“As Easy As 1, 2, 3” (John 16:33; Matthew 28:16-20)

By | January 10, 2010

Life Is Messy Series


     As that clip from 2003 movie, Cheaper By The Dozen shows, Life IS Messy at times. It gets messy even in the best of families. Life is messy. Not just in our families but all around. Just listen to the evening news or look at the headlines in the paper or on the internet. It’s not just our families, it’s not just our country, the whole world is in a mess. Life IS messy.

     So, what do we do about it? How do we as Christians and as a Church deal with and help others deal with the Messes in our lives and Messes in the world? That’s what we’re going to look at today.

     So, what’s the solution to the problems and messes of the world. First I think we have to look at what Jesus said about life in general. Jesus was very much a realist. In John 16:33, in the setting of the Last Supper, just prior to His arrest, Jesus is teaching the disciples and preparing them for His death on the Cross and the days which will follow. Jesus fills them with words of assurance that they will not be “left orhphaned,” that He “will return” and that “He leaves them peace.” Then Jesus says: “[I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Listen to how Eugene Peterson’s Message renders it. “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” That is the setting into which the Solution is given. And I think we find the solution in the Gospel of Matthew 28:16-20 (NRSV)
[16] Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.
[17] When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
[18] And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
[19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
[20] and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

     Personally, I think the solution is Easy but I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. The Solution is Easy but the actual work of cleaning up the messes in our lives and in the world, of making Disicples and teaching ourselves and others; and of Obeying everything Jesus has commanded is NOT easy work. That’s the Hard Work of our faith.

     For the next couple of weeks, I want to explore with you how we can do that and what we are doing as a Church, a District, a Conference and as a denomination. And that is as Easy As 1, 2, 3, 4.


     A. Some of you have seen the 1, 2, 3, 4 table tent in my office or in the Conference Room. I’ve asked the COM and Admin Board to repeat it every now and then. And I want to use it as our outline this morning. As people of the United Methodist Church, we believe in one mission, one goal, one purpose based on Jesus final instructions to the Disciples in Galilee. We believe in “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for transformation of the world.”

     The church is not about us. We forget that sometimes. The church is not about us. The church is about being disciples who are making disciples and transforming the world into the Kingdom of God.

     What we have to realize is that being a disciple is more than just coming to church. I have a friend who loves to come and hear me preach. He loves my sermons. He says so. He quotes me in the newsletter he publishes. And for years we have had an ongoing discussion about faith and religion. The thing is, Mac is an atheist. So, attending church isn’t what makes you a disciple.

     Neither is simply believing. Belief is not enough. I believe what my doctor has told me, that losing weight would benefit my health but I’m not a disciple of Jenny Craig. I believe in the power of evil. I think it is real and alive and doing quite well right now. But I am not a disciple of evil.

     B. However, I am attempting to live as a Disciple of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God who I claim as my Lord and Savior. I practice the spiritual disciplines necessary to keep connected and on track. I don’t want to be successful; I don’t want to be famous; I don’t aspire to greatness; I simply want to be faithful. I want to be a disciple and train up disciples who love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. I want to be an agent of the transforming power of Jesus Christ in the world today. I want to witness lives being changed and the world being transformed by those disciples.

     And that’s what the church is all about. It’s not about us. It’s about “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for transformation of the world.” And doing everything we can to be faithful.


     A. As Disciples, we’re called to Live By Two Kinds of Holiness Personal and Social Holiness.

     A part of Personal Holiness is the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines. Those Spiritual Disciplines are things such as daily prayer, personal and corporate Worship, Bible Study, fellowship, tithing, fasting, acts of mercy and sacrificial service. Personal Holiness is that aspect of the Christian life in which we intentionally pursue being and becoming like Jesus.

     B. Social Holiness has to do with ministries of social justice and works of mercy like our Food Bank and Thrift Store. In each of these ministries we are not just supplying what someone physically needs. We are offering a future with hope and a place of respect and honor. Every person who comes through our doors, every stranger who enters our midst should be treated as if they were Christ himself, for in essence they are. Remember in Matt 25:40 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

     Social Holiness is reaching out to and welcoming the least, the lost and the lonely. As we treat them with the same love and respect we would if they were Christ, they are transformed. Watch this.

     BOYS RANCH WACO, From UMTV.org: Waco, Texas

     Dion, Resident, Methodist Children’s Home Boys Ranch: “I felt like nobody loved me. I didn’t think I had a family.”

