March 31, 2024, We Are All Invited To Walk In Newness Of Life, Easter 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 Christ the Lord is Risen Today [April 4 2021, Easter]
Faith United Methodist Church-Rockville, MD
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAofjxKUpmY

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Almighty God, through Jesus Christ you overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life. Grant that we, who celebrate the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may, by the renewing of your Spirit arise from the death of sin to the life of righteousness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, 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 HYMN 310 He Lives
He Lives! – Greater Vision Gospel Quartet
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpJfT4_COzY

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 Invited To Walk In Newness Of Life
Text: Romans 6:1-5, Mark 16:5-8, Matthew 28:5-8
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

Rom 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Mark 16:5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side,
dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.

Matthew 28:5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. Lo, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

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HYMN 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

All throughout Lent, we have been talking about what we all have in common. And on Easter Sunday, there’s also something that we all have in common: We are all invited, invited. We are all invited to walk in newness of life.

In the cartoon on the screen, the man is shaking the pastor’s hand on Easter Sunday and he says, “You’re in a rut, Reverend. Every time I come here, you’re preaching on the resurrection.” This will be the 44th Easter Sunday that I stood before people as a pastor to preach. And I do have to wonder, am I in a rut? Because we do talk about the same things every Easter.

We try to get different viewpoints, but it is the same point. The picture of the man driving the car is from around 1920 in Iowa. But there was a preacher in our conference from Louisiana. His first name is Perry. I cannot remember his full name. But some 30 years ago, he preached on what it was like to grow up in Louisiana on the Mississippi Delta. And the Mississippi Delta, friends, it’s just mud. It’s mud that the Mississippi River has dropped. And outside the town he grew up in, he said, which was 22 miles from the bridge across the river, there was actually, he said, a road sign that said, “Choose a good rut. You’ll be in it for the next 22 miles.”

Friends, we need to choose a good rut when it comes to Easter Sunday because we’re going to be in it for 22 years, 30 years, 44 years, we’re going to be following the same path. So I want to ask you this question. Am I in a rut? And the answer is not yet.

This afternoon, though, every pastor will be in a rut. The pastor, full of faith, will lay down on the couch and begin to hum: Take my hand, precious Lord. Lead me on … and then they’ll fall asleep. Behold the comfort zone, the place where pastors on Easter Sunday afternoon rest in peace, awaiting the resurrection.

There’s a little quote on the screen. I saw it yesterday. I thought, “Boy, this is so true for Easter Sunday afternoon.”

Those who say, “Go big or go home.” Those who say, “You want to have your cake and eat it too.” Those who say, “You made your bed, now lie in it,” clearly underestimate how badly I want to simply go home, devour my cake, and lay down in the bed that I made.

The comfort zone is a resting place. And something we understand about the comfort zone is it’s a place where nothing much happens. You see, off to the side, that’s where the magic happens. Off to the side, that’s where the miracles happen. And every time they draw these circles, they draw the wrong size. Actual studies of scientific change, sociological studies based on science, based on how cultures change, businesses change, governments change, countries change … There is a place where the magic happens and the change begins to happen. But the comfort zone is actually much larger than how we would like to draw it. We imagine that the forces for change are powerful and impossible to resist … but our imagination is wrong.

The place where miracles and change happens has 16% of the resources. Did you know that? If you line up 100 church members and you say, “Who would like to vote for something new and different, and who would vote for things to stay the way they’ve always been?” What the sociology says is change will lose that vote, because 84% of people will vote for the comfort zone to continue. For nothing to change.

Friends, one thing we all have in common is gravity. And I feel that gravity pulling me toward my lazy boy recliner very powerfully this morning. To be honest, at age 69, I feel it pulling me every morning toward my lazy boy recliner. And perhaps you have the same pull. The comfort zone is a reality. But miracles and magic don’t happen in the comfort zone. Nonetheless, the comfort zone is something that we all have in common.

