April 26, 2020

“You Can Dance If You Want To”

Passage: John 3:16-21

Live Stream
4-19-20
Third Sunday of Easter “You Can Dance If You Want To”
CCLI: 2734287
CVLI: 504214253

Introit

Choral Introit

Greetings and Announcement

Church website has changed to
cumcdenton@gmail.com

If you have been missing your Sunday School class I will begin offering a Sunday School class by Zoom Chat starting next Sunday, May 3rd at 11 am. The class will be on, “The Epic of Eden” by Dr. Sandra Richter. If you are interested, please use the new church e-mail address to notify the church office you would like to participate. I will need your e-mail address to let you into the class.

Our next opportunity to reach out to the community comes at Mt. Vista. Many of the residents there are not eating well because they are stuck in their rooms and no longer allowed to socialize in the dining room. However, they are willing to snack. The South Davidson Missional Network is taking on the challenge of providing snacks for the residents and staff at Mt. Vista. The Reverends Sandy Young and Brad Treece will be providing the snacks for the residents through their churches while Central’s own United Methodist Women will be providing the snacks for the staff.

May 14th we hope to host our next Community Food Distribution. We will be handing out grocery bags of food. Food is still a little scarce and even with our new relationship with Lowes Foods we are counting our pennies and watching our budget to be able to hand out full bags of groceries to those in need. I hope to have more information about May 14th later this week.

Opening Prayer: Psalm 115
1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.

Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.

O Israel,[a] trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.
10 O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.
11 You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!
He is their help and their shield.

12 The Lord has remembered us; he will bless us;
he will bless the house of Israel;
he will bless the house of Aaron;
13 he will bless those who fear the Lord,
both the small and the great.

14 May the Lord give you increase,
you and your children!
15 May you be blessed by the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!

16 The heavens are the Lord's heavens,
but the earth he has given to the children of man.
17 The dead do not praise the Lord,
nor do any who go down into silence.
18 But we will bless the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
Praise the Lord!

 

Hymn: 77 “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”

  1. Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,
    God of glory, Lord of love;
    hearts unfold like flowers before thee,
    opening to the sun above.
    Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
    drive the dark of doubt away.
    Giver of immortal gladness,
    fill us with the light of day!
  2. All thy works with joy surround thee,
    earth and heaven reflect thy rays,
    stars and angels sing around thee,
    center of unbroken praise.
    Field and forest, vale and mountain,
    flowery meadow, flashing sea,
    chanting bird and flowing fountain,
    call us to rejoice in thee.
  3. Thou art giving and forgiving,
    ever blessing, ever blest,
    wellspring of the joy of living,
    ocean depth of happy rest!
    Thou our Father, Christ our brother,
    all who live in love are thine;
    teach us how to love each other,
    lift us to the joy divine.
  4. Mortals, join the mighty chorus
    which the morning stars began;
    love divine is reigning o'er us,
    binding all within its span.
    Ever singing, march we onward,
    victors in the midst of strife;
    joyful music leads us sunward,
    in the triumph song of life.

 

Hymn: #261 “Lord of the Dance”

[Refrain:]
Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
and I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he

  1. I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee,
    but they would not dance and they would not follow me;
    I danced for the fishermen for James and John;
    they came to me and the dance went on.

[Refrain:]
Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
and I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.

John 3:16-21 ESV

16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Do y’all remember a long by the band Men Without Hats called “Safety Dance.” As I consider our next stop in our sermon series about Jesus as the Lord of the Dance of life it occurs to me verse two sounds eerily similar to the “Safety Dance.” Do y’all remember the verse to the “Safety Dance”?

“Ah we can dance if we want to, we can leave your friends behind
Cause your friends don't dance and if they don't dance
Well they're are no friends of mine
I say, we can go where we want to, a place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind,
And we can dance”

This week’s verse from “Lord of the Dance” reads

  1. I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee,
    but they would not dance and they would not follow me;
    I danced for the fishermen for James and John;
    they came to me and the dance went on.

I think we all have to admit they are similar. So what is going on? Jesus had been preaching the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus had been faithfully preaching the Word of God as found in the Old Testament. However, Jesus was not teaching the Law of Moses the way the scribes and the Pharisees knew the Law to be true. The scribes and the Pharisees were instructing people in the Law of Moses in the ways they had been taught and according to the example they had been given to follow across thousands of years. Now, here comes Jesus, preaching under the authority of God the Father Almighty, and not some human teacher, and the scribes and the Pharisees are left confused – bumfuzzled. How could this man, Jesus of Nazareth’s teaching be right? None of the scribes and Pharisees would follow Jesus, and yet there were people who did follow Jesus. By all accounts there were a lot of people who followed Jesus, but they weren’t the rich or the powerful. The people who followed Jesus were the poor. They were the financially poor and the spiritually poor. Jesus ate with tax collectors, lepers, widows and those believed to be too cavalier in their love life. These were the very people the Pharisees avoided or scolded. These were the very people the Pharisees believed had been responsible for the kinds of sinning which led to the diaspora, the exile of God’s people from the Promised land centuries before by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. How can this rabbi be eating with sinners, when sinning was the reason God punished God’s people? They just did not understand.

