ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Welcome & Prayer – Rev. Ohle
- Call to Worship – The Very Next Thing, Casting Crowns
- Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
- Scripture Reading – Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:21-28
- Anthem – Brother, The Brilliance
- Message – Following His Plan (Because Kenosha) – Rev. Ohle
- Benediction – Rev. Ohle
- Postlude – What If I Gave Everything, Casting Crowns
Good morning. My name is Rev. Val Ohle, pastor of Union Grove United Methodist Church. Thank you for taking the 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 of my heart give me vision to inspire me, that working or resting, I may always think of you. Lord of my heart give me light to guide me that, at home or abroad, I may always walk in your way. Lord of my heart give me wisdom to direct me that, thinking or acting, I may always discern right from wrong. Heart of my own heart whatever befall me rule over my thoughts and feelings, my words, and actions.
In Christ’s name, amen.
Adapted from an ancient Irish prayer featured in the Celtic Heart by Pat Robson.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Father, we come to you now in praise and thanksgiving for the blessings you bestow on us. For the companionship and love of friends and family. For the laughter of children, the wisdom of the elderly, the optimism of the youth that this can and will be a better world.
We come to you now with our prayers and petitions.
Lord, we lift up all who are ill or who are facing surgery or ongoing treatments. 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 lift up those who are grieving. Those who’ve lost someone they love. 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 there for them in the ways they need.
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 example of equality, 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.
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 12:19-21 (CEB)
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No … “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Matthew 16:21-28 (CEB)
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”
But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
The Word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – FOLLOWING HIS PLAN (Because Kenosha)
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.
I want to go back to our scriptures from last week and something Rev. Chuck Queen, Sr. Pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort Kentucky, wrote last week:
“Paul says in his letter to the Romans that we already constitute one body in Christ and are members one of another. We are one people. We all belong. And we all have gifts according to God’s grace to contribute to the well-being, health, and spiritual and moral development of the body, the beloved community on earth. And none of us are any more important or valued or loved than anyone else.
Paul, in Romans 12:1-8, calls us to awareness and intentionality in making our contribution to the development of the one body. Paul says, “On the basis of the mercies of God, I appeal to you, to present your total selves as a living sacrifice to God.” “Do not,” says Paul, “allow the forces of this world that are driven by the ego, by selfishness, by greed and pride shape you into its mold, but rather,” he says, “be transformed by the renewing of your minds so you can discern what is good and just and spiritually and morally mature and complete.” We need to be aware of our connection to everyone else and be intentional in our effort to cultivate communities of love and justice so that maybe the communities we are part of and contribute to will reflect something of God’s will for humanity.”
Last week’s scripture from Matthew also revealed Jesus’ intention to build his church out of people … out of believers like Peter rather than a physical structure locked into one place. In other words, a community of people.
This week’s passage from Matthew picks up where we stopped last week and finds Jesus telling his disciples the struggles he is about to endure. As Rev. Queen writes, though, “Peter goes from spiritual mystic to stumbling stone in a matter of days. Peter and the other disciples had their own agenda and they felt compelled to make Jesus conform to their expectations and assumptions of what they wanted in a Messiah. Christ, of course, will have none of it. Christ sets the agenda.”
In his writing, Rev. Queen references Isaiah 51, “… those who seek the Lord are those who pursue the righteousness of God. The salvation of God comes when God’s people pursue the justice of God and become a light to all the people of the earth. As Isaiah 1 points out, the salvation of God is inseparably tied to God’s people ceasing to do evil and learning to do good. The kingdom of God comes on earth when the daughters and sons of God seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan and plead for the widow, that is when they identify with and speak for and defend the most vulnerable of God’s children.”
In Matthew 5:33, a passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and God’s justice.” When we pray as Jesus taught us to pray, we ask God that His will be done and his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
Striving for the kingdom of God and God’s justice is a continuous theme in Jesus’ ministry. Serving God, loving one another no matter what or who, standing up for and including the least among us, the most marginalized, the most unwanted, and doing so purposefully even when it means going against the rules of man. In fact, these things along with God’s love and faithfulness are the constant theme throughout the Bible.
We confess that Jesus is Lord. We grab and cling to the gift of grace given us through his crucifixion and resurrection. We constant thank God for that gift of salvation because, in professing that he is our savior and Lord, we have gained the ultimate prize – that golden ticket to an afterlife on the other side of those pearly gates.
