February 20, 2022

February 20, 2022 – 6th Sunday after the Epiphany

Morning prayer – O God, You spoke Your word and revealed Your good news in Jesus, the Christ. Fill all creation with that word again, so that by proclaiming Your joyful promises to all nations and singing of Your glorious hope to all peoples, we may become one living body, Your incarnate presence on the earth. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Psalm 37:1-9

Leader:  Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.

People:  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.

Leader:  He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

People:  Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices.

Leader:  Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil.

People:  For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

Hymn #139 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

  1. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation.
    O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
    All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near; join me in glad adoration!
  2. Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigning

Bears thee on eagle’s wings, e’er in His keeping maintaining.

God’s care enfolds all, whose true good He upholds, Hast thou not known His sustaining?

  1. Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
    surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
    Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, who with His love doth befriend thee.
  2. Praise to the Lord, who doth nourish thy life and restore thee,

Fitting thee well for the tasks that are ever before thee.

Then to thy need God as a mother doth speed, Spreading the wings of grace o’er thee.

  1. Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore Him!
    All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him!
    Let the amen sound from His people again; gladly forever adore Him.

Children’s message

I call on You, my God, for You will answer me; turn Your ear to me and hear my prayer. Psalm 17:6 NIV

Monday is Presidents’ Day, it is a federal holiday when we recognize our presidents and their service to our country. It falls in February because it began as a way of recognizing President Washington's birthday which is in February. This got me thinking about how we pray and who we pray for. Praying can come easy to some people and others of us, need some help or reminders of who to pray for. Then I remembered a way of praying I taught our children and Sunday School children when they were younger and I thought I’d share it with you today. It is called the 5 finger prayer.

Teaching Kids the Five Finger Prayer

Thumb (people who are close to you) These are your close friends and family, often the first you think about when you pray. Give thanks to God and ask His protection on your parents, siblings, friends, and classmates.

Pointer (people who point the way) These are leaders in your life, such as teachers and pastors. Offer God your thanksgiving for them and ask Him to help them in their important work.

Tall Finger (people in authority) The big people in the world need prayer, too. Ask God to give wisdom to our government, military, and police.

Ring Finger (people who are weak) This is your weakest finger. We should remember others who are sick, live in poverty, or are treated badly. Pray that Jesus would give them new strength.

Little Finger (your own needs) God wants to hear your needs too, especially when you put others first. Pray for your own growth in mind, body, and spirit.

Let’s try it out together:

God, we pray for our families, guide them and guard them from harm. We pray for our teachers, those at school and those here at Sunday School, we are so thankful for their hearts for teaching us. We pray for our leaders in government, from our president to our township supervisors, we thank You for their commitment to our care and their dedication to our communities. We pray for those who are in need of strength, and for those in need of healing from their illnesses. We now pray for ourselves, You know what we need and we are thankful that You answer us when we pray. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You most gracious and forgiving Father for hearing the cries of our hearts.  We now pray as You have taught us: 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. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Offering spotlight:  Your help for GYTTE (Give Ye Them To Eat ) and the Tree of Life learning center in rural Mexico is deeply appreciated. Retired Pastor Lisa Mitchell is going on a mission trip to GYTTE and the Tree of Life Mission in Tlancualpican, Mexico, March 4-13.  You can help by donating:  Prayers. Monetary donations. bandaids, neosporin, gauze pads, tape, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and T-shirts and sweatshirts. Prayers. Drop items at the church by March 1, or Lisa will pick them up from you. Lisa Mitchell cell 570-764-3884, email lmitchell@susumc.org.  GYTTE is a UM advance #07629A. Checks may be made out to Lightstreet UMC with GYTTE in the memo line.

Offertory prayer: Holy God of light and life that overcomes darkness and death: as we offer our tithes and offerings to You this morning, we pray that we may give the confidence and assurance of those fully convinced in our promise of Resurrection! Help us to experience our generosity as those who have no need to hold back or hedge our bets. May we live our days giving freely with love and grace, not as those who have the hope of salvation, but the promise! In Christ, we pray. Amen.  (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn of Preparation #128 He Leadeth Me, O Blessed Thought

  1. He leadeth me: O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
    Whate'er I do, where'er I be, still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.

Refrain:
He leadeth me, He leadeth me, by His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be, for by His hand He leadeth me.

