July 9, 2023, If My People … Pentecost 6

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If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.
Holy Spirit, come alongside of us, comfort and counsel us, speak through us, and empower us to do God’s will. Amen.

HYMN 64 Holy, Holy, Holy 
UMH 64 – Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty, J. Daniel Ashton
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvZ0Vo1PNvM

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Dear Lord, This morning as I contemplate a new day, I ask you to help me. I want to be aware of your Spirit—leading me in the decisions I take, the conversations I have, and the work I do. I want to be more like you, Jesus, as I relate to the people I meet today—friends or strangers. 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 395 Take Time To Be Holy!
Take Time to Be Holy by The Collingsworth Family
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xN2-fj8cXUE

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: If My People …
Text: 2 Chronicles 7:12-16, Matthew 4:17-20, Mark 7:19, Hebrews 13:8
Series: The Greatest Story Ever Retold

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

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SERMON NOTES

2 Chronicles 7:12 Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there for ever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time.

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.

Mark 7:17 And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.

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HYMN 402 Lord, I Want to Be a Christian
Lord I Want to Be a Christian by Lafayette High School, Williamsburg VA at the annual Freedom Concert for MLK day at Hampton University
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osCaCsE0iWo

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

“If my people…”

I spend way too much time each week on Facebook. And I always have this little argument with myself that, when I see something that somebody puts on Facebook that is dumb, sick, stupid, crazy, evil and bad. I am always tempted to give them a piece of my mind. I think you understand how human that is. I’ve come to the conclusion that a piece of my mind doesn’t usually help anybody like that.

But a couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine who is a faithful, good, United Methodist pastor, put something on Facebook that I disagreed with. And I prayed about it, and it seemed that I needed to make a statement because I felt that the words of what were put there twisted the words of scripture. And I had to stand up to try to say, this is what the scripture says.

It is a political meme, sort of, so I hope you bear with me. And I hope I don’t offend anyone. But this is what he put up. See, the teenagers, God bless them. They know everything.
When I was a teenager, my dad frequently started debates with me by saying, you think you know everything. And I frequently would say, well, Dad, I guess I do. I have learned better. I do not know everything. But there were times in my life when I could have been just like this teenager.

And the words say this – you may not be able to read them – Christianity does not progress with the times. If it did, it would be a false religion. Do not be deceived into thinking there is a progressive form of Christianity. It doesn’t exist. Because – and here’s where I begin to want to debate my brother – the truth never changes. God’s word is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.

For most of us in this room, it’s been a very, very long time since you had to take a test in school. And maybe you remember those true/false tests – remember those? Friends, I have to be honest with you, when you mark some statements true, you could still be wrong. And see, that’s the mistake in this meme. That’s the mistake. Because sometimes what you and I think is true, we feel we have learned enough about to understand it. But we think we know the truth. And that can be a problem.

The meme says, God’s Word is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But you will not find that phrase in the scripture. I thought it was there. And I went looking for it. It’s not there.

The next concept is, “the truth never changes.” Well, we know that sometimes what we think to be true is not true. Sometimes, we need to make a U-turn, and the point of that meme is that if you believe a certain way, you never have to change. You never have to change your mind because you’re right … because the truth never changes. And you never even have to think about it because you know you’re right … because the truth never changes.

Now, you and I all know someone who always thinks they’re right. I’m very sorry to tell you that in some years in my life, it’s been me. But now I know that I can learn from other people, especially if they disagree with me. Now, it doesn’t mean that at the end result of everything, I’ve changed my mind to agree with them. But I can learn more about the truth by being open and not having a closed mind.

So, for example, let me give you the basic point. There is an Old Testament law that says, “You shall not boil a kid (or a calf, in other words) in its mother’s milk.” Consequently, Jewish people who keep Kosher have never ever had a cheeseburger. Because the Jewish law states, “You never combine milk, or dairy, and meat.” Jewish families that follow this strictly literally will have two sets of cookware. One for dairy, one for meat, because they’re never allowed to touch.

A little bit more widely known is the Old Testament law which says that you may not eat pork or bacon. But what you’re looking at on the screen is one of God’s most beautiful creations, a Burger King bacon cheeseburger. If you think God’s word never changes, you can’t have a bacon cheeseburger.

