May 24, 2020

“It’s hard to know when someone is smiling behind a mask.”

Passage: John 13:31-35

Live Stream
4-26-20
Seventh Sunday of Easter
CCLI: 2734287
CVLI: 504214253

Prelude:  Nick – about 3 minutes

Introit:  Nick, Sarah, Margaret – “Come, Christians, Join to Sing” #158 – vs. 1

“Come Christians, join to sing:

Alleluia! Amen!

Loud praise to Christ our King:

Alleluia! Amen!

Let all, with heart and voice,

before his throne rejoice;

praise is his gracious choice.

Alleluia! Amen!”

 

Greetings/Announcements: Pastor Richard Blount

Welcome to our first drive-in worship service! Please turn your radio dial to FM station 88.7; FM station 88.7. The power of our FM transmitter may only be two or three blocks, but the power of the Gospel is not limited by modern technology.

I want to thank the members of the Trustees who are helping with parking this morning. I also want to thank the worship committee, our talented sound guys, and the worship committee for helping to bring this worship service to you. Just a quick little reminder since we are under order from the Cabinet and the Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference access to the building is unfortunately blocked which I am sorry to say means the bathrooms are closed at this time.

The livestream of today’s worship service will continue to be available on Facebook for the foreseeable future. If you miss something today you may go back and watch it on Facebook. For those who did not feel comfortable coming out for Drive-in church we are grateful you have decided to watch by Facebook. May God be glorified through these marvels of modern technology.

The church office will be closed tomorrow, Monday May 25th in observance of Memorial Day.

I hope you have all received the letter in the mail this week regarding the current rules and regulations regarding returning to corporate worship. According to the guidelines and stipulations laid down by the Cabinet and the office of the Bishop we be a drive-in church congregation until the end of June when, hopefully, we will be in Phase 3 of the plan to return everyone to work. However, this move will depend upon the number of Covid-19 cases and their continued decline.

I want to thank all of you who have come out for our first drive-in worship service. While we may have a few hiccups, I give thanks to God for this opportunity to worship with you even if you are all in your cars. For the record. If you feel the need to shout an amen, just honk your horn. Let’s try that out. Can I get an Amen? (honk!) I said, Can I get an Amen!! (honk honk honk) Halleluia for the amens!

 

 

Opening Hymn: “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian” #402 – All 4 verses

1 Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.

2 Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart.

3 Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart.

4 Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart.

 

Praises/Concerns/Prayer

Nancy Futrell
Larry Cook

Mike & Carla Carrick

Our Confirmands that they would make the decision to accept the upward call of God through Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and be given a living faith through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The 2020 high school seniors.

Those who feel as though their rights had been taken away by the stay at home orders.

Governor Roy Cooper
President Trump
All of our local, state and national leaders

 

Pastoral 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 have trespassed against us.

 Lead us not into temptation,

 But deliver us from evil,

 For Thine is the kingdom the power and the glory forever.

 Amen.

 

Scripture John 13:31-35

John 13:31-35 English Standard Version (ESV)

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Sermon title: “It’s hard to know when someone is smiling behind a mask.”

(prayer) May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You, Lord. Amen.

We’ve been doing this social distancing thing for nearly two months now. Many of us have been wearing masks when we are out in public. Some of us have even become really creative by creating our own masks. I want to thank Kitty King for the masks we are wearing this morning. She is making more in preparation for the day when we are able to come back to worshipping together, in this building on Sunday mornings. However, practicing social distancing can make us feel isolated. At a time in US. History where we are increasingly polarized, and restrict ourselves to our beloved echo chambers of information I am afraid the feelings of being put upon or marginalized by some mysterious other side are even worse. While all of this distancing is necessary to protect ourselves, our loved ones and other people it has not brought all of us closer to God. As a matter of fact, just wearing the mask makes it harder to tell what another person is really thinking or the intent with which they look at us. You know what I have noticed? (pause) I have noticed it is really hard to tell when someone is smiling behind a mask.

Across the world in the Modern Near East there is a people who feel put upon or marginalized by the world. They feel like the whole world, but especially the West is out to destroy them and their way of life. They do not like West, but especially the United State’s presence in their lands and they feel justified in lashing out at anyone and everyone because of their fear, paranoia and pain. This people is the Taliban.

