February 19, 2023, Before We Were A Church … (Epiphany 7)

Temari 09 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:


Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c0nF0yVyb9y


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 557 Blest Be The Tie That Binds
Blest Be the Tie That Binds – Praise and Harmony Choir

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 Take My Life and Let It Be
Take My Life and Let It Be – Chris Tomlin [with lyrics]

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: Before We Were A Church …
Text: Matthew 10:24-25a, 4:16-20, Phillippians 2:12-13
Series: Organizing For The New Year

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


Matthew 10:24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.

Matthew 4:16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 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.

Phil 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

In the preface to the General Rules, John Wesley described the Methodist societies: “Such a society is no other than ‘a company of [persons] having the form and seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation.’” 


HYMN 672 God Be with You till We Meet Again
God Be With You – The SelahVideos

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!


A little bit of church history: In the years following the Civil War, the Methodist Episcopal Church– that’s the name of our denomination back then. In the years following the Civil War, the Methodist Episcopal Church decided that they would be just a church. Like any other church.

Now, in the years prior to that, going all the way back to the 1700s in England, the Methodist movement was a group of people within the Episcopalian Church. And we were a group of people who took the faith very seriously. You prayed the Covenant Prayer; that’s how serious they were.

And as a result, they followed three very distinct rules. They were called the General Rules; we’ve talked about them. They are a great way for us to organize ourselves, to follow Jesus:

Do no harm.
Do all the good you can.
Attend upon all the ordinances of God, which means we need to show up for everything that Jesus tells us to do and to help us to grow spiritually.

But there’s one other thing, and this is when we decided to just be a church. Early Methodists were required, were expected to meet every week outside the church. And people would go to a meeting in their own neighborhoods – perhaps in your house, perhaps down the street from where you live – and they would talk to each other about their week. They would talk about their struggles. They would talk about God’s help. They would answer the question, “How is it with your soul?” and they would help each other.

But you see, in the late 1800s, after the Civil War, we decided that it was enough to just be a church … that all people needed to follow Jesus was just to come to worship. All people needed was just to hear a good sermon, and I hope they’re good. All people needed was Sunday school. And the only time the church needed to gather outside of Sunday school and the occasional Bible study was for a committee meeting.

In other words, we decided to give up our history to just be like everybody else. And consequently, I feel it’s important to remind everybody of the history that we have. And particularly, if we’re talking about being our best in the new year, I think we need to talk about what is the engine that makes the church work.

Now, you are looking at a picture of the engine in 1967 Chevelle Malibu. My dad actually bought one of these. He really liked it because it had a six-cylinder engine, and you literally could look down on either side of those six cylinders and see the grass under the car. It seems to be that now, when they build cars, they put so much machinery in there, you can’t get at anything. But my dad loved it because he said, “With this much room, I can work on my own car,” and he did.

But whether it’s a six-cylinder or an eight-cylinder or something else, the church has an engine that makes everything work. And we need to ask ourselves what’s under the hood, and if it’s needed, we may need to give it a tune-up so that we can do, in the coming year, what Jesus Christ wants us to do.

Here’s the question: how do we organize ourselves to do the will of God and to do the work of the church in the coming year? And here’s my best answer. It’s just simply this: It’s enough for you and I to be like Jesus.

Because if you and I can be like Jesus, everything will happen that needs to happen. Everything will happen that God wants to be done. In Matthew 10:24, Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher. Nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher and the servant like his master.” So how do we do that? What do we do?

The Greek philosopher Socrates, they tried to confuse him. They tried to debate with him, and one of the famous questions they would use is to ask him was this: “You’re such a wise philosopher,” they would say, “Tell us, how do you get to Mount Olympus? How do you get to the place where the Greek gods live? How do you get there?” Because Greek people believe that there was such a place, but nobody knew where it was.

And here was Socrates’s answer. He said, “The way to get to Mount Olympus is this. Just make certain that every step you take is in that direction.” You and I may not know all the steps that need to be taken, but if we make certain that every step we take leads us to follow Jesus, if we make certain that every step we take leads us toward God’s will and God’s heaven, there will be no question that we’ll be headed in the right direction.

