• Greeting, Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Opening Hymn – Surely the Presence of the Lord (UMH 328)
  • Responsive Reading – Psalm 107:1-9, 33-43 (UMH 830)
  • Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
  • Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Scripture Readings – Isaiah 43:1-13 (CEB), John 10:1-21 (MSG) – Rev. Val
  • Hymn – Abide with Me (UMH 700)
  • Message: In the Wilderness – Rev. Val
  • Offertory – Rev. Val
  • Doxology (UMH 95)
  • Closing Hymn – Lift Every Voice and Sing (UMH 519)
  • Benediction – Rev. Val


Good morning! For those who’ve worshiped with us before either in-person or online, welcome back. For those who are joining us for the first time this morning, we’re glad you here. Welcome home!

A few quick announcements:

First, the “Worship-by-Phone” has officially been discontinued effective tomorrow.

Next, we’ve been asked to be one of the sponsors for the Maryville College Pride Club. The new board of the club is busy rebuilding it just as we are working to rebuild the church and so far, if I understood her correctly, they have 96 members which is pretty amazing.  I’ve informally agreed to their request, but I would like your approval to make it formal, so we’ll take a vote after the service is over today.

Also, they are holding a candlelight vigil on Nov. 20. The vigil is in remembrance of Trans who have lost or taken their own lives. Please plan on attending that vigil and standing with them. I’ll have information on the location and time as soon as I hear back from them.

Tomorrow evening, clergy from Smoky Mountain District will be having dinner with our new bishop, Debra Wallace-Padgett. A Service of Celebration for Bishop Wallace-Padgett is scheduled for next Sunday, October 17, at 3:00 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Maryville or you can watch it on livestream at Holston.org/live, and I encourage you to do so.

Okay! If you are worshiping online with us and haven’t done so, please consider signing up for our weekly worship bulletin email. There are connection card forms on our Facebook page and on our website that make it easy. We rarely send more than one email per week, but it keeps you up to date on each week’s worship plus upcoming activities and events.

Save the date!

  • On-going Prayer Vigil
  • November 7 – Communion Sunday & All Saints Day
  • November 20 – Candlelight Vigil with Maryville Pride Club, 6 p.m. in front of the Campus Ministry Building
  • November 28, 2021, 3:00 p.m. – Charge Conference at Maryville First UMC
Call to Worship
Call to Worship by Sarah Are | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org

L: We have been in the wilderness—

A: Discerning and working, seeking and dreaming.

L: We have been in the wilderness—

A: Grieving and wondering, praying and hoping.

L: We have been in the wilderness—

A: Longing and running, creating and waiting.

L: We have been in the wilderness, but we have not been alone; for God walks with us, every step of the way.

A: So let us worship the God of our darkest nights and our brightest days.

L: Let us worship Holy God.

Opening Prayer – The Peace We So Desperately Crave
Kimberly Bracken Long, Feasting on the Word Worship Companion: Liturgies for Year A, Volume 1, Westminster John Knox Press

God of majesty and glory, We are thirsty for your grace. You made a way for us in the wilderness, and still, in our foolishness, we go astray. We hide our eyes from your presence. We do not listen to your word. We are lifeless when we ought to dance and speechless when we ought to sing.

Forgive us, O Lord. Speak peace to our fearful hearts, strengthen our weak hands, and make firm our feeble knees as we seek to follow in your holy way.


RESPONSIVE READING – Psalm 107:1-9, 33-43 (UMH 830)


Based on Matthew 4:1-11; adapted from “Prayer from the Wilderness” by Jeffrey A. Nelson, coffeehousecontemplative.com.

O God, we need to be honest and just tell you how hard things are. We’re being pulled every which way by demands placed on us by our schedules, by high expectations to be good parents, spouses, and workers, by what we think others want from us and by what we want from ourselves. And we have questions about you. How are you everywhere including in what we’re facing? How are you loving us despite our sins and shortcomings? Where are you in the world’s suffering? How much church involvement is good enough? What am I really supposed to be doing to follow Jesus in my own life?

