May 21, 2023 (Eastertide 6) Aldersgate Sunday

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/828675854?share=copy

Screenpal: https://screenpal.com/watch/c0hrc3VAyJ4

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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 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: (St. Teresa of Avila:)
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which   He looks
Compassion on this world…
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

HYMN 57 O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing – Congregational singing (Shepherds’ Conference)
Grace Community Church – Sun Valley, California
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nx0rCabJ16c

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Covenant Prayer in the Wesley Tradition
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 170  O How I Love Jesus
Carrie Underwood – Oh How I Love Jesus
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Plf4djQMn8

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: Let Your Hearts Be Warmed
Text: Mark 12:28 –34
Series: Instructions for Resurrection

Click on a link to open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Mark 12:28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’

31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; 33 and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any question.

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HYMN 536  Precious Name
Take the Name of Jesus With You – Trail Reeves
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D30PwyEI9MY

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

Ever since Easter Sunday, I’ve been talking with you about something that has powerfully affected me this year. And that’s how Jesus chooses to minister after the resurrection is different. Now, not completely different, but it’s different enough that we need to be aware of what Jesus wants us to do in the resurrection. After the resurrection, as people who believe in him. And one of those instructions is to let your hearts be warmed.

Let me change the subject though now because I’d like to tell you about a dirty trick. One of the meanest things you can do to someone who loves a jigsaw puzzle is to take the puzzle pieces out of one box and put them in a different box. It will mess them up. And the reason is the way we choose to do a jigsaw puzzle. You take a piece, and you lift it up, and you look for where that piece fits into the picture on the box. If it’s the wrong box, you’re going to have a very hard time!

And you see, that’s one of the problems when we come to the Bible. Because every verse in the Bible, every verse in the New Testament, every verse in the gospels where Jesus spoke and taught and gave us instructions, every single one of these verses is like a single puzzle piece. And well-meaning people throughout history have said, “I need to help someone trying to figure out what Jesus wants by putting a picture on the box that I like.”

And here’s the problem with that. Jesus told us in every one of those verses what the church was supposed to look like. But for a lot of us, like the picture on the screen, that’s what the church is supposed to look like. Aren’t those pictures of church buildings beautiful? But what if Jesus wanted the church to be something different than the picture that is in our minds? For a lot of us, and I’ll tell you, me, too, this is a picture of the church. I love the beautiful small churches where so many people are blessed.

But there are other people who like different kinds of churches and the picture on their box might look like this. It looks like a concert, and there’s a big screen. And there’s wild, loud guitars, and drums. (And you know, I play guitar. I like that, too.) But there are some people, that’s their picture of the church. And now, here’s the problem.

You take a verse of Jesus, and you compare it to the picture, whether it’s a white church in the country or it’s a concert in a big auditorium. You take that puzzle piece that Jesus said, and you look at it and you go, “That doesn’t fit with the picture in my mind.” And so you set it aside.

That’s the problem with us having a preconceived picture in our minds of what Jesus wants. And in fact, research has proven this in theology and sociology, when you begin with a picture in your mind of what you like, what happens is everything that you see fits with the picture. It’s called confirmation bias. And not only that, if Jesus said something that doesn’t fit with your picture, you look at it, and you go, “Well, that’s not for today.” Sometimes, people twist it around to make it mean something that it obviously doesn’t say – so that it will fit their picture.

About the only thing we can do is to try to get back more to the Bible. And so here’s a picture that some people might like better. It shows Jesus standing in the temple preaching to people who are gathered around him. But, you know something, even this picture can confuse us if the picture, in our mind, is not adequate, if the picture, in our mind, comes from some philosophers, some theologian, or, God forbid, some politician. About the only thing we can do to be accurate with what Jesus wants is to set aside our preconceived picture and simply look among all the individual verses: What fits with what? And we’ll figure out what Jesus wants by looking specifically at what Jesus said. And I think, in all honesty, if we do that, we’re going to be surprised.

Because the sad reality is so much of what Jesus wanted us to understand, we tend not to notice. Last week we talked about a major problem in our society today about how when people are socially disconnected, their risk of anxiety and depression increases; so does the risk of heart disease, up 29%; dementia, up 50%; stroke, up 32%. The Surgeon General of the United States wants to warn you about the danger to your health of being disconnected from other people and, as a result, feeling lonely. He goes on to say, “The epidemic of disconnection and loneliness has fueled other problems that are killing us and threaten to rip our country apart.” Because when we don’t see how we are connected to each other – guess what? – everyone who thinks like you, they’re your friend. Anybody who doesn’t think like you, they’re your enemy.

And while this is certainly accurate, we have another problem that is tearing us apart as well. And that’s spiritual disconnection. Because people feel disconnected from God.

