October 29, 2023, The Benefit of the Fellowship of the Forgiven, Pentecost 22

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: Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another. Therefore, let us confess our sin before God and one another.
Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
All pray in silence.
Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners; that proves God’s love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!
In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven! Glory to God. Amen.

HYMN 378 Amazing Grace
Carrie Underwood – Amazing Grace (Official Audio Video)

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 and filled with 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 394 Something Beautiful
Lynda Randle – Something Beautiful (Live)

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: The Benefit of the Fellowship of the Forgiven
Text: Matthew 9:9-13, John 3:16-21, Romans 5:6-9
Series: The Benefits of Belief

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


Matthew 9:9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Romans 5:6 While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man–though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. 8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.


HYMN 526 What A Friend We Have In Jesus
Alan Jackson – What A Friend We Have In Jesus (Live)

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!


The Benefit of the Fellowship of the Forgiven. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the benefits of belief, how Jesus Christ as Lord will begin to organize our lives, about how loyalty to Jesus Christ as Lord will simplify the flood of choices that the world constantly throws at us, and how God’s word, the words of Jesus, will show us the truth. Last week, we talked about how desperately we need forgiveness and cleansing.

And as Kim and I were driving back from Wesley Church, I looked at her, and I said, “Something about the message today about how much we need forgiveness, about how desperately we need God’s help,” I said to Kim, “It feels a lot more grim than I really want to say. I wonder if next Sunday I should talk about the lighter side of forgiveness, if you could imagine such a thing.” Because you see, when you need forgiveness, your need is desperate. There you are, trapped in that valley of the shadow of death. But after you receive forgiveness, you feel set free. And on the other side of that experience of forgiveness, there’s a celebration going on. There’s a lot of happiness on the other side of forgiveness.

On the other hand, some of us are caught by surprise. Let me read a poem to you. This poem is entitled Heaven’s Surprise, and it’s by J. Taylor Ludwig.

I was shocked, confused, and bewildered as I entered heaven’s door,
not by the beauty of it all or its lights or decor,
but it was the folks in heaven who made me sputter and gasp.
The thieves, the liars, the sinners, the alcoholics, the trash!

There stood the kid from seventh grade who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor who never said anything nice.
Herb, who I always thought was rotting away in hell,
was sitting pretty on cloud nine, looking incredibly well.

I nudged Jesus, “What’s the deal? I would love to hear your take.
How did all these sinners get up here? You must have made a mistake.
And why is everyone so quiet and so somber? Give me a clue.”
“Child,” Jesus said, “they’re all in shock. They never thought they’d be seeing you.” [laughter]

If amazing grace is true, we are going to be astonished at the people to whom God is kind, at the people to whom God forgives, at the people that we will find in heaven. And perhaps we’ll even be a little astonished to find ourselves there because, you see, there’s a principle at work in human beings. I mentioned this last week.

In the words after John 3:16, you find that Jesus is the light that has come into the world. And all of a sudden, when Jesus brings light, people begin to move. And the majority of the people, according to verse 19, move into the darkness. Why? Because people love darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light so that it may be seen plainly …”

And what is it that’s seen plainly? The light from Jesus Christ reveals our sinful nature. And people want to pull away and hide in darkness so that they can pretend to be something that they’re not. And there’s a beautiful story about Jesus and that in Matthew chapter 9, beginning with the ninth verse. Jesus passed on from there. He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office, and Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew rose and followed him. And that evening, verse 10, Matthew is at his house. Jesus has come to Matthew’s house for dinner. And as Jesus sat at table in that house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. So we have a party going on at Matthew’s house. And the house is full of people that the Jewish people understand to be sinful.

And so the next verse, “And when the Pharisees saw this,”— now think about where the Pharisees are. Do you think they went into the house? Do you think they went into the party? They’re standing outside, in the dark, looking in the windows, saying this sort of thing to themselves, saying this sort of thing to the disciples. “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

You see, they’re uncomfortable. They’re not willing to go inside. They don’t want to be seen with those kinds of people. And you know what should really trouble us? Notice where the disciples are– outside with the Pharisees, listening to this. And the Pharisees muttered to the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Why is he wasting his time with that sort of trash?

But when Jesus heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician.” It’s also true that those who think they’re well and that there’s nothing wrong with them, and they’re just perfect and fine the way they are, they don’t think they need a physician either. Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do have a need.

And so Jesus says, “Go and learn what this means. I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” referring there to the sacrifices of the temple that needed to be done in a certain way to receive forgiveness. God desires mercy more than perfect worship. “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

So God’s focus is on people who can say, “I’m one of those sinners.” God’s amazing grace is focused on those people who can say, “I’m one of those sinners,” which leads us to a question. This is a quote from an internet website: “Why would the people that flocked to be with Jesus – the last, the lost, the least, and the left out – why would these people – the tax collectors, the sinners – feel at home with Jesus? And why would they avoid being with church folks like us?” That’s a good question that we should ask ourselves.

