July 26, 2020
Welcome & Announcements:
Good morning church! No face-to-face worship for your health and the health of our communities. We chafe because we want to worship God in our dedicated buildings with our dedicated people, but really it is a small sacrifice. Praise God, we are worshipping! This week Pastor Jenn is on vacation. Pastor Ron has videotaped his sermon so you can listen and worship with him. Anyone who has the expertise and technical knowledge, your gifts would be appreciated so we can broadcast our services to a larger audience. No ZOOM, no Facebook LIVE this week.
I invite you to light a candle to welcome the Light of the World in your presence and prepare your heart for worship this day:
Call to Worship (taken from Psalm 137)
L: Waiting is never easy for us.
P: We are a culture of “instant” response.
L: Today, God is asking us to wait; to be patient.
P: It is not going to be easy for us to do that.
L: Quiet your spirits and open your hearts to God’s word for you today.
P: Lord, be with us. Help us to be ready to hear and respond to Your word. Amen.
Opening Hymn: Only Trust Him played on the organ by Donna Farver
Come, every soul by sin oppressed; There’s mercy with the Lord,
And He will surely give you rest by trusting in His Word.
Only trust Him, only trust Him, only trust Him now;
He will save you; He will save you; He will save you now.
For Jesus shed His precious blood Rich blessings to bestow;
Plunge now into the crimson flood That washes white as snow. Refrain
Yes, Jesus is the truth, the way, that leads you into rest;
Believe in Him without delay and you are fully blessed. Refrain
Lord of preparation and transitions, we are already halfway through our summer months. We sit and wonder where the time went, did we spend it well in your service? Give us these next few weeks for renewal that we may be prepared to work through Your church for Your world. Keep us mindful of the needs of family, friends and others, that we will be Your faithful disciples, for we ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
It's our children's time and I want to start with a question I ask you each and every week: Who are you? Children Respond: Special Gifts of God! PJ: That's right, you are special gifts of God each and every day and I'm so lucky to spend time with you!
This week Pastor Jenn is enjoying some family time. If you are able to use a computer, use this link to view a children’s message from Ben Dodge. Adults can learn from this message, too. https://youtu.be/3t07XNwRFDk You may want to increase the volume; not only the knob on your speakers, but also try increasing the internal volume control if using a computer or tablet. In settings or at the bottom of the screen, look for a symbol similar to this:
Here is a special prayer of blessing for all children:
Let us pray: Thank You God, for all the children in the families that are reading this message. We love them and know they are important to our church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Prayer & Lord’s Prayer:
Diligent Lord, who watches over us at all times, be with us all these days. We confess that we have allowed a host of worries and frustrations to crowd out Your word for us. As You give us peace and Your transforming love, also forgive all those times when we have been less than faithful disciples. Gently visit us again with Your healing powers. Restore our hope and courage and joy for all the times ahead. Thank You that while we are worrying and fretting, You are working in our lives, healing us and giving us peace. We ask this in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray saying…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.
Invitation to the Offering:
God gives us the opportunity to share from our bounty for the ministries of our church, that Christ’s redeeming love may be known to all people. Thank you for continuing to give to the Lord through Lightstreet United Methodist Church.
Offertory: He Is Lord played on the organ by Donna Farver
He is Lord, He is Lord!
He is risen from the dead and He is Lord!
Ev'ry knee shall bow, ev'ry tongue confess That Jesus Christ is Lord.
Lord, receive our gifts and our lives. Cause all of these blessings to work for You in this world which You have loaned to us for safekeeping. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.
