April 28, 2024, Priority #2: Be Neighborly, Eastertide 4

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.)

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 557 Blest Be The Tie That Binds
Blest Be The Tie That Binds; First United Methodist Houston, 1/15/2023

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 585 This Little Light Of Mine
JJ Heller – This Little Light of Mine (World Vision)

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: Priority #2: Be Neighborly
Text: Matthew 22:35-40, Galatians 5:13-14, 1 John 4:7-11
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


Matthew 22:35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.


HYMN 593 Here I Am, Lord
Here I Am Lord with Lyrics – John Michael Talbot
HERE I AM, LORD – Collin Raye


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!


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?

There are two priorities that God gives you and I. Next week, we’ll talk about priority number one. But I thought we’d talk about the smaller thing, about priority number two, which is to be neighborly. This is something that small towns and rural areas really understood well. But in the last 20 years, in the last 50 years, people have largely forgotten how to be good neighbors. It’s very tragic.

This is the church sign out over here in front of the church. It says that our wish is for thy kingdom to come, thy will be done, and not someday, but right here and right now. But that then leads to the question, what is it that is God’s will? What is it? And this is where what Jesus said makes so much sense.

You have been seeing this picture and I’ve been explaining it for quite some time now. I just think it’s key. Ephesians 2 says that God is working in your life to help you to be the kind of person that God wants you to be. For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus so that good things happen, for good works. And not only that, God will go on in front of you before your day begins to prepare everything that you’re supposed to do. In other words, when you ask the question, “Lord, what is it you want me to do today? What is God’s will?” The answer is as you go through your day, you will see opportunities materialize in front of you.

Today, I want to add to that that the opportunity that will materialize in front of you will be connected to a person who is your neighbor. Because what God wants us to do is to love our neighbors. So what exactly does God’s will look like? It looks like your neighbor. And here’s where Jesus brings that instruction to us. Matthew 22:39, the this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Verse 40, “There is no other commandment greater than these.” If you play spades, you know there’s such a thing as trump. This is the king of spades. No other commandment greater than these.

But what exactly does this look like? And what I want to suggest today is that your relationship with your neighbor is intended to be a committed relationship. A relationship that we are committed to. Now, I know if you’re married, you are committed to your spouse. I know if you have children, you are committed to your children. I know as a dedicated person who’s a part of this church family, you are committed to your church. But I don’t know how often we realize that the relationship that God desires us to have with our neighbor is one of commitment.

Another scripture about what a priority this is: “For you were called to freedom, brethren,” Paul writes in Galatians 5:13. “Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, be servants of one another, committed to one another.” Verse 14, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, one phrase. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So in the parable of the great Samaritan, Jesus tells a scribe, a lawyer, this truth. And the lawyer very quickly seeks to defend himself by saying, “And who is my neighbor?” You see, there’s a tendency in our society today to make sure that we’re only surrounded by people we like and people will even live in walled communities.

But frankly, I think a good definition of your neighbor is anybody who’s within 10 to 12 feet of you. Or maybe it’s better to say within sight. All of you are my neighbors. I am committed to you. God wants me to love you. And every day, I’ll figure out how to do that. Because see, again, every day, God’s going to prepare the opportunity for me to love you as my neighbor.

As John says in 1 John chapter 4, “Beloved, let us love one another.” Why? For love is of God and he who loves, she who loves, is born of God and knows God. Love awakens us spiritually. Not only that, look at verse eight. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. And in this, the love of God was revealed, made manifest among us that God sent His only Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” And we’ve also talked about John 20:21, which says, as the Father has sent me, even so, Jesus says, I am sending you. Jesus is sending us to love people.

Now, that still comes to the question, exactly how do we do this? And if being neighborly lately has fallen on hard times, it’s very likely that we have something we need to learn here about how to love our neighbor as ourself. John goes on to say, and this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins … God sent Jesus to love people through us. And we don’t want to stop what God wants to do. So verse 11, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

And this is where I think that the Prayer of St. Francis is so helpful. The call to worship where we began our worship today, where we prayed, “Lord, help me not to be so concerned with my being understood. But Lord, help me to understand” … because if I understand, I will know how to love. “Help me not to be so focused on somebody loving me, but to be able to love someone else.”

Now, here’s the reality. Science has studied this. There is a psychologist by the name of John Gottman. He started out at the University of Illinois, moved to the University of Washington. He spent his entire career studying how relationships remain healthy. And he’s identified specific things which are indicators of a healthy relationship and specific indicators of a problem in a relationship. And all the way back in 1992, he created what he called the love lab, where they had this one-bedroom apartment and they would wire married couples up. They’d put electrodes all over their heads and over their heart and they would measure them electronically as they interacted with each other, married couples.

And from this research, they were able to determine the characteristics of a relationship that got better and better and a relationship that did not. To the point where, after a brief conversation, Dr. Gottman and his associates could predict in this study in 1992 with a 93.6% accuracy, whether two years later, a couple would be together or whether they would separate.