  1. Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom, sometimes where Eden's bowers bloom,
    by waters still, o'er troubled sea, still 'tis His hand that leadeth me.
    (Refrain)
  2. Lord, I would place my hand in thine, nor ever murmur nor repine;
    content, whatever lot I see, since 'tis my God that leadeth me.
    (Refrain)
  3. And when my task on earth is done, when by Thy grace the victory's won,
    e'en death's cold wave I will not flee, since God through Jordan leadeth me.
    (Refrain)

Message scripture: Luke 6:27-31

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Message:  Love Your Enemies                Rev. Ron French

          This morning I want to try and answer this question: “Am I really supposed to love my enemies?” And, of course, the answer is yes. We really are supposed to love our enemies. Now I don’t know about you, but that seems almost impossible to me. How in the world am I supposed to love someone who doesn’t love me? How in the world do I love someone who wants to do me harm and bring me down? It’s so much easier for me to love people who already love me.

          I have no trouble loving Denise. We got married because we loved each other. We enjoy being with each other. Denise has genuinely been a part of my ministry. And believe it or not, after 35 years of marriage I still want to impress her because what she thinks about me is important. I don’t have trouble loving our daughter, Aubrey. She is a part of who I am. I helped care for her and had a genuine interest in seeing her grow up to be a good, productive person. I know that there have been times when we have gotten on each other’s nerves. There have been times when we have had arguments, but at the end of the day we still love each other.

          But now Jesus comes along and tosses in this monkey wrench by saying that not only are we to love those who love us, but we’re even to love those who don’t love us. So we have to pause and ask: “Are you kidding me?”

          Late one summer evening in Broken Bow, Nebraska, a weary truck driver pulled his rig into an all-night truck stop. The waitress had just served him when three tough looking, leather jacketed motorcyclists decided to give him a hard time. Not only did they verbally abuse him, one grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his French fries, and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it. How would you have responded? Well, this trucker did not respond as you might expect. Instead, he calmly rose, picked up his bill, walked to the front of the room, placed his bill and his money on the cash register, and went out the door. The waitress quickly followed him wanting to make sure he was all right. When she returned, one of the bikers said to her, “Well, he’s not much of a man, is he?” She replied, “I don’t know about that, but he sure isn’t much of a truck driver. He just ran over three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot.”

          Sounds like justice, doesn’t it? When someone wrongs us our first instinct is to get back at them. We want them to hurt as much as they hurt us. That’s the world’s answer to being wronged. But Jesus gives His followers a different response they are to have. He tells us to love our enemies.

          This morning our passage from Luke’s Gospel has Jesus sharing with His followers how they are to respond to those who are their enemies. Sisters and brothers, it is one of the unfortunate things in life that there are some people who are never, ever going to like you or be your friend, no matter what you do. And there are some people who you are never, ever going to like and do not want as a friend, no matter what they do. So the question is: “How are you going to respond to people like that?” Today Jesus answers that question for us.

          This section of Scripture is a part of the Sermon on the Mount, which is recognized as the greatest sermon ever preached. It is in this section that Jesus lays out the foundational truths for Christianity. And one of these foundational truths is that we are to love our enemies. That is a bizarre and hard teaching. So the question we are going to have to answer is “How am I supposed to respond to my enemies?” Here is one way. A few weeks ago, Pastor Becky shared with us the following quote from Dorothy Day: “I really only love God as much as the person I love the least.” It would be good for us to remember that.  But Jesus gives us three responses to help us love those we love the least.

          The first is: “Do good to those who hate you…” (vs. 27) I don’t think it is hard to imagine that this was a teaching that was totally unfamiliar to His followers. They had been taught to love those who loved them and hate those who hated them. Sounds good to me. My guess is that most of us would do pretty good at following that law. In vs. 32 of this chapter Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.”

          When Jesus calls us to love those who hate us, He’s calling us to do something that is completely opposite to our human nature. Human nature says “Get revenge!” Human nature says that when somebody messes with us it’s time to bring the hammer down. Human nature believes that if we get back at them they’ll know not to mess with us anymore. Revenge is sweet, we think it will make us feel better. But you know as well as I do that hatred is a horrible tool that literally destroys us! It can destroy us physically. It can destroy us emotionally. It can destroy us spiritually.

          Have you ever noticed that when you are angry with someone it becomes the focus of your life? It doesn’t matter what’s going on around you, your thoughts are focused upon the person who’s wronged you and you become trapped in that hatred to where it’s hard to function properly as a person.

