February 18, 2024, Jesus Loves You And Me, Lent 5

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.)

Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief. Help me to see my world as You see it.
Lord, I obey; Help my disobedience. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow; Help me to stay on the path. Thank you for the path, for guidance, for Providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation.
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine, as a means of grace, as a person through whom your Holy Spirit flows. Amen.

HYMN Since Jesus Came Into My Heart
Collingsworth Family Since Jesus Came Into My Heart 2012 NQC
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0Eq7yK6eLU

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer −
“I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by 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 191 Jesus Loves Me
Gaither Vocal Band, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Gatlin Brothers – Jesus Loves Me (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FASZ9bzrHwg

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: Jesus Loves You And Me
Text: John 3:14-21, Luke 15:4-7, Revelation 3:20
Series: What We All Have In Common.

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 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.

Luke 15:5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

  ————————————————————————————————————-

HYMN 364 Because He Lives
Carrie Underwood – Because He Lives (Live From The Ryman Auditorium/2021)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnUDqibR_W4

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

During the weeks of Epiphany, we’ve been talking about how we as a church can get organized in this coming year to do God’s will. But as we begin this season of Lent, I’d like to suggest that we look at more simple things and more basic things — that we look at what it is we all have in common. And as I said in the prayer, one of the things we all have in common is that Jesus loves you and Jesus loves me, and that Jesus is reaching out a hand and inviting you to be a partner in this life to walk with you. So let’s talk about that.

It all began– it all began as I sat on the floor of the YMCA on the campus of the University of Illinois on the evening of February 29th, 1972. That’s right, leap year day, 54 years ago this coming week. I was a junior in high school. Life had been pretty hard. My handicapped little brother was born when I was nine. He died very suddenly when I was 13. And that cast a shadow over the entire life of our family. Something was not right.

Now, as an adult, looking back, I could say it’s very likely that I was depressed as a teenager, that I found very little meaning in life. But there’s one thing that I do know on the leap year day, my life completely changed. Back then, there was a habit of Christian bands coming to the high school to play little mini, free concerts. And then they would invite you to go where they were playing that evening. And being a guitar player, I loved the idea of free music, and I would go to these and listen to them. And this group came down from Milwaukee. And every year in February, there’s really warm weather. Have you noticed that? They played outside of my high school in the courtyard.

And I sat on the grass and I listened to them and I thought, “That guitar player is really lousy.” Remember, I was a critical kid. But the girl you see on the screen, her name is Mary Darrow, had this smile. And she talked about how she had been a heroin addict on the streets of Milwaukee and how she had been a prostitute in order to afford the drugs that she was addicted to. And she talked about how Jesus changed her life. And I can still barely talk about it without tearing up. And it wasn’t anything about the music, but it was the changed life of a person that caused me to go to the University of Illinois that that evening and sit there in the dark on the floor while a guy who was a former mobile home salesman from Weldon, Illinois, preached a 45-minute long sermon. And I do not remember a word of it, which humbles me greatly since I now preach sermons.

But I do remember this. At the end, he told us all to look down and to close our eyes, every head bowed, every eye closed. That’s something they said back then, 54 years ago. Every eye closed, every head bowed, and I was not having anything to do with it. I was looking directly at him! And he said these words, “If you want what you see, you can have it.” And he said, “You can pray this prayer after me.” And he led us through a prayer. First, he said, “If you want that, please raise your hand.” And then he said, “Pray this prayer.” And I prayed it with him. And then he said, “I don’t want to embarrass you, but if you prayed that prayer, would you stand up?” And I thought to myself, “Well, I’ll stand up,” and people gathered around me to pray for me. And I went home that night, and I thought, “I don’t feel a bit different. That was sure strange!”

But when I woke up the next morning, everything in my life was different when Jesus came into my heart.

