in without looking in the mirror. I had to look in the mirror, I had to see what I was doing! And here’s the way the path works: The Bible tells you what to do, but you need to pay attention to what you’re doing so you can do it well. You need both to help you to learn and understand the truth. And by the way, the way you learn is by making a mistake studying what happened and learning to do something different. That requires the mirror, that requires you to look at yourself and think about what God wanted.

So wisdom calls to us. The Book of Proverbs has multiple places where wisdom is portrayed as a woman who’s out on the street corner saying ”Hey, stupid people, listen to me and stop being stupid!’ Here’s an example from chapter eight ‘‘To you all men, I call— by the way, I think wisdom calls to women, but for some reason, men are the ones who are seen as stupid! “Oh, man, I call. And my prize to the sons of men, oh simple ones, learn prudence, oh foolish men, pay attention.” And it goes on for 28 verses in that way.

And at the end of the chapter, you see these words: ”Hear instruction and be wise. Do not neglect it. Happy is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors, for he who finds me, who finds wisdom, finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. But he who misses me, he who does not heed the teachings of wisdom injures himself.’‘ And then comes this phrase, which is so true, ”All who hate me love death.”

Wisdom cries out, God is ready to teach us if we are ready to learn. Now, here’s my favorite verse about learning. It’s the one I turn to when I have had a really bad day and I have multiple stories that I could tell you and make the sermon very, very long. I remember a night in 1973 where I literally leaned against a lamppost in the dark and prayed, prayed for God to help me. I have never felt so helpless or hopeless. And I quoted these verses to myself to remind me:

Hebrews 12:5, “And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by Him.”

Pastor Dave, what do you mean, punished by God? The Book of James says very clearly that God does not need to punish you. You make so many mistakes that the consequences of those mistakes – all God needs to do to tell you that’s not the right way to live is to let consequences happen, consequences that you set into motion. Nonetheless, the author of the book of Hebrews finds comfort in believing that the hard times in his life come from God the Father. That’s his way of looking at it. But I don’t want any of you thinking that God is punishing you unless you are a perfect person. God does not need to do anything for you to have difficulty. Here’s the reason why the author of Hebrews finds comfort in this, “For the Lord disciplines him whom He loves and chastises every son whom He receives.”

Please think back to when you were a little child. Go clean your room, or else. Oh, that’s so terrible. But you still need to learn how to clean your room. Finish your vegetables. Or you can’t have dessert. Well, you need your vegetables more than you need dessert. God sometimes shows love for us by asking us to do something that’s difficult in the moment. Why? Verse 7, “It is for discipline that you have to endure.” And He goes on to talk about how we have earthly parents. And they teach us lessons. They discipline us for a time, etc, etc.

And then, in verse 10, He says, “For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but He disciplines us for good so that we may share His holiness.” Now, you can look up the word holiness in the dictionary. You can ask yourself what holiness means. But I want to tell you that another translation of the word that’s translated holiness is wholeness. God disciplines us for our good, that we may share his wholeness. Another translation of the same word is health or healing. Life is going as it should.

But here’s the point that’s always helped me in the most difficult times in my life. For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant. But later, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Because you see, that peaceful fruit has to grow. And the word righteousness, again, it’s just like that word, holiness. It means wholeness. It means health. It means everything is happening as it should. Later, it yields the peaceful fruit of everything happening in our lives as it should to those who have been trained by it. And every form of training is somewhat difficult in the moment. Think about the wind sprints the coach used to have you run when you were an athlete. Every form of training can be difficult in the moment, but you’re doing it so that life will be better later. Never stop learning.

And in fact, if you and I follow Jesus, do you remember this promise? We’ve looked at it several Sundays over the past few months. Jesus invites you to come to him in times of trouble -when you’re heavy laden, when you’re worked so hard – because he will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, Jesus says, and – see the words – 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. Never stop learning.

