January 22, 2023 Rule #1: Do No Harm (Epiphany 3)

Image vis RawPixel

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/791530555

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c0V3V2VwPj7


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.)


1 Blessed are the ones who walk not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers; 2 but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law they meditate day and night. 3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, that yield their fruit in its season, and their leaf does not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

HYMN 413 A Charge to Keep I Have
A Charge to Keep I Have, The Master’s Seminary Chorus, Grace Community Church – Sun Valley, California

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The WESLEY COVENANT PRAYER

I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. 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 419 I Am Thine, O Lord
Draw Me Nearer … Guy Penrod

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: Rule #1: Do No Harm
Text: Matthew 11:28-30, Matthew 4:17-20, Romans 13:9-10
Series: Organizing For The New Year

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


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.”

Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Romans 13:9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.


HYMN O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing by Reawaken (Acoustic Hymn)

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!


The early Methodists got organized for the new year with the Wesley Covenant Service, with the Wesley Covenant Prayer, with their dedication and surrender to God’s will for the upcoming year. It’s a good thing for us to get organized, too, because there are things that God wants us to do.

Now, in a perfect and ideal world, I could ask you to take out a piece of paper and write down the ten things that you think God most wants our church to do in the coming year. And in a perfect world, every single one of us would be on the same page. Every single one of us would have the same list. I do have a feeling, however, that if we were to make out such a list, everyone’s would be different. And some people might just have to say, “I never thought about what God wants to do through our church in the new year.” But the reason we organize for the year is so that we can do God’s will; is so that we can do God’s work; so that we can focus on what’s important and hopefully let go of what’s not important; so that we can focus on what it means to follow Jesus, each one of us in our own life but also for us to follow Jesus together as a church.

And Epiphany, which is this season of the church year, is a season that begins with the coming of the wise men because wisdom causes us to seek the Lord and to seek the Lord’s will.

So what does that mean? Well, John Wesley’s followers had rules to help them. Several hundred years ago, John Wesley had three basic rules that helped them to focus on what was important. And here’s the first one: Do no harm.

In Matthew chapter 4, it states that Jesus began to preach this word: repent. And the implication is that preaching still continues. Jesus continues to ask people to change their ways. And when you think about changing your ways, what that means is that Jesus is asking for more of some things, but he’s also asking for less of other things. The goal, of course, is to do more of what works, to do more of what God wants. But here’s a good question. Where do you start?

Where do you start? And I love this familiar little saying: less is more. But I want to twist it around and apply it in a different way. I want to suggest that the smart thing to do is to begin focusing on what you need to do less, first of all, because I think it’s easier.

But, second of all, because doing less surrenders room and time and energy for us to focus on what God would want us to do more. Brian Tracy, author, said that there are essentially only four different things that you can do to improve the quality of your life.

The first one is you can do more of some things. We’ll talk about next week!
You can do less of other things.
But in addition to that, you can start doing something new, that you’ve never done before.
And you can stop doing something that you’ve never stopped doing before.

And the whole idea of less is more, I would suggest, is that if you start with doing less of what holds you back, you’ll find that you have more energy and more ability to do what is truly helpful.

There’s another concept that helps us here, the dose is the poison. In 2003, I discovered I was a type II diabetic. Sugar is not good for me. But the problem is the amount of sugar, not sugar itself. If there’s too much sugar, that’s bad. If there’s too little sugar, that’s not good. But there is a level of sugar for me that is just right.

You know that alcohol can change your behavior, but I’m wondering if you understand that a certain amount of alcohol– and it’s the dose is the poison — Too much alcohol in your bloodstream will literally kill you in an instant. Because the dose is what makes something harmful.

And so the overall goal for us is to stop poisoning our own lives. You repent in order to be holy, but words that go along with holy are whole, healthy, and that word righteous. The word righteousness talks about things happening right, things being done in the right way that are for the best, for our benefit.

So how do we recognize what is poison for us? How do we know what is the healthy dose and what is happening in our life that is beyond a healthy dose? Well, I think there are two ways for us to recognize it.

The red flag is this: at the level you and I do something, whatever that is, if it’s doing harm to you, you’re probably doing too much of it. If it’s changing your behavior so that you do harm to other people, you’re probably doing too much of it.

