February 5, 2023 Rule #3: By Attending … Together (Epiphany 5)

Replace Me

Due to a technical error, a video of the online service could not be completed this week.

As you are unable 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: Psalm 1:

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 131 We Gather Together
THE HYMNS ENSEMBLE – We Gather Together… “Lockdown Session”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmR1JszAM1E

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 618 Let Us Break Bread Together
Let Us Break Bread Together by Agnes Choo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Egk-pX_1nHg

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 #3: By Attending … Together
Text: Matthew 11:28-30, Hebrews 10:24-25, 1 John 1:5-10,
Matthew 18:18-20, Luke 4:16, Acts 2:42-47.
Series: Organizing For The New Year

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

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SERMON NOTES

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.”

Hebrews 10:24 and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; 7 but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 

Matthew 18:18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Luke 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read;

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[d] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

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HYMN 558 We Are The Church Together
We are the Church Together by StSt and Zion Church
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfGiOHmcJvU

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’ve been talking about John Wesley’s “General Rules.” In other words, these are rules that will help you to live a holy life. What does that mean? These are rules that will help you live a life as God would like life to be lived. What does that mean? These are rules that will help you keep the promise we make when we pray the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

First rule, do no harm.
Second rule, do all the good you can.
But the third rule is one that has just a lot of debate associated with it because the first words of the third rule are Attend upon … and John Wesley goes on to talk about the things you need to do to take care of yourself spiritually. And this week, I wanted to talk about those things, but I’ll be honest with you. I became riveted upon that word Attend. So, actually, this rule is going to be a two-parter.

The picture on the screen is in Ireland. And there is danger ahead. That’s what the exclamation sign means. There’s danger ahead because there is a blind summit. Now that doesn’t mean that there is a conference or a meeting of blind people, it means that when you get closer to the top of that hill, you can not see what’s on the other side of the hill. If you drive down country roads like this, I don’t know if you’re like me. I drive the speed limit, 55 miles an hour, or within 20, 30 miles at the speed limit. And when you’re driving that fast, if the road’s a little bumpy, you drive right down the middle. But here’s the thing, you don’t want to be in the middle of the road when you hit the top of the hill because you don’t know what’s on the other side. There could be another car driving toward you just as dumb as you are or as I am, I should say. Do no harm. Move over to the side of the road and slow down. Do all the good you can. Be ready when you get to these places where you don’t know what lies ahead. And that has to do with learning how to be present, and that’s one of the basic meanings of that word, attend. You need to be present in that place at that time, paying attention.

Woody Allen once said, “80% of success is just showing up.” Because that’s how much some people have difficulty being present, or you could say being in the present because we are so distracted. And in fact, that is the primary change in our world today from the world I grew up in. There are so many things that constantly distract us where you can honestly say that distraction is taking over.

In particular, people tend to have a greater interaction with screens. Parents are especially aware of this, how much screen time your children have, how much time do your children spend looking at screens, instead of with real-life people? And I’m thinking, well, that’s really something that the children need to pay attention to.

But I sort of came under conviction that it was a big problem that I had. The alarm goes off at 7 o’clock Sunday morning. I take my blood sugar, weigh myself, all those other things. Then I sit down with a giant mug of coffee. One half of the coffee pot, just the way I like it. And I turn on the computer, and I was intending to go over the sermon, but there’s just sort of some illness that takes over your hand, and you click on and open up Facebook. So this morning, instead of looking over the sermon, I spent 20 minutes arguing with some guy in Alabama about what they need to do about passers for small-role churches. A guy I never met, never will meet, probably will never see again, but I’m having a deep conversation with someone who is almost like an imaginary friend. Sort of like a little girl might have a conversation with the teddy bear.

You’ve heard me say this before, some of us are so wrapped up, for example, in television that you know the people on your favorite television show better than you know people in your own family. Oh my gosh. Rachel (played by Jennifer Aniston) got into BIG trouble today on the episode of Friends, and it just will be on your mind all day, that poor girl, as if she was real. And Friends is a wonderful example because it’s entitled “Friends.” But I’ll be honest with you, people today often have more friends that only exist on TV shows than they have friends in real life. And it’s really easy for me to judge people like that because where I spend time with my imaginary friends is reading books! So I do the same thing, but here’s the problem.

When we’re distracted by people we aren’t face to face with, we’re not living in the present moment. So it’s actually a little bit like this. They warn you that if you text and drive, you can meet Jesus sooner. But what would be even worse is watching an episode of Friends on your phone as you were driving up to that blind summit. Friends, we need to focus on reality. We need to focus on real people. We need to focus on what’s happening right here and now, and I’m beginning to understand how distracted I am and how distracted probably everybody else is.

Think about the last time you were upset about something. You read it on the news. You saw it on Facebook. I’d almost be willing to bet you– well, no. I’m a pastor. I’m not a betting person. I’d almost be willing to say to you it’s probably something that’s happening on the other side of the country, not here where we live. Friends, we need to be aware of what’s happening right here where we live, or there’s going to be hurt. And it occurred to me: what I need to focus on today was that we need to focus on the present right here and right now and not be distracted because Jesus and as we follow him to focus on the present, or in other words … to attend.

Here are a few scriptures that talk about that. Matthew 11:28, come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Now to take my yoke upon you means to follow Jesus, let him tell you how to live. Follow his directions. But you know something? We think that, but what we don’t realize is when you yoke oxen together, they work together. You are not intended to practice your faith without another human being pulling right alongside of you. You are not meant to be a Christian in isolation. We are meant to do this thing that we do as followers of Jesus together. And part of what makes following Jesus easy, part of what makes the burden this light is that we share it with another person.