Let me tell you a little bit of history. Psychiatrist Carl Jung is probably the most famous founder of the science of psychology and psychiatry, next to Sigmund Freud. And in his early practice as a psychiatrist, he worked with the Army. And his experience with the Army was that 12 to 13 percent of people in the Swiss Army were alcoholics who could not control their desire for alcohol. And as a psychiatrist, he was brought in to try to help them. By and large, he found it to be fruitless, and he felt very helpless.

He went on to work in mental hospitals. Where, again, 12 to 13% of the population were diagnosed not so much with mental illness, but they were hospitalized because of the ravages of alcoholism. And here, he was able to achieve a small amount of success, and one of the patients he was able to help was a man named Rowland, a man who had come from the United States if I understand the story right, to have this treatment because he was such a hopeless alcoholic, he had no hope. And Jung was able to help him.

And he was able to stop drinking, but after a short time, he relapsed and went right back down to where he was, and he came back to Jung, and he begged him, “Please help me again. I have to stop drinking or it’s going to kill me.”

And Carl Jung said, “I can’t help you. There is nothing that psychiatry can do that we haven’t already tried. There’s nothing that psychology can do that we haven’t already tried. There is nothing I can do to help you.” But Jung said, “There’s one thing that I have found to work in a small fraction of people. There are people who have had a spiritual experience that has helped them to stop drinking.” In short, a genuine conversion. And he looked at this man from New York City and said, “You need to go out and have yourself a spiritual experience.”

Roland said, “Well, where do I go? And how do I do that?” And Jung said, “I have no idea.”

Well, see, here’s the end of the story, Mr. Roland went out and had a spiritual experience. And he stopped drinking. And he never drank again. Because the problem he was dealing with was spiritual disconnection. And friends, when problems get to where it seems like there’s no hope spiritual connection is what we want to do. You need to go out and have yourself a spiritual experience.

So how do we find God? Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord plans for welfare and not for evil, plans to give you a future and a hope, but then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will hear you.

And then we find this verse, which is about conversion and spiritual connection: You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Spiritual connection is a heart thing. John Wesley had a big problem with that because he was quite a brilliant man. John Wesley was the son of a minister, the grandson of ministers. John Wesley was a student at Oxford University. John Wesley became a New Testament lecturer at Oxford University. He was a professor. He became ordained in the Church of England.

But his entire life, it wasn’t so much his heart that was his faith; it was his mind. The church at that time looked down on emotion, and he could not quite get away from his intelligence, his drive for perfection, his feeling that people should not only be holy but perfect, and he demanded that of himself, and he was continually aware that he was unworthy of God’s love and forgiveness.

So … Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in May. “Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday,” John Wesley wrote in his journal, “I had continual sorrow and heaviness in my heart.” Wednesday, May 24th: “I think it was about 5:00 this morning that I opened my New Testament on these words: “There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that you should be partakers of the divine nature.”” This, of course, is what he wanted; he wanted to be a partaker of the divine nature. But something you should know about John Wesley is he was a verse-by-verse person, and something he would frequently do is open the Bible, especially in the New Testament, and find a verse on that page that spoke to him and seek to understand, “Lord, what are you trying to tell me through that verse?”

“Just as I went out,” in other words, after he left his home to begin the day’s work, “I opened it again on these words: “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” And he took hope in those words because that’s what he wanted.

So here’s what he writes about in his journal for that evening, May 24th, Wednesday night, and it’s interesting; this coming Wednesday is the 24th. It’s the anniversary of the Aldersgate evening. “In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans.” Now think for a moment: we gather around the television set. 50 years ago, before television, we went to the movie theater. 50 years before that, we would go to a theater to listen to a play. What they did in Wesley’s day is people would meet at someone’s house, and a person would read an interesting book. So this is not unusual; it’s very normal. But Wesley writes that the person reading was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, “and about a quarter before 9:00 – literally, he could tell you the exact time – about a quarter before 9:00 in the evening, while he was describing the change that God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt,” he felt, “I felt my heart strangely warmed …” And from the warmth in his heart, it rose to his mind. “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation. And an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

In other words, he felt something. As Jeremiah said, you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart … because God is looking for a relationship. And all this goes back to that verse early in the morning, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Let’s take a look at the context of what Jesus said about not being far from the kingdom of God. The picture on the screen is a picture of John Wesley preaching to the people. Mark 12:28, and one of the scribes – the lawyers trained in the Jewish religious law – one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another. And seeing that Jesus answered them well, asked Jesus, which commandment is the first of all?

Now, this was a regular debating question that the rabbis would use to dispute or to debate each other. There are 10 commandments. If keeping one would force you to break another, which one has a higher priority? And they would spend days debating this. So this is a classic argument to trap Jesus into all these arguments that have gone on and on before.

And here’s how Jesus replies. He doesn’t play their game. Jesus answered, “The first is ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart” – notice that heart comes first – “with all your soul, with all your mind, and finally, with all your strength.” Your physical body.