But on Easter Sunday, Jesus says, “I no longer want to rest in peace. I no longer want to lay down. I want to get up and move forward.” And Jesus, as He has always done, and still on Easter Sunday, still on Easter Sunday, looks at all of us and says, Follow me. It’s time for you to get up. It’s time for you to go forward.”

And what I want to suggest and have for 44 years is Easter is not just something that happens to Jesus, it’s something that also happens to us. Well, Pastor Dave, where is that in the Bible? Well, it’s in Romans chapter six. “What shall we say then?” Paul writes. “Are we to continue in sin? Are we to rest? Are we to continue in sin so that God’s grace, God’s forgiveness may abound?” And Paul writes, “By no means, how can we who died to sin still live in it?” Well, Pastor Dave, how exactly did I die to sin?

Here’s what Paul says, verse three. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death.” The old Negro spiritual goes, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” And Romans 6 says, “Yes, you were.” Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree? Romans 6 says, “Yes, you were.” Were you there when they laid Him in the grave? Romans 6 says, “Yes, you were.” We were there on Friday. We were there on Saturday. Somehow in baptism, there is a connection made between us and the death of Jesus Christ.

Because Paul goes on to say, “So that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too,” notice the word, “might.” You see, you are invited. It is possible so that we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.

Last year, I reminded you of the most beautiful sermon I think ever preached on Easter … about how on Friday, bad things happen, and we feel so defeated. On Saturday, in the aftermath, we wait as if life is destroyed. But the preacher reminds us, “Sunday’s coming!” It’s possible that we, too, might walk in newness of life, just like Jesus.

And that’s different than the way a lot of people are thinking about Easter because for many people and many churches, Easter is just a day on the calendar. It’s a day for families to get together. It’s a day of joyful celebration. But in the midst of that celebration, people rarely talk about coming back to life. Because not everybody has gone through the resurrection. For many people, it’s not yet happened. And when the resurrection is not seen as a very real possibility for life, our life to be different, what’s left to us is Fluffy Bunny Day. Now, I’ll be honest with you, I like Fluffy Bunny Day. And I like chocolate bunnies. And I like sitting in my comfort zone with that bowl of candy eggs that slowly begins to disappear. I love Fluffy Bunny Day.

But the real meaning of Easter is an even greater comfort for me. Because you see, by faith, if we see the world as God sees it, if we see the possibilities that God gives us, if we see by faith, we can see that we could certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. But we need to give ourselves time.

On the screen, you see a picture of a caterpillar looking into a mirror and seeing a butterfly. You need to give yourself time, particularly if your Easter is more like the first Easter. The first Easter was marked by great tragedy as Jesus was murdered on the cross, and all hope was lost. Friends, if you are coping with a horrible crisis of death, if it’s Friday, in other words, it’s going to be hard for you to see what’s possible. Not only that, people will look at you, and they will say, “You need to be realistic. This medicine may not work. This plan that you have for life to get better may not work. You need to be realistic.” But friends, here’s the problem with being realistic. You have no place to go. You don’t want to get stuck on Friday.

Not only that, you don’t want to get stuck on Saturday because, in the aftermath of grief, it takes time to adjust. It takes a long time to feel well and hopeful again. Don’t be realistic. Be hopeful and see things the way God sees them. Why? Because Sunday is coming.

On the very first Easter, the women are on the way to the tomb. As far as they know, Jesus is still dead. They get to the tomb. And there’s a man in white. And he says, “Why are you looking for Jesus here? He’s not here. He’s risen. Go tell the other disciples.”

And you know what it says at the end of Mark? It says, “They were filled with fear and ran away and told no one,” because they were still stuck on Saturday. You see, they still believed that Easter had not happened. They were stuck.

And you look at the book of Matthew, and it says, “On the way they were filled with joy and excitement,” because you see, on the way out of and away from the tomb, they realized that these words were true. And they began to see with eyes of faith. They began to see with eyes of hope. And as Jesus appeared to them, they saw that their hope was true. You see, Easter doesn’t happen for everyone at the same time. Resurrection happens in different ways. We’ve been talking about that.

