November 20, 2022 We Are People Who Do Not Quench The Spirit (Pentecost 24)

Image by Kevin Key, “Wildflowers in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park” via Flickr

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/772913708

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c3XYeGVUZvf

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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.

HYMN 404 Every Time I Feel The Spirit
Ernie Haase, Babbie Mason – Every Time I Feel the Spirit [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kXw5Z9O38A

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − (Dr. Colleen Hanycz, President of Xavier University)

Loving Creator,
We asked for strength, and you gave us difficulties to make us strong.
We asked for wisdom, and you gave us problems to solve.
We asked for prosperity, and you gave us purpose and brains to use.
We asked for courage, and you gave us fears to overcome.
We asked for patience, and you gave us situations where we were forced to wait.
We asked for love, and you gave us troubled people to help.
We asked for justice, and you called us to be just and to lead with integrity.
Lord, we may feel that we have received nothing that we asked for or wanted. And yet, we received everything that we needed. For this, we give thanks. 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 641 Fill My Cup Lord
Jessy Dixon – Fill My Cup, Lord [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwvqX4nm2sE

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 People Who Do Not Quench The Spirit
Text: I Thessalonians 5:1-25
Series: We Are …

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

I Thessalonians 5:1 But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 When people say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 12 But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

19 Do not quench the Spirit, 20 do not despise prophesying, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good, 22 abstain from every form of evil.

23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 25 Brethren, pray for us.

John 7:37-38 “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'”

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HYMN 347 Spirit Song
Spirit Song Maranatha Singers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iC7RDZP7tFw

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

We are a learning church. There are many things that we are learning about what the church is meant to be. There are many things we are learning from the scripture about what God wants us to do. But one thing that needs to be stressed is that we never stop learning.

We are the people who do not quench the Spirit. And that’s something that we are learning again today. You see, when you grew up, you were taught: this is how you behave in church. This is how you sit. This is what you do. And all too often, what you mostly learn is what not to do. But you see, the main thing you should learn in church is not to quench the Spirit.

Let me change the subject slightly. I’ve never seen this movie. If I’m not mistaken, it’s actually been in several movies. There’s a place in the movie where the bad guy is starting to lose the battle. And the good guys are starting to feel better because they feel like they’re winning. And all of a sudden, the bad guy cries these words out, “Release the Kraken.” And all hell breaks loose. Something bad is going to happen. I found a clip from the movie on YouTube yesterday and I watched it. And this big sea monster comes up from the bottom of the ocean and destroys the ship of the good guys.

Well, friends, sometimes we may feel like someone has released the Kraken. Sometimes we may feel like the world is going to hell in a handbasket and it’s getting worse and it’s speeding up. But we are the people through whom God desires to release the Holy Spirit. And I would want to say to you that the Holy Spirit is more powerful than any sea monster! What’s important, though, is for us not to get in the way of the Holy Spirit.

John Wesley was seriously criticized for being what they called, in that day, an enthusiast. Because one of the things that they truly hated in the church in John Wesley’s day was anything that sounded or seemed like enthusiasm. Because church was supposed to be serious. And church was supposed to be intellectual. And church was never, ever, ever supposed to be emotional. And John Wesley suggested to people that their hearts be warmed. And that they feel something when they’re in the presence of God. So they criticized him for being enthusiastic.

Let me tell you a joke. I need to warn you that it’s a joke at the beginning! Once upon a time, at a United Methodist church in a small town just like this one, a man rode his horse down the street to the church, tied up his horse to the stair rail, and came inside. He was dressed very oddly and in an unusual manner, like a man who lived a couple of hundred years ago. And he shook hands with the pastor. He said, “Pastor, I think I’m lost. But when I saw the church sign and I saw that it said Methodist, I knew I was home. My name is Peter Cartwright.” And the pastor said, “Mr. Cartwright, we’re glad to have you in our worship today. Please have a seat.” Then the pastor went over to the usher and said to the usher, “This guy scares me. He’s got that mean look on his face. He doesn’t look like he belongs here. I have no idea what he’s going to do. I’m worried he’s going to disturb the service.” And he said to the usher, who was a very big man, he said, “I want you to keep a close eye on him.” And sure enough, as the service started, Mr. Cartwright just seemed to get into it. He just kind of got excited. It was like he was muttering under his breath. And the pastor grew more and more concerned. As the sermon started, there came a place where Cartwright was overwhelmed with his emotion. And he stood up, and he shot his hands up in the air, and he shouted out, “Praise the Lord!”

The usher stepped up behind him, grabbed him by the collar, and said, “Sir, we don’t allow that here!”

But that used to be much more common. In fact, what they said of the early Methodists — and Peter Cartwright, by the way, was caught in a time warp because he was an early Methodist preacher right here in Illinois, very famous. They used to call us shouting Methodists because we’d get so excited in the worship service, people would just shout.