When I talk about my days in the valley of the shadow of death, and many of you know this, I went through a horrifying divorce back in the late ’90s. It was, beyond a doubt, the most awful years of my life. And during those awful years, I was honest about what I was going through, but I found one thing very comforting. People would come up to me, people I didn’t even know. They would come up to me, and they would say, “My name is,” and they would say, “I’ve been through what you’re going through. I got divorced at such and such a time,” and they would tell me their history. And for many of them, it was much, much worse than what I was going through. But the thing I want to tell you about that very odd experience: when I was talking to someone who was going through– who had gone through what I was going through, it was strange. I felt safe because the two of us had this great sorrow, this great regret in common. I felt safe.

So here’s how I want to answer that question: when people came close to Jesus, they felt safe, not because he was also a sinner, but because they could feel forgiven. They could feel hope. And I think when people come to a church, they can also feel the forgiveness that should fill this place, where even if the whole rest of the world turns their back on them. When they’re here, they can feel the forgiveness and love of God flowing toward them.

And what I want to suggest to you is that’s why people gathered around Jesus. They could feel the love flowing from him, the desire on his part to be the physician for the kind of illness they were struggling with, the desire on his part to help them where they needed help. Because here’s the truth, friends. You can feel forgiven, and you can feel at home. And when that’s how you feel, you want to come back to be with those people, to be in that sort of place. And certainly, if there’s any place that should remind people of the forgiveness of God, it’s this room where we gather to worship.

But what all too frequently happens is this. When we come to church, when we come to a place of worship, all the broken, hurting places inside of us whisper something like this, “If you knew me and what I’ve done, you wouldn’t want me here.” And of course, again, when you come into the light, you have this awareness that other people can see the broken parts of you.

But, friends, here’s what the light reveals in darkness. This is a frame from a video we watched many years ago. Maybe we should watch it again. This is the witness of Mike, who’s a retired airline pilot. And he responds to the person speaking in the previous slide, “If you knew me,” he says with this great calmness in his voice, “If you knew me and what I’ve done, you wouldn’t be worried.” And every time I listen to the calmness in his voice, seeking to reassure the other person, it just brings me to tears.

“If you knew me and what I’ve done, you wouldn’t be worried.”

Because you see, this is what the light of God, shining and revealing who we are, reveals. It reveals that you and I are forgiven. There’s this lovely phrase, “Every saint has a past.” All of us have done things we wish we had not. But because of the love of God and amazing grace, every sinner has a future. Because what the light shows, when it shines on you, is it reveals that you’re forgiven.

So let me take a chance here. Let me go out on a limb. Let me make it plain. Who is welcome here?

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, and, “Yo no hablo Ingles.” We extend a special welcome to those who are crying newborns, skinny as a rail, or who could afford to lose a few pounds. We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli, an opera singer, or if you’re like our pastor, who can’t carry a tune in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re just browsing, if you just woke up, or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope or haven’t been in church since Little Joey’s baptism. We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but have not yet grown up. to teenagers who are growing up too fast.
We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree huggers, latte sippers, vegetarians, and junk food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or if you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like organized religion because sometimes we haven’t liked it either. If you blew all your offering money at the dog track this week, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat. You know who you are. Those who work too hard, those who don’t work at all, those who can’t spell, or those who are here only because grandma’s in town and grandma wanted to go to church.
We welcome those who are inked and pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now. Those who had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or those who got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts, and you.

Because the two things that all people on earth have in common are this. All people on earth are in need of forgiveness. And because of that, all people on earth are in need of the love of Jesus Christ and His amazing grace.

So why are all people like this welcome? Well, it’s very simple. If Jesus feels this way about you, who are we to object? A phrase that’s been on the sign out in front of church from time to time, but I hope it’s written on our hearts. We haven’t put it on the wall, but I hope in your own heart, you see it there. The phrase, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”

And when I look out at all of you out here, I do want to say your pastor appreciates you. Some of you are closer to perfect than I am. But whether you’re perfect or not, you are forgiven. And you see, here’s the truth. Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future. And if Jesus feels this way about you, who are we to object?

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, there are people who are afraid to come to church because they think they will be judged. Lord Jesus, there are people who are afraid to come to worship because they think that people will be talking about them. Lord, may it so be that, just as when people were in the presence of Jesus and they could feel His love, they could feel the desire that God has to forgive, and to love people – may they feel like that here. Lord, I pray that, because Jesus is here, when people come into this place or around us, I pray that they would feel God’s amazing grace, that they would feel the love of Jesus Christ, and that they would be drawn to the forgiveness that God offers to us all. And so, Lord, we pray that Your forgiveness would become known farther and farther through all the people that we know. And 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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