March 24, 2024, We Are All Asked To Make Jesus Our Priority, Lent 6 Palm Sunday

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 Tell Me the Stories of Jesus
Tell Me the Stories of Jesus
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lf5uc0aA8Yg

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 Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (Church Online) – Hillsong Worship
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ka7bVQmbnk

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: We Are All Asked To Make Jesus Our Priority
Text: Mark 14:1-11, John 12:1-8, 12-15
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

Mark 14:1 It was now two days before the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth, and kill him; 2 for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be a tumult of the people.” 3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 But there were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment thus wasted? 5 For this ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor.” And they reproached her. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burying. 9 And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” 10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. 11 And when they heard it they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. ” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Luke 19:36 And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road. 37 As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!“ 39 And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. – 1 Cor 12:7

Matthew 4:19 “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Matthew 28:20 … and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

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HYMN Where He Leads Me
Where he leads me – Willie Nelson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u95c_FM86ko

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 six weeks of Lent, we’ve been talking about what we all have in common because Jesus Christ is reaching out to us to pull us forward to do God’s will. Today, I want to talk about something that may not seem obvious, which is that we are all asked to make Jesus our priority. There are certain things that I want. There are certain things that you want, and they are important. But what Jesus wants, I want to say in the most gentle way possible, what Jesus wants is a higher priority.

Now, here’s what we talked about last week. Every single one of us has a special way that we serve because we are not all alike. In 1 Corinthians 12:7, it says that to each person— by the way, there are no exceptions. To each person is given a way … that the Holy Spirit shows up and works through them … for the good of everyone else. In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul compares the church, that’s us, to a body. Some people are hands; they do hand things. Some people are feet; they take us from one place to another. Some people are the beating heart. Some people are the breathing lungs. And the pastor is usually the one with the mouth! Although some of you join me in that, every person in the church is a specialist because there’s something you are brilliant at, and there’s a whole lot of stuff that you’re not very good at at all. But if everybody does what they’re brilliant at, then everything gets done.

And if you don’t know what your spiritual gift is, if you don’t know what God wants to do through you, one of the most important jobs a pastor has, and I have a few more months to help you figure this out, is to help you to understand the special thing that you bring to the mix, to the whole. And I shared with you last week this tool to help understand it. S.H.A.P.E. – your spiritual gift will be found at the center of your heart, what you love, there’s something you will be drawn to do. Who you love, there’ll be a person who you want to help. I want to help with children. I want to help with teenagers. I want to help with people who are in the hospital. You’ll be drawn by what you love to a certain kind of person to minister to them or a certain kind of ability to use.

And whatever it is that God wants you to do, he will give you the ability. You may be drawn to singing, but if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, it’s probably something else. You will have the ability. In addition to that, you’ll have the personality. God will give you the kind of personality, if it’s singing, to where you just love to sing. And not only that, over time, God will give you experience in the thing that you’re really good at so that it feels natural to you. To someone else, they’d be nervous, but to you, you’ve done that a lot, it’s not a problem.

But all of these things together, and you see, here’s the problem that sometimes happens with this. All of these things together sometimes lead people to a preference. Well, what I love to do is sing, so I love a church that sings. What I love to do is play the guitar, so I want to go to a church where everybody plays the guitar. I love baseball; I will only go to a church where everyone loves the St Louis Cardinals. And you see, here’s the problem. When our preferences shape how we treat other people, we can have a problem. Each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good, but it’s different for everybody. And we need everybody.

Now, there are two things that happen when people have many different kinds of preferences. The first one is there’s a lot that God wants to do – and with so many different people doing so many different things, everything gets done. It’s a little bit like that diagram on the screen where arrows are going off in every direction. But if you think about it, there’s just one direction. Jesus is at the center and everybody’s going out to do his will. Everybody’s going out to do what God wants. And when that happens, everybody’s doing different things.

Now, there might be two of you that sing and you like to sing together. There might be two of you who are really good in the kitchen, and you like to work in the kitchen together. You team up with people who love what you love, and that’s perfectly fine. But when we all do God’s will, we’re all headed off in different directions to do different things. Let’s all go do what God wants each of us to do.

And you see, here’s a common problem. When preferences develop, people begin to argue with each other about what should be the priority. And the priority changes from Jesus at the center. The priority begins to change to: “I think the priority should be singing, so let’s all go in that direction.” And over time, people who don’t like what you like start to take over, and the church becomes more and more people who think alike, act alike, and all love the same thing. And all the variety of what Jesus wants to do disappears.