So in other words, when it comes to loving your spouse, they’ve studied this. And loving your spouse, that’s about sort of like a level 10 in importance. And loving your neighbor is nowhere near as serious, perhaps, or as tragic if it goes wrong. But the same principles will help you love your neighbor. And it’s good for you to know these principles because you’re in a committed relationship with a spouse. You’re in a committed relationship with children. You’re in a committed relationship with parents. You’re in a committed relationship with church members and a committed relationship with God. It’s good for you to know what leads to a better relationship.

And Gottman created this image. He called it the Sound Relationship House, the seven most positive and beneficial characteristics of a committed relationship of love. So today, I want to apply them to the relationship of loving your neighbor.

Here’s the first one: Build love maps. And that’s defined as knowing little things about your neighbor’s life. Things they like and things they dislike. There are people who simply cannot deal with you saying, “Go St. Louis Cardinals!” There are people who simply cannot deal with your love for asparagus. And this is something that Gottman says, “We need to know the people around us.” And so, you’ll notice down on the bottom of the screen, I’ve invented a misspelt word to “know-tice” because we need to know by noticing in our neighbors what is valuable and meaningful and important to them. That’s the first thing, understand your neighbor because you know them, because you notice them.

Here’s number two. Your mother probably said something like this to you. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” But the flat reality is the more you can say something nice, the deeper and more meaningful your relationship will be with anyone, whether it’s a spouse or a child, but also with your neighbor. So notice and say something nice. Be kind in what you say. Or as Gottman calls it, “Share fondness and admiration.”

It’s astonishing how uncommon it is for a spouse to say to someone they’re married to, “You look really nice today.” It’s funny how we just kind of go right over that. But it’s very worthwhile for us to notice and say something when we see something that’s wonderful. All of your relationships will improve if you share fondness and admiration. And remember, God’s going to give you opportunities throughout the day to do that, to share fondness and information with people.

The next one is an important one. How do we respond to bids for our attention from a neighbor? One of the realities of today is that we are so distracted. We are totally focused on information that’s coming toward us from our telephone, coming toward us from our computers, coming toward us from the television set, that sometimes we don’t even have an awareness of what’s happening with the people we’re around.

I’ll be honest with you, my wife has a favorite nickname for me. She calls me GoogleMan. My curiosity is insatiable. We’ll be watching television and all of a sudden, I’ll see an actor on a TV show and I’ll think, “I’ve seen that person before. Who is that person?” Out comes the phone. And that doesn’t bother her so much, except when I try to explain to her everything I found. But I will also say she particularly dislikes it when she’s talking to me and then I have to Google something … because she would like to have my attention. People around you with whom you’re in a relationship would like to have your attention! So consequently, as you’re going through your day, there are people who will walk past you and something will tell you, “Lord, I need to pray for them.”

But there are also people who will walk right up to you and say something like, “How are you?” Or, “How’s that buying a retirement house thing going?” Or some other sort of thing. That person is asking you for your attention. And sadly, we are so distracted today that we often don’t even notice that somebody wants to interact with us. And so consequently, a very powerful help to strengthen a relationship is to turn toward rather than away. And in particular, if you’re under stress, if you’re having a difficult time, if somebody at your job is just bugging you, you want to turn toward the person you love rather than away because that will strengthen your relationship.

And by the way, this 94% accuracy has been confirmed in test after test, psychological test after test after test. One thing that they found in couples, the ones that stayed married, happily married, would turn towards each other in hard times 86% of the time. But the couples that didn’t make it averaged only a third of the time. So in other words, two-thirds of the time, when someone’s upset, they would turn away from the person they love rather than turning toward them for support. Turning towards is very powerful. When I have a problem, I need to turn toward the people that love me and let them in and let them help.

The next thing is to assume positive intent because one of the most destructive things you can have in a relationship is what’s called a harsh startup. Now, what that means is if you’re walking down the sidewalk and someone comes up to you smiling, you look at them and say, “I know you hate me.” In other words, you start a fight when a fight hasn’t even started yet. It’s very easy to lose your temper before there’s a reason to lose your temper. And in fact, sometimes– I think it’s fair to say this because this is probably true with neighbors, too. You can have a fight and then you make up but underneath the fight is still going on. So the minute you get provoked again, it’s like you instantly go from 1 to 10 on the anger scale. Now, why do people do that? Because they don’t feel safe. Because they perceive that other person as a threat. Because they perceive that other person as an enemy. If you had a big brother or sister who was mean, you know exactly how that is. It’s like you need to protect yourself.

But in a loving relationship, it’s very beneficial for you to give the other person the benefit of the doubt and assume that they mean you no harm. Now, every relationship has some negativity in it. Every relationship has some conflict. And it’s funny, they’ve also studied this. The healthiest relationships have one negative comment, one negative complaint for every five positive statements. Now, there’s a few conclusions you can draw from that. The first one is if you lose your temper, you’ve got to say five nice things for every mean thing you say in order to make up. That might really help you not to say them.

