April 14, 2024, Stacking Wood and Lighting Candles, Eastertide 2

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.)

CALL TO WORSHIP
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.

HYMN We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations
We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations – Harvest – Greenhills Christian Fellowship
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwFzG9diulI

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The Centering Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my 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 Thy Word
Amy Grant – Thy Word (Lyric Video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6LC8cu03Ig

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: Stacking Wood and Lighting Candles
Text: Mark 16:14-18, Matthew 28:16-20, 5:13-16
Series: Instructions for Walking In Newness of Life.

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 16:15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.“ 19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.

Matthew 28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

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HYMN Pass It On
PASS IT ON || LYRICS by Musikanna
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkHc9dM2VlY

BENEDICTION

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 the weeks following Easter, we’re talking about what Jesus wants us to do. We’re talking about how resurrection happens in our life, in our church, and what a camera would see, what people would see if we were doing what Jesus wants us to do. In other words, what are our instructions for walking in [inaudible] of life? And today, we’re going to be talking about stacking wood, and I’m sure that makes no sense at all, and lighting candles. Because you see, the purpose of God is eternal. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Now take a close look at verse 17: “For God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” One meme that went around a lot at Christmas said that If God did not send Jesus into the world to condemn the world, I doubt that He sent you to do it. The role of Christian people is not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through the gift of Jesus Christ. And after Easter, God is wanting to fulfill this purpose. God is wanting to redeem the world. God is wanting to make a resurrection happen in this poor, sick, sad, sinful, suffering world for things to change.

And the eternal purpose, God so loved the world, still continues, only as Jesus said on Easter Sunday night. Now, it’s not just that God sent the Son into the world. Jesus said to His followers, “As the Father has sent me, even so, I send you.” You and I are people that help God fulfill this eternal purpose. And in order to know how we are to do that, there is a French word we need to keep in mind. It’s called Mise en Place. When someone asks you what the pastor talked about today, you can say, “Well, we studied French for a while.” Mise en Place is the thing that world-famous chefs do. You see, Mise en Place means everything in place and ready to cook.

Now, they don’t actually show this very well on all these cooking challenge shows to where they have five minutes to make something very difficult. But in the real world, chefs will get everything ready. The ingredients will be measured. Everything will be ready before they start to cook. My father taught me this as a very young child. He said, “Dave, before you make anything, get all the ingredients out and put them on the counter. Make sure you’ve got everything. And when you put this ingredient in or that ingredient in, then put the spice back on the shelf. And that way, you won’t put it in twice, but you’ll be mostly cleaned up by the time you’re done.” You see, Mise en Place happens, getting ready happens, before the TV cameras start rolling.

So between Easter and Pentecost, there are 49 days the disciples those days to get ready for the day of Pentecost. Charles Kingsley said, “Have your tools ready and God will find you work to do with them.” Mise en place is you getting your tools ready. Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Friends, if the Christian life seems difficult, maybe it’s because you spend more time swinging the axe than you spend sharpening it. If you want to see God work, you need to do the mise en place. You need to get things ready. And what is that?

And we misunderstand Pentecost so deeply because on the day of Pentecost, 49 days after Easter, the Holy Spirit descends and 120 followers of Jesus are a part of a beautiful act of God where in a single day, 3,000 people are converted and are baptized. That’s right. The very first day of the church, there were 3,000 members. Not only that, if you read the text carefully, within a few weeks, certainly less than a couple of months, there were 15,000 Christians. And so you’ll hear preachers say every year, and they’ll do it again as Pentecost comes closer: What we need is for the Holy Spirit to fall. And that’s certainly true. But you need to understand what that means in context. Because if there’s going to be a flame over the heads of the disciples that ignites a great fire … but where do you get the wood?

So let me try to explain that today. In the Gospel of Mark, Mark gives the disciples instructions of what they are to do now. And it’s really interesting the way Mark explains what they need to do. If you look at Mark 16:15, look at the red print there. And Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” As if the only thing the world needs now is sermons. Friends, I want to tell you that I like this verse because I like sermons. The more sermons, the better. The longer, the better. All day long, seven days long. Every waking minute, sermons, sermons, sermons, sermons, because I love sermons. Jeret loves to play the piano. Kim loves to make supper. Thank God for that. I love sermons.

And of course, the church saw that and said, “That’s what we need. We need sermons. We need to drag people into church and preach out until they change.” That’s the way Mark explains it. And so verse 19, “Then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went forth and they preached everywhere.” And everything happened just as it was supposed to.

But friends, here’s the problem with sermons. A sermon is like a wooden match. It can get a fire going, but there’s not a whole lot of wood in the sermon itself. Sermons get things going. They start a fire within us, but by themselves, they don’t burn long unless there’s fuel there to light.

