February 4, 2024, It’s All About Carrying (Four Friends), Epiphany 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.)

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost, to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

HYMN God Will Take Care of You
The Oak Ridge Boys – God Will Take Care of You (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ORXnfjQAXA

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer −
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.

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 Standing In The Need Of Prayer
Standing In The Need Of Prayer (Live) – Women Of Homecoming – Gaither Music TV
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x90HfUJl6eY

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: It’s All About Carrying (Four Friends)
Text: Mark 2:1-12, Matthew 6:33. 18:19-20
Series: The True Work Of Christmas for 2024

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

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SERMON NOTES

Mark 2:1 And when he returned to Caper’na-um after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” –he said to the paralytic– 11 “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” 12 And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

Matthew 18:19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

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HYMN Blest Be The Tie That Binds
Blest Be The Tie That Binds – Darby Hughes
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_AYrlHRm5c

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

We’ve been talking since Christmas about how we kind of need to get organized for what Jesus Christ wants us to do in this new year. And of course, the big question is, what does Jesus Christ want us to do in this new year? And we’ve talked about how Jesus Christ wants us to make Jesus a priority. We’ve talked about the way we’ll understand what Jesus wants, is by becoming aware of the commands of Jesus … because what he said then is still valid today and now.

But today, I wanted to talk about something else that’s also very important. And that’s that we be willing to carry people, that we be willing to be four friends with faith. It’s an exciting time because since Jesus is here! And since Jesus is here, anything can happen. Anything can happen.

And because anything can happen, you and I have a choice in what will happen next. Do you know what that choice is? As you pray, God will answer your prayers. That’s how we have input. We ask out of our hearts and minds, and God answers our prayers. And we’re familiar with that promise from Matthew 6:33 to where Jesus talked about our priorities. He said, “Seek first his kingdom, God’s kingdom, and God’s righteousness …” And by the way, that word righteous also translates as wholeness. Everything is right as it should be.
If we seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, all these things, everything else that concerns us, they’re going to fall in line once we get in line with what God wants. And it starts with prayer. It starts with prayer.

In Mark 2:1, Jesus has become known as someone who can heal people. And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home and many were gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door. And he was preaching the word to them. When Jesus begins to answer prayer, when Jesus begins to act in our world, Jesus draws a crowd.

Now, here’s the problem with that. Imagine that this is the door to the hospital emergency room and this great crowd of people are there because they want a glimpse of Jesus. How can you get through that crowd to where Jesus can help you? And the answer, frankly, is you need four friends.

You need four friends. And they came bringing to him a paralytic… A paralyzed man carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him. Now, something to be aware of: in a desert country like Israel, the roof was probably made of clay tiles. You take them off and carefully set them aside. Maybe it was thatched. Maybe it was branches, sticks, and then covered over with mud. Wouldn’t be too hard to remove, wouldn’t be too hard to repair. But the main thing to remember is that these four friends would not let anything stop them. They removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw, now hear this carefully, their faith, the faith of the four friends, when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now, this, by the way, starts an argument because there are people there who want to argue, “Who does this man think he is forgiving sins? That’s not his job. He’s not entitled to do that.” But friends, you and I know when Jesus died upon the cross, he certainly settled that. He is able to forgive our sins. You see, sometimes when somebody’s ill, they need forgiveness as well as physical healing.

But Jesus ends the argument by saying this, verse 10, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet, and go home.” And that’s what happened. And he rose and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all. So this huge crowd makes way. And as they do that, they were all amazed and glorified God saying, “We never saw anything like this.” Now, here’s one of the hidden subtexts of this scripture. We’ve never seen God do anything like this. Why is that?

Maybe you’ve not been praying like you could. Maybe when you pray, you don’t have the faith that four friends have. Maybe the reason God does not act is because we do not pray. So I want to suggest this. If you would like to see God act, if you would like to see prayers answered, perhaps we should learn more about praying. Perhaps we should work harder at it. Perhaps we should be intentional in our prayers so that when Jesus sees four of us with faith, God will answer prayers. We’ll still be amazed. We’ll still glorify God. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was normal to see God answering prayers? What we all need are four friends with faith. Why?

Because when Jesus saw their faith … to open up the roof, to let down their friend, to not let anyone stop them … he responded to their faith by answering their prayers. So here’s the question I have for us today. Who will you carry to Jesus in your prayers today?