When we all do God’s will, we will not all be doing the same thing. But if preferences, your preference, my preference – sometimes the worst person for this is the pastor because the pastor says, “You should be doing this.” (You’ve not heard me say that for 10 years. You’ve heard me say, “You should be doing what God wants you to do.”) But quite often, whoever it is who thinks they’re the boss at the church, tries to get everybody to do it their way. And when enough people team up, then you have, “This is the way we’ve always done it before. We’re going to do it this way and not allow anything else to happen in the church.”

Now, I don’t think our church is like that, but there are a whole lot of churches that are like that. And the key element in all of them is, “How do you get people in line to do it your way?” You criticize them until they either get with it or they leave. And that happens in an awful lot of churches.

Here is the scripture that speaks to that. Mark 14:3, “And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure gnard, very costly. And she broke the flask and she poured it over his head.” Now, one of the ways that people would save for retirement in those days is they’d buy something very expensive and hide it so no one could steal it. And that’s what this family had done. This was a flask of pure nard. The clay stopper in the top of the flask was glued to the opening. The only way you could get it open was to break it, a little bit like the old-fashioned piggy banks.

This was an amazing decision that this woman made. She could not take it back. Her life savings was given to Jesus. And she poured the ointment over his head. There’s a lot of Old Testament scriptures that display this – this is how they would anoint prophets, how they would anoint kings. It was more acceptable in their culture than ours. If you brought some conditioner with you to church, please don’t squirt it over my head! It doesn’t mean the same thing today that it did back then. But she gave that to Jesus.

And instantly, instantly, instantly, she was criticized.

When the disciples saw it, they were indignant. Now, friends, keep your awareness ready for indignation. When the disciples saw it, they were indignant saying, “Why this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for more than 300 denarii.” Now, a denarius is a day’s wage for a laborer. So this ointment might have been sold for the equivalent of a year’s salary and given to the poor. And they reproached her.

You see, it takes a lot of criticism to make everybody go in the same direction. It takes a lot of criticism to ensure that everybody understands that there’s a right way and a wrong way. And at this sort of church, if you want people to accept you, you’d better do things the right way, our way. Now, if you’ve ever served in the military, like my father went into the Navy, they taught him in basic training, there was a right way and a wrong way, and there was the Navy way. And what I want to say to you, friends, whenever we start talking about the right way and the wrong way, we need to refocus on the Jesus way — because the argument of what’s the right way takes us away from everybody doing what God wills to everybody doing what certain people want. And here’s what Jesus said about that. Leave her alone. Verse 6, but Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She’s done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you. And whenever you will, whenever you want to, you can do good to them. But you will not always have me.”

Let her do what she thinks is important. And the person among you who’s in charge of helping the poor, let’s help that person do what they feel is important. Leave her alone. Don’t criticize.

And then Jesus makes a promise that we’ve broken. And every time I talk on this scripture, I try to make up for it. Jesus says that what this woman did, what this principle is about, is so important, it’s so much a part of the gospel, Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” And that’s a priority that Jesus has that, frankly, friends, we just dropped the ball, or I guess frankly, I need to say, we preachers have dropped the ball. This is so important that Jesus said it needs to be a part of the gospel. You see, it’s not a waste. It’s for Jesus. It’s for Jesus.

Now, if you want to understand where the criticism was coming from, the Gospel of John makes it pretty plain. John chapter 12, you find this: But Judas Iscariot— now you remember who he was. Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, he who was to betray him, said – you see, it’s Judas that started this – verse 5, “Why was this ointment not sold for 300 denari and given to the poor?” And so Judas shames what the woman chose to do. Judas shames the woman for what she felt led by God to do and says, “You know, we should have done something else. We should have sold it. We could have given it to the poor.”

And then John reveals the reason behind Judas’ point of view. This, he said, verse 6, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief. And as he had the money box, he used to take what was put into it.

Unfortunately, at the center of a lot of criticism in the church is a a kind of selfishness. I want more money to buy a new organ. I want more money for this. I want more for that. I want this for this and that for that. And so we criticize anybody and slowly turn the church away from the church in all directions, to the church in Judas’s direction. And as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3, by the time you have different sides, each one is saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” you’re way down that road. Paul calls it “carnal.”

The spiritual gift of Judas was criticism. Now, it says that each person is given a way that God’s Spirit shows up. And it certainly is possible that someone here in our church might have the gift of criticism. Pastor Dave, that’s your fourth brownie. Put it back. It may be that someone has the gift of criticism, and maybe I need them. But unfortunately, when you look at churches, especially churches that disagree, it seems like everyone’s got the gift of criticism. It’s not a good thing.

And a couple of days later, it’s Palm Sunday. Jesus sends the disciples to get a young colt, so young, no one’s ever ridden on it. And he rides it down the road through the gate into the city of Jerusalem. And for people who understand the Old Testament, he’s saying very, very clearly, “I am the Messiah.” And the people get excited, and the children get excited. And they start waving those palm branches and they lay their cloaks down in the road because Jesus is here. And boy, are they happy.