We bring all these demands and expectations and questions and lay them down here because we don’t know what else to do with them. Some days it’s all we can do to get from our morning alarm to our evening routine while shouldering all of this in between. We have our own ways of distracting ourselves, of taking the edge off, of becoming numb for a while, but they don’t really make the difficult stuff go away and sometimes they even add to it further. We are in our own wilderness, seeking a way out, watching for angels to attend to our weariness.

O God, grant us true peace rather than temporary diversion. Speak to us genuine words of assurance rather than tired platitudes. Show us the ways of balance; of a life where your Spirit centers and guides us through the noise.

We lift up to you all those among us and among our neighbors who suffer any form of illness whether physical, mental, or are sick at heart, those who are suffering, who are grieving, and who are lost.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

We lift up to you all those who are frustrated, who are angry, who feel inconsolable, who have been misled, misunderstood, mistreated, who feel abandoned, rejected, excluded, who are on the edge of giving up, who can find little or no hope, especially the least, the left behind, and the left out who are all created in your image.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

We pray for your church, that we may remember the grace you gave us in our brokenness, and that we may extend that grace to all with no judgment of worthiness.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

God we lift up to you our ongoing prayers and petitions …

  • For the eradication of COVID-19 in every form and an end to the pandemic
  • For protection of all innocents in Afghanistan, in all other war torn nations, and in all nations under authoritarian regimes, especially the women and girls of those nations.
  • For Haiti, for the coasts stricken by storms, for the states in the west stricken by drought and wildfires, and for all those first responders who are battling the effects of extreme weather caused by climate change
  • For the healing of the planet.
  • For the protection and preservation of democracy here and around the world
  • For an end to discrimination and oppression in any and all forms

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.

May your love take root in our lives, and we may walk by faith as we pray the words your Son taught us,

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.


Draw us close, Holy Spirit, as the Scriptures are read and the Word is proclaimed. Let the word of faith be on our lips and in our hearts, and let all other words slip away. May there be one voice we hear today — the voice of truth and grace.


Isaiah 43:1-13 (CEB)

But now, says the Lord — the one who created you, Jacob, the one who formed you, Israel: Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched, and flame won’t burn you.

I am the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel, your savior. I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place. Because you are precious in my eyes, you are honored, and I love you. I give people in your place, and nations in exchange for your life.

Don’t fear, I am with you. From the east I’ll bring your children; from the west I’ll gather you. I’ll say to the north, “Give them back!” and to the south, “Don’t detain them.”

Bring my sons from far away, and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name and whom I created for my glory, whom I have formed and made. Bring out the blind people who have eyes, the deaf ones who have ears.

All the nations are gathered together; the peoples are assembled. Which of them announced this? Who predicted to us the past events? Let them bring their witnesses as a defense; let them hear and say, “It’s true!”

You are my witnesses, says the Lord, my servant, whom I chose, so that you would know and believe me and understand that I am the one. Before me no god was formed; after me there has been no other.

I, I am the Lord, and there is no savior besides me. I announced, I saved, I proclaimed, not some stranger among you. You are my witnesses, says the Lord, and I am God.

From the dawn of time, I am the one. No one can escape my power. I act, and who can undo it?

John 10:1-21 (MSG)

“Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”

 Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep rustlers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.

“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”

This kind of talk caused another split in the Jewish ranks. A lot of them were saying, “He’s crazy, a maniac—out of his head completely. Why bother listening to him?” But others weren’t so sure: “These aren’t the words of a crazy man. Can a ‘maniac’ open blind eyes?”

The scriptures of God for the People of God.

Thanks be to God.

MESSAGE – In the Wilderness

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.

I don’t know about all of you, but truth be told, I seem to spend a lot more time mentally wandering around in an inner wilderness these days.  Wandering, almost constantly, through a dense forest of fears with nary a trail in sight. Flailing my way through the undergrowth of worries just to run smack dab into an insurmountable stone cliff face of obstacles I don’t know how to overcome. That’s usually when my emotions break into a storm that would make any disaster movie storm look like a tempest in a teapot.

