March 3, 2024, We Are All Asked To Love One Another, Lent 3

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 Let Us Break Bread Together
J.D. Sumner, The Stamps Quartet – Let Us Break Bread Together [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QoolEJe6a0

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 Let There Be Peace On Earth
Let There Be Peace On Earth – Vince Gill & Jenny Gill (Lyrics)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yG7P1gNVjo

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 Love One Another
Text: John 13:34-35, Mark 12:28-31, Galatians 5:14, Hebrews 12:1-2
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 12:28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.“

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

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HYMN O How I Love Jesus
Carrie Underwood – Oh How I Love Jesus (Official Audio Video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u8fKX3xZaMM

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

In Lent, we’re talking about what we all have in common. So two weeks ago, we talked about how we all need forgiveness. And last week, we talked about the fact that Jesus Christ is not only reaching His hand out to us out of love and to give us forgiveness; He is wanting to pull us toward Him and up and out of every difficulty. And I shared with you what John Wesley called that. He called that going on to perfection. God did not want to simply leave us where we are, but forgiven, but wanted our lives to be blessed and to be better. And so we are going on to perfection. We’re not there yet, but we’re on the way.

And a couple of things that really bothered me this week … There was a quote, and in fact, I put it on our church Facebook account. Josh Hunt said a number of years ago that there’s been a change since the ’50s, the decade I was born. He said, “People are no longer looking for a friendly church. They’re actually looking for friends.” And we’ve talked about this before, and I’ve shared with you the statistics that show that isolation and being disconnected and being lonely is a cause of a great deal of physical illness, emotional illness, and just simply trouble in our society. But this past week, an Australian theologian by the name of Mike Frost said this:

“I’ve lost count of the number of Christians who’ve told me they either stopped attending church or left church to join another one because they couldn’t make any friends there. They report that the church people were friendly enough. They were hospitable and welcoming. But as one person told me, “They’re nice to you, but no one becomes your friend.”

And that really bothered me. And I wasn’t quite sure exactly what I would say about it. And I made a huge mistake. I asked my wife. And she said something like, “What really troubles me is talking to people who are going through such a hard time, and I’m not quite sure I know what to say. And rather than just tell everybody how lonely they are, maybe you should tell them how to comfort one another.” And of course, I didn’t like that one bit because I wasn’t quite sure how to do it. And I began to pray. And I decided that she was right and that I would take a risk today. Now, if this is a massive failure, I do want to say it’s all my fault. But I tried to do something a little different, and this is it.

Friends, you and I need to be connected. God created us to be connected. You notice in the picture on the screen, there’s a good connection between that person and Jesus, but God wants us to be connected to each other because a good connection recharges us. Now, the picture up there on the screen is way too small, but those are my grandchildren. And when I connect with my grandchildren, they recharge me. We need to be connected more than just to our immediate family, more than just to Jesus. We need to be connected to the people around us because a good connection recharges us. If you carry a phone around with you, you know you’re constantly worried about is that your phone battery is going to run out of energy. We’ve already talked today in our prayer time that there are people who don’t have the energy that they need. Perhaps some of that is because we need to be connected to other people to recharge ourselves! And in fact, a certain kind of person.

And I love this picture. I hope you love it too. The little boy there has apparently won quite a victory in whatever computer game he’s playing or whatever it is. But I would like to ask you to take a look at the little girl that’s sitting next to him. We need someone like that in our life. We need someone who’s thrilled when we have a victory. And you know something? When we’re the little boy, when we’re the one who has won the victory, we need someone to be pleased for us.

Jim Rohn, who is a motivational speaker, once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I want to tell you … if the five people you spend the most time with are just like that little girl, you’re living a pretty good life. We are better together. We are better when we are connected to people and energy flows back and forth. We are better together.

And this is what Jesus says … and said that needed to be our high priority. Jesus was asked, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, the first is, “Here, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one, and you shall love the Lord your God …” G.K. Chesterton once said that we should let our religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. The highest priority, Jesus said, is for us to love God and not just love God, but love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength. That’s more than a theory. And right next to that, Jesus says this, “The second is this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There’s no other commandment greater than these. There’s no other instruction that is a higher priority than these.

Although in the going on toward perfection, it’s all about loving God and loving people, Jesus added an additional priority. In John chapter 13:34, he said this, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another …” In other words, we’re going to love God and we’re going to love our neighbor, but we need to love one another. We need to have a connection that’s described by loving people, and not just loving people in the way we would define love: We need to look at how Jesus loves people and then we need to love each other exactly that way: Love one another even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another. So the next step toward perfection, toward a better life, is for us to learn how to love one another. And if people are drifting through churches and never feeling that they have made friends, there must be something that we don’t understand, that people in general don’t understand about what it is to be connected to other people, about what it means to love one another. We must not understand what it means to love one another.

There must be something we need to learn. There must be something we need to learn, to do this well. Paul emphasizes this again in Galatians 5:14. He says, “For the whole law, everything that God wants is fulfilled in one word, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jamie Anderson said with regard to grief, this is that fine print that you can’t read on the screen, “Grief I’ve learned is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest, grief is just love with no place to go.”