So here’s the reality. If you look at Mark chapter 7, Jesus talks about how the food that you eat goes into your stomach, and goes through your digestive system, and goes out. It does not make you unclean. What makes a person unclean is what comes out of their heart. And then comes this little statement, the second half of Mark 7:19, “Thus he declared all foods clean.” With one phrase, Jesus took out a large section of the Old Testament and said, “You don’t have to follow that anymore.” Okay? That’s what the meme pretends does not exist. Because Jesus did change the Old Testament law, and he did change the rules that people felt that you had to follow, and that’s why they put him on the cross. That’s why I felt I had to speak up.

Now, here’s where this comes from. This is author and novelist, Annie Lamott. She’s famous for this saying: “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the people that you do.” Now, we can chuckle, but you know that there are people who in their image of God, God hates everybody they hate.

But not only that, God likes all the same people they like.
Not only that, but God agrees with all the ideas they have.

And you see, here’s the problem. When we do this, we make an idol out of the way we like things to be. And we pretend that that’s how God thinks and how God feels. And I want to suggest to you the biggest problem that we have in the world today is that more and more people will only listen to what they want to hear. And because of that, it is easy for them to misunderstand the truth. And because of that, sometimes they miss the whole point of what God is trying to teach.

So here’s the fact. Let me back up and make this point again — God’s word is the same yesterday, today, and forever. You heard me say that. That phrase is not in the Bible. But the phrase that is in the Bible is this, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So when Jesus Christ says, “It’s okay to eat a bacon cheeseburger,” Friends, it’s okay.

And in fact, if you think about it, the person who says that God’s opinion never changes really hasn’t thought much about the Bible. Because what is consistent throughout the whole Bible is this, quoting Matthew 4, from the time that Jesus began to preach, he was saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

If Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then yesterday, today and forever, we need to be ready to change our minds in order to align with Jesus.

For all of the history throughout the Bible, God has been trying to change the minds of people who think they know everything, right on down to Jesus. Because people make mistakes. People get it wrong. The very first time God decided to change the world because people’s thinking was so far off track was the flood, where he just simply decided to kill all of them except Noah’s family, and start all over. And he promised that he would never do that again.

But years later, they knew everything. But God then sent Moses to tell them a better way. And God gave them the Ten Commandments.

And as they thought through how to live by the 10 commandments, they went astray again, and God sent them Judges like Samuel to explain to them what God wanted. And the kings came, and they went astray, and God sent them prophets to correct the mistakes they were making.

What’s the consistent truth that has never changed? It’s that God is trying to help us repent. Because most often, in some way or another, we get it wrong. That’s the truth that has never changed.

And, of course, at the conclusion, Jesus Christ comes, lays down the law, and what He says is the truth. Because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So consequently, I want to say to you, do you see this Bible I am holding in my hand? When you read the words of Jesus Christ, what the Bible says is that you can count that they are true.

Now, I have been a preacher for 42 years. When I was younger and thought I knew everything, I would occasionally say to people, “The Bible says this,” and they would say, “Oh, pastor, tell us more.” And I would say, “Well, it’s in there somewhere.” And you see, here’s the thing I want to say to you, brothers and sisters, don’t you ever let anyone, including me, get away with that. Any time somebody says to you, “Jesus Christ said this,” you say, “Okay, please show me. My pastor, Pastor Dave, he said that whenever somebody told me that, we are to say, “Will you please show me? Show me.

Oh, and by the way, in the middle of the sermon, you can still say that, because you should say it to me! Please show me. Show me where Jesus said that. Show me where Jesus said that that’s right. Show me where Jesus said that’s wrong. Show me where Jesus said we should do this. Show me where Jesus said we should not do that, because whatever it is that Jesus said, that’s the truth, and that’s a truth forever.

But you see, here’s the problem. Just like a true-false test, sometimes what we think is true is not true. Because we haven’t done our homework. We haven’t studied like we should. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and consequently, sometimes Jesus Christ is going to look at you or me, Jesus Christ is going to look at a local church, Jesus Christ is going to look at a denomination, and sometimes even Jesus Christ is going to look at a politician o0r a nation, and say, “You need to make a U-turn. You’re going the wrong way.” Because that’s what God has done throughout all of history, is to try to turn people toward the right path when they get confused.