And, we risk missing the boat entirely. Before you turn away or hit the pause button, or close this window or hang up the call … whatever method you’re using for hearing or seeing this … hear me out.
Look at the world around us. Look especially right here in the yard we call the USA, a purportedly self-declared “Christian nation.” Look right wherever you are in your own community whether it’s here in Friendsville or somewhere hundreds and hundreds of miles away. Look atis whatever social media you use at your friends and the friends of your friends and all those people from whom you and your friends are sharing posts and statements and graphic memes. Look especially at the comments on any of those posts.
Look at the nightly news … any night … it doesn’t matter when. Look at the morning paper. Tell me, where do you see anyone striving for the kingdom of God or God’s justice?
Again, please hear me out, because what you or I believe we’re seeing that we consider is of God’s kingdom or God’s justice most likely isn’t even close.
I know that I go back to this particular passage week after week after week, but I feel obligated to do so until I am sure that anyone and everyone hearing my voice knows it as naturally and as without having to think about it as you do taking your next breath. Teacher, what is the greatest commandment? To love God with all your heart and all your mind and all your strength, and the second is like it; to love one another as I have loved you.
When I look into the face of my enemies I should be seeing my brother or my sister. When I look into the face of my enemies, I should be seeing the face of Jesus. When I look into the face of my enemies, I should be seeing the Imago Dei, the Image of God. But do I? Do you?
This is not the sermon I intended to deliver this week. It’s not even the sermon the Spirit laid on my heart Thursday night during an interview for a podcast. That sermon was about building on the rock that Jesus declared he would build his church on. That sermon was about turning those of you watching or hearing this from viewers to doers, from visitors to members of a new Beloved Community here at Union Grove. That sermon was about my faith that God has a plan for Union Grove or it would have closed on June 28th. Spirit and I were on a serious roll with that sermon.
But Kenosha. And before that, but Minneapolis and Louisville and Portland and New York and every other city where a person of color was tried, sentenced, and executed or permanently disabled without ever entering a courtroom or sitting before a jury of his or her peers and where the rush to justify their deaths was immediate and second only to the rush to condemn any action that spoke out against their deaths.
But Kenosha, where Jacob Blake, a black man, was shot seven times in the back standing at his vehicle checking on his very young, very small children inside that vehicle.
But Kenosha, where a 17-year-old white man-child was allowed to walk away, an assault rifle in his hands, after shooting and killing two people and severely wounding a third after being thanked by the local police and being given a bottle of cold water.
No one in my position wants to get up Sunday morning and deliver a sermon on these issues. None of you want to get up Sunday morning and hear it. Most of us want to leave the service feeling good, feeling uplifted, feeling triumphant that our faithfulness has been affirmed and our golden tickets haven’t been voided.
This wasn’t the sermon I wanted to deliver. So I will deliver that sermon now because Kenosha. Because now, more than ever, it is vital that we build a Beloved Community that is willing to go back to square one and … this time … follow his plan for the church he began on the rock that is all of us. It is vital that this new Beloved Community learn his teachings and follow his teachings and strive first for the Kingdom of God. It is more vital than ever that this new Beloved Community become living examples of all he knows we can be.
Brothers and sisters, the hateful speech, the unwillingness to listen, the purposefully divisive tactics and statements, the injustices to the poor and the least among us and the widow and the orphan and the stranger. These have to stop. They have to be stopped. But they have to be stopped the way Jesus would have us stop them and that is not through violence or anger or simply separating into like-minded groups, and it is never, ever through continuing to remain silent or refusing to try again or clinging to a past that is gone.
I know that many of you here in the Friendsville area don’t go to church because you haven’t found a faith community that you can relate to or that meets your needs. I know many of you have lost your faith in “the church” for some reason.
I know that some of you were once here and, for whatever reason, stopped coming.
I think some of you may have given up on God and on the church.
But, because Kenosha … because the only way to stop hate and fear and division is to counter it with love … because these things need to be healed and it takes a village … I’m asking you to come build a new Beloved Community with me. To work together to build a community that demonstrates the love of God, the love of Jesus, and the movement of the Spirit through not just words but deeds and actions.
Because Kenosha demands a response from the community of God and we are all members of the community of God. Because he told us to pick up our crosses and follow him.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
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!