And I feel that John Wesley’s rules help us to understand what those next steps are. For every single one of us … and by the way, it’s no accident; Lent begins this week! … can follow the tradition of giving something up for Lent. Friends, all of us have things that we should give up. All of us have things we should do less of. So John Wesley’s rule number one points right at our feet and says this is what you need to do:

Do no harm. There are things we need to stop, or as Jesus said, “We need to repent.”
Not only that, Jesus said, “Follow me,” and the disciples started to follow him. There are things in Lent that we should start or perhaps do more of, and that’s the Second Rule, Do all the good you can. Those rules of John Wesley are good guides for us.

The rule we talked about last week was To attend upon all the ordinances of God. Everything that Jesus wants us to do is like a recipe in a cookbook. There are ingredients. There are resources that you bring to everything God wants you to do. There are certain steps that you take. And if you want to know what those steps are and what those ingredients are, you simply need to read Jesus’s words in the New Testament. He will tell you … but to attend upon all the ordinances of God means to show up to do what God wants us to do. If we do these things, there’s no question. Every step we take will be toward the goal of following Jesus.

Matthew 4:16, this is from the very beginning. Look at verse 17. “From that time, Jesus began to preach saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of God as in hand.'” There are things, brothers and sisters, that we should leave behind; we should repent.

And then Jesus said this: “As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and Andrew, his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.'” You see, he said to them, “I want you to start doing something.” And what is that? “I want you to go with me where I go. I want you to be with me where I am. I want you to hear what I’m saying. I want you to do what I’m doing.” And verse 20 says, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

But there’s one other subtle distinction that I want to bring up today. Before we were a church, before we gave up all the hard work we did to just be like every other church, there was one other principle that was very important. In the preface to the General Rules, John Wesley described the Methodist Societies. “Such a society is no more than a company of persons having the form and seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation,” and here are the keywords, “and to watch over one another in love that they may help each other work out their salvation.”

You see, this is what we gave up when we decided to just be a church. We gave up watching over each other. Instead, we’ll let the pastor watch over us.

We gave up helping each other to learn. We said, “We’ll let the Sunday school materials teach us.”

We gave up all the different ways that they were linked together because that linking together was a very great strength that helped them to change their lives. And I think we need to link back up. I think we are better when we do things together.

Philippians 2 has this verse, “Therefore, dear friends,” Paul writes, “as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but now much more in my absence,” and here Paul says what it is we’re doing, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” It is okay for our faith to involve some work. “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you.” God works in you to will and to act, God works in you to will to help you to make decisions. God works in you to act, to help you to do things in order to fulfill His good purpose. And I want to suggest that the best way that God works in us is when we get together … just like you see on the picture there.

Now, let’s consider the reality that cars have engines and churches do, too, and ask ourselves what’s under the hood?

I want to suggest to you that the engine in a church is people working together. You see the picture on the screen of the little boy on the right playing basketball all by himself? Now … he can get acquainted with the ball. He can get acquainted with the basket. He can imagine himself being Michael Jordan and flying through the air. But he will never learn how to play basketball all by himself.

There’s a picture of a TV set there. There’s a whole lot of people that think that they can learn how to play basketball by watching basketball being played on TV. If you heard them tell the refs what they’re doing wrong and the coaches what they’re doing wrong, you would see – That’s what they think: “I watch TV. I know better than the people who do it for a living.” But the fact is you can not watch basketball and learn how to do basketball. You can’t even sit in the stands and watch it live and learn to do what the people are down on the field doing. The only way you can learn how to do this is by getting out there with other people … because basketball is about what you can do when you’re playing with someone, and, yes, even against someone.

We are better together, but, you see, when we decided to just be a church like every other church, we decided to be an audience, an audience, wonderful people who come every week and sit and listen. (And God bless you, folks. I’m so glad that you’re here to do that.) But when Jesus said, “Follow me,” he didn’t mean for you to sit and listen. He didn’t mean for you to be in the stands. When Jesus said, “Follow me,” he didn’t mean for you to turn on the television set or get on the internet and listen to some preacher somewhere preach a sermon. He wants you to get up out of the pew and to be like him because you see, it’s enough for us to be like Jesus. But it’s way past time for us to get up, and stop being just an audience and begin to do – together – what Jesus asks us to do.

