November 12, 2023, The Benefit of A Destination, Pentecost 24

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
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Let us pray: O God, who gave us birth, you are ever more ready to hear than we are to pray. You know our needs before we ask, and our ignorance in asking. Give to us now your grace, that as we shrink before the mystery of life, we may see the light of eternity. Speak to us once more your solemn message of life. Help us to live as those who are prepared to go. And when our days here are accomplished, enable us to go as those who go forth to live, so that living or dying, our life may be in you, and that nothing in life or in death will be able to separate us from your great love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

HYMN 338 Where He Leads Me
Where He Leads Me by Willie & Bobbie Nelson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsFtp_83KSM

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 364 Because He Lives
Gaither Vocal Band – Because He Lives [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spa7WkwjwGw

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 A Destination
John 10:27-29, 12:26, 13:36, 14:47-58; Matthew 4:17-22
Series: The Benefits of Belief

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

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SERMON NOTES

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; 28 and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

John 12:26 If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.

John 13:36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.”

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.

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. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zeb’edee and John his brother, in the boat with Zeb’edee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Copyright 2008 Discipleship Ministries. Ritual texts © 2008 The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

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HYMN I Have Decided To Follow Jesus
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus – Lydia Walker (Lyric Video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7XHeCZB5KU&list=RDL7XHeCZB5KU&start_radio=1

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

For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the benefits of belief. And I’ve tried to persuasively say that there are great benefits for your life and my life that come from the practice of us believing in Jesus Christ. We’ve talked about how Jesus is Lord simplifies our life. We’ve talked about loyalty helping us to live a better life. We’ve talked about God’s word guiding us. We’ve talked about the joy of being forgiven and cleansed from all that’s not right. And we’ve talked about how the fellowship with others who have been forgiven helps us. Last week, we talked about sacred nourishment, how Jesus provides us with what we need for the journey.

Today, I want to talk about another reality that helps to simplify our life and helps us to focus on what really matters and that’s that you and I, because of what we believe, we have a destination.

And I want to share with you one of the most beautiful poems I know. I encountered this poem in a book by Christian psychiatrist M. Scott Peck where he was talking about heaven and the afterlife. The title of the poem is Limited. It’s by Carl Sandburg. It was published in 1916. Here’s the poem.

I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains of the nation.
Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.
(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust. And all the men and women laughing in the diners and the sleepers shall pass into ashes.)
I ask a man in the smoker where he is going, and he answers, “Omaha.”

When I first read this poem, I thought to myself, “There must be some terrible tragedy that is awaiting around the corner. And none of these people know that they just have a few hours to live, when some horrible tragedy will take everything away from them. They think they’re going to Omaha, but they just don’t know.”

But as I prayed over and listened and meditated on the poem, I came to understand that the poem was about what time is does to everything in this world. And given enough time, all the coaches will be scrap and rust. Given enough time, all the men and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall pass into ashes. Given enough time, that will be true for all of us.

But what holds our attention? We’re going to Omaha.

Something has been on my mind this year. In early April, Martin Luther King was going to Memphis, not on a train, but an airplane. And on the night of April 3rd, he gave a speech. King was actually ill. He planned for someone else to speak, but a large crowd had gathered. And his close friend, Ralph Abernathy, said, “The people here want to hear you.” So King got up out of his sickbed and came and preached a 43-minute sermon. These words are from that sermon:

“Well,” Martin Luther King says, “I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop and I don’t mind. You see, when you get to the mountaintop, you see what’s ahead.

Like anybody, King went on to say, “I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And it’s those words that have spoken to my heart in this 68th year of my life. I just want to do God’s will.

“And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain and I’ve looked over.” I’ve seen what lies ahead, in other words. And he says, “I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you,” and he means in this life, in my lifetime. But he says, “I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. And so I’m happy tonight,” he says in conclusion. “I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

And in less than 24 hours, a shot rang out, and he was gone. But this is how he faced what lay ahead with joy, humility, and that phrase which speaks so deeply to me. “I just want to do God’s will.”