The entire time this is going on, I have trouble even seeing the path I’m following, let alone finding the path that will bring me out of whatever mess I’m in. As if that weren’t enough, there are temptations lurking about everywhere. They slither and creep and stalk just waiting for me to stumble or drop my guard.

So what is this wilderness I find myself in? I imagine it’s probably the same as yours.  It’s that thing we’re taught to call life. Life comes at us from every conceivable angle and lately it seems to come in tsunami size waves that do their best to break our spirits and crush our souls.

It’s no small wonder we sometimes tell ourselves if we’d just let go of whatever it is we’re clinging to … just give up … at least we’d be able to breathe, to stop worrying, to just stop running, stop fighting, stop struggling, stop fearing a future that seems destined to remain cloudy and dark … or at least we hope we would.

Wandering in the wilderness is actually a pretty normal state of mind, something I’m pretty sure each of us has experienced probably countless times. You see, we humans are prone to these wilderness treks whether we like it or not. It’s where sayings like, “I’m barely keeping my head above water,” or “I’m drowning in debt” come from. If we could see beyond ourselves while we’re in our inner wilderness, we’d find out there’s someone behind every tree and, more importantly, we’re leading a group of those closest to us whether they wanted to come along or not because when we get sucked into a mess, it invariably impacts them, too.  Even when we don’t realize it. Maybe especially without our realizing it.

But I think we’d see something else, too.  I think we’d find out that the forest is denser, the storms are stronger, and the waves are taller for some than it is others, and I think we’d find out that each person has a different visualization of what lies on the other side of the wilderness. For some, it’s resolution of whatever issues are creating the wilderness. For others, it’s a king of freedom, a kind of release.

 What we all fail to do, at least initially, is remember the words given to Isaiah: Don’t fear. Don’t fear because I have redeemed you. Don’t fear because I have claimed you and called you by name.  Don’t fear! I’m right here with you. It doesn’t matter which direction you’ve wandered … north, south, east or west … I’ll find you and bring you back to me.

We fail, at least initially, to remember what Jesus told us: I came to give you life … real life … eternal life … abundant life.

Over and over and over again, no matter how bad they messed up and how far they strayed from Him, God always … let me repeat that … ALWAYS made a way for Israel. And just as He made a way for them, He makes a way for us if we will just let Him. The operative words being “if we will just let Him.” We humans have an innate need to control our own situations, too often to our own detriment. If only we’d trust Him more than we trust ourselves.  Maybe that’s because, truth told, we don’t even trust ourselves.

Now, I’m an optimist at heart. I may not see how to deal with whatever trouble I’m facing, but I do see the far shore … it isn’t goal setting I have trouble with … it’s navigation. But, I have faith that God has a plan to get me to that shore, I have faith that shore will be a better place because Jesus came to give me abundant life, and I have faith that Spirit will keep pushing and shoving and pulling and even sometimes dragging me onto whatever path I’m supposed to be on. 

I know it isn’t going to be easy. God never promised easy. Isaiah said when we walk through the waters and fires, cross the raging rivers … not if. And I’ve lived long enough and been through the wilderness often enough to know that God keeps his promises to us. I’ve also lived long enough to know that abundant has little to do with financial prosperity and everything to do with family, friends, and peace.

But there are those out there … and maybe here … that don’t see things the way I do.  There are people whose faith rightfully assures them of eternal life and they focus so hard on that, they forget or miss out on or stop trying to live the earthly life they have right now. Some squander the earthly life they have now. Some become so hurt and crushed in their earthly life, so convinced they can’t find their way out of the wilderness, they seek release from it.

When you go through many troubles, you can feel like you are drowning and cannot breathe. God’s promise is that when the waters threaten to drown you, He will be there to make sure they don’t. He always has a way out because He wants to save your life.