At the beginning of Lent, we talked about how Jesus Christ would reach down into your darkness with grace, that he wasn’t willing simply to care for you while you felt so miserable. He wanted to lift you out of that dark place. And we talked about how justifying grace makes a change in our life. Everything before that is prevenient grace, God helping to get us ready. And then there’s a moment when we light up because God’s power becomes present. And then after that moment, sanctifying grace begins to help us to put our lives back together to get better to, as John Wesley said, go on to perfection. The goal, as Paul says in Philippians 3:10, is that you and I might know Him and not only know Jesus Christ but know and experience the power of His resurrection. When resurrection happens in a person’s life, we see their life begin to change. Not only that, when resurrection happens in a church, we see changes, too.

I’ve told you about the Center for Parish Development Church Growth Principle, a sociological study back actually in the early ’70s, if not the late ’60s, where they put a sample together of United Methodist churches in every type of setting and situation, inner-city churches, wealthy suburban churches, little town churches, county seat town churches like Salem, churches surrounded by cornfields like Wesley. And they made a list. For every church that was growing, they made a list of characteristics. And then they put together a matching sample of exactly those same kinds of United Methodist churches, where the churches were not growing, where they were shrinking, where they were on a plateau of no change … let’s say it politely, where they were dying.

What they found out as a result of the study was that there was only one characteristic that made a difference. They found this in every growing church, without exception, and they never found it in any shrinking church or plateaued church without exception. And the one characteristic was this, and I want to suggest to you it’s a characteristic of resurrection:

The laity, that’s you,
are excited
about what is happening
in their church.

Now it’s a good thing for the pastor to be excited. I’m excited. But where we actually see new life begin is when you get excited. And imagine these women as they’re going from the tomb – oh my gosh – they were excited. Friends, excitement is like gasoline that makes the car go. And when God works a work of resurrection in our hearts, we begin to get excited. Consequently, I want to encourage you to be excited. The word enthusiasm begins with two Greek words put together, en theos. Enthusiasm literally means you’re in God, filled with, surrounded by. When resurrection happens, we begin to experience this. So let yourself feel excitement. I’m not so sure that you should jump off a hill like the kid in the picture, but who knows? All kinds of things happen when we get excited.

This other slide is one of my favorites. I’ve shown it to you many times over the past 10 years. Howard Thurman said this. Shrinking churches worry about what other people need. But I want to suggest to you that when resurrection happens, ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is not churches that cater to them. What the world does not need is more people-pleasers trying to make everybody happy. What the world needs, as Howard Thurman says, “is people who’ve come alive.” Because when they see us come alive, they begin to want what we have.

What makes you come alive? Over the past 10 years, whenever you said to me, “Pastor Dave, I’m really excited. I would like to do this,” I hope you have found in me someone who would encourage you to do what makes you come alive. Because when resurrection happens, we become people who pray, “Thy kingdom come.” We become people who pray, Thy will be done, not someday, but right now. Thy will be done, not somewhere, but right here. And we are willing to be people who do God’s will.

Friends, on Easter Sunday, it’s time for us to consciously and deliberately decide to lead a new life. And together as the church to consciously and deliberately decide, that our church will lead a new life. Because you see, if Easter has happened, then anything is possible. Anything is possible. Anything is possible.

So what we all have in common on Easter Sunday is this. When resurrection happens, we hear the voice of Jesus Christ saying, “Follow me. It’s time to get up and live.” Earl Nightingale, many decades ago, said, “A rut is a grave with the ends kicked out.” I like to think of the tomb on Easter Sunday that way. The stone was rolled aside. What kept Jesus bottled up in the tomb, that end was kicked out. And now it’s time to go. It’s time to go forward and see what God can do. Anything is possible!

Please pray with me. Lord, help us not to enjoy the comfort zone so much. Help us to understand that after we rest a while, it’s time, Lord, to wake up. It’s time, Lord, to get up. It’s time to get up off the couch and get back to doing Your will. It’s time to get up and look at the world and say, what does God want us to do? Lord, may we be people who live and work by faith in the power of your resurrection, believing that all things are possible when You are alive and living through 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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