Pastor Ron has videotaped his message, which can be viewed at this link, or you can read his message below. https://youtu.be/UUWYgD20h_0 You may want to increase the volume; not only the knob on your speakers, but also try increasing the internal volume control if using a computer or tablet. In settings or at the bottom of the screen, look for a symbol similar to this:
44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
“A KINGDOM OF GREAT VALUE”
Most of us associate Robert Fulghum with his little book “All I really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” But he wrote other books as well, one of which had the simple title, “Uh-Oh.” Like his better known work, it, too, is filled with witty essays. One of these essays tells about Fulghum being asked by a journalist if he believed in God. “No,” replied Fulghum, “but I do believe in Howard.” “Howard? You believe in Howard?” asked the reporter. “It all has to do with my mother’s maiden name,” said Fulghum. “Your mother’s maiden name…” the reporter said a little bit confused. Fulghum then explained to the reporter that his mother’s maiden name was Howard and that the Howard name often came up in family conversations. So, when, as a small child, he learned to pray in Sunday School, “Our Father, which are in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,” of course he thought they were saying “Our Father, which art in heaven, HOWARD be Thy name.” He knew his mother was a Howard, and, indirectly, he was a Howard, and if God was a Howard, too, he must belong to God’s family. Since he was told that his grandfather had died and gone to heaven, Fulghum says, God and his grandfather got all mixed up in his childish mind as one and the same. And this gave him what he calls, “a pretty comfy notion about God.” He writes, “When I knelt beside my bed each night and prayed, ‘Our Father, which art in heaven, Howard be Thy name.’ I thought about my grandfather and what a big shot he was because, of course, the prayer ends with ‘For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.’ I went about feeling well connected to the universe for a long, long time. It was a Howard Family Enterprise…” That’s a pretty healthy view of the universe for a child to have. He’s part of the universal family enterprise.
Jesus told many parables about the Kingdom of God, and He used many expressions to try to explain what the kingdom was like. Two of His most popular descriptions are found in today’s lesson from the Gospel of Matthew. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field,” (13:44) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had had and bought it.” (13:45-46)
Obviously, whatever this kingdom is that Jesus is talking about, it is of great value. In both instances, the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price, the finder sells everything they have in order to obtain it. Can you think of anything in this world for which you would sell everything you own? It has been reported that in his first race for the Republican nomination for president, Mitt Romney spent more than $42 million of his own dollars. That’s a lot of money. However, when he dropped out of the race, he still had quite a bit of money left in his personal piggy bank. He didn’t invest everything he had in his attempt for the nomination. I wonder if he regrets spending so much or, perhaps, not spending enough in 2008. How about you? Is there anything in this world for which you would sell everything you own? I can think of one thing: the life of someone we love. If one of our children was sick and there was a cure that would cost everything we have, even including our own life, most of us would be willing to give it all up without a moment’s hesitation. We would give everything we have for the well-being of those we love, but that’s about it. Nothing else I can think of has that big a hold on us. Yet Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is worth everything we have. Our money. Our time. Our energy. Everything! That’s quite a statement. Everything we own. So, the question is, where is this kingdom of heaven?
The kingdom of heaven is anywhere God reigns, and for some people this means that getting into heaven when we die is worth everything we possess. And that certainly is true. After all when we go to heaven – the heaven that is beyond the grave – we leave everything else behind. So we might as well give everything we own to get there.
Now you are probably saying: “Now wait a minute, Pastor Ron, doesn’t that imply that entrance to heaven is something we can purchase? If not with dollars, at least with good works? And if that is true, what’s the cross got to do with it?” Central to our faith is the belief that, in terms of our salvation, Jesus paid it all. You can’t buy your way into heaven no matter how much you are willing to give. Eternal life is the gift of a gracious God.
Surely salvation would be worth everything we have, but Jesus has already taken care of that in our behalf. Besides, if we had to buy our way into heaven, with either wealth or good works, I suspect that we would discover that it is far too expensive for any of us. We do not have enough wealth or good works to purchase a ticket through those particular gates.
But Jesus isn’t talking about getting into heaven after we die. The Bible speaks of a kingdom that is coming to this world, a kingdom yet to be realized. There will come a time when God shall reign in every heart. That is the kingdom that Jesus was heralding. It is a kingdom of this world as well as the world to come.
For over fifty-five years the bells of the churches in Czechoslovakia stood silent. The communist government forbade evangelism. No bells. Only silence. No overt witnessing. Only conformity to the communist line. Then something unexpected happened. In November of 1989 word came that the Berlin Wall was coming down. Soviet oppression was ending. A pastor in Prague, the Rev. Schneeberger began ringing the church bell of his parish. The joyous sound of church bells began to toll through the somber city of Prague. Rev. Schneeberger then erected outside his church the first evangelical message in over forty-five years. It read like this: “THE LAMB WINS!” Brothers and sisters one day a banner like that will fly over the whole world. “THE LAMB WINS!”