Now, I don’t know whether it’s good for me to be glad that you people don’t shout or whether I should be sad that nothing excites you to the point to where you lose control. One of the proudest moments in the 42 years that I have been a preacher in Illinois was when, in one service, the chairman of the board of the church looked up at me and interrupted the sermon with a question. He shouted out, he said, “Dave, why is that?” And I thought to myself, “At last, he cares more about the answer than behaving in church,” because the one thing that we do not want to do is to quench the spirit. We do not want to pour water on the fire that God has lit within us. We do not want to prevent people from feeling emotions. And let me tell you why.

This is a true story. In 1984, I was the associate pastor for the First United Methodist Church of Decatur. And a church expert, Paul Dietterich, came down from Chicago. He was the leader of the Center for Parish Development. And he gave a workshop to our leaders about how they could get along with each other and how the better they got along with each other, the more the church could accomplish. And of course, I thought that was really nice, pretty obvious but really nice.

And I came up to him during the break, and I said, “I’m the person who’s in charge of evangelism, who’s in charge of the church growing.” And I said to him, “Is there any of all your research that you’ve done that would help me in my job?”

And he said, ”Well, a number of years ago, the Board of Evangelism of the United Methodist Church contracted with us to identify the essential characteristics of a growing church.’‘ Now, the thing you should know about me is I was 27 then and one of the most arrogant young men you would ever meet … because the minute he said that, I smiled and I thought to myself, ”Well, I know what all those characteristics are because I’ve read this stack of books and I know what’s essential.”

And he said, ‘‘Well, let me tell you about the study. What we did is we went through and we found a growing church of every type in the United States. Multiple growing churches. We found churches that were surrounded by cornfields like Wesley is, churches in small towns like Kinmundy is, and churches in county seat towns, like Salem is. Giant big city churches, smaller city churches, churches in the rich neighborhoods, churches in the poor neighborhoods, every possible kind of church that was growing. And we went and we studied them and we made lists of characteristics because it was our job to identify the essential characteristics of a growing church. So what was happening in these growing churches would help us find the essential characteristics.”

And I said to myself, ”Yup, I’ve read the books. Yup.”

And he looked at me and said, ”Well, let me tell you the rest of the study. We put together a sample, an identical sample of churches that were shrinking and declining or stuck on a plateau, again, of every single type. And we went to these churches and we made lists of their characteristics. And any time we found a characteristic in a declining church that was also found in a growing church, we knew it wasn’t essential. So we took it off the list.”

And I smiled at him patronizingly, because again, I had read all the books, and I knew already all the essential characteristics. Some authors said there were 12, and for some authors there were 20, and maybe for some there were as many as 50.

And he looked at me and he said, ”You know, by the time we were done, we found there was only one essential characteristic never found in any declining church. Never. Always found, without exception, in every church that was growing.”

And I was dumbfounded because apparently all the books I had read were wrong. And he looked at me because he knew me. He knew who I was. He knew how arrogant I was. He looked at me and he smiled and he said, ”Would you like to know what it is?” And all I could say was, ”Yes, sir. Yes, sir.”

And I’ll never forget the words that he said to me in 1984, ”The laity are excited about what is happening in their church.

Now, it’s wonderful if the pastor is excited, but nothing happens till the laity get excited. By the way that’s all of you, and church people feel all kinds of emotions, but it’s excitement that makes a difference.

And it’s good to be excited about plans that you have, things that you’re going to do someday, but what makes a difference is things that are already happening.

And the final thing, it’s not the pastor’s church, it’s not the bishop’s church, it’s our church. But in the growing churches, the laity felt that it was their church and they had a say and they were listened to.

In other words, if you become an enthusiast, the church will grow.

Now, 10, 11 years later, I went to Pawnee, Illinois, and I said to myself, “You know, I tried all those things in all those books for over 10 years now, and none of them really worked. I want to try something different.” And I remembered this conversation and I decided when I came into the new church, the only thing I would do is pour gasoline on the excitement of the laity. In other words, whatever excited them, I was all for it. And I’ll never forget the biggest argument they were having in their church was whether they would have this big giant fried chicken dinner. And they split into two sides that were for it and against it. And at the very first board meeting, they looked at me and they said, “Pastor, tell us what to do. Tell us whether to have the fried chicken dinner or not.”

And I said, “Friends, I’ve been to seminary, and I never went to a class that talked about whether churches should have fried chicken dinners or not. But you know something? If you feel we should have one, I’m all for it. And if you feel we should not have one, I’m all for it.” And they were astonished – a pastor that didn’t give them orders! So they fussed, cussed and discussed, and decided to have the fried chicken dinner.

In the first six months, church attendance went up 18%. Because all I did was … instead of telling people they were wrong, I said to them, “If that excites you, maybe God wants you to do it.” Over the next number of years, even after I left, the church doubled in size. Because to be an enthusiast works. Now I could go on and on and tell you why it works, but let me just put a pin in there and just say, if we’re excited, amazing and beautiful things happen.

The dictionary definition of enthusiasm: A feeling of energetic interest in a particular subject or activity, and an eagerness to be involved in it. It’s another word for excitement. But what you may not know is that word enthusiasm comes from two Greek words, en theós. Because the idea is that a person who is enthusiastic is in, immersed, surrounded by God. That God has filled them, and they can’t help but be enthusiastic.