Now, my brothers and sisters, what comes next is truly heart wrenching and may not be suitable for younger listeners. If you can see me I will wave when the story is over, but the story is important to the point I am trying to make. (pause

About three weeks ago a member of the Taliban entered a hospital in Afghanistan armed with an AK-47 assault rifle. He killed seven or eight women and shot an eight day old baby in the leg. The father thought his baby girl was stable as he attended to the funeral for his wife. The father is a police officer, and his wife while in the hospital, had been shot in the heart and in the leg. This police officer’s daughter, who did not even have a name yet, slipped from stable to critical condition while the father was attending to the funeral for his wife. Family members ran from hospital to hospital trying to find a doctor who would save this child and her leg. At hospital after hospital the family was told the only way to save the child was to amputate the leg. When the father found out he pleaded that they save the girl’s leg because of how hard her life would become if they had to amputate. My brothers and sisters this is not America. Amputees to do not have access to the opportunities for a normal life in a third world country that amputees enjoy in this country. Afghanistan is a third world country, and a person, specifically a woman would have much less value if she only had one leg. The father said to the doctors, “Save the leg, and if not then the grief will be on our heads.” (pause) In other words do everything you can to save the leg, even if she dies while you are trying. The surgeon went to work, and by the grace of God he appears to have been able to save this little girl’s leg. It will be three or four more weeks before they find out if she will be able to learn to walk, but the doctor is hopeful, and we like the father should all be grateful.

(wave my hands)

I have told this story to illustrate the importance of being held to a higher standard. Upon hearing this story I reached out to my Old Testament professor from seminary. Her name is Dr. Sandra Richter. She is the author of the study I am using with the elementary school teachers called, “The Epic of Eden.” She told me she was working on an article about rape in Israel’s world. She has uncovered today’s atrocities were not uncommon or unknown in Israel’s time. Only the weapons were different. What Dr. Richter told me was Israel was to be held to a higher standard than to allow rape or the mistreatment of children. That is why there are so many laws in the Old Testament about justice and balance. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth because before this an accident could have meant genocide committed against your whole family. Into that time we are given the commands to Love the Lord your God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our might (Deuteronomy 6:5); And to, Love our neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). These verses are about balance, and justice, and setting our priorities in order so travesties like the one in that Afghanistan hospital do not become the norm. My brothers and sisters Israel was expected to be held to a higher standard. If given the time I would go on to argue Israel is to be held to a higher standard today.

The same is true for Christians. It can be argued that we as Christians are to be held to an even higher standard than our Jewish brothers and sisters. According to the Gospel of John on the night Jesus was betrayed Jesus gave us a new commandment, “that you love one another; just as I have love you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). 

In this time of social distancing what does it mean to love one another as Jesus loved us? I think it means amid our social distancing we look for ways to make a difference in other’s lives. We are, after all, Methodists. If we do nothing else we are to at least try to do no harm. (pause) We are to try to, “do good.” (pause) We are to do our very best to grow in terms of our relationship with God. To do that means attending to the means of grace. Normally when I talk about the means of grace I focus on things like prayer, the searching of Scriptures, fasting, participating in Holy Communion and Baptism. All of those things, especially now, are extremely important, even if they are challenging. But here’s the thing about human brains. We are very very well adapted to working around barriers and rules. That same human brain which leads us to sin by pushing the boundaries of what is safe and what is not, is also adept at working around problems. The problem we face is the need to socially distance ourselves so that we do no harm to others. Paradoxically, we are also called to do good. My sisters and brothers how are we to do good and therefore glorify God while remaining socially distant? (pause) hmmm…? (pause)

Comm’on troublemakers. How can we do good while not doing harm during this period of social distancing? (pause) I read a scathing article just last week revealing that America is not the Christian nation we profess to be. The proof is in the fact that many Americans have not obeyed the stay at home order. Many Americans have gone on vacation, or refused to wear masks or even sued the Governor to be able to bring their congregations together to worship without regard for how many might be exposed to the virus. According to a separate article in the Washington Post Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle in Ringgold, Georgia, and Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Houston, Texas, have had to close their church buildings indefinitely because they rushed back to worship and the pastor/priest and congregants came down with Covid-19. There is a strong argument to be made that American Christians shy away from the idea of self-sacrifice for God’s glory. Too many Christians rise up in anger at the very thought of being told they might have to give up something in order to give greater honor, glory and praise to God, and protect others. Remember those commands given to Israel: Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself? Wouldn’t social distancing during a pandemic be in keeping with both of those commandments? (pause) And yet Jesus holds us to an even higher standard.

