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.
Sirach 16:22-29, 17, and 18
Listen to me, daughters and sons, listen closely to what I say, as I pr4ovide to you sound instructions and teach you accurate knowledge.
In the beginning, when God created everything and assigned each its place in the order of creation, the Almighty placed each of them within an eternal rhythm, and fixed their limits for all time.
They would not know hunger, or grow tired, or desert their posts.
None of them would ever disturb its neighbor or disobey God’s word.
Then God looked down on the earth, and filled it with innumerable blessings, populating its surface with every form of life, life that must go back into it when their work is done.
God formed humankind from the earth, and made us from in the divine image; God gave us a limited number of days on earth, and makes us go back into it when our work is done.
God endows humankind with strength, and made us responsible for everything on the earth.
God put into all living things a fear of us, and granted us a preeminent role over animals and birds.
God shaped for us mouths and tongues, eyes and ears, and gives us an understanding heart.
God filled us with wisdom and knowledge, and showed us both good and evil.
God tends our hearts, and lets us appreciate the splendor of God’s work.
We, in turn, are to praise God’s holy Name, and tell the splendor of everything God does.
God gave us knowledge, and endowed us with life’s laws.
God joined in an eternal covenant with humankind, and disclosed to us the commandments.
We saw God’s glorious splendor with our own eyes; we heard the glory of God’s voice with our own ears.
God said to us, “Do no evil!” and gave each of us rules of conduct toward our neighbor.
Our conduct is always visible to the Almighty; we cannot hide ourselves from God’s view.
God sets us rulers for each nation – except Israel, where God alone reigns.
Everything we do is as clear as the sun to God, God’s eyes see everything we do.
Our injustices cannot be hidden from God, and all our sins are before God.
Our acts of charity are cherished like a signet ring to God; our good works makes one “the apple of God’s eye.”
And later God will rise up and repay us, give each of us what we deserve.
But God also opens a way to the penitent, and encourages those who are losing hope: return to God and abandon your sin; face God and curtail your offenses; return to God and renounce evil; have intense hatred for what God hates.
Who can worship God from the grave, when it’s the living who offer their praise?
The dead can’t praise God any more than those who never lived; people express their gratitude only when alive and well.
How great is God’s mercy! God’s forgiveness is open to all who come back!
Humans don’t have that capacity for forgiveness, for we are not immortal.
Is anything brighter than the sun? Even it undergoes ecli8pse.
How much more in shadow, then, are the thoughts of mortals?
God judges entire hosts of heavenly beings – but all we are is dust and ashes.
The One who lives forever is supreme judge, without exception; God is the only one who knows true justice.
Who has the capacity to proclaim all God’s creation, who is there who can tell all God’s might acts?
Who can measure God’s majestic power, let alone tell the story of all God’s mercies?
No one can add to, or take from, or fully comprehend the marvels of God – when we think we’ve finally understood, we’re only beginning, and when we stop, we’re as confused as ever.
What is a human being, and what is its purpose?
What does its good signify, and its evilness?
A person’s life span is considered great if it runs one hundred years; compared to the length of eternity, our few years here are a drop of water, a grain of sand.
Now you can understand God’s patience with us; now you see why God showers us with mercy.
The Almighty sees and understand how grievous death is to us, and so forgives us all the more.
Our compassion is for our neighbor; God’s compassion is for us all.
God disciplines, corrects, and teaches us, and reclaims us as the shepherd with the flock.
The Almighty is compassionate to those who agree to discipline and eagerly obey God’s laws.
Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called Children of God.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Let Us Wage Peace
Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free. From Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.
Today’s message may be a bit longer, folks, but stay with me. You see war is easy to start. Peace is a much slower process and much harder work.
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.
In the wise word of Rev. Timoth Sylvia, “I do not in any way possess the depth of knowledge and understanding that would allow me to speak in any way as an authority in regard to what has been and is currently happening in Israel and Palestine.
“What I can do is speak in regard to the horrific human tragedy that is occurring. As someone who continues to commit my life to following the teachings of Jesus, to model my life after the life that he modelled for us, I can say that watching what’s happening in Israel and Palestine breaks my heart.
“My heart breaks for those who lost loved ones, either those that were killed or those that were taken.
“My heart breaks for those that were taken, for those that have been harmed, abused, and killed.
“My heart breaks for the communities that have been destroyed, devastated; the families, the friends that grieve and fear for their lives.
“My … heart … breaks.
“My heart breaks also that there are people in this world who, in an effort to dehumanize others, feel that it is in some way necessary or appropriate to take the lives of others, to cause so much tragedy inflicted upon others.
“My heart breaks for those whose hearts have hardened that brings them to that point where it doesn’t matter who it is that’s on the other end of the abuse as long as they somehow gain a position of power through it. For them, too, my heart breaks.
“And my heart breaks for those throughout the world, in my community and other communities across our nation and so far beyond who are impacted by the violence that is occurring.
“One day, may there be peace. One day may we see one another as the beautiful humans that we have been created to be. One day may wars cease and violence end.”
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making a circle with no end and no God.