     Fifteen-year-old Dion is one of 50 teenagers living at the Methodist Children’s Home Boys Ranch near Waco, Texas. Dottie Briggs is an administrator.

     Dottie Briggs, Administrator, Methodist Children’s Home Boys Ranch: “They could be placed here by court order. They may have family conflicts. They may have been experiencing truancy.”

     Here, troubled teens learn about self-control—and second chances—by working with animals. Sixteen-year-old Javen now feels like a success.

     Javen, Resident, Methodist Children’s Home Boys Ranch: “At one point, he was the worst steer out here. He was really skinny and stuff. But after I worked with him for awhile, now he’s the best one.”

     The kids show off their skills at area livestock shows, according to Ag teacher John Kuretsch.

     John Kuretsch, Teacher, Methodist Children’s Home Boys Ranch: “Sometimes, the parents will come to a show and just be in awe that their son is leading a 1,000-pound steer through an arena. Just is remarkable.”

     Trent, Resident, Methodist Children’s Home Boys Ranch: “I’ve learned not to really give up on stuff that easy, because it is a good experience.”

Sixteen-year-old Trent now cleans pigpens and gets up early without complaining. Caring for the animals is a privilege that 14-year-old Clifton appreciates.

     Clifton, Resident, Methodist Children’s Home Boys Ranch: “I’ve got to have good grades to stay with him. So I want to keep my grades up, like I already did. I got all As and Bs.”

     Dion, Methodist Children’s Home Boys Ranch: “It shows me that I can do anything I put my mind to.”

     Most of the kids will live on the 500-acre ranch about a year and a half. Teachers say it’s a time of transformation.

     John Kuretsch, Teacher, Methodist Children’s Home Boys Ranch: “The anger starts disappearing. They start asking more questions, wanting to get more involved. And they just feel like they do have a purpose in life once again.”

     Dion, Resident, Methodist Children’s Home Boys Ranch: “Me and my stepdad are getting along really well. At first, we didn’t get along, but we’re doing awesome now.”

     “You did good. You made big progress today. I’m proud of you.”

     TAG: Methodist Children’s Home was founded in 1890, and began as an orphanage. Now the program serves more than 1,000 children daily through residential care, the ranch, foster care and a college program. For more information, call 254-799-2434.

     That’s Social Holiness.


     A. We also follow Three Simple Rules: I’m sure you know what they are. They involve both Personal and Social Holiness and they are one of the means by which we live as Disciples and make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World. The Three Simple Rules are:

     Do No Harm; Do Good; Stay In Love With God.

     We saw how our Social Holiness is lived out in part, here. But we do it globally as well. We Do Good and Do No Harm in lots of ways. Along with our Spiritual Disciplines, those ways also help us Stay In Love With God as we reach out through Missional acts of justice and mercy. Watch This:


     This is what Christmas looks like in Kenya. The tree is a native plant instead of an evergreen and the gifts are heaping bowls of food.

     Eighteen-year-old Purity Muthoni is a successful farmer, student, business woman, and a role model for her peers. She is one of 15 million children orphaned by AIDS in Africa.

     Purity Muthoni, ZOE Giving Hope Project: “My father died in 2002 February. Then after four years my mother started suffering. She was very sick.”

     At the age of 14, Purity had to provide for her younger brother and sister, and an older brother who has a mental disability.

     Purity Muthoni: “When my parents died, we were so afraid. We were praying only to God to get us something to eat because we were sleeping without food.”

     With the help of the United Methodist Church’s ZOE ministry, Purity learned to farm her family land. Through the Giving Hope program she has vegetables to eat and to sell. She owns two goats and two cows and has money in her bank account.

     Purity Muthoni: “When my parents died, on that Christmas, we did not eat anything. But nowadays we can eat more than even those who are having parents.”

     It has been a good year, and Purity wants to share her bounty with other orphans.

     Purity Muthoni: “I have invited you to this Christmas to eat together to remember the birth of Jesus Christ. So I welcome each and every one of you, and God bless you.”

     The guests enjoy the meal and a special treat… soda pop.

     Children who have lost so much find love, hope, and support from each other on this day and year-round.

     Singing: “We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

TAG: ZOE’s Giving Hope Project is designed to give orphans the training they need to be self-sustaining in a few years. For more information on the ZOE Ministry, call 1-800-951-0234.

     B. That young girl has learned that God has chosen us to be servants. God hasn’t chosen us for privilege but to serve. Through her faith and those who reached out to her, her world has been transformed, she has become a Disciple and she is making disciples who are transforming the world around them.