But what’s happened since the pandemic is we’ve all sort of pulled away from the different ways that we’re connected to each other. And I think we need to come back to attend upon what brings us together … because this is reality: We are better together than when we are all by ourselves.

Hebrews 10:24 says this, let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. That’s what that person who’s yoked next to you is supposed to do. They’re supposed to stir you up. Verse 25, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, all the more as you see the day drawing near. And that day, that’s the time of the end, sort of like a blind summit.

We need to be connected to each other.
We need to attend, this is reality.
We need to attend to reality, but the reality is this: We are better together.

Luke 4:16, and he Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And he went to church. Now, what they called it for Jewish people was the synagogue. He went to the synagogue as was his custom … his regular habit … on the Sabbath day. And not only that, as they would spend the day at the synagogue, men would stand up and they would read scripture out loud, and then the group would talk about it. Friends, we need that, and if we attend to being together, the reality is, our faith will be better because we are better together.

Not only that, notice the way John puts this in verse John 1:7. But if we walk, it’s not even contemplated that you would be walking all by yourself. If we walk in the light as he, Jesus is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. We are meant to have fellowship with one another. And look what happens. And the blood of Jesus his son cleanses not just me, cleanses us from all sin. When we attend, when we get together, that’s when forgiveness and cleansing happen, when we are together. We are better together.

Matthew 18:19, Jesus says this, again, I say to you if two of you— now I wish he’d said if one of you, but that’s not what he said. If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my father in heaven. What does that mean? Prayers are more powerful when we pray together. And that’s why we take time with a microphone to let you share. It helps us to pray together. Look at verse 20. “For where two or three are gathered in my name,” Jesus says, “there am I in the midst of the them.”

Now, Jesus said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” That is true.

But when 2 or 3 people or 20 or 30 people or 200 or 300 people come together to worship, Jesus promised that he would be here in a very real and powerful way when we attend and gather together. This is reality: we are better together.

And in Acts chapter 2, it talks about the church after the day of Pentecost. It was a church that practiced being together: And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers … The apostles’ teaching took place at Solomon’s porch. The fellowship was that they would meet in small groups every night – Every night of the week, there would be small groups meeting in homes. And people would meet once a week with their small group. And in that small group, they’d break bread. They’d eat together just like we will with the SALT Potluck this Wednesday. They’d take communion together. And also, the prayers, the worship services, they would attend the prayer services in the temple – day by day, they would do this.

Verse 43, and awe came upon every soul. And many wonders and signs, miracles, in other words, were being done through the apostles. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes. They received their food with glad and generous hearts, having favor with all the people. And notice what is the result of that being together? And the Lord added to their number, day by day, those who were being saved.

When we are together, when we gather, when we attend, good things begin to happen in our reality because God shows up and begins to change people … because we are better together.

So let me make four points. I’m not sure why these four points need to be made, but as I prayed over the sermon, they just seem to be very important for me to mention. Here’s the first one: I’m not making any plans how I want 2023 to go … I just really want God to take the lead.

I think we can all agree with that, right? We want God to take the lead. But you know what happens? As we turn toward God, God is going to turn us toward others. If you love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, God is going to turn your heart to others. Because we’re supposed to love one another, as Jesus loved us. And we’re supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. So if you really just want God to take the lead, understand this. He’s going to ask you to attend and to pay attention to other people.

Point number two: why are people avoiding church? Well, here comes the good advice. It’s good advice. Stop looking for the perfect church. You know the problem with looking for a perfect church? They wouldn’t let you go there! Stop looking for the perfect church. Go worship a perfect God today, with a congregation of flawed people. Just in case you’re not sure who I’m talking about, I’m talking about me, and all of us, a congregation of flawed people, who need God, who need grace, who need the Lord as much as you do. We are better together. But 80% of success is just showing up. And when we show up, God begins to work in our lives in a beautiful way. Because we are together. We are better together.

Point number three: you live your best life when you invite God into it. Here’s the truth, friends. When you invite God into your life, you know what God is going to do? God is going to invite other people into your life. Some of those people will bless you and encourage you. Some of those people will irritate the living daylights out of you. But you’re supposed to bless them and pray for them. Because when we interact with each other, when we love one another, we are better together. So the future is this. We want to turn every “I” – every Christian in isolation – every person who’s pulled back from participation in church life, who’s pulled back from church worship, who’s pulled back from participating in loving their neighbor. We want to encourage every “I” to become again, just like it used to be, a “WE.”

So I invite you in your imagination to think that you’re receiving a letter like the cartoon people on the screen did. “It’s from our church,” the husband says. “We’ve been called up to active duty.”

Lord Jesus, during the pandemic, and for many reasons, we have taken a giant step back from interacting with the people who live around us, our literal neighbors. Now, we’re interacting with people across the country on Facebook. We’re interacting with issues that trouble us that come from all over the world, as people argue and fight with each other. We’re anxious about things all over the place. But Lord, help us to understand … that if we choose to follow you, you will call us to serve right here. You will call us to focus on reality that is happening right here. You will ask us to pay attention to real people who live right here. And Lord, before technology was invented, that’s how it always was. Lord, in the days of the Bible, that’s how you always portrayed it, as to how we should live. Lord, help us to not be isolated, as the culture encourages us, to live in social media, as the culture encourages us, to live in books of fiction and stories on television, as the culture encourages us, to step back from real-life people and step into imaginary stories because we find them very comforting. But Lord, life is not just about what we find comforting. Help us to focus on real people. Lord, help us to attend, to gather together. Because with your help, Lord, we are better together. 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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