I think you’ve heard that a few years ago we had a pandemic. I think you heard a few years ago that people were at risk of dying if they left their homes. I think you’re very aware of that, but you might also consider the reality that, in order for safety, most people took a giant step back from doing anything in order that they would be safe and other people would be safe. I used to preach this sermon down there rather than behind the pulpit, but that’s a little too close to people. It might endanger them. We stopped having our Wednesday night Bible study. We stopped collecting the offering. We stopped having the children’s sermon. Because everybody needed to be —away— for everybody else to be safe.

But friends, I want to tell you, if we want to see the church be blessed, we are going to have to come back together and to do God’s work together. Now, I don’t know what form that’s going to take. Maybe there will be a Wednesday night Bible study at Wesley. Maybe it’ll be Thursday night here. I don’t know. Maybe there will be a Thursday morning prayer meeting. I don’t know. All I know is if we want to be like Jesus and if we want to do what Jesus did, we will want to come out of our all-alone space and start to do things with each other.

I’ve been a pastor for 42 years. During the first 20 or so of those years, I would stand at the door and shake everybody’s hand as they left. That’s something else they stopped doing during the pandemic. But I decided years before I ever met you that what was not needed was for me to stand by the door and say, thank you for coming. Thank you for coming. Bye bye. So I decided decades before I came to be your pastor, it was probably smarter for me to stay up here, and I still do that. You may not know that, but I stay up here in case someone needs to pray. In some churches, they have the custom if you need the pastor to pray for you, you come up during the closing hymn and you kneel. But I stay up here in case any one of you needs to pray with me. Why? We talked about this several weeks ago. When we pray together, our prayers are more powerful. When two people pray, when three people pray, it’s more powerful than if you pray by yourself, and I’m up here in case any of you want to pray.

Not only that, I’m in the church office four weekdays a week in case any of you need to pray. Not only that, you may have a question about the Bible. There’s one individual each week, he seems to ask me a question about the Bible. And I always respond to him. There’s no greater thrill for me than somebody asking me a question about the Bible. It’s a whole lot more fun than them asking me the question about when the Twilight Circle has their next meeting. Nothing against the Twilight Circle. But I love to talk about the Bible with every single one of you.

And I won’t say that I’m like the pretty girl waiting by the phone on Friday night for it to ring, but if you want to talk, I would love to talk to you. I would love to talk to you so much I would come to your house. Of course, then you’d have to run the vacuum cleaner and clean up. So maybe you’d rather come to the church house! But we are stronger and wiser and better together.

We are stronger and wiser and better together because that’s the way Jesus planned it. It’s what he did with his first 12 disciples. It’s what he wants to do with us today.

So how do we get to Mount Olympus? How do we become more like Jesus? We need to come together and talk about … what should we stop? We need to come together and talk about … what should we start? We need to come together and talk about how shall we do God’s will with regard to worship and sermons and prayer meetings and communion. We need to come together because we are better when we serve the Lord together.

I’ll say one more thing and let the sermon be a little longer before we sing. I can always tell when God touches your hearts during worship. I can always tell when you feel that God is present and God has touched you and blessed you. I can always tell. Do you know how I can tell? You don’t want to leave. And you begin to stand in little small groups around the sanctuary, talking, probably not about the sermon, but you have this desire to be with each other when God has touched your hearts. Now, I’m a big fan of the cookies. I’m a big fan of the coffee in the Fellowship Hall after worship. The place I see it, though, is actually right here. Because when the Holy Spirit touches your heart, you immediately want to begin to connect with other people. And I wish I was such a good preacher that I would see that every week.

Please take a minute for that to sink in, and let’s pray.
Lord Jesus, as we take this one minute for God, I ask that you would remind us, not merely in our brains that are listening, but all the way down deep into our hearts, that your faith is better when we practice it together. Help us, Lord, when we need to pray, to reach out to another person so that we’re praying together. Help us, Lord, when we’re doing our devotionals to think about how we can link up with someone else so that we can strengthen our devotionals by being worshipful together. Lord, help us to turn from the ways of just being a church to the ways of being a disciple, because Lord, it’s enough to be like you. Help us, Lord, to come back together. So that we can feel your presence and feel the comfort that flows toward us through each other. 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 )

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