ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Welcome & Prayer – Rev. Ohle
- Call to Worship – This I Believe (The Creed), NewSong
- Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
- Scripture Reading – Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20
- Message – Conflicted – Rev. Ohle
- Service of Holy Communion
- Conclusion of Message & Prayer
- Closing Hymn – New Name Written Down in Glory, Crystal Gayle & Emerging Sound
- Benediction – Rev. Ohle
- Postlude – Always, NewSong
Good morning. My name is Rev. Val Ohle, pastor of Union Grove United Methodist Church. Thank you for taking time to be here with me today!
I want to take a moment this morning and extend a special invitation to you. We are in the process of assembling a new leadership committee here at Union Grove. If you’re interested in serving, if you’ve ever wanted to be more involved in the church, I would very much like to visit with you. You’ll find my contact information at the end of this video.
Let’s begin with a prayer:
God, thank you for this time together and for those who make the choice to spend it with you and with me. I pray your voice and will supplant my own. I ask that Spirit come and fill us each, emptying us of ourselves and filling us with all you would have us to hear and to be.
Lord, in this sacred place where even the stones speak your name, help us to be still, and know that we are enfolded in your love.
May our hearts be rested in the mystery of Christ’s peace; may we lay down all the unfinished business of the day – enfolded in an embrace which holds close all the wonder and contradiction of the human journey – and much, much more.
In Christ’s name, amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Father, we come to you now in praise and thanksgiving for the blessings you bestow on us. We thank and praise you for the companionship and love of friends and family, For the laughter of children, the wisdom of the elderly, and the optimism of the youth that this can and will be a better world.
We thank and praise you for our waking breath, for each new opportunity, each and every second chance, for hearing our prayers and for hearing our hearts when our prayers have no words.
Lord, we come to you now with our prayers and petitions, prepared to place our burdens at your feet.
We lift up all who are ill in any way, all who are facing surgery or ongoing treatments, and all who are recovering from any illness or injury. We ask that you guide their caregivers and doctors. We ask that you strengthen and encourage them and their loved ones during this time. We ask for their continued and complete healing if it is your will.
We lift up those who are grieving the loss of someone they love, and we lift up the souls of those who you’ve healed by taking them from this earthly life. Give comfort, peace, and understanding to those left behind. Help us to be present for them in their grief.
We lift up those who are mourning other losses, God. We lift up those who are mourning the loss of someone they knew who’s now a different person because of addiction. We lift up those who’ve suffered the loss of home or livelihood because of storms, of fires, or of COVID. We know they’re struggling to find hope, to find their way. Strengthen them, renew their faith, comfort them, and guide their path. Help us be a light in the dark for them.
We lift up to you those who are walking and marching and speaking out about injustice. Keep them safe. Help them to remain calm.
We lift up to you those who have entrenched themselves on one side or the other of any divides whether personal, professional, political, or spiritual. We ask that you remove any planks from their eyes and from ours so we may see and hear one another with open minds and hearts.
We lift up this nation, God. We ask that you cleanse it of the hate and the hateful. We ask that you restore it to being the world’s best example of equality, of democracy, and of freedom. We ask that you teach us how to instill unity where there is division, love where there is hate, brotherhood where there is segregation, welcoming arms where there is rejection or isolation.
We lift up this church and offer it to you as a living sacrifice. Help us to make it into a shining example of your kingdom on earth, a model for living and working together as a Beloved Community.
I ask these things in the name of your son, and now, with the confidence of Your child, I pray to you in the words he taught us to pray … (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 trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.
Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.
Romans 13:8-14 (CEB)
Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law. The commandments, Don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t desire what others have, and any other commandments, are all summed up in one word: You must love your neighbor as yourself. Love doesn’t do anything wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is what fulfills the Law.
As you do all this, you know what time it is. The hour has already come for you to wake up from your sleep. Now our salvation is nearer than when we first had faith. The night is almost over, and the day is near. So let’s get rid of the actions that belong to the darkness and put on the weapons of light. Let’s behave appropriately as people who live in the day, not in partying and getting drunk, not in sleeping around and obscene behavior, not in fighting and obsession. Instead, dress yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t plan to indulge your selfish desires.
Matthew 18:15-20 (CEB)
“If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector. I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven. Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.”
The Word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – CONFLICTED
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.
While we are going to continue to study and worship our way through the Gospels, learning directly from the words of Christ, I want to also look at how those teachings apply to building and living in community with one another because here at Union Grove we are in the first stages of just exactly that – building a new community. Today’s passage, in particular, has a lot to do with living in community.
To understand what Jesus is telling us, though, we have to look deeper than just the superficial first reading of today’s passage.
On the surface, the passage seems to say that if someone wrongs us, it’s okay to confront them about it and to correct them. It even goes on to say that if you get nowhere on your own with them, you can go back to them with reinforcements. And if that doesn’t work, you can call them out publicly. And if they still don’t admit their wrong or agree to your terms, you can treat them like you would tax collectors and Gentiles.
On the surface. But … look deeper. Jesus uses specific wording here, “brother and sister” to identify the wrongdoer. Those are terms you’d use for someone close to you. Someone you’re familiar with. Someone you’re usually comfortable with. They could be an actual sibling, or they could be someone as close as a sibling. They could be a member of your church family. They could be a frat brother or a sorority sister. Someone with whom you share a special bond.