King David once prayed, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.” (Psalm 69:1)

He was echoing what many of us feel when we find ourselves in situations we can’t manage. Remember that God will not leave or forsake you in your times of trouble. When you learn to trust in God’s presence every day of your life and rest in His comforting arms when you don’t know what to do or say, He will deliver you from the waters, rivers, and fires of life that want to take away your peace and joy.

Wouldn’t it be perfect if God would send down a blueprint for each of our lives? What if, when we were born, we came with an instruction manual that he wrote out for us? A manual that would outline what we should do to follow His plan for our lives?

Sometimes, life can be so confusing and stressful that it can be difficult to understand what God wants for us over the noise of the world and the sounds of all the obligations pulling at us. And the truth is, God knows what He wants for us is in control of our plans. He has the blueprint for our lives drawn up. He is guiding us and putting seeds in our hearts and, like a gardener, He waters the seeds He plants within our hearts. God sees you, He hears you, and He answers your prayers.

This life can be hard, but through trials, the Lord makes us stronger. During times of tribulation, our faith is able to grow and multiply. Romans 5:3-5 shows us that suffering produces perseverance and character, which leads to hope that allows Gods to pour into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

I want to share with you a poem, the lyrics of a song actually, for those times you’re feeling lost in the wilderness …

The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow – Thomas Dorsey

Like a ship that’s tossed and driven, battered by an angry sea;

When the storms of life are raging, and their fury falls on me,

I wonder what I have done, that makes this race so hard to run;

Then I say to my soul, take courage, the Lord will make a way somehow.


The Lord will make a way somehow, when beneath the cross I bow,

He will take away each sorrow, let Him have your burdens now;

When the loads bears down so heavy the weight is shown upon my brow,

There’s a sweet relief in knowing the Lord will make a way somehow.


Try to do the best in service, try to do the best you can;

When I choose to do the right thing evil’s present on every hand;

I look up and wonder why that good fortune passed me by;

Then I say to my soul, be patient, the Lord will make a way somehow.


The Lord will make a way somehow, when beneath the cross I bow,

He will take away each sorrow, let Him have your burdens now;

When the loads bears down so heavy the weight is shown upon my brow,

There’s a sweet relief in knowing the Lord will make a way somehow.


Often there’s misunderstanding, out of all the good I do;

Go to friends for consolation, and I find them complaining, too;

So many nights I toss in pain, wondering what the day will bring;

Then I say to my soul, be patient, the Lord will make a way somehow.


The Lord will make a way somehow, when beneath the cross I bow,

He will take away each sorrow, let Him have your burdens now;

When the loads bears down so heavy the weight is shown upon my brow,

There’s a sweet relief in knowing the Lord will make a way somehow.

I say to my heart, don’t worry, the Lord will make a way somehow.

While there is pressure from society to succeed and meet a certain standard that the world holds us to, through God and the calling He places on our lives, we are able to achieve what He wants for our lives. So take heart, hang on, because we know … The Lord will make a way somehow.


Katie Cudlipp, Worship Matters

Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:

Faithful Giver of Life, you have done great things for us. In the life and teaching of your Son Jesus, you welcome us into your heart.

Help us open our hearts to others, that we may be ever more willing to offer our hospitality, our support, and our material resources wherever they are needed. Bless these offerings in your holy name.



Adapted from “We Are Hope-Carriers, John van de Laar, Food For The Road: Life Lessons From The Lord’s Table

Thank you for being here this morning, whether in-person or through our live-stream and I hope you found some value in today’s service. Please remember we have one piece of business to take care of after the service so stay if you can.

Now hear this benediction:

            We thank You, Lord, for re-igniting the flame of hope within us, for filling our hearts with light and evicting the darkness, and for giving a new vision of Your glory.

            Go now, as light-bearers to a world in darkness,

            Go now, as hope-carriers to a world in despair;

            Go in the name of Christ, in the love of God and in the power of the Spirit.



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Union Grove UMC
1151 Lane Drive
Friendsville, TN 37737

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