I think there’s a lot of truth to that. Grief is just love with no place to go, but you can choose to release that love. Barbara Sher once wrote, “When in doubt, we should be good to the good people.” There are all kinds of people. You can show them love and they will turn on you and they will harm you and they will treat you disrespectfully. But she said the smart thing to do is to be good to the good people. And if we can open ourselves up, we can be aware that there’s someone around us that needs our love and extend love to that person.

Maybe as a grandpa to a granddaughter, maybe as a neighbor to a young family. The mother says, “My baby daughter is ill and I have to go to the grocery store. Would you and your wife babysit?” And you say, “Yes.” And you let that love that is pent up inside of you flow around this family, around this child. Be good to the good people because we are a part of something alive that is beyond what we can understand. And we are not alone. We are never alone because we have neighbors.

Now, we’re going on to perfection. Maybe our neighbors aren’t the kind of people they should be. Maybe our neighborhood’s not the kind of place that it should be. Maybe there’s a lot of room to grow. But be connected to your neighbors, and let your neighbor influence you. As it says in Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders … and the sin that so easily entangles, everything that hinders us from loving one another. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, a race which is step-by-step loving one another. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, the person who showed us what it means to love one another. Who, for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Let’s learn to love one another.

And here in the small print, that’s too small for you to read, are some things that touched my heart that perhaps when you love one another, you might tell them. This is what Kim asked for.

So I want to tell you what is on my heart. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “To be kind is more important than to be right.” Steve Eichen said that right here in Louise Cheatham’s funeral message on Thursday. To be kind is more important than to be right. Many times what people need is not a brilliant mind that speaks, but a special heart that listens. Sometimes that’s what it means to love one another.

The next little saying says, “Don’t be afraid to be who you are. Someone out there needs to meet someone like you.” Right beside it, where the penguins are apparently dancing, it says, “It’s not what we have in life, but who we have in life.” Who we have in our lives that matters. We need other people. Sometimes miracles are just good people with kind hearts. The little saying right next to it says, “I did not come to teach you. I came to love you and love will teach you.” And then, “Go and love someone exactly as they are, and then watch how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence is instantly empowered.” Loving one another recharges us when we need it so much.

As G.K. Chesterson said, “Perhaps the problem we have is this, we need to let our religion be less of a theory, less of an idea, less of a duty, and more of a love affair,” or perhaps we should say more like a friendship.

And when you need to encourage someone, to love one another, words like these might occur to you. Missionary Elizabeth Elliot said, “We are not adrift in chaos. We are held in the everlasting arms.” And, Just because someone carries it well does not mean it isn’t heavy. And, When we think it’s too late, God whispers, “I still have a plan.”

And then this really pretty cartoon that has this giant mathematical formula on the board, and in the middle of the formula, what connects the two parts together are these words: Then a miracle occurs. And the line underneath the cartoon says, “I think you should be more explicit here in step two.”Friends, sometimes we don’t know what kind of miracle will occur. Sometimes we don’t know what God will do. But we know that in the middle that connects the problem with the solution is God acting, even if we don’t know how God will act just yet.

Kim and I went to a five-day academy spiritual retreat where we studied the theology of Julian of Norwich. And this is the saying by which she encouraged people, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well, for there is a force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go.” So no matter how hard it gets, no matter how difficult it might seem, here’s this saying, “Breathe, darling. This is just a chapter. It’s not your whole story.” And another one: If the version of you from five years ago could see you right now, they’d be so proud. Keep going.

Friends, we are connected to all sorts of people, including people who are watching us from heaven, yearning for us to continue on and to keep the faith and to hang on. But sometimes what keeps us charged up and gives us the energy to do that is the influence that our neighbor has upon us.

Life is mostly froth and bubble. Two things stand like stone.
Kindness in another’s trouble and courage in your own.

And so I want to suggest this– let your neighbor’s cookies influence you because sometimes that expression of kindness that is a plate of cookies, or a covered dish, or just simply a smile and a word and a prayer– sometimes, that makes all the difference.

Because sometimes, God’s answer to a problem is a person. And sometimes, that person can be you or something you say, something you do that makes all the difference in somebody’s life. And they know that you are their friend because they can feel that love is flowing from you and not just flowing out, but flowing back because sometimes, your neighbor is God’s answer to the problem that you have. Let your neighbor influence you.

I’d like to ask us to take just a minute and to let this sink in and to let God speak to us about loving our neighbor and letting our neighbor love us. Let’s pray.
[silence]

Lord Jesus, our life is a mixture of joy and sorrow. It’s a mixture of everything going just right and everything not being quite right. But we’re going on to perfection with faith. We are moving forward, believing that You have prepared a path for us to walk, a path that has blessings on it. And also, Lord, a path that as we travel, we don’t travel alone, but we are part of neighbors who are loving one another. It is so important, Lord, that we learn how to do this, how to be vulnerable, how to allow someone else to be kind to us even as we seek to be kind to them. Lord Jesus, since You said it was a new commandment, since You said it was a priority, I would pray that You would help us to learn what it means to truly and genuinely love one another. And 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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