The second Jesus says is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these two.”

And the lawyer responded to him, “You were right teacher. You have truly said that He is one and there’s no other, but He and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifice” – much more than everything that is done in worship in the temple. This is what’s important.

And Jesus then says this: When Jesus saw that he’d answered wisely, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Friends, when we understand this truth about the priority, we are not far from the kingdom of God. And the response of Jesus silenced all the desire that they had to argue and debate with him. After that, no one dared to ask him any question.

If you’re looking for spiritual connection, if you’re looking for God’s power to deal with the problems in this life, these words help you to get closer to the kingdom of God. I think they will help you to have a spiritual experience … because the cure for loneliness when you can’t be with the ones you love … because they’re all the way down there in Austin, Texas, darn it– when you can’t be with the ones you love, you can have a loving relationship with God right where you are. This has always been God’s plan. It’s called loving God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. This has always been God’s plan.

And as we go through life, and this was so true on Mother’s Day, so many of us, our mothers are no longer with us. People we love are no longer on this earth. There’s a verse whenever I feel those feelings that reminds me. It’s Psalm 27:10. The King James says it very well. “When my father and mother forsake me,” when my father and mother abandon me, when my father and mother let me down, when my father and mother leave for any reason including death, Psalm 27:10 says, “then the Lord will take me up.” And I personally, in my own heart– I feel that when we lose someone in this life, there is the potential for Jesus Christ to flow into that emptiness. And I think this verse suggests that we transfer what we need from a father or mother onto God when our own father or mother can no longer do what they did for us as children.

You can have a loving relationship with God. That has always been God’s plan.

And the second half of God’s plan is this: the cure for loneliness … When you can’t be with the ones you love, God will give you someone local to give love to. This is always been God’s plan. And that’s why Jesus said it this way. It’s called loving your neighbor as yourself.

Now, I can pretend that my grandchildren down in Austin are my neighbors. I can pretend when there’s a disaster anywhere in the world and people are suffering and dying, I can perceive them as my neighbors. But if you look in the dictionary, the very specific intent of the word neighbor is someone who is nearby. God will give you someone to care for and who will care for you in return, and that will meet the need that’s in a heart that feels disconnected.

So what does God want from us after the resurrection? What does God want from us today in 2023? What does God want from us? Paul in Galatians 5:13 summarizes it very plainly. For you were called to freedom, brethren, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Now think about what that means as you are working on your puzzle piece. You pick up a verse from the Bible, and you say, How does this verse teach me how to love God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength? Because if that’s the priority, what that verse can teach us about that is important. And what can this verse teach us about loving ourselves and loving other people who are nearby? Because whatever it can teach us about that, that is important.

And that’s how we understand how the various pieces fit together. Because what the priority is, is loving God and loving one another. Loving our neighbor as ourselves.

So if you are seeking a connection with God, you can begin to have a conversation with God. We call that prayer. And as you have that conversation with God, God will draw near to you. You can listen to what God wants to tell you and as you open up the Bible and ask the question, what does this verse mean? You will hear God’s will in that conversation, what it means, and you will see how to put it all together.

But quite often, just like in the case with Mister Rowland, and the movement known as Alcoholics Anonymous, which came out of that story, there’s someone else who is close to God, and it is that person who helps us find Christ. And then we help someone else find Christ. And that strengthens the connection between us and God.

So, perhaps, you and I can have a spiritual experience with God. Perhaps you and I can be the way God will help someone else. Just as John Wesley was helped by someone he had never met before, reading a book, but that became a moment that God touched his heart. And there is will be a moment when God will touch your heart and mind.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, so many times a problem looks like a financial problem. There’s just not enough money. Sometimes it’s the opposite. Sometimes the problem is too much money and not enough wisdom to know what to do with that money. Sometimes a problem looks like a relationship where someone else is causing us trouble. Sometimes, Lord, the problem seems to be that we feel that we are the one who is the problem. Sometimes, Lord, it seems that the problem is a politician or someone who disagrees with us. And sometimes, Lord, the problem is that the only people we like are the people who think just like us; sometimes that’s what we think the problem is.
But Lord, help us to know that down underneath all of these human difficulties … The problem and the solution is for us to connect with God so that the power of God can start to sort out the problems, and we can understand them as they truly are. And we can see You beginning to work in our lives for the sake of good. And so, Lord, I pray this for myself, fill my heart with warmth and faith, and I pray this for everyone here this morning. And I pray that for everyone out there who is also needing this same thing – Lord, help us become connected with You in a way that sorts and orders our lives according to your will. And along the way, as our lives are sorted in order according to your will, Lord, the problems that cause us such great fear and anxiety suddenly become soft and easier. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, that our hearts – like John Wesley’s – would also be warm and filled with your love. Amen
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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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