So where does the wood come from that caused the day of Pentecost to go from 120 people to 3,000 converts to 15,000 converts? And you see, here’s the answer. The Gospel of Mark tells the disciples what they need to do after Jesus did what he needed to do for three years. What you’re looking at here is a bonfire. One of the favorite kinds of wood to make into a bonfire is wooden pallets, and you see them piled up there. Jesus built the fire. He stacked the wood. He got everything ready for three years so that all it took to start a fire was to light a match. Because you see, over those three years, everyone knew of him. Everyone talked about him. Everyone throughout all of Israel knew someone who’d been healed. Everyone knew someone who had seen him in person. Everyone knew someone who followed Jesus. Friends, this is mise en place. Jesus spent three years to get everything ready. And we don’t want to mistake that that is still important.

Helping people come to Christ involves this mise en place that’s getting ready. They need to know about him. They need to talk about him. They need to know people whose prayers have been answered. They need to know people who have met him. They need to know people who follow him. And then they’re ready. Sermons are just the last ingredient.

Now, interestingly enough, Matthew, whose goal is to write a book about Jesus teaching the disciples how to fish for people–every word in the book of Matthew is about teaching people how to fish for people as we look over the shoulders of the disciples as Jesus teaches them. Here’s what the book of Matthew says: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” In other words, there’s not anyone who is more authoritative to tell you how to do this than me. So here’s what I want you to do: Verse 19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And as they are going, they’re going to stack wood. They’re going to help people get ready to become Christian.

And here’s how that will happen if you look at verse 20. You’ll be teaching every person who listens to observe, to follow, to practice, to do all that I’ve commanded you. And lo, I am with you always to the close of the age.

If you want to help people get ready to follow Jesus, all you have to do is learn how to obey everything Jesus has asked you to do. Because when people see that, they will understand what it means to follow Jesus. This is stacking the wood. Because you see, friends, there is a recipe. The steps you take are every single word that Jesus told the disciples to do in the book of Matthew. And when you do what he asked you to do, other people will see it in your life and come to Christ.

Now, let me give you an example from my personal life. Friends, this is Davidoff Cool Water – my cologne. I normally don’t wear this very often because there are some people who are bothered by fragrance. But just to make a point, that’s a lot. That’s plenty. Six squirts. And all of a sudden, everybody knows I’m in the room. Now, I told you that to tell you this.
And I have Kim’s permission to tell you this. When I smell a certain way, she knows it’s date night. When she can sense that certain fragrance wafting through the house, she knows it’s time for happiness and joy because she knows that I only put it on when I want her to know that I love her very much. We’re going out to eat. Or I brought her flowers. And sometimes I overdo it.

Now, the reason I did that is so you could get the sense of this verse and what it means. Jesus says at the Sermon on the Mount, He says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt has lost its taste, if there’s no fragrance to the fragrance, how shall its saltness be restored? It’s no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by other people.” You see, when you live your life as if Jesus Christ was living in you, there will be the taste of Jesus Christ in all that you do. Like salt. And people will recognize it. Now, the reason why I use the fragrance is you’ll know I’m here from about 12 feet away.

(I already know it. One person shouts.) She already knows it. Same way.

When you live your life as Jesus Christ asked you to do, it’s like adding salt to a dish that’s already delicious. I looked for a picture of– chefs put their hands in this bowl of salt and they just sprinkle like this across the dish. And it’s so graceful and beautiful. Jesus Christ wants you to have a taste of Him. And people can tell if you’re the real thing or not.

And then Jesus says these words, which I think are also about stacking wood. Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel but on a stand. And it gives light to all in the house. Let your light–“ let the light of Jesus Christ shine through you. “Let your light so shine before people that they may see your good works,” the good that you do, “and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” As you light a candle and leave it in the darkness, all over your neighborhood, people will now be able to see which way to go. They’ll not stumble or fall. And when we live these words of practicing everything that Jesus asks of us, it becomes visible that the Jesus we speak of is real. And the gospel we share is true.

And you have an opportunity as you go through your day– because as you go through your day, God will give you the opportunity to do a good thing. Now, some of you might encounter someone like the Good Samaritan where you literally can save someone’s life. But these good works can also be little, tiny expressions of kindness that show what Jesus Christ is like because they see Him living in us. And friends, if you do the little things, God will coordinate all those little things into big things. But for you, you will have the opportunity, as you go through your day, to do little acts of kindness that will be like Jesus Christ being there. Now, I could talk more about those, but the problem is, if you have 100 people in a room, what God does through them is 100 different things because it’s an expression of who you are. And people sense the fragrance of Jesus. They know that Jesus is there.

So Jesus stacked wood for three years, and that made all the difference. But I want to bring you back to something I shared a few weeks ago, too, called the diffusion of innovations, which is about how an idea spreads through a culture. There’s a new way of doing things, and life is better, and an idea spreads through a culture. But what most of us don’t know is there’s great resistance to change.

And so missionaries and others go over to Africa and they come to a village and they say, “The reason that your babies are dying is– the water that you take from the creek is polluted. This is a solar water purifier. If you pour the creek water into there and let it evaporate and then only let your babies drink the water that comes out this other side, they won’t die.” And then they come back in six months, and they find out that the people in the village are not using the solar water purifier, they find out that the babies are still dying, and they ask the mothers, “Why aren’t you purifying the water for your children?” And the mothers say, “Well, it just doesn’t taste right. We like the way the creek water tastes better.” Now, friends, that may seem ridiculous to you, but that happens all across the world.