Now, interestingly enough, this is a key element of the Methodist story. On the ship across the ocean to Georgia, where John Wesley was going to be a missionary to the Indians, he met some people who affected him pretty much in the same way that Mary Darrow’s smile affected me. He saw something in the Moravians that was different, and for two years, three years, he began to seek it. He began to search for it until finally, he wrote on a Thursday evening in May, “In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle of the Romans.” What did people do for fun before television? They would get together in somebody’s house, and a person would read out of a book, and then they talk about it. About a quarter before 9:00, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, John Wesley wrote this, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt–“ and this is for the first time that he wrote this, “I felt that I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance–” a feeling, a witness, whatever you want to call it, “an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

He also wrote in his journal, the next morning that he woke up full of joy and praising God, just like me. And the early Methodists were scorned and ridiculed. But they said things like this, “You can have an experience of closeness with God that is real and will change your life. And if you’re uncertain, you should seek it.” And they would pray on into the evening and overnight to help people find that love and joy and peace.

And we ministers have lots of ways to explain this. This is one of my favorites. It is a Methodist concept that God’s grace is flowing out toward you all the time. And that God’s grace is flowing out toward every single person all the time because every single person has an opportunity to experience the love of God in their heart. And Wesley called that prevenient grace. It’s grace that goes beforehand. It precedes. It’s grace that leads us toward God. It’s like Jesus saying, “Here, come with me.” It’s like Jesus reaching out saying, “Come with me.” And God can prepare you for years, for a moment … and then, all of a sudden, everything changes.

Or you may be like a flower. A seed sprouts and over three months, all of a sudden, there’s something very beautiful. Or you may be like a tree. It may take years. But then, all of a sudden, you have beautiful flowers like the dogwood tree over by the parsonage.

But prevenient grace draws us to a moment of justification. And the way I like to talk about that is through the use of a light bulb. Now, I have a little light bulb here. I used to love to take those four-feet long fluorescent bulbs and wave them around like a lightsaber. But it’s not terribly safe to actually do that. But it’s the same as this.

You see, friends, you and I are like a light bulb. Now, I want to say to you that there is nothing wrong with this light bulb. And there’s nothing wrong with you.

Now, I don’t mean by that that you’re not a sinner, because you are. I don’t mean by that that you’ve not made mistakes because you have made mistakes. I don’t mean by that that you don’t have faults and that you don’t have problems. And I don’t mean that you don’t struggle. What I mean is there’s nothing wrong with what God created in you and I. This light bulb is not broken. There’s nothing wrong with it. But the reason it was made by its maker, the reason that you and I were made by our creator, is for light to shine out of us when we are connected to a source of power. You are meant to be a light. There’s nothing wrong with you that prevents God’s light from shining through you. There’s nothing that would prevent God from lighting you up, but you need to be connected to that source of power or you will never know what God meant for your life to be like.

So, on Leap Year Day, I didn’t feel anything. But when I woke up, I was definitely lit. No question.

Now if you have problems with your computer and you call the help desk, you know the very first thing they will ask you? The very first thing they will ask you is to check and make certain that your computer is plugged in. The second thing they will ask you, if it’s plugged in, is Are you certain that it’s turned on? Friends, sometimes children can rampage through the room and kick the cord and it comes out of the wall and all of a sudden you’re not lit anymore … but there’s nothing wrong that you can’t reconnect with God as often as you need to. But the point I want to make is this, you were meant to be connected with God in a way that God’s power flows into your life, and it’s as much a difference in your life as when this light bulb is turned on and as you see it now. It’s only potential … until it’s connected with a source of power.

You have amazing and wonderful potential. But in order to be and experience what God wants you to know as a human being, that connection needs to be there. Jesus Christ is reaching out to you and wants to ask you to take his hand and follow Him because God loves you and wants you to experience this sort of life. For God so loved the world… When we look at the mess that the world is in, sometimes we wonder, “God, do you really love the world?” But you see, friends, here’s the truth: God loves the world. And by the way, that’s not just us who are here in the church on Sunday morning. God loves the people, but God also wants them to become connected with grace. Because God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Verse 17, “For God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” That’s what God desires because God loves you and me, and to save us from the mess that the world is in, to take us by the hand and hold us up, to help us in the time of our greatest need.

