ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Prelude – The Lord’s Prayer, Pianissimo Brothers
- Welcome & Opening Prayer – Rev. Ohle
- Call to Worship – Open My Eyes (UMH 454), Performed by Dean McIntyre
- Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
- Words of God for the People of God – Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
- Anthem – Be Thou My Vision (Lord You Are), Shane & Shane
- Message – Kingdom, Come – Rev. Ohle
- Closing Hymn – Let Revival Come, Kevin Jones, Joshua Sherman & the Emerging Sound
- Benediction – Rev. Ohle
- Postlude – Let Revival Come, Kevin Jones, Joshua Sherman & the Emerging Sound
God, we are so excited and thankful to be here this morning. Thank you for this opportunity to gather in spirit. We ask that you revive us, Lord. Revive this church. Let revival come. May your will and your voice be heard today.
In Christ’s name, we pray.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Father, you continue to bless us, and we give you thanks. You are ever faithful. We know that you bring all things together for our good, and we praise your holy name.
I want to lift up specific people, Lord. I continue to lift to you my sister in Christ. I pray you will heal her from this recent surgery and from those surgeries yet to come. I pray you will strengthen her body to fight away this demon cancer. I ask that you give her comfort and that you give comfort and strength to her husband who is caring for her.
I ask that you also be with another sister in Christ, God. I know the grief of losing a parent and I know that while the loss of her mother was not unexpected it is still painful. Be with her and her family at this time. Help them find peace in this loss.
Be with all those fighting illnesses right now, be it COVID or cancer or some other illness. Give them spirits of courage. Ease their pain and make them whole if it is your will. Guide their caregiver and comfort their families.
Protect our children, Lord. They have little choice in whether they return to school or try to learn from home. Be with all of them. Clear their minds of distractions and their hearts of needless fear. Be with them and with their teachers and the school staff and personnel.
We need healing as a country, too, God. We need an end to all the division, all the bickering, all the refusal to listen to one another, all the false fears being shouted back and forth. We desperately need to find equity and equality for all your children here. Take away the sins of greed and of racism. Help us to learn to love one another and to understand the all are your children.
Guide me, Lord. Take away my stubborn will, my ideas of how things should be, and fill me with your will. Speak through me today and always, Lord. Help me to bring revival to this church, to your children worshipping here with me, to this community. Let revival come.
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.
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 (NSRV)
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
The Parable of the Yeast
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Treasures New and Old
“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
The Word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – KINGDOM, COME
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 quote an article from David Lose who wrote,
“In How to Do Things with Words, philosopher J. L. Austin makes the claim that, contrary to conventional wisdom, words don’t simply describe things but actually make things happen. Words, that is, aren’t merely descriptive but are evocative, even creative. When two persons say, “I do” in the context of a marriage ceremony, for instance, they are not merely describing the relationship they are entering into but actually creating it. And when some says “I love you” or “I hate you” we don’t only hear those words but actually feel the force they exert upon us. Words, in short, are powerful. For this reason, Austin contends that you ultimately know what a word means not from what it says, but from what it does. Is the sentence, “Close the door,” for example, an earnest invitation to greater privacy or an annoyed command to shut out a draft? You don’t know until you feel the force of those words act upon you.”
Austin’s claim about words especially makes sense when you look at the Parables of Jesus. In our passage today, Jesus delivers two parables to the crowds and then three to his disciples.
Imagine you’re one of the people in the crowds and Jesus starts talking about mustard seeds. Jesus is talking about mustard seeds as if mustard plants are the most wonderful thing in the world. This teeny, tiny, barely-can-see-it seed that grows into some kind of giant shrub big enough and strong enough its branches can hold up nesting birds.
Yet to the people hearing this parable, Jesus’ words must have evoked some really odd feelings. You see, mustard was an invasive weed, an unwanted plant, something you tried to get rid of. Those of us who have livestock know just how quickly and completely wild mustard can take over and pretty much ruin a pasture. Once it gets hold of your pasture, it’s a lot like battling kudzu or crabgrass.
And then there’s the Parable of Yeast. We tend to think about yeast as that odd-smelling tan stuff that comes in little packets. Feed a half-ounce of yeast a little sugar and some warm water or milk, mix it with around six cups of flour, let it rest and it will at least double in size to make one loaf of bread.
In Jesus’ time, though, you couldn’t stop by the market and pick up a packet or two of prepared yeast. Yeast was a contaminant that you “harvested” out of the air … literally … by waving a bit of dough around and then waiting to see if you’d captured any.
You knew it was a successful capture because that dough would eventually begin to bubble and grow and not smell particularly good.
But, you’d keep feeding it more flour and water and growing it until you had a well-established “mother.”
And it didn’t stop there, either. You had to continue feeding it, but at least now a small bit taken from the smelly, bubbling mass would become the “yeast” that, when mixed with the meal, would grow and rise to double its size and become bread.
And yet, Jesus had prefaced both of these parables with “The Kingdom of Heaven is like,” essentially comparing the Kingdom of Heaven to the mustard seed and to the yeast. So what point was he trying to make?
In both of these parables, something tiny … a mustard seed and wild yeast so small you can’t see it at all … both grow into something giant in comparison to their original size. Moral of the stories: big things sometimes have small beginnings … or “don’t judge a thing because of its size.”
Maybe, at least on the surface, I imagine that might be a part of what Jesus was telling them that day … a kind of foreshadowing of when he would tell them that if they only had faith as big as a mustard seed, they could say to the mountain, “Move” and it would move.