Last week, when we were talking about how to be thankful, I suggested that no matter how dark the place is, that you look for some light shining in the darkness. Because, I said, when you find that light, shining, that will be God working, and you can give thanks for what God is doing. And it will get stronger.

Today I want to say to you that the place of excitement is where the Holy Spirit is working in the church. Look for it just like you look for light in the darkness. And all of a sudden you’ll find the reason for us to be excited. You will find the reason for us to be enthusiastic … because God is working among us. But sometimes we’re so focused on other things that we don’t notice.

Book of 1 Thessalonians, the church in Thessalonica was very worried. They were worried about the Second Coming. They were worried about the world coming to an end. They understood the prophecies about this, and they were deeply concerned. And Paul wrote to encourage them. The beginning of the fifth chapter starts with these words, “But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you for you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say there is peace and security, then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail,” in other words, “as labor comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape.” They were dreading a time when the devil would say, “Release the Kraken.”

And Paul wanted to encourage them with these words, “While you are waiting for the Second Coming of Christ, while you are waiting for catastrophic events on the world scene, while you are waiting, do this.” And this is what we talked about last week. “Don’t be afraid. Rejoice. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.” And as we talked about last week, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Find that thing for which you can be thankful and pray for it to grow. And Paul then just flat out says, “This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” And I want to suggest it’s the will of God for us.

So what’s next? Here are the very next words. Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” The Spirit lights a fire inside of you. Do not put the fire out!

Verse 20, “Do not despise prophesying.” That’s when you say to yourself, “I feel that God is telling me to do something. God is telling me to say something.” Don’t despise that! Let yourself say, “I think God wants us to do this because God is leading all of us.” And I know it might seem ridiculous, but sometimes God is leading you to have a big fried chicken dinner. But in that other church, they just couldn’t believe that God cared about those things. Let God speak to you; let God speak through you.

And when you heard what you think is from God, look at verse 21, test it. Look for what the scriptures say, look for what wisdom says. (You’ve been praying for wisdom now in our call to worship.) And once you’ve tested it, if it turns out to be good, hold on to it. But if it turns out not to be good, abstain or let go or walk away from it. This is what we need to do while we are waiting. Because while we are waiting, we want to let the Holy Spirit grow and flow.

So, friends, quench not the Spirit, because here’s the truth; we do not possess the power of God. The power of God possesses us. We need to understand and realize who is supposed to be in charge here. I want you to understand it’s not the pastor who’s supposed to be in charge. It’s not the bishop who’s supposed to be in charge. It’s not even you. But the Holy Spirit leads us on. And we need to let the Holy Spirit be in charge and guide us.

Because all too often, this is what a church is. All the living water is bottled up inside the walls of the church like water building up behind a dam. And that water never gets out into the world where it can do some good. If you look at this picture of a dam and look past it, you will see that all around the outside of where all that water is held back, it’s desert.

But here’s the strange thing about desert. if it rains even a little bit, the desert will just explode into flowers. In the driest desert, the seeds are waiting for water because they know there’s a limited time for them to grow. It doesn’t take much water for the desert to bloom. But the problem with church is often that the water is all bottled up. The problem is that what the Holy Spirit wants to do is all bottled up and we need to be able to release it.

John 7:37, Jesus stood up in the middle of a service in the temple. Now, keep in mind, Jesus was not a priest in the temple. Jesus never conducted worship in the temple. He never led worship in the temple as a priest, but they had these great, ornate worship services. And in John 7, it says that Jesus stood up in the middle of this worship service. And scholars say it was at the high point of the service. There was a moment of silence. And in that high moment of silence when God was supposed to speak to people, all of a sudden Jesus, stood up and shouted out these words, “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” The very next verse talks about Pentecost. It says that this is what he meant was going to happen when the Holy Spirit was given in Pentecost.

You see, friends, out of you and me, out of our hearts, living water is supposed to flow out into the world, all around us.

And it doesn’t take much of God working through God’s people for that whole world to change. If we’ll allow ourselves to be enthusiastic, if we’ll allow ourselves to be in God, en theos, if we’ll allow ourselves, every now and then, to maybe get a little emotional, we will find that out of our hearts, the Holy Spirit will flow.

Because you see, and we’ve talked about this throughout Pentecost, the last 24 Sundays, you’re on a path from when you get up till you fall asleep. And the people you meet on that path, God is going to reach out to them through you because that’s how God wants to work. And ironically, God reaches out to them through many tiny, small, humble things that you do … Many kind, gentle, caring things that you say … if you will allow yourself to be a channel for the Holy Spirit. So as you go through your day, release the Holy Spirit. There are things that God wants to do. Let God do them through you. Go with the flow and you’ll see miracles happening.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, help us to understand that it does not depend upon one of us, nor does it depend upon all of us. But, Lord, the truth is that we need to release the Holy Spirit. And so, in many tiny, small, and gentle ways, Lord, I thank you that you are wanting to bless all the people around us by answering their prayers, but help us, Lord, to be people who let go and let the Holy Spirit flow. And let God’s will be done as we go through our day. And from that, Lord, may it so will be that your will would be done and that the whole world around us would begin to change as people bloom and turn toward you. 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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