And when you consider how Jesus Christ can change someone’s life for the better, you can see it happening in our world. The diffusion of innovations which is sociological science says that 84% of a given people group cannot hear good news that is preached, that is announced in a lecture, that is announced in a book, that is taught in a class, all the ways the church has always tried to share the gospel. It says that 84% of people can only hear the gospel when they hear the good news from a trusted friend or neighbor. In other words, this person is a living example of it, and you can ask questions, and someone you trust can explain it to you.

Now when I went and studied for my doctoral degree– now, of course, you can say, you can call me Dr. Dave if you want. But I proposed this method as a method to convert the world, that what we need to do is reach the 84% of the people that cannot be reached in any other way by letting people they know and trust preach the sermons. Only it’s not actually sermons, you just be kind and have conversations. So conversations between friends about Jesus, about how Jesus loves you, about how God wants to help you, little acts of kindness. They draw people closer to Jesus. And isn’t it amazing? Now Jesus can reach out to all of the people through many, many, many people in small ways in a way that really works.

And what’s happening on the day of Pentecost is that afterall these conversations that Jesus had had with people, they were ready. And so there is what they call an S-curve of adoption to where 84% of the population instantly converted because they were ready. It’s a hallmark of this form of evangelism to work through ordinary people just like you, as you be the best Christian you can be. It works.

Now, “Pastor Dave, that really sounds technical and difficult. What exactly is it that you want me to do?” A wonderful evangelist by the name of Neil Cole explained it this way. And I’m sorry if this grosses you out, but it’s true. If you live in the South – and I lived in Louisville for four years – when you walk into a room in the kind of apartments seminary students lived in, when you turn on the light, all of a sudden, the cockroaches scurry for the darkness. Have you ever noticed that? Not in your house, of course, but in other people’s houses.

Now, here’s the problem. If you try to stop that cockroach and hang onto it and hold it in your hand and try to explain the gospel to it, it is too scared to listen to you. All you can do if you see people going away from you because you’re a Christian is to pray for them, and please do that. “But,” Neil Cole said, “people who are ready are like moths. When you shine a light in the darkness, they come up because they like the light.” So all you need to do is go out there in the world and go about your day and talk to everybody you get a chance to talk to, and you be kind to everybody you get a chance to be kind with, and you notice the people who come up to you. And you have a conversation with them. And maybe the fact that they came up to you causes you to keep praying for them. Because if you respond to the people that God sends to come up to you, you will find that the conversations that you have with them have the potential to change their minds. So don’t worry about everything and don’t worry about everyone. Have the conversations with the people that God brings to you.

Here are some statistics: 96% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if they’re invited, more than 9 out of 10. These statistics come from 2005. They are likely to come to church if they’re asked by someone with who they have a relationship, as a trusted neighbor or a peer.

A friend of mine put a statistic on Facebook last night that said that this number has shrunk from 96% to 40% because there’s a lot of hostility in the world today. The end result of the hostility in the world today is many people don’t have very many trusted friends and neighbors. But 40% of Kinmundy is still 280 people. There are 280 people who would be interested in following Jesus Christ, even if it’s just 40%, if they had the right conversations with the right person.

And, in fact, this book that Thom Rainer wrote in 2005, he states very plainly, “Most of the unchurched people would rather talk to a layperson than a minister about religious matters.” Now, why is that? When you ask the minister a question, you get a 20-minute sermon before you even get to ask the second question. You see, God can use you in conversations with your neighbors more effectively than God can use me with sermons.

Not only that, and here’s some research from our own Church. This statistic comes from 2012. The average United Methodist Church member invites only one person to worship every 38 years. Now, if you’ve invited someone to come to church with you sooner than 38 years ago, you are amazing. And in addition to that, one thing I want to say to you really quickly, as Patsy talked about how the numbers are getting fewer and fewer, it’s really not just inviting someone to church. It’s showing someone that you care and that Jesus cares, and everything else flows from that. This is your ministry.

Because you see, the way Jesus wants Easter to work is this way. Jesus came into the world and loved the world and helped people and had conversations with them. Now he is sending you to do just that.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, help us to understand that it’s not just a matter of inviting people to church. It’s not just a matter of convincing people to be just like us. But Lord, as we practice our faith, we give people the experience of actually meeting and knowing a genuine Christian. And Lord, as we practice our faith and follow you in simple, gentle ways, those simple, gentle ways like leaven in a loaf of bread, grow and expand in the lives of every person we talk to. And so, Lord, help us to know that you have chosen to work through pastors, and you have chosen to work through preachers and through churches and through denominations. But Lord, what you’ve mostly chosen to do is to work through all of your people in many little ways so that the whole world may be saved through you because you love the whole world. And so, Lord, we pray that you will work through us and use us so that God’s will may be done here on earth just as it is in heaven. And we ask this in Jesus’s 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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