But the other thing is– and I always will remember the very first time this happened. I had a couple in premarital counseling. We were talking about relationships. And they looked at me and they said, “Well, you know, the two of us have never even had our first argument.” And I looked at them and I said, “Well, in therapy, we have a name for people like that.” And they were all like, “Tell us how wonderful we are.” And I said, “Yeah, we call them liars.” [laughter] Because here’s the reality. There is always something that will irritate us. But we don’t need to let it take over. There is always something that will bother us, but we don’t need to let it take over. So it’s good to be honest. If somebody’s standing on your toe and it hurts, it’s all right to say ouch. But if we assume positive intent, it is easier for positive feelings to grow.

And consequently, a main point for a relationship that is growing, is to realize there is always going to be conflict. But the insights to manage conflict are basically this. Allow your neighbor, the other person, to influence you. Accept that person’s desire to communicate.

The other day, I was walking aross the street at the end of the day. I was tired. I could not wait to get home. In my mind, I was totally focused on my La-Z-Boy recliner. And a young man, I won’t tell you who, came down the street and he said, “Pastor, pastor!” And I thought, “If I run, can I get to the door before he gets here?” But I knew the right thing to do. So I just stood there because this was my neighbor. And he came up to me and he said, “I shot a turkey this week.”

Now, I’ll be honest with you, friends, I have never gone hunting in my life. I do not have the patience to go hunting. Literally, I would go out with my deer rifle, and I’d be there in the woods, and I would look at my watch and say, “Where’s the deer? The deer is late.” I just am not made to do that.

But as he was telling me all about the turkey he shot, and the turkey his sister shot, which was a bigger turkey, but he wasn’t jealous because she had a bigger turkey than his. But the turkey he shot … and I thought to myself as I was looking at him, “Jesus loves him. And I need to love him, too.” And I told him how wonderful he was, and how wonderful his turkey was and how good it was that he wasn’t jealous of his sister. And I thought to myself, “Jesus loves him, and I can love him, too.” Now, about the third time he said the same thing, I went on inside the house because I had heard him.

But you see, we need to let our neighbors influence us. It’s okay if they don’t want to talk about the things that we’re interested in. We can show love to them. And if there is a problem, we can talk about it as long as we don’t lose our temper. And if we get upset, we can soothe ourselves. It’s all right. It’s okay. The La-Z-Boy chair will still be there. And it was. Let your neighbor influence you. That will grow a loving relationship with your neighbor.

And then this one – what kind of neighborhood do you live in? Do you live in a neighborhood where people’s dreams come true? I want to suggest to you that people’s dreams come true when we pray. But how can we pray if we don’t take time to know our neighbor and to know what would be their dream come true? If we have a sound relationship with our neighbor, we’ll rejoice when their dreams come true and we’ll pray for life to be a blessing and better. Everybody has hopes. And I want you to know when I discover something you hope for, I begin to pray for you that God would answer your prayers. I’m invested in helping my neighbor’s dreams come true.

And so consequently, because of these things, the time we share with a neighbor, even if it’s just a conversation on a sidewalk, that conversation creates shared meaning through the use of rituals, through the use of roles, maybe you’re kind of a parent figure to a young person, goals and symbols. And what we do here in worship with prayer and music and singing is full of rituals, roles, goals, and symbols. But it creates shared meaning with our neighbors. And that relationship deepens. And God can use that better relationship to help that neighbor to have an experience that Jesus Christ also loves them.

We live in a time where there are people who want to make the world a better place. And of course, you know what that often means: They want to make the world a better place by having their side win the political battle. They want to make the world a better place by making everybody else think just like them. They want to make the world a better place by arguing with people.

And there are people who think that the reason the world’s not a better place is because the church is not doing its job. And the really odd thing, they try to make the world a better place by manufacturing a better church. But friends, Jesus did not tell you and I to fix the church. If you want to make this world a better place, remember that Jesus said that the priority is that you and I love our neighbors. Now, I happen to be married to my closest neighbor. She’s about three feet away most of the day. But whether it’s three feet or 10 feet or 20 feet, God is going to bring the people that you are to love into the area right around you. And if you will learn to love your neighbor, their lives will be changed by the power and the grace of God flowing through YOU.

Please pray with me. Lord, it’s such a temptation to us to point out what’s wrong with the world. It’s such a temptation to us to give a list of what other people need to do to fix what’s wrong. Whether it’s a little handwritten list or a post on Facebook or whether we actually even hand out books to people that say, “This is how you’re messed up. This is how to fix it. Now you go become a better person and stay away from me until you are.” Lord, we’re not quite that bad, but we’re not quite as good as we should be. We’re not quite as loving as we should be. We’re not as much like Jesus as we should be.
Lord, help us to remember that what You asked us to do was to love the person right in front of us. And Lord, I ask You to help us not only to see the importance of that, but simply to be able to live our lives in that way, loving our neighbor day by day. We ask that in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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 )

This entry was posted in Attend Worship at Home 2023-2024. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to April 28, 2024, Priority #2: Be Neighborly, Eastertide 4

  1. Russ McCulley says:

    Seldom get to your materials, but always enjoy.
    I sometimes like word sounds more than Meaning:
    Rituals, Roles, symbols & Goals

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.