Now, I do want to say, I know that you are praying people. I know that when you see someone suffering, I know that you pray for them. But is it possible that you only pray when you notice? Is it possible when you see someone who’s horribly ill, you pray for them while they are ill, and then, they get better … Praise God! But then, do you stop praying for them when they get better? As if they don’t need anything else?

Is it possible that we could become people who carry someone who needs God to prayer, to pray every day for God to bless them not just when they’re sick, not just when they’re suffering, but to bless them every day of their life? Because I’ll tell you, needs change. One goes away, but another need arises. Will we be the people who are four friends who pray consistently and intentionally for the people around us?

And what this basically means is, do you have a prayer list? I used to have a prayer list that I would keep on a post-it note. I would put it on the mirror so that I would see it every day when I was shaving. And I would not forget the names on that list.

You would think that we could trust God to remind us when our prayers are needed. But you would also think that when men go to the grocery store without a list, they would remember what they were supposed to bring home. Because sometimes, just like in a grocery store, what attracts our eyes is the only thing we notice. And perhaps, someone who needs our prayers more than anyone else, we just don’t notice. But I know if I make a list, that list will remind me.

And so, because Lent is coming, I want to suggest that it’s possible that what you and I could give up, for Lent, is praying in a sloppy, undisciplined, unserious way. But for Lent, we could dedicate ourselves to seriously pray for specific people and carry them to the Savior, who has what they need, and who is always able to help.

Now, what happens when four friends with faith pray together? Jesus gave this promise. It’s from Matthew Chapter 18. Jesus said, “Again, I say to you, if two of you agree on Earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in Heaven.” Now, that’s somewhat of a miracle these days, because how often do even two people agree on anything?

But it’s another level for you to go out and find someone and intentionally and deliberately agree with them in prayer. Let’s you and I pray together. That sort of agreement releases the power of God, and the reason it works, look at verse 20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” When you take the hand of someone else and you pray together, Jesus said he would be right there. Now, I know he’s here now, and I know when you leave here, he will be with you. I know that. But Jesus said, “When two or three are gathered in my name, when two of them agree on earth about anything they ask,” Jesus is there in a way that is very real and very special. And of course, what we have here with four corners to that pallet is we have four people agreeing. Four people praying. Four people praying in the presence of Jesus for this paralyzed man.

And so I want to set this before you as a possibility in Lent, which starts in two weeks. Two weeks from today, it will be the first Sunday in Lent. I would like to invite those who are interested, those who are interested, not everybody, those who are interested. I would like to organize us into prayer circles. Might just be one, might be more than one. A prayer circle begins with two people, and they agree and pray for two more people to join them because I think there’s something beautiful about this circle of four. A prayer circle that begins with two people might be a husband and wife, might be several women, might be several men, but I’d like to see if you would like to organize ourselves for deliberate prayer. And so let’s say that a prayer circle starts with two, and then two other people join them.

Do you know what they then do next? Four people select four names. Who should we pray for every day? And then, once a week, maybe before church, maybe right after church, the four of you get together and join hands and pray for those four people. And let’s see what God will do in the lives of others. I’d like to just ask you to take a minute and look across the church. Who would you like to pray for you? What would it be like for you to live your life knowing that there were four people who you knew were praying for you every day because you mattered to them? How would that touch your heart?

I think it would be a great blessing, so I want to invite you to contemplate this, to pray about it, sooner or later, we’ll have a meeting with those who are interested, and you’ll tell me what you feel God is telling you about how we can pray for each other and not just for each other inside the church, but also people out there have troubles too. And the thing that I sincerely hope is that we will, in a way, adopt specific people as our particular concern for prayer. And in that way, love will flow out to them, our neighbors, and God will answer our prayers.

Nonetheless, what I think is the message of this scripture is that when four people make a commitment to carry someone to Jesus, amazing, glorious things can happen. And I’m wondering, are you willing to be one of four friends with faith and be a part of a prayer circle for the six weeks of Lent? Now, of course, I hope it’ll keep going after that. But for six weeks, I’d like to see what God would do in our life, in our town, in our church, if we made this commitment.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, when you touch our hearts, our hearts wake up and we feel for the people around us. Lord, when you wake up our minds, we notice things around us. We notice our neighbors. We notice that not everything is perfect. And this motivates us, Lord, out of our hearts and minds to pray for people. Lord, we ask that you would teach us to pray. We ask that you would teach us to know what it means for your kingdom to come, that we would be a part of your will being done on earth right here, right now, just as it is in heaven, and that you would connect us together to pray for one another and for everyone around us. 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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