But as we talked about in the recitation of Psalm 1 at the beginning of the service, how do people know what is too much? How do people know what is the wrong thing to do and the right thing to do? Notice Psalm 1:2. The word says that if their delight is in the law of the Lord and what God wants them to do, the instructions of God, literally, “And on his law, they meditate day and night.” They think about what God wants throughout the day, or set aside time in the morning and the evening to evaluate their day, that will lead them in a productive way, as the psalm promises: in all things that they do, they prosper. God’s word helps us to truly know.

Here’s what Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Verse 29, “Take my yoke upon you…” Now, those oxen are wearing a yoke. The yoke makes it easy for them to pull a load, but the main point of the yoke is that they’re pulling that load the direction that the farmer wants. So to take my yoke upon you, when Jesus says that, it is “Do what I want and you’ll find an amazing change in your life.” In fact, this phrase comes from the way the Jewish people perceived their rabbis. If you followed a rabbi’s teaching, it was called taking that rabbi’s yoke because you were going to pull that load, you were going to follow his instructions.

Jesus says, “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.” Now, here’s a clear thing, if you’re leading a team of oxen, if you do nothing, the oxen are going to want to go over here and eat grass. If you do nothing, the oxen are going to want to go over to the shade and lay down. The leader gives the oxen direction to get the work done.

Consequently, there are times when Jesus leads us that he says, “Stop doing that because it gets in the way of doing what I want you to do, going where I want you to go. Stop doing this because it gets in the way of going where I want you to go and doing the work that I want you to do.” And Jesus points out in verse 30, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Now, you and I, we are not often able to say, “The burdens I carry are easy to bear. The work that I do is not overwhelming me. I am not too busy. I have all the time in the world that I need to do God’s will.” Most of us get too busy to say that … but what needs to come into our awareness is that if you are too busy to do God’s will, what you’re too busy with is not what God wants. You may want to go over there and eat that grass, but that’s not in God’s plan, at least for right now. You may want to go over there and lay down in the shade but that’s not in God’s plan for right now. But what God wants you to do, the burden that God wants you to carry is light and it’s not hard.

Now, I dragged this from the office in here to show you — this is a 15-pound dumbbell. “Pastor Dave, why do you keep a 15-pound dumbbell in your office?” Well, it’s because every morning I’m supposed to do 15 of these repetitions. And I might do that one day a month. I’m serious. The things I talk about with you, I’m terrible at them, too. I need this sermon as much as anybody else! But I would just like to help ask you to imagine the thing that it is that God wants you to let go of is a little bit like this 15-pound dumbbell. If you’re carrying it with you all day long, everywhere you go, it’s getting in the way. It doesn’t help you.

Not only that, one of the easiest things in the world is for you to put the dumbbell down in your office and stop doing the exercises … because I do that a lot. Now, if you have a burden that’s hard to lay down, maybe there’s some addiction characteristics to it. But most of the time, every single one of us have something that we do that we’re more than ready to quit doing. In fact, you may not even be able to explain why you were still doing that. You may not be able to explain why you’re still watching that TV show, because you don’t like it anymore. You may not be able to explain why you’re still doing this particular bit of housework, you don’t like it anymore. You really don’t want to do it. You really don’t care about it. But you know something? You are in the habit of carrying that burden.

And Jesus says, “Why don’t you just stop and put it down?”
Because Jesus says, “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.”
And if you and I have a reason to complain about how much we’re doing, it’s because we’re busy doing things that Jesus doesn’t need us to do.

There’s a old spiritual song that goes, “I want to lay my burden down.” Friends, you can lay your burden down, and that in all honesty is what it means to repent. There are certain things that you and I should stop doing because they’re not important to God. “Well, Pastor Dave, what do you mean by that”? Well, have you noticed that I wear a tie on Sunday morning? I’m quite pleased to identify the fact that I’m the only person here wearing a tie. Do you know why I wear a tie on Sunday morning? So the new folks know who the preacher is. Now, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t mind wearing a tie but it’s not something that Jesus, I think, really cares about. If it bothers me, if it’s extra work, I can lay it down.