     A. And finally that brings us to where we work. We Work In Four Areas Of Focus. Those areas are:

·        Developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world.

·        Creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations.

·        Engaging in ministry with the poor in order to eliminate poverty.

·        Combating the diseases of poverty by improving health globally.

     Those were the Four Focus Areas adopted by General Conference in 2008.

     The two clips I’ve shown are just a small part of how we are carrying out those Four Focus Areas and what our Apportionments go to support. There is so much more that needs to be done but I congratulate you on what you are already doing. There are large churches in our Conference who aren’t as socially or missionally engaged as this church. And for a preacher, that’s bragging rights.

     B. Let’s break down a couple of the areas in which we are involved in all four of these areas.

     First, we are developing Christian Leaders through the work of our Youth group and the ministry of this church. We send youth and adults on Mission Trip. But we have also sent youth (One in particular) to Exploration, an event for youth considering full time Christian Ministry. And one of our youth has been to Youth Lay Speaker training. And if everything works out, this youth will be helping to fill the pulpit in a small church in our District during the month of February.

     We can be involved in two different areas through one project. Let me explain. Back in 2008, a friend of mine, Jan Ware, who is the pastor of one of our start up churches, Light of the World UMC, was working, like many of us, at General Conference as a volunteer. While there she met and assisted one of the Lay Delegates from Nigeria named Luka.

     A friendship started and Luka, who raised chickens back in Nigeria wanted to see an American farm, so Jana took him to see her parent’s farm. On the way they stopped at the storefront where Light of the World meets for Worship. Luka said he too wanted to “plant” a church back in Nigeria in remote village of 400 people, Yaukani Village.

     One of the things Jana found out is that Luka has had a wife, two children and a nephew die from various diseases. He faces death and  sickness in his community continuously. Luka himself was down with Malaria twice this year, but thankfully recovered. He asked for prayers. Jana approached her Finance Committee about helping. She describes her church this way, “We’re a baby church with very little money, and the economy has hit us hard. Would the church really be receptive to supporting the planting of a church so far away in a foreign land — a remote village they’d never heard of?”They stepped out on faith and did.

     In March 2009, with 18 people from the village, the Church was formed. In May, Abednego Danbake with two years training in a United Methodist Bible School, left his wife and children to go start this church on a handshake and a promise from a church in far off America. Because funds are slow to transfer, he received his first pay check. But there are now 80 people in worship.

     Light of the World UMC, raised funds to send 67 Bed Nets through Nothing But Nets. Jana asked Luka what the people of the village of Yaukani needed most. He shared many needs. They get their water from a nearby pond. They are infected with Malaria, Typhoid and worms. They need clean water and medical care.

     Yaukani Church has named themselves HASKEN DUNIYA CURCH, which means Light of the World. Two new church starts, sisters in bringing Christ to the World, making disciple and transforming lives. Here’s the pond where they both bathe and get their drinking water. Here’s the pastor, seated next to a widow and her family.

     The village has been blessed with three new babies. The church collected and gave the equivilent of $5.00 to each of the mothers. (Remember most of these people live on less than $2 a day. These girls received no prenatal care whatsoever.

     Here are the members of their Board. This is their Sunday morning Worship Service, with a brand new drum which Luka purchased for the church. Here is the pastor teaching people detect and treat malaria, typhoid fever and other water borne diseases.

     Now here’s the challenge. We can assist two new church starts, one locally and one globally, fulfill a dream. You see, I’ve been talking to Jana she told me that so far, her little church with 55 members and an average of 56 in worship, has raised $300 to drill a well for the church in Nigeria. The cost is somewhere between $1,200 and $1,500. I was so moved by her story, that I told her that we’d help. Here’s the first $100.


     By being involved in this Mission Project, we are helping to clean up one small mess in the world. We are giving hope to a small group of people which will transform their lives. We are being disciples by making disciples of Jesus Christ which is transforming the world.

     Out of our personal Holiness we are acting out our Social Holiness by Doing No Harm, Doing Good and Staying in Love with God. And through this mission we will be

1. Contributing to the Development of leaders in a new church in Africa, encouraging a new church in our Conference;

2. Helping to create two new places to worship for a new groups of people;

3. Working with the poor to eliminate poverty and

4. Most definitely fighting the diseases of poverty and improving the health of one small village in Nigeria.

     And that, my friends, IS as Easy As 1, 2, 3, 4. We ARE the people of the United Methodist Church. We ARE fulfilling God’s mission. We Are making a difference.


This is the Word of the Lord for this day.