That’s the kind of kingdom Jesus was proclaiming. There will come a time when God’s kingdom shall reign in every heart. There will come a time when all people will live in peace and harmony together.
And here’s the good news for the day: We don’t have to wait! God can reign in our hearts today. God’s kingdom is wherever God reigns. Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
People who travel a great deal internationally, often say that they set their watches to their destination time as soon as they board the airplane. They start living in the time zone to which they are traveling. So it is with life in the kingdom. We look forward to that day when God reigns over this world and we look forward to God’s reign in heaven, and we set the clock of our hearts with those eternal clocks. This allows us to have a feeling of inner security and well-being that the world simply cannot give. We are secure in knowing that in the end, “The Lamb Wins!”
Imagine with me for a moment that you have a billion dollars in the bank. That’s right, I said a “billion”. A few people in this world are fortunate enough to have a net worth of a billion or more. If you were among them, would you feel secure? Maybe financially secure, to be sure. But, would it guarantee your happiness? No, but truthfully, most of us feel it would be better than lying awake worrying about how we will pay our bills. Would it ensure that your children wouldn’t get hooked on drugs, or break your heart in some fashion? No, it would not. In fact, from studying the lives of the children of the super-rich, you sometimes have to wonder if great wealth would not be somewhat of a curse when it comes to the effect on your children. Unfortunately there is no real security in this world, no matter how rich or famous or powerful you are. Everything in this world is fleeting. All security is an illusion. So, how about this. Suppose I told you that none of it really matters? Suppose I told you that the creator of everything that is and was and will ever be is on your side and ultimately everything that really matters will be taken care of? Wishful thinking? No, this is Christian faith. You can trust your children to God. You can trust your spouse to God. You can trust your own well-being to God. This is not to say that any of us will not have a fatal disease or end up a casualty in an accident. Life happens. But it is to say, that we will never be out of God’s loving care. Even though we may not be able to see it now, all things work to the good for those who love God.
I read once about a young woman who understands what it is to live in the kingdom. Her name is Kim and at the age of 16 she was one of the top gymnasts in the world. As she was training for the 1988 Olympic she was injured attempting a difficult routine on the uneven bars. She was left a quadriplegic. Her aunt visited her in the intensive-care-unit and left her a note with a Bible verse on it which read like this, “But for You who revere My name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” (Malachi 4:2) After reading that verse, Kim said, “I felt peace flood my soul. For the first time in my life, I sensed that there was a God who cared for me and wanted to heal me. Then, after that moment, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” There were more hard times: Kim’s boyfriend left her; her father died suddenly; she struggled with her physical limitations. She expected God to heal her body, but it didn’t happen. But listen to what she said, “God healed me in a totally different way. When I found His purpose for my disability, it became no longer a disability, but the gift of understanding those who are in the same situation.” Kim now organizes ski camps for the disabled and works to provide wheelchairs for those who cannot afford them. Being in a wheelchair does not block Kim's vision. She is part of God’s eternal plan. It is a calling worth everything she has and everything she is. It is the kingdom of God being lived out in her life. She is part of the universal family. She is part of the “Howard” family – Howard be Thy name. And that’s exciting.
What is there in this world except those you love that is worth everything you have? If you have not found the kingdom of God, then, you have missed the pearl of great price, you have missed the treasure in the field. My prayer for you this morning is that you find this kingdom of great value.
Closing song: Climb Up the Mountain by our Praise Band
I look into your eyes
I can see your innocence
I want more for you than I could ever hope to
Climb up the mountain and then touch the sky
Reach for your dreams; don’t let life pass you by
There will be valleys and struggles for you
Just lean on Jesus. He’ll help you break through
I want you to take a chance
Step out onto the ledge
Look down on the world below
Take a chance; let it go
Oh, I hope you will be alright
‘Cause I pray for you day and at night
That you’ll find your way to His light
Go forth with joy, celebrating all the many ways for us to serve our Lord. Give us courage, hope, peace and love that we might bear these gifts to others. Go in peace. Amen.