I think there are people today who do not understand. I have seen in the news there are people who are protesting the wearing of masks, and protesting the stay at home orders. I have seen still others who try to make a connection between the sinning of the world and this current pandemic. I have been to the grocery store for my family and I have seen empty shelves and over loaded shopping carts. I have even been given a few strange looks when people see me with a cart loaded down with food for a family of six. Very often I think people do not understand. Too often we jump to conclusions about what is right or wrong and then are willing to die for those conclusions. However, I think they wise are willing to have their assumptions and theories challenged. The truly wise are willing to grow in the hopes of growing in their faith.

I think Nicodemus was wise when he visited Jesus Christ in the middle of the night. Nicodemus was a Pharisees – one of those very people who did not understand what Jesus was doing. The difference is instead of fighting, dying for his beliefs, or trying kill Jesus for Nicodemus’ lack of understanding, Nicodemus came to Jesus with questions. Jesus did not talk to Nicodemus the same way Jesus spoke to the fishermen of Galilee, or the tax collectors, or Mary and Martha, or Mary Magdalene. Jesus offered Nicodemus spiritual steak and left the milk for the spiritual babies. Jesus begins, 16 For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” And already Nicodeums’ mind was blown. Nicodemus had this same idea of a vengeful, firm handed God like so many people do today. For Jesus to tell Nicodemus that God loves God’s chosen people would not have been so much of a surprise, but for God to love the world? God loves the sinful, broken, out to get Israel world? How can this be? (pause) How can belief alone be enough for salvation? Surely they must be cleansed? Surely they must give to the temple? Surely they must follow all of the commandments and the Law of Moses? Surely they must… (pause) It is an all too common problem. Especially in our, “Pull ourselves up by our boot straps” culture nearly all of us believe we must do something to earn our way into heaven. The Pharisees commonly believed if we do not earn our way into God’s good graces God will punish the righteous along with the disobedient. Jesus is saying something different.

My sisters and brothers God loves you. God loves each and every one of you. God loves the people who are self-isolating. God loves the people who are NOT self-isolating. God loves the people who are PROTESTING self-isolating and the wearing of masks. God loves America, and God loves Africa, and South America, and Europe; and God loves Russia and China. God loves the whole world, and sent God’s only son that who so ever believes in Jesus Christ may have life and have it abundantly. All that is necessary is a response to God’s grace. All that is necessary is for us to take God’s spiritually outstretched hand and believe. We must believe our way into a right or righteous relationship with God made possible – the only way it CAN be made possible – through Jesus Christ. My sisters and brothers, “by grace we are saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). God’s grace is made available for us because God loves us.

My brothers and sisters we must understand this. We must strive to understand this. God loves us. God is reaching out to us all the time. We call this grace. It is as if we have all been sitting in the mud and pouring mud on each other’s faces. Then God sends the rain and the mud becomes too thin to keep out the light. We begin to acknowledge the reality there is so much more to the world than the darkness in which we choose to live. When we begin to allow the light to shine into our lives we will see that we are filthy, and sitting in the mud and our sins. We will try to get the years and decades of mud off of ourselves but without a bar of soap and wash rag there is only so much we can do on our own. We must answer God’s call to stand up and leave the mud puddle. We must clean out our spiritual ears that we may hear God more clearly. Once we have left our old world behind and recognized the futility of trying to earn our salvation by trying to clean ourselves Jesus will meet us. We will find we have wandered to the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. There we will come to truly understand the cost it took for us to become clean. (pause) There at the foot of the cross Jesus invites us to dance with Him. There at the foot of the cross we recognize the dance is only just begun and Jesus is the Lord of the Dance. Suddenly we can hear the melodious sound of God’s grace more clearly. Prevenient grace thinned the mud and drew us to the cross. Justifying grace washed us clean. Sanctifying grace is God’s way of teaching us to dance with joy and gladness of heart and life.

The scribes and Pharisees did not understand it. Nicodemus was at least willing to struggle to understand what Jesus was teaching, but it was the poor, uneducated Galilean fishermen who followed Jesus and learned to dance in God’s grace for all the world to come and follow the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Can you hear those words?

“we can dance if we want to, we can leave your friends behind
Cause your friends don't dance and if they don't dance
Well they're are no friends of mine”

Or more to the point.

  1. I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee,
    but they would not dance and they would not follow me;
    I danced for the fishermen for James and John;
    they came to me and the dance went on.

In the name of Jesus Christ,
Amen

My sisters and brothers, how wonderful would it be if a thousand people suddenly broke out and singing for the joy of learning to dance with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Let’s sing that together.

Hymn: #57 “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”

  1. O for a thousand tongues to sing
    my great Redeemer's praise,
    the glories of my God and King,
    the triumphs of his grace!
  2. My gracious Master and my God,
    assist me to proclaim,
    to spread through all the earth abroad
    the honors of thy name.
  3. Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
    that bids our sorrows cease;
    'tis music in the sinner's ears,
    'tis life, and health, and peace.
  4. He breaks the power of canceled sin,
    he sets the prisoner free;
    his blood can make the foulest clean;
    his blood availed for me.
  5. He speaks, and listening to his voice,
    new life the dead receive;
    the mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
    the humble poor believe.
  6. Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
    your loosened tongues employ;
    ye blind, behold your Savior come,
    and leap, ye lame, for joy.
  7. In Christ, your head, you then shall know,
    shall feel your sins forgiven;
    anticipate your heaven below,
    and own that love is heaven.

 

Benediction:

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

 

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