Same thing for the rest of the verse that’s on the screen. Jesus says to the disciples, “Follow me.” What he means by that is … stop looking over there at that grass, stop looking at the shade under that tree, lay those nets down, and come with me. I’ll tell you where to go. Let me control what you do, and I will not only make your life easier when you lay your burden down, I will make it better!

And so I encourage you to think about your life and what you do. Because, as Romans 13 says– Paul lists a number of commandments here: “You shall not commit adultery. You shall not kill. You shall not steal. You shall not covet.” And a lot of us would like a few others to be added to that list, such as you– if you’re a child, you will go to bed at 9 o’clock, you will get your homework done, and you will not smoke. It would be easier if those things were all listed.

But here’s where the scripture helps us when something is not specifically listed as a commandment. Any other commandment, any other instruction, any other thing that God wants you or I to do are summed up in this one sentence, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

And so when you lay down the burden of whatever it is you should stop doing, you are choosing to love yourself. When you lay down the burden of something that you’re doing that you shouldn’t do, you are loving the people you care about, your neighbors. Knowing that something does harm to you in particular and to others is a sure sign that somehow, something should change.

The picture on the screen is a woman wearing a yoke that helps her carry heavy buckets full of water. Jesus will show you how to carry and to do what brings you the greatest benefit. Let him teach you the yoke to wear.

And so, therefore, my advice for all of us, me too, is to notice your neighbor, notice yourself. Recognize when harm is being done. And consider the dose, is this too much? Because if it is, we want to lay that burden down. So you can look at what you’re doing, and ask: Am I doing too much of this? Is the level of that in my life– the energy I invest in it, is that too high? This thing that I should be doing that I’m not, is the level of time and energy that I invest in that too low? Do I need to do more? Recognize when something becomes harmful. And when it gets to that point, you can stop.

Because here’s the truth, the world that God created is one that operates in a logical scientific manner. The level of blood sugar in my blood is the natural result of what I eat. I have learned, without any shadow of a doubt, that if I eat a half gallon of ice cream at 9 o’clock tonight, at night, in the morning, my blood sugar is going to be high. I’ve also noted that eating half of that, it’s also high. But it’s not that the ice cream’s bad, it’s that I need to figure out the dose. And it’s very possible that eating ice cream at 9 o’clock just is not something I should do at all.

And what I experience doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a result of what I do and to some degree also what other people do, although I will say – Kim does not bring me a half gallon of ice cream and tell me to finish it before bedtime. Sometimes you have people in your life who encourage you to do things that cause trouble.

I love this quote by W. Edwards Deming, “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” So what that means is in the morning, if my blood sugar’s high, I did something. Something happened in my body. It’s not voodoo. It’s not that God is trying to punish me. It’s not that there’s some great awful mystery. Most of the time, it’s just plain common sense. If my blood sugar is too high, I can find the reason by looking at my life. And when I make adjustments in my life, the amount of blood sugar in my bloodstream changes, which leads us to another saying that is a lot of value:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again only this time expecting different results. “I ate that half gallon of ice cream at 9 o’clock, but I was watching the Vicar of Dibley, so it’s not going to count.” And we constantly give ourselves excuses. “If I do it this way at this time, then it’s not going to count.” And time after time, after time after time after time, that fantasy turns out to be wrong, but we never learn. For example, all of you who bought a lottery ticket last week, how many weeks has it been since you did not win the $12 billion prize? Yet, there is a fantasy that this week it will be different.

The other thing about recognizing harm is taking time to find Pluto. Pluto, as you know, used to be called the ninth planet in our solar system. But scientists recently have decided that it’s too small to be a planet. So they demoted Pluto. Pluto is small enough, though, and it’s far enough away, it’s almost impossible for telescopes to see it. But you know how they figured out that Pluto was there? Occasionally, during times when the Neptune was orbiting the sun, the orbit would vary from what it was supposed to be. And so they knew there must be a reason for that … something farther out that had a gravitational pull that was pulling Neptune just a tiny little bit off course. And so they started looking for it, and sure enough, they found it.