Alvin Toffler said many years ago, “You’ve got to think about the big things while you’re doing the small things so that all the small things go in the right direction.” I ask a man on the train where he’s going. I’m going to Omaha. That’s one of many, many, many, many small things. But if we remember that we have a destination, we can help all the small things to line up to help us to go in the right direction. Because if you get the big things right, the small things begin to line up. And so I thought to myself, later this morning, I could ask a family in the sanctuary after church where they are going. And they might say, “Cracker Barrel.” Yes, you are going to Cracker Barrel, but you have a destination on beyond that. And it greatly simplifies and blesses our life to have that understanding.

The Billy Graham organization created this photo for the cover of Decision Magazine in 1967. They went up on a rooftop in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and set this beautiful banquet table to remind people of heaven as a destination.

When I was in seminary, graduate school a long, long time ago, I wrote one of the easiest term papers I’ve ever written. In this systematic theology class, I decided to write a term paper on what the world’s greatest theologians had to say about heaven. And the reason it was easy, each of these theologians had their specialty, their special knowledge. They understood their area of expertise the way Michael Jordan understands basketball. But when I decided to report what they said about heaven, this was a little bit like Michael Jordan talking about chess. He wouldn’t have said very much.

And so I was able to open up the very thick books that all the theologians had written and just go to the index and look for the word heaven. And if there wasn’t a single mention of heaven, I was able to report that so-and-so didn’t say much about heaven. But I will tell you that everything that any of them said basically boiled down to one simple sentence: “Heaven is like here only better.” And you know something, friends? We probably couldn’t describe it any better than they could.

I researched this a little bit further. I was allowed to take three PhD-level seminars in New Testament theology as a master’s degree student in 1979 and 1980. And I wrote a paper on the kingdom of God. Now, in Matthew, it’s called the kingdom of heaven and in the other gospels, it’s called the kingdom of God.

But the kingdom of God represents two things. The first thing the kingdom of God represents is what lies ahead in the future. It is God’s desired outcome. It is our destination. But the other thing the kingdom of God represents is you’ve got the kingdom of God when everything that is done on earth is done as it is in heaven. When everything on earth is done perfectly according to God’s will, then you’ve got the kingdom of God.

And what I decided to do in the paper was to separate all the different times that Jesus used the phrase kingdom of God and allow Jesus by the context of what he said, define what the term meant. And more than any other example … the most frequent use when Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is like this, the kingdom of heaven is like this…” What God wants, what we are headed toward, is like this more than any other description that Jesus gave to that term in the biblical context where he spoke it:

Jesus talked about how in the kingdom of heaven, people will gather from the north and south and the east and west for a great banquet, sort of like our monthly SALT Potluck, only better. You see, friends, we are along the way. And along the way, we’ll stop at Omaha. We’ll stop at Cracker Barrel. Along the way, there will be many stops, but we have a destination. An understanding that your destination is important will simplify your life and strengthen everything that’s a part of it. We have a destination.

Here’s what Jesus says about it. Matthew 4:17, from that time, Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent…” It’s time for you to change your ways. It’s time for us to live different lives. Why? “… because the kingdom of God is at hand.” It’s near.

And then in the very next verse, Jesus explains what it means to reach that destination: As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me…” Well, Pastor Dave, in context, what does it mean for us to repent? What it means is that whatever you’re doing, make certain that the words follow me, describe it. And they dropped their nets and they followed him.

In John 10:27, we find these words. By the way, see the train in the distance? It’s going somewhere. My sheep hear my voice and I know them… And what is it that characterizes the sheep that hear the voice of the Savior? And they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me is greater than all. And no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

John 12:26, Jesus says, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me.” Following is essential. And as a result of following, here’s what Jesus says, “And where I am, there shall my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

In the very next chapter, Simon Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus talks about how we are not quite yet at our destination. Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, but you shall follow afterward.”

And then comes this key and beautiful verse, which I always share in every funeral message. Jesus says, knowing He’ll die within 24 hours, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms. And if we’re not so what I’ve told you that I go to prepare a place for you.” They’re supposed to follow, but you know what they’re following? They’re following Jesus, who is going to prepare a place for them and on down through the years, a place for us.

And then come these beautiful words in verse three that I prefer to interpret literally. “And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself so that where I am, you may be also.” So you can’t follow me for a little while, but at the end of that little while, I’m going to come back and we’re going to walk together so that where I am, you may be also, Jesus says.