I’m not sure everyone in the crowd or even anyone in the crowd may have grasped all that he was saying, though … or at least I doubt they would have grasped what “I” hear when I read this passage.
Remember that during his ministry, he stayed mostly in the area of Galilee and spoke mostly to the people of Israel – the Jewish people. A relatively small geographic area and a small portion of all the people in that area.
Most of the people who heard him were not allowed past a certain point in the Temple, who couldn’t go near the Holy of Holies, in fact, who probably had no idea what the Holy of Holies even looked like.
To the people in that crowd, “Heaven” was a place they could only imagine. Even today, Heaven tends to remain a place we only imagine … a place we strive and hope to reach when we leave this earthly life, but a place outside the realm of what we can see, taste, touch, hear, know.
Next, Jesus turned to his disciples and told them yet more parables. The first two were about finding something so beautiful and valuable, you’d sell everything you had and go buy it.
If you go back to before he told these parables to the crowds … if you go back to when the disciples asked him to teach them to pray … “Our Father in Heaven, holy is your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is heaven …”
How often I’ve prayed that prayer! How often his followers had prayed it and didn’t connect the dots between it and these parables.
Father, let your kingdom come and let us do your will here on earth like things are done in heaven …
And His will did come to earth in the form of the Word of God, the Word who was Jesus, who spent his entire ministry doing his utmost best to teach everyone who had ears to hear what God’s will that we are to carry out here on earth was.
The Kingdom has come. The mustard seed and the yeast are the Word of God planted in our hearts. The seed sprouts into faith and the yeast causes that faith to raise us up to become Christ’s disciples … citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. As faithful disciples, we can’t help but share the Good News of Christ, growing our branches out and up farther and farther, and that ever-living yeast rises within the hearts of those we tell, and the Kingdom grows and grows and grows … just like the mustard becomes a giant shrub and the yeast makes all the meal it’s mixed with rise.
That day long ago, the beginning of the Kingdom here on earth was standing right in front of them telling them what the Kingdom of Heaven was like, and it’s not likely that many … if any … would have understood.
Why, then, compare the kingdom of God to an invasive weed and a pollutant? Why throw in stories about finding something so valuable you’d sell everything you had just to buy it.
Why, indeed. He used those examples because both the mustard seed and yeast have this way of spreading beyond anything you’d imagined, infiltrating a system, and taking over a host.
I believe that’s what God’s kingdom is like – potent beyond our imagination and ready to spread to every corner of our lives. Believing that changes things for me. Where I once would have politely declined invitations to a Bible study, to pray, or to worship, I embrace the opportunity now. I have a hard time focusing on anything else.
Reading the Bible, praying, and worshipping on Sunday … and Monday and Tuesday all the way through Saturday … if you thought these things might lead to your life being infiltrated, changed, and taken over by God’s reality and rule, wouldn’t you feel the same way?
And the treasure hidden in the field? The priceless pearl? Before I tell you that, remember that he also told a parable about casting a net into the water, pulling out all kinds of fish, and then sorting out the good ones from the bad.
The good fish in that net listened. The good fish in that net not only listened, but they also heard. They not only heard, they took what they heard into their heart and let it grow through them as leaven grows in the dough to make it rise.
The good ones were that treasure hidden in the field, and Jesus Christ, our Lord, found so much value in the good ones that he purchased the field with his own life.
The priceless pearl? Eternal life in Christ. Nothing … Nothing we could ever, ever obtain is more valuable than that.
And the purchase price for our priceless pearl? Jesus already paid the bill. We have only to believe in him. But he’s asked us to do more. Matthew 28:19 … Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples.” He was calling us to help him build God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. And we have an opportunity to do that through Union Grove.
But … we can’t do that if our commitment to our faith is only an hour each Sunday and reading a few posts throughout the week.
Kingdom building requires that we be constant participants in the Great Commission he’s set before us. We need to be willing to share the Good News with everyone. We need to ask everyone to join us. Invite them. Lead them to him.
We don’t need to think about how or when or where. We need to start right now, today. We need to seek revival of our faith, our church, our community, our world.
Pick up the phone. Call a friend, a family member, a neighbor. Tell them what you heard hear today. Invite them to worship with you. For now, it’s as easy as sharing the link to each week’s video. Invite them to fellowship with you by sharing links to the website, the Facebook page, and the new Facebook fellowship group.
This is how the first churches were built all those centuries ago. Where now we hide ourselves away from a virus, then they hid away from Rome and the Temple priests, but still, their community grew and we can, too.
Tear down any fences between you and others, and build relationships instead. Break bread with them. Pray with them. Encourage them. And make sharing the Good News your personal and primary mission. It’s a small price to pay for being given that priceless pearl, don’t you think?
Our Father in Heaven, you are holy and your Kingdom has begun here on earth as it is in Heaven. We want to help you grow your Kingdom, God. Plant in us seeds of faith. Let the leavening of your Holy Spirit fill us to overflowing. Grow us into disciples that take firm root in your Word. Let us cast the net of your Good News. Let our nets be filled with good fish. Revive us, Lord, we pray.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
If you have found some of the good bread of Christ here this day, then don’t hesitate to share it with others.
For this is the bread that increases the more it is given away, and nourishes us best in the presence of goodwill and laughter.
Go on your way in good spirits, for the best is yet to come.
The grace of our Saviour, the love of our Creator, and the friendship of our Enabler will be with us this day and evermore.
Stay safe, stay home if you can, wash your hands, wear a mask if you must go out, tell someone the Good News, and go in peace.
God be with you.
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.