The best way I know to be blessed, to be happy in this life, for everything to go the way it should, for us to be healthy and well, is to number one, listen to Jesus. And that’s where you open your Bible and let Jesus speak to you, and then do what he says. Oh, by the way, that’s the hard part. But that’s where you learn from trying to do what Jesus says.

Now, some problems cannot be solved now. Sometimes the only thing you can do is just wait until the storm is over and clean up. There are a whole lot of people that have been dealing with hurricanes the last few weeks. They couldn’t stop the hurricane. They couldn’t turn the hurricane. They just had to deal with it. And sometimes we have to deal with it as well. But we can take shelter and pray for serenity when there are things that we cannot change. We can have courage when it’s time to clean up and do the things that we can. And hopefully, you know the difference.

We need to learn and questions guide what we learn. I highly recommend these questions to anybody who has a problem.

The first question I like to recommend is this. What’s good about it? Typically, there’s some things that are good in every difficulty. Find the good things and help them get stronger.

My favorite question. What can I learn from this?

Another question: Where is God at work in this problem? Because Romans 8:28 says that God is working in every aspect of your life to bring good out of it. God is working for good. Now, that doesn’t mean that everything’s good. It means that God is working for good. If you ask yourself the question, where is God at work? Maybe you’ll see what God is doing and that will remind you that God has not left you alone. That hope is still real.

Finally, this last one. When you just feel overwhelmed sometimes this last one really sets us free: What’s funny about this? The next time you are in a knockdown, drag-out argument with your spouse or with a two-year-old or the police officer who pulled you over, ask yourself the question, What’s funny about this? In fact, I think, if it was your spouse you were arguing with, it might just astonish them if you looked in the eye and said, “What’s funny about this?” Because the funny thing is, if you find something funny, it’ll change how you feel. It’s astonishing how you’re having this terrible, awful day and you look on the internet and you look for jokes and you start reading jokes, you can’t stop laughing when you find something that’s funny. And all of a sudden, your emotions just totally change. You can change how you feel. What’s funny about this?

The picture on the screen is a landscape covered with snow. Where is the warmth in this picture? See, here’s the astonishing thing about a question: if you ask your mind a question, your mind will give you an answer. You know where the warmth is in this picture? Maybe that’s the park bench where a man asked a woman to marry him. Maybe that’s a park bench where a mother sat with her two-year-old in the spring. If you ask your mind a question, your mind can give you answers. Now, by the way, sometimes your mind will give you the wrong answer. But questions help us to find answers.

There’s power in connection.

There’s power when we connect with God. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

There’s power when we connect with other people. When you have a choice, choose to be closer. Turn toward whom you love. Turn toward God. Turn toward people and stay connected. And once you’re connected, begin to communicate. I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, but if you take the hardest crossword puzzle you can find, one that you could never finish on your own, but you sit down in a group of four or five other people and do it with other people, the answers will come quickly from one person and another and another and another because friends, problems are meant for us to work on them together.

John Wesley called this Christian Conferencing. When people connected with each other, he wanted them to talk to each other, and a question would be asked, and people would listen to each other’s answers, and they would learn together. Early Methodists went to a class meeting every single week, and the question was, How is it with your soul? Or another version of that would be, What is God doing in your life that you’ve learned this past week?

Those questions connected people together and gave them answers.

John Wesley called people together when it was time to make a decision, and he would phrase the decision as a question.
And then different people would give their answers.
And together, they would choose the best answer.
And then they wrote it down and published it. That’s how they made decisions. We Methodists still make decisions the same way today, but what makes it work is we learn by talking with each other. And we need more of that.

From time to time, we just need to take one minute and talk to God. From time to time, we need to take just one minute and talk to each other. And you will learn from the answers that come in that conversation. Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, help us not to turn away from other people when we have a problem. Help us not to hide and hope that the problem will go away. Help us, Lord, to connect with you and ask you what to do. Help us, Lord, to connect to other people. And help us to be willing to be humble enough to say, “What should I do?” Lord, help us to learn from you and from each other. And we ask this in Jesus’s name. 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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