And not only that, it goes on to the very next verse in Matthew 4, which is this. He walks by the Sea of Galilee, sees two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, Andrew, his brother casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “follow me, And I will make you fishers of men.”

Now they’re on the beach, and Jesus is going down the beach. Jesus says, “Follow me,” and they start following Jesus. Now, here’s the truth. I don’t know if it was the east, or west, or north, or south, but the people who put that meme up what they want to say to you is Jesus told you to follow me and then he went east, you better never stop going east.

But you see, here’s the truth when you think about this. Jesus is going east today, but the next morning when they get up, Jesus may want to go north. The next morning when they get up, Jesus may want to go south. And in fact, the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are about Jesus going from one place to another to do God’s will. And if they weren’t paying attention to Jesus, they would head off in the wrong direction. Because it would be sort of like, “Well, yesterday, Jesus wanted us to do this, so let’s not change anything. I liked yesterday.”

Well, the problem with that is, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus will guide you each day. But the direction may change. What Jesus was from you on Tuesday may be different than what Jesus wants from you on Wednesday. The only way you will know what Jesus wants, Jesus, who’s the same yesterday, today, and forever, is to pay attention. And paying attention and continually changing our ways to be God’s ways. The Bible word for that is repentance.

Now, here’s the Old Testament promise that talks about this so beautifully. I believe this was either the evening before or the evening after the temple, the very first temple, was dedicated in Jerusalem. The Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice.” When …” – and let me take a moment to say, what when means, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain or command the locust to devour the land or send pestilence among the people,” or on your way home a deer comes in front of the car, you see the implication here is that God decides when bad things happen to us.

And I want to tell you that sometimes in the scripture, Hebrews 12:5-11 is another example, the person of faith speaks as if the bad thing happening is God’s will. And I want to say to you that when my baby brother was born with a cord wrapped around his neck and all the parts of his brain that controlled everything but breathing, swallowing, and his ability to cry died as he strangled moving down the birth canal, I don’t agree that God wrapped the cord around his neck.

A deer has come in front of my car twice, totaling the car. And I have jokingly said to churches, “God must have wanted me to have a new car.”

But I don’t believe that God puts a deer in front of your car or my car. Nonetheless, there are people who talk like this. “If anything bad happens to me, God must have done it because then I have to be okay with it.” It’s one way to feel less afraid or less anxious when bad things happen. Well, friends, I don’t want to even ask you to imagine that that is always true. I don’t believe that God causes diseases and accidents and those kinds of things. But we do need to deal with them.

And I think this next verse is telling us how to deal with them. When bad things happen, what do you and I do, or what should you and I do? Here’s what God says to Solomon: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

See, this is a promise. There’s an if and a then. There’s an if and a then. God goes on to say to Solomon, “Now my eyes will be opened and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now, I have chosen and consecrated this house, that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.” And whether it’s the first temple in Jerusalem or other buildings that faithful people have built, they are houses of worship. They are houses of praying. And God promises: “I will be attentive to the prayers that are made in this place.”

So here’s how to pray with a repentant heart. The first principle is for you to always understand that it is always okay to test for truth. Having faith in God does not mean that you can’t ever say, “Lord, I don’t understand this, please explain it to me.” You can always test for truth.

But as I suggested to you earlier, if you want to know the truth, look at everything that Jesus said and did. Because Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Consequently, the number one question for us in church, in my opinion, is always this: “What did Jesus say about this?” Because that will tell us what we should do. That will tell us what we should say. That will tell us where we should take a stand. Because, if we let Jesus guide us– and you also heard me say a minute ago, “Don’t just take somebody’s word that this is what Jesus said. Ask them to show you in the Bible. Ask them to show you in the Bible.”

Number two, Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus will guide you yesterday, today and forever. But please understand that what we always want to be true is that Jesus is guiding us, but we always acknowledge that Jesus may guide us differently. And not only that, the guidance that’s proper differs based on the state of your life.

There was a day when I was four years old, okay? Now, please get this, four years old. I lived in a little neighborhood just off of Illinois Route 13, a very busy highway in Belleville, Illinois. I was four years old. And I decided to take my birthday money downhill near Route 13, I just walked to Hopfingers. Which is the equivalent in 1959 of what Casey’s or a convenience store is today. It’s about two miles. And I bought a bunch of fizzies and I brought them home and I put them in the drawer in the kitchen. My mom said, “Where did these come from?” And I said, “Oh, I just went down the Hopfingers and bought them with my birthday money.” And she said, “You did what?”