He uses the phrase, “sins against you”. It might be easier to understand this passage if we think about how someone close to us might do us wrong, do something that creates a conflict between us and them and that hurts us somehow.
When someone that close to us does something hurtful toward us, the hurt is usually more intense, isn’t it? It’s more than likely unexpected. And the idea that you can’t seem to talk it out with them just really never crossed your mind … until now.
Jesus tells us in this passage that, when that happens, we should go to that person and try to talk it out. Let them know what they did to hurt us, ask them to stop doing whatever it is, and reach some kind of resolution.
If that works, great. We are back to being brother and sister with no issues. However, he tells us if that doesn’t work to gather up two or three others and go back again.
Now again, look deeper at the passage. The two or three that go back with you are not going back to reinforce your position. They’re going along with you to serve as witnesses to the exchange between you and the wrongdoer. To hear both sides. Jesus said they are to go with you so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses.
His intention here is implied more than said. Having people with you to witness what you’re saying holds the wrongdoer to a level of accountability. The wrongdoer is less likely to lie or deny their wrongdoing in front of others.
Jesus then tells us if this second attempt fails, your next step is to take the issue before the church … the community.
This puts the wrongdoer in a precarious position because now his or her reputation in the church or community is on the line. If he or she has done you wrong and still denies it, the wrongdoer will lose standing.
Jesus takes into consideration that this step may fail as well. If it does, he says, treat them as tax collectors and Gentiles.
Now you might be thinking, “OK, pastor, it’s still all good. No one liked tax collectors or Gentiles back then. They were shunned. They were ignored. They were the lowest of the low. They were never invited to dinner or Shabbat. In fact, they were pretty much hated by everyone. So it’s still all good.”
Think again. How did Jesus treat tax collectors and Gentiles? Matthew was a tax collector when Jesus called him to become one of the disciples. Remember that song about Zacchaeus, the wee little man who climbed up in the Sycamore tree just to see Jesus? And Jesus called him down and announced he was coming to the little man’s house for dinner? Zacchaeus was a tax collector, too. Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and Gentiles alike on a regular basis.
Not only did he dine with them, but he also healed them. A week or so ago, we heard about the Gentile woman who asked him to heal her daughter who was possessed by a demon. While he seemed to ignore her at first, he ultimately healed her daughter and acknowledge how great her faith was.
So what does this have to do with us? With today? With building a new community here at Union Grove?
If you’re my age, we’ve been watching our communities and our country become more and more divided, more polarized for a long time now. If you’re my age, you probably remember the days when neighborhood block parties were a regular part of activities. Now I’m not old enough to remember barn raisings, but I’ve read about them. I grew up on the high plains among farmers and ranchers and I remember them coming together to help one another out in times of trouble.
I remember the times when we knew who our neighbors were when new neighbors were greeted with casseroles or baked goods and a warm introduction. If you’re my age, you probably remember those days, too.
We don’t see that level of community much anymore. Our neighborhoods have become full of nuclear households. We tend to keep to ourselves and we may or may not know one another’s names at all. It’s difficult at best to build community if you don’t know anyone in the community.
The community of the church is the same way. If we don’t take time to get to know one another, if we don’t make an effort to get to know one another, then building the community of the church will ultimately fail because the community is the church.
Communities are made of individuals. From time to time, individuals are going to find themselves in conflict with other individuals in the community. And that’s where these two passages apply to us. We need to make a sincere effort to talk things out when that happens. And when all efforts fail, we need to treat one another like Jesus treated tax collectors and Gentiles. If we do that, the community we build survives.
Now let us prepare for the Service of Holy Communion.
SERVICE OF HOLY COMMUNION
Because the Service of Holy Communion can only be carried out by clergy in the United Methodist Church, I will not be posting the transcript of this portion of worship. I encourage you to watch the video at the beginning of this post.
CONCLUSION OF MESSAGE & PRAYER
We seek your presence, O God, not because we have managed to see clearly or been true in all things this day, not because we have succeeded in loving or in reverencing those around us, but because we want to see with clarity, because we long to be true because we desire to love as we have been loved.
Renew our inner sight, make fresh our longings to be true, and grant us the grace of loving this day that we may end this day as we had hoped to live it, that we may end this day restored to our deepest yearnings, that we may end this day as we intend to live tomorrow, as we intend to live tomorrow.
In Christ’s name, amen.*From Thomas Merton, Thoughts In Solitude
Now go, to serve as God’s people. Work to remove all that divides us from others. share the grace of Jesus, and love others just as we are loved. Be the Spirit’s community, inviting everyone to join us in this life of faith and service.
Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask when you go out, tell someone the Good News, be the church, and go in peace. God be with you. Amen.
Even though we can’t meet together in person, the church still has expenses that need to be met. If you are able, please consider making an offering or paying your tithes through the online service provided by Holston Conference. It’s safe. It’s free. It will help us continue ministry at Union Grove.
Just visit http://www.holston.org/churchoffering, and follow the instruction for making your offering. When asked, please choose Smoky Mountain District and Union Grove UMC Blount – Friendsville.
If you are not comfortable using a debit or credit card online, you can mail your offerings/tithes to:
Smoky Mountain District
PO Box 905
Alcoa TN 37701-0905
Please be sure to make your checks payable to Smoky Mountain District and write “Union Grove UMC Friendsville” on the memo line!