Not only that, Jesus said this, Luke 15:7, “Just so I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents …” Over one person who takes the hand of Jesus and that power begins to flow into their life, so that they can be light in the darkness of this world. That makes God glad. Last week, we talked about how change is like a snowball rolling downhill. It makes God glad to see your life change.

And there’s more joy in heaven when God sees one sinner who repents than – pay attention to this – over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance.

Please understand this. There’s no such thing as 99 persons who don’t need repentance! There’s no such thing as 99 perfect people who have no reason to pray for their life to be better. It’s almost like Jesus is making a joke. If you think you are that person where there’s no way or nothing about your life, that should change … Well, God still loves you. But when you wake up to the love of God and feel it and experience it, it gives God great joy.

And that’s why in the book of Revelation and, you’ll find this verse, Revelation 3:20. It says this: “Behold,” Jesus says, “I stand at the door and I knock. And if anyone, anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him and he with me. I will come into her life and eat with her and spend time with her. I will come into their life. This is where we get the language of Jesus coming into your heart, coming into your life.

Now, ironically, if you look at the context of Revelation chapter 3, Jesus is knocking actually on the door of a church. And when artists paint the door of the church for this picture, it’s frequently a door that has no doorknob on the outside. And it is possible for a church to be full of people who have never invited Jesus Christ to be a part of their lives. But if you do, if you do day after day in your prayers for three years, as John Wesley did, I want to tell you that based on my experience, your life can be entirely different … because we are loved. We are loved by God. We are loved by Jesus Christ, who rejoices when we rejoice, who weeps when we weep, who cares deeply for us, we are loved, even if sometimes we don’t feel loved.

You see, that’s the human point of view. If everything’s going right, God is wonderful. If things aren’t going the way we want, “God, what did you do?” We never consider that it might be us who have set into motion the problems that we experience in life. Nor do we consider that some people are just simply evil and hurtful. And they set in motion the things that break our hearts. But the human point of view does not always remember God’s love, but we need to understand this: I strongly encourage us to realize that what we all have in common is the love of Jesus Christ. What we all have in common is the truth that Jesus Christ came into this world at Christmas so that life can be different. What we all have in common is that Jesus Christ came into our lives so that we could be fruitful, that good could come, and that Jesus Christ died on the cross so that we could be forgiven.

We all have that in common, but not all of us have achieved the potential. Just like a light bulb that can try as hard as it wants, but it can’t light up until it’s connected to a source of power. What we all have in common is God’s love and the fact that Jesus Christ is reaching out to us.

So at the beginning of Lent, I want to simply ask you this question:

Have you had your spiritual experience yet? Has that moment come to you where you can say, “My life is different.” Maybe overnight, like it was in my experience. Maybe over several months, like with a flower, maybe over years, like a tree. And if you’re not certain, John Wesley wants to say that you can seek it, and God will bless your search because everyone who seeks finds. Everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who knocks upon the door will find that the door swings open.

And because terrible things can happen in our life, maybe something in your life has kicked the cord out of the wall. And you know that in the past, you were connected in a way that you don’t feel today. Well, it’s pretty awkward for me to get down on my knees and crawl under the desk. In fact, it’s pretty awkward for any of us sometimes to fall to our knees and make that connection strong again. But friends, I just encourage you, it’s a good thing. And it’s a good thing to remember in Lent.

And whether your story happened on Leap Your Day or some other day, I would love to hear it. And, in fact, because there’s been sadness in my life, I have had to get under the desk and plug the cord back in several times. I’d love to hear about your experience and pray with you if you would like to pray.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, thank you so much that you love us and you are waiting for us to respond to your love. Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you are reaching out to us and you are ready for us to take you by the hand. Because, then, Lord, you can lift us up off our knees. If we need to be carried, Lord, you can carry us. But help us, Lord, to remember and think through in different ways the reality that our lives will be forever changed once your love and power and grace and forgiveness begin to flow into our lives the way electricity flows into the life of something as simple as a light bulb. And so, Lord, we pray for each one of us that your light would shine through us into the darkness of the world. 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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