Before Jesus tells the disciples to love one another as Jesus has loved them Jesus says something else. 31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come(John 13:31-33). 

Jesus says this on the night Jesus is about to be arrested. Jesus says this on the night before Jesus is to be tortured by the Romans. Jesus says this the night before Jesus is to be crucified; to die, and to be buried. Jesus says this three days before Jesus is to be raised from the dead. If we take Jesus’ words seriously, they are all about self-sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross brought glory to God because Jesus kept His promise to be faithful to God. God kept God’s promise and created a new covenant by which all might be saved through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Glory to God that the price for our sins was paid in full. Amen? Honk! Glory to God that the price for our sins was paid in full. Amen? Honk!! Honk one more time if you love Jesus! Honk!!! Jesus Christ loves God and loves all of us. However, it came at great personal cost and a terribly painful sacrifice. Jesus’ personal sacrifice on the cross brought glory to God, and through God Jesus is glorified. This is how God loves us. 

Jesus Christ did not come to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Jesus’ personal sacrifice. Now, there is no personal sacrifice I can make which will save the world. But there are sacrifices I can make which will give glory to God. I can faithfully wear my mask when I go to Walmart or to buy groceries. For weeks now my family, like many of yours has stayed home and played in the yard. My wife has asthma so I have done my very best not to bring anything home. I have tried, like many of you, to do my best to protect my family.

However, to use an ancient quote, I believe we are called to, “preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” So when I go out to the grocery store, or the post office, or to Bojangles I try to be aware of the people around me. When I notice someone having a hard day, or struggling I try to give them a little smile. Has anyone ever done that to you? Have you ever had a hard day and had someone notice and just give you a smile? It’s nothing major or flirtatious. It’s just a smile to say, “I see you. It’s okay. Everything is gonna be alright.” But you know what? It is hard to show a smile from behind a mask. (pause) It is hard to show a smile behind a mask. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It just means we have to try a little harder to offer simple comfort during this time of frustration, want, and woe. It means we may have to offer a kind word. It means we may have to watch ourselves and our tempers a little closer if we want to do no harm to others. One of the parts of the Methodist class meeting with those three rules was to look for new ways to Do No Harm each week. To look for new ways to Do Good each week. And to look for new ways to attend to our relationship with God each week. In a way the restrictions of this pandemic have been like spiritual weightlifting. The pandemic has added 15 pounds to the bar bell of faith and now we have to find a new way, or a new spiritual strength to lift it. However, there area all kinds of people in the world who feel put upon, marginalized, or ignored as if their cares, fears or concerns do not matter. There are all kinds of people even right here at home to need to be shown the love of Christ and that violence against anyone, but especially children is not the way God has created and called us to live.

The problem is maybe we don’t want to speak into someone else’s pain. I think that’s a fair sentiment. But here’s the rub. Jesus did not want to go to the cross either. Jesus prayed in the Garden, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39). Jesus did not want to go to the cross; but He went anyway. Jesus went because Jesus loves God and Jesus loves all of us. Now Jesus has given us a new commandment. Love one another as I have loved you. According to John’s Gospel Jesus repeats this new commandment twice. When a statement like that is repeated in Scripture the Biblical Author is saying, “Wake up! Take notice. Pay attention!” Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (pause) So the only question I left to ask today is this. Will you obey this commandment, even when you do not want to?

In the Name of Jesus Christ,
  Amen

 

Closing Hymn: “The Gift of Love” #408 – All 3 verses

  1. Though I may speak with bravest fire,

and have the gift to all inspire,

and have not love, my words are vain,

as sounding brass, and hopeless gain.

 

  1. Though I may give all I possess,

And striving so my love profess,

But not be given by love within,

The profit soon turns strangely thin.

 

  1. Come, Spirit, come, our hearts control,

Our spirits long to be made whole.

Let inward love guide every deed;

By this we worship, and are freed.

 

Closing Prayer

Spoken Benediction

 

As it was in the beginning
It is now and ever shall be
World without end
Amen.

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