And you know where I am going. Jesus had said repeatedly what would happen when he reached Jerusalem – he would die on a cross. And they never heard it. They never heard it. And because of that, verse five, Thomas says these words, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” And Jesus said to him, “I am the way.” Now the Greek word there can also be translated as road. I am the road. Travel this way. I am the journey; go with me. I am the path; follow me. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

The picture on the screen is the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach in Normandy, where each soldier is buried under a cross that holds their name. You know the way where I am going Jesus says. Thomas says, “Lord, we don’t know the way.”

Well, I’m going to the cross to prepare a place for you. And the cross, which was a place of death, became a doorway into eternal life. We have this reality, and for some reason, it’s not required in our church, but in public buildings, they have to have a lighted sign over the door that says exit. Friends, there is an exit for each one of us. And our whole life long as we go to Omaha and we go to Cracker Barrel and we go from here to there, we prefer not to think about the exit. But the truth is that on a day that is not of our own choosing just as this day for each of these soldiers was not of their choosing, the exit door, the door of death is going to open wide. And we’re going to realize that it is a doorway into eternal life. Because what’s important about a door is you’re not supposed to get stuck in the doorway, you’re supposed to go through the doorway. Because what’s on the other side, the destination is what’s important. And not only that, if you take those words in verse three, literally, Jesus says, “Not only will there be a doorway, but you’ll see me come through it and you’ll follow me through the door into eternal life.” So you see, friends, we have a destination that is a great benefit of our belief. And when we keep it in mind, it will greatly empower and simplify our life.

How can we know the way? What I want to suggest to you is that Jesus said very plainly, “You’ll be on the right way if you follow me. You’re on the right road if you’re on the road that I’m on. Just follow me.”

How can we know the way? Socrates gave an answer centuries before Jesus lived. He was challenged, “Tell us the directions to Mount Olympus, the place where the gods live!” In other words, “Tell us the directions to heaven.” Socrates’ answer was this, “If you want to go to Mount Olympus, just make sure that every step is in that direction.” When you leave Cracker Barrel, just make sure every step is in that direction. When you leave Omaha, just make sure every step is in that direction. When you leave here, follow Jesus as you take the road to home. Because following Jesus becomes the summary of the way for each of us.

And to be honest, we’re also given a map. Before they invented the GPS, I would do a very dangerous thing. I would print up directions from one place to another on Yahoo Maps. And I would drive with one hand and hold the map up with the other hand so that I could read the directions as I drove.

And I would always get lost.

But you see, friends, here’s the truth. As they followed Jesus, Jesus gave them directions through what he said, and they were all written down. And if you want to figure out what the directions are, you can open up the Bible and say, “What do these directions say to me?” And so consequently, through this whole series of sermons, I’ve said to you, one of the most empowering questions any one of us can ask is this, facing any problem, facing any difficulty, is “What did Jesus say about this?” Because praying over what Jesus said, you will figure out what you need to do to follow Jesus in every situation.

It also reminds me of the earlier sermon about being loyal to your preferences. In that sermon, I talked about how since I found my one on my wedding day, I realized that I was in the right place. I was done with all concerns about that. And this greatly simplified my life. And you see, here’s the truth. I may not exactly know where I’m going today, but I know whom I am going with; I’m going with Kim. But what Kim would want you to know is the two of us, the way that we are going, we’re seeking to follow Jesus. Those same words that Martin Luther King said are true for us, “All I want to do is God’s will.”

So here’s the reality, friends. Remember that you have a destination. And because you know you have a destination, all the little things will line up to help you to reach the destination. Stay on track. And whether you get there before I do, or I get there before you do, I’ll see you there.

Please pray with me. Lord, remind us of how you asked us to follow you. And so, when we become aware of the challenge and the difficulty and the pain and the anxiety of following you, up to the day of our passing through the door, please remind us, Lord, that for those of us with faith, it is a doorway into eternal life. And help us, Lord, to have that truth simplify and empower the life that we live here, so that on the way to Cracker Barrel, on the way to Omaha, on the way to whatever happens today, we are aware that we have a destination beyond where all things are made beautiful. And so, Lord Jesus, we ask you to help us to follow you through death into our destination, which we call by the word “heaven,” which you call by the words “kingdom of God.” Lord, help us to follow you. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. 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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