Friends, if something bad is happening in your life, if harm is being done to you, whether you’re doing or somebody else is doing it, there is a cause. There is a reason. And if you work with God to understand your life, God will point out, “This is what’s causing harm.”

So how do we do this? Well, Brian Tracy’s question is this: “If I had to do this over again, would I do it?” For example: It’s 9 o’clock at night. There’s a half gallon of rocky road ice cream in the freezer. If I had to do this over again, would I do it? And if the answer is no, it’s great to just stop.

But another way that you can discern this is to make a list of the 10 things that most powerfully influence your life and consider what’s called the 80/20 rule. The idea behind the 80/20 rule is that things are not all the same in how they affect your life. And in particular, what it implies is that 20% of what you do, or one out of five things you do, will generate 80% of the good that happens to you. Now, if that’s true, you want to do those things first. And you want to make certain that you do them well.

The other, flip side of the 80/20 rule is that 20% of the things you do, or in other words, one thing out of every five things, causes 80% of the trouble you have in your life. And whatever that one thing is, or two things out of 10, if you just simply stop doing it, it will be like an anchor, chained to your ankles when you’re trying to swim, suddenly drops away. You can literally let go of things that harm you.

And so you can give every little thing on your list of everything you do a ranking. You could say, “This is the number one thing I do that yields the greatest benefit. I’m never going to drop that. But this thing, number 10 down here, causes me more harm than anything else. I’m not even going to miss it.” And if you can let go of it, it’ll make a lot of room for good. So try to figure out what in your life is a nine or a 10, worth quitting, worth dropping, worth letting go.

And in fact, the most effective way to change your habits is to simply write down everything that can be counted. In other words, create for yourself a scoreboard. Write down everything that can be counted. If you’re on a diet, write down every single thing you eat. And eventually, day after day after day, as you’re writing things down, it’ll be real clear: that 9 o’clock half gallon of ice cream, that’s the problem. When you write everything down it gets very clear.

If you write down every dollar you spend, it’ll become very clear the money you spend on ice cream is a waste. If you write it all down everything gets very clear. And with all the things you write down, you can sort of mentally assign them a value: “This thing is a number one. It’s incredibly valuable. I don’t want to miss it. But this thing is a 10. It’s something that causes 10 times more trouble than I want. I want to let go of it.” And then your mind will help you start working on a way to just simply stop.

But most of the time, the thing that causes you trouble is not something you really, deep down in your heart, want to do. But somehow it’s just escaped your awareness. Last night, around 9 o’clock at night, Kim and I are watching television and she looked over at me and she could see that I was having trouble staying awake. It might have something to do with being 67, I’m not quite sure. But I was bound and determined that I was going to stay awake because the television was on and this television show, I was going to watch it, even though, to admit it, I didn’t really want to watch it. And she looked at me with the voice of reason and she said, “You look so tired. Do you want to just go to bed?” It’s a wonderful thing if someone with a lot of common sense is in your life to say things like that to you. And so I completely ignored what she advised. Well, no, that’s why you have troubles in your life. You know better, but you don’t pay attention. But 45 minutes later, I said, “This is stupid. I have things I need to do before bedtime. I’ll go do them.” So I got up and I started to do them. And as a result, I stopped doing something that I didn’t want to do. I put down a burden that wasn’t worth carrying. I got to sleep a little bit earlier. And you and I can do that same thing. So less is more. Doing less of things is a wonderful place to start changing your life, to start making room for good.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, I pray that you would bring into our lives people who will be honest with us, who will say things like, “You look tired. Why don’t you go to bed? You don’t really look like you need that third helping of whatever it is. You don’t really need that half a gallon of ice cream at 9 o’clock. You really shouldn’t be drinking that coffee after 6:00 if you want to go to bed at a good time.” Lord, we really need people in our lives who speak good common sense to us. And Lord, we need you to speak good common sense to us about our lives. Help us to understand how all the different things that we do are connected so that we can understand that if we stop doing this, it will lead to us doing less of that, and that will lead to more of what brings us a benefit. Help us, Lord, to repent by doing less of certain things. And Lord, help us to understand your will for our life and what those things might be. We ask this in Jesus’ 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 )

This entry was posted in Past Attend "Worship at Home". Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.