Well, as a result, after that, I was not allowed to cross the street. Because apparently, when you are four years old, there are rules. But it’s funny how when I was six years old, the rules changed. And when I was 10 years old, the rules changed. And you see, if the Lord Jesus is going to guide you, His guidance is going to change. If you keep living your life by four-year-old rules, you’re going to miss a lot. Let Jesus be your GPS. He’s always right.

I did want to make one other point that is important. I am not suggesting that if somebody comes up to you and says that Jesus Christ was an alien, that you should believe that. I’m not about to suggest to you that if somebody comes up to you and says that Jesus Christ was a robot, that you should believe them for a second. I’m not suggesting to you if somebody comes up to you and says that Jesus Christ was a good teacher and not the Son of God, that you should ever believe that even for a second. But what you should question is your own arrogance. Because here’s the truth, brothers and sisters, is that the more I know I’m right, the more true it is that I might have missed something important. So I’m not suggesting that you question your faith, or assume that anyone who disagrees with you is correct; I’m suggesting that you question your arrogance.

I’m not encouraging you to believe all the hogwash out there, not for a second. But whenever you feel that there’s no possibility that you could possibly be wrong, I want to suggest that you question your own arrogance because it could be that you’ve made a mistake. You may need to make a U-turn. But if you listen to Jesus, He will guide you.

And so here’s the promise. This is a favorite scripture for the 4th of July. Here’s how people preach it wrong, “If my people,” some people say, “who are called by my name, will attack all those awful, crazy, evil, sinful people, then we would live in a perfect world.” Because, friends, the last thing that we need is for anyone to encourage us to be judgmental. The last thing we ever need is for anyone to encourage us to be harsh or cruel. But the biggest problem with that misinterpretation is that it contradicts the Bible verse itself, which says this:

Listen to the scriptures. Here’s what God says. If my people, if the people who are called by my name, the people who go to church, no matter what denomination they are, if those people begin to be less sinful ..”

Here’s a principle in family systems therapy: if the healthier people become better, it will help the troubled person get better. “Why should I be stronger, wiser, and better? Fix that bad person,” people want to argue. And here’s what the therapist says, “The people who are stronger and wiser and better need to show that person what it’s like to be good.” So, friends, if you care about being holy and righteous, this scripture says to us if we humble ourselves – see, that’s questioning your arrogance – if we pray and seek God’s face “Lord Jesus, what is it you want me to know because I want to follow you. And if we turn from OUR wicked ways, whatever they are, God makes a promise: I will hear from heaven and I will heal your land.

Now you know what people want to argue about with that? Lord, you want me to be a better person, have you seen my neighbor? Have you thought about what my neighbor does? They’re lying and cheating and using drugs and getting high on alcohol and abusing their wife and beating their children; how can you ask me to be better? You need to make them better.

Isn’t that human? Boy, that’s human. Hitler used that really well. Those Jewish people, that’s the problem. But you see, here’s the truth. Here’s what God says, “If the good people will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and become even the tiniest little bit more good, I’ll take care of the rest of the people.” And I think we can trust God to do that.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we are people in the middle, between the worst that we can be and the best that we can be. And I am thankful this morning. Thank you, Lord. Thank you that we are so much better than so many other people. Because, Lord, we truly are better. But, Lord, better doesn’t mean as good as you want us to be. Better doesn’t it mean that being more holy is not important for us. Better doesn’t mean that we should not humble ourselves. Better doesn’t mean that we don’t need to pray and seek your face. Better doesn’t mean that we don’t need to turn from our wicked ways. Lord, help us to stop worrying about other people and have the desire to please you. Because, Lord, you have given us a promise: if we will humble ourselves and pray and seek your face and turn from whatever it is that you would like us to not do, and turn toward whatever it is that you want us to do more of, Lord, you promise that you will hear from heaven, and will not only forgive our sin, you will heal all the people who need to come to you. And so, Lord, we pray that you would help us to be humble. Help us to pray and seek your face. And help us, Lord, as we become aware, to turn from our wicked ways, whatever Jesus says they might be. And we ask this in Jesus’s 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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