          One thing we all have control over is how we’re going to respond to any given situation. And if you make the choice to respond to those who hate you, to those who anger you by doing good to them, you’re going to diffuse a tense situation. For one thing it will totally confuse the one who hates you because they’re expecting you to respond in anger. It may even diffuse some of the anger they have toward you. Sisters and brothers it is really hard for someone to continue to hate you when you do them good. Kindness and love change people.

          In practice, here’s what this could mean for us: mowing the lawn of a hateful neighbor; volunteering to fill in for the mean-spirited co-worker who drives you nuts. It may mean providing for a parent who was mean to you as you were growing up. But this is what it means to do good to those who hate you. That is the first response you’re to have toward your enemies.

          The second response, according to Jesus is to “bless those who curse you…” (vs. 28) We’ve all heard the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” I want to tell you today that that is absolutely untrue. There aren’t too many things in life that carry more power than the way we communicate with one another. The Bible tells us over and over again about the great power that is in our speech. Unfortunately, it’s so much easier to use our speech in a negative way than it is in a positive way. It’s much easier to lash out at people than it is to use our speech to build them up.

          When we choose to use our speech to lash out at people who have harmed us or hurt our feelings, all we are doing is adding fuel to the fire. Kind words have a way of working as a salve to heal wounds in people’s lives. Proverbs 12:18 tells us “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  I think every one of us can think of a person who we would never expect who has said something that has brought encouragement to us; that brought hope to us.

          As a matter of fact a kind word; a word of encouragement can actually remove the anger a person has toward you. Proverbs 15:1 says: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Let me give you an example. A woman owned two prize chickens that got out of her yard and busied themselves in the garden the lady’s grouchy neighbor. This neighbor was incensed when he saw the two hens in his garden. So he ran out, caught the hens, wrung their necks, and threw them back over the fence. As you can imagine, the woman was upset, but she avoided the urge to rush over and have some angry words with her neighbor. Instead, she took the birds, dressed them out, and prepared a large kettle of chicken pot pie. Then she delivered a large container of this freshly made pot pie to the man who had killed her hens. As she handed him the pot pie, she apologized to him for not being more careful about keeping her chickens in her own yard. The man was absolutely speechless! The chicken pot pie and the apology filled him with shame for what he had done.  As he took the container of pot pie he apologized to the lady for reacting so harshly.

          So the first response you are to have toward your enemies is to do good to those who hate you. The second response is to bless those who curse you.

          The third response is to “pray for those who mistreat you.” (vs. 28) Have you discovered that those people who mistreat you have a way of dominating your thoughts? Have you ever been there? I can think of times when people have wronged me and instead of just moving on I dwelt on what they did to me and let it control my life. Here Jesus goes and tells us to pray for those who mistreat us. He isn’t talking about praying for your enemies to get run over by a truck. He’s not talking about us praying for revenge upon our enemies.

          Jesus is referring to us praying for their hearts to be changed. You see, too often sisters and brothers we waste our time dealing with the symptoms instead of dealing with the cause. We see them being rude to us, saying mean things to us, doing things they know will upset us. And we deal with the problem by yelling at them or ignoring them. But to respond in that manner is to only deal with the symptoms of the problem. The best thing we can do is to pray for them. To pray that God will deal with their heart and bring change. And to pray that God will deal with our heart not to be so irritated by them. Your prayers for your enemies can actually serve as a tool to keep you from being destroyed by bitterness and anger. And your prayers can also serve as a way to keep you from being controlled by your feelings.

          When you and I leave here this morning the question for us is going to be “How are we going to respond to our enemies?” If we are followers of Jesus Christ we’ve been given three responses to have toward our enemies: First, do good to those who hate you. Second, bless those who curse you. And finally, pray for those who mistreat you. Remember, a kind word turns away wrath. But more importantly, loving your enemies demonstrates in a powerful way that you belong to Jesus Christ.

Closing Hymn #170 O How I Love Jesus

  1. There is a name I love to hear, I love to sing its worth;
    it sounds like music in my ear, the sweetest name on earth.

Refrain:
O how I love Jesus, O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus, because He first loved me!

  1. It tells me of a Savior's love, who died to set me free;
    it tells me of His precious blood, the sinner's perfect plea.
    (Refrain)
  2. It tells of one whose loving heart can feel my deepest woe;
    who in each sorrow bears a part that none can bear below.
    (Refrain)

Benediction:  Go into this week with the blessings of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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