But the spirit of Judas is alive and well, because look at the last verse there, verse 39. Verse 38, they are shouting, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” And they’re praising God. Verse 39, and some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Criticism was very much a part of Palm Sunday.

Because here’s the principle, friends, people will criticize and attempt to control what you give to Jesus. Some people will criticize anything you do, any way that you use your time, any way that you give your money, any way that you provide energy for God to do things, any committee you chair … people can be found who will criticize that and say, “What a waste.” And the thing you need to do is say, “It’s for Jesus.” I’m not doing it for myself. It’s for Jesus.

Now, one of the good reasons to talk about this at this time is, friends, we are in an election year. You and I will be swimming in a flood of criticism, one side against another, for almost the rest of this year. Please hang on to yourself and try not to join in because it doesn’t help anything!

But particularly with regard to criticism of spiritual things, people will question what you feel God wants you to do, and they will tell you that you’re wasting your time. Just remind yourself: what I do, it’s for Jesus.

So if we make Jesus the priority, what becomes important then is that the four gospels have a list of instructions for how we are to be the church. The very first instruction comes from Matthew 4:19, where Jesus looks at Peter and Andrew as they’re fishing by the shore and says, “Follow me.” That’s a command. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And immediately, they left their nets and followed him. That’s the first command. And one by one that concept goes through all of the four gospels, and he tells them everything they need to do to be the church, everything everything they need to do to be a disciple. We could take a list of all of these commands and turn them into a checklist. And friends, if we could do all of them, we’d have the most amazing church. The very last command that Jesus gives in the book of Matthew 28:20 reinforces this idea. The disciples who are gathered there, what are they supposed to do? You need to teach them. Everyone who becomes a disciple, from now on, you need to teach them to obey, to observe in a way that people can see everything I’ve commanded you.” Because following Jesus is not about me and my plans. It’s not about me and my preferences. It’s not about my goals and my ideas of what’s better than your idea. And it’s certainly not about me or anyone else looking at you and saying, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” It’s about what’s important to Jesus. And we lose track of Jesus in our busyness and focus on so many things. And so, we need to get back to the reality that God has a plan. And Jesus gave us the instructions. And our first adjustment, if we begin to follow Jesus, is this: For every day, for every task, for every opportunity that the church has, for every goal, for every relationship, God has a plan.

And we are wise when we adjust our behavior to God’s plan. We are wise when we adjust our feelings to God’s plan. And we are wise when we adjust our thinking to try to determine what does Jesus want rather than taking a vote on what we want. We are wise. Because you see, God has a plan for a church just like the plan on the screen for a building. We need to let the plumbers do the plumbing. We need to let the carpenters do the carpentering. We need to let the electricians do the electrical work. We need to let the people who God has specialized do their work so that everything is done well.

And how we know what we’re all supposed to do is the list of commands that Jesus gave to the disciples. That’s where you’ll find the plan. So here’s a prayer to help us when we’re tempted to criticize:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
it was never between you and them anyway.

You see, friends, we were not put on earth to please other people, and I’m very sorry to tell you this, there are a whole lot of churches that have come to the decision that what they need to do to succeed as a church, to grow as a church, is to work really hard to please everybody. But as the little girl in Sunny School said, and she was more right than anyone in the world when she said, “Even Jesus couldn’t please everybody.” Because, you see, in the final analysis, it’s not between you and them. You’re not supposed to please them. It’s between you and your God. It was never between you and them anyway.

And so I hope these words of Jesus sink in, that wherever the gospel is preached, wherever the Bible is opened all over the whole world, that what happened that day when a woman had the courage to give something to Jesus, that we would choose to be like her. Because you know something? What the Scripture says, that you and I should give to Jesus, even if that means we go in all different directions to do God’s will, it’s never wasted. It’s never wasted because Jesus takes what we give and uses it to bring God’s will to pass. It’s not a waste; it’s for Jesus.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, it’s such a human temptation, this desire to fit in. It’s such a human temptation to be liked by other people, to receive their approval. It’s such a human temptation for us to be right and be on the right side, the winning side. But Lord, help us to understand this very different way that Jesus wants to work, to give each person some special thing to do. And then, because everybody’s different, and because everybody feels free to do what God wants them to do, because everybody is willing to be different, then everything that God wants to happen gets done. And so, Lord, help us as a church, and help us as people who desire to follow You, to discover what we love and use our abilities so that there is more of what we love in this world, so that everything that God wants to do through us, in all of its great variety, gets done. And we ask this in the name of Jesus. 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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