NOTICE TO ON-DEMAND WORSHIPPERS
In order to expedite posting the worship services here on our website, we are reducing the transcript to just the scriptures used and the message. Union Grove UMC in partnership with Southland Books & Cafe, began holding Second Sunday Community Church in January 2023. Second Sunday Community Church takes place at 3 p.m. ET the second Sunday of every month, meets in-person at The Bird & The Book, and is also live-streamed on Facebook. Holy Communion is offered at every Second Sunday service. If you are worshipping on Second Sundays online whether during the live-cast or through on-demand viewing, you are encouraged to have bread and juice or wine available as you watch the service and to participate in communion just as if you are present with us.
God, open us to hear and receive your scriptures today as you would have us hear them, understand them as you would have us understand them, and to act upon them as you would have us act upon them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
*Scriptures this morning are included in the message.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer, and may you see fit to use me as a vessel from which you pour out your Divine Word.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I want to start by looking at the passage from Sirach. The Book of Sirach (sr-ahsh) sometimes called Ecclesiasticus which should not be confused with Ecclesiastes is what is referred to as a book of wisdom. Sometimes, I think we’re remiss in not spending more time in this particular book because it offers some very wise advice.
The first three verses in the Sirach passage offer the reader or hearer choices: You can choose to keep the commandments … or not. You can choose to act faithfully … or not. You can choose fire or you can choose water. You can choose life or you can choose death.
God gives us choices. Free will. It’s what we do with that free will, how we choose, that is important, that determines whether we behave in a godly way or in an ungodly way.
We’re faced with choices every day. Individually, collectively within our families, our communities, our businesses. Our choices not only impact us, they impact others both directly and indirectly.
If I choose to stop a medication I need to maintain my health, I am directly impacting my health, but the effect of my choice doesn’t stop there unless I happen to live alone on a mountain top with no relations or relationships. My choice to neglect my health is going to have a direct effect or impact on any family I might have, and would probably have an effect on any businesses or organizations I own or have a significant role in.
The choices we make collectively also have both direct and indirect impacts on others. All levels of government make choices that impact all the citizens of whatever “area” that government covers – city, county, state, and/or nationwide. And our individual choices made when we vote have an effect on the direction of each level of government that is collectively making choices that, in turn, affect us.
Doctors make choices on appropriate treatment of physical and mental health diagnoses and treatment. Patients – and sometimes the collective of the patient’s family – make choices on whether or not to accept and follow the treatment recommended by the doctor.
Teachers make choices on how they teach including what materials and methods they use, although their ability to choose based on their specialized knowledge and training is being disregarded too often these days.
Law enforcement officers make choices in how they interact with citizens. World leaders make choices in how they interact with each other.
People make choices every day and everything is eventually impacted by the choices people make.
And sometimes people don’t make the best choices. In fact frequently people don’t make the best, the wisest, the most godly choices. Right now, there are collectives of people choosing to perpetrate very bad, very unjust, and very harmful actions on others. Choices they claim are based on their religious beliefs. Choices they’re making “in the name of God.”
Sirach reminds us, though, that God is wise … God is “mighty in power and sees everything.” He is focused on those who respect and obey him, and he knows every human action. He knows what we’re going to choose before we choose it. And Sirach reminds us that God has not commanded anyone to be ungodly in the choices they make, nor has he given any of us permission to purposefully make choices that harm others.
It is through Jesus and his time with us that we learned the true nature of God. God is love. That’s what Jesus taught us. Everything Jesus – God Incarnate, God in the Flesh, God With Us – did and said was done with love. To lead a godly life, to make godly choices, we must learn to and work at seeing through Jesus’s lens, through his eyes. By seeing through his eyes and remembering what he said and did – not what we speculate he would do, but really considering the things they did and how those things apply today – we are able to consider the impact of each choice immediately as well as long term, and directly as well as indirectly. We just have to learn to look through the lens of love and the kind of love Jesus represented.
Paul, in the passage from 1 Corinthians, reminds us of what Love is and what it isn’t:
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love, then, is one way to measure the actions, the choices of others and our own choices. If the words coming out of their mouths – or ours – are in any way hateful toward anyone, the choice is not good choice. The choice does not reflect the Love that is God. No matter what they … or we … say, believe, or do.
Love never gives up.
If one is truly choosing based on genuine godly love, then the choice is righteous, and even if the choice doesn’t bear immediate fruit, even if the choice is unpopular or not what “the crowd” chooses, even if it means facing those who want the opposite of the choice, Love doesn’t give up, God doesn’t give up, Jesus and the Spirit don’t give up and neither do we. We must look through the lens that is the Love of God and we must persist and persevere.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Choices based on godly love are not going to oppress others in order to advance the one making the choice. Choices based on godly love will often require self-sacrifice of some kind.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Choices made to enrich oneself or obtain power at the expense of others are not godly choices.
Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first.”
Godly choices are made without fanfare, press releases, and media announcements. Making godly choices is not something we boast about. In fact, we should make those choices quietly.
A lot of what is going on in our country right now is the result of people making choices they claim are the will of God or because of their personal religious beliefs. The people who choose to initiate whatever actions it takes to make their beliefs be required “under the law, are not making godly choices. Yet another sign – not of the end times, btw – that whatever organizations are making these are not making godly choices and are therefore out of sync with God.
Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.
Jesus show us literally and figuratively the face of God. It’s up to us to choose to follow his lead, and I pray that anyone viewing this worship service will.
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