— Yehuda Amichai, “The Diameter of the Bomb”
The United Methodist Church believes that “war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ. We insist that the first moral duty of all nations is to work together to resolve by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among nations.” (2016 United Methodist Social Principles, ¶ 165.C)
On October 9, the United Methodist Council of Bishops issued the following statement:
They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)
In a world already consumed with political unrest and conflict, the recent attacks by Hamas against Israel only add to the reality that the prophetic words from Isaiah are needed now more than ever.
As a people who pray for and work toward peace, we in the United Methodist family are appalled, and dismayed by the animosities and inhumane actions undertaken by Hamas. The declaration of war on the part of Israel as a result is also deeply saddening. In just a few hours since this latest outbreak of violence more than 1000 people have died. We condemn the Hamas militants who have killed and captured civilians, women, and children in Israel. We equally decry the deaths of innocent civilians, women and children caught in the crossfire of the Israeli retaliation in the Gaza Strip.
Our own Book of Resolutions (2016) states clearly, “We seek for all people in the Middle East region an end to military occupation, freedom from violence, and full respect for the human rights of all under international law.”
As a result, today we call on all United Methodists to renew a deepened commitment to pray for those who have been injured, abducted, or killed, and to deepen our prayers for those who have suddenly lost a loved one.
The power of and belief in our intercessions cannot be underestimated. Pray for those who are providing support and care for those directly affected. More than that, pray that God’s peace will permeate throughout the land and in the hearts of all those who are initiating this conflict.
In addition, we call on all congregations and leaders to begin initiating special offerings, directed to our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), to provide specific resources to assist in providing shelter, food, and other necessities to those who have been left homeless, helpless, and afraid.
Friends, we are called to be a people of prayer, a people of hope, and a people of action. Our role should never be minimized, especially in a time when global conflicts are emerging with more frequency. As we watch the news unfold, let us not delay in moving into meaningful responses.
Most of all, let us remain a people of hope who look to the fulfilment of those prophetic words by Isaiah. We look to the days when:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. In that day, the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. (Isaiah 11:5-6)
May it be so. May it be so.
In preparing for today’s message, I searched for an unbiased understanding of the conflicts between Israel and Palestine. Trust me when I say that is not an easy task, especially right now when tensions are high. I finally found the most unbiased information I could in the writings of a man who has spent over half his life working to negotiate peace between the two parties to the benefit of each, that man being President Jimmy Carter. My research took me through four of his many books: The Blood of Abraham: Insights into the Middle East, We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land, Beyond the White House, and Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.
In The Blood of Abraham, Pres. Carter writes, “In dealing with conflict and the prospects for peace in the Middle East, there is no way to escape the realization of how intimately intertwined are the history, the aspirations, and the fate of two long-suffering peoples, the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs.
“In simplest terms, the Arab-Israeli conflict is a struggle between two national identities for control of territory, but there are also historic, religious, strategic, political, and psychological issues that color the confrontation and retard its amicable solution. What each wants is no less than recognition, acceptance, independence, sovereignty, and territorial identity. Neither officially recognizes the other’s existence, so any testing of intentions must be done through uncertain intermediaries. Both seek worldwide approval and financial, moral, and logistical support from external allies and from one of the superpowers. Each side fears total destruction or complete denial by the other, this worry being fed by a history of violence and hatred, during which each tried to delegitimize the other while propounding vigorously the unique and exclusive merits of its own cause.
From A.D. 135, when the Roman Emperor Hadrian completed the suppression of the Jewish revolt in Palestine, slaughtering and scattering the population, the pain of the Diaspora compounded by intense racial persecution has been an ever-present motivation for the Jews to return to their biblical home and to create the State of Israel as a refuge. For Jews, Israel has been the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and the culmination of a dream to establish and live under a government of their own choice.
The Palestinians are suffering from similar circumstances of homelessness, scattered as they are throughout many nations, and their desire for self-determination and their own national homeland has also aroused strong worldwide support. The Palestinians, like the Jews, claim to be driven by religious conviction based on the promises of God, and they consider themselves to have comprised the admixture of all peoples including the ancient Hebrews who dwelt in Palestine, their homeland, since earliest biblical times.
Over the years, both Moslem and Christian Palestinians have suffered from isolation and neglect at the hands of their own Arab brethren and now insist that, through no fault of their own, they are being forced to give up more and more of their ancestral land to make way for the expanding Jewish sanctuary of Israel. While maintaining the legal and moral claim on their homeland, those who remain in Palestine – specifically in the West Bank and Gaza – have had to choose between moving into exile or continuing to live under military rule. Their sense of frustration and despair is increased by their relative impotence in redressing these grievances. They are obsessed with the dream of someday living under a government of their own choice.
Despite – or perhaps because of – these vivid similarities of ancient and recent history, Israelis and Palestinians generally scorn and despise each other and usually deny that there is any parallel between their circumstances. It is as though to recognize in any way the legitimacy of their adversary’s case would mean the weakening of their own.”
Rafik Schami wrote in Damascus Nights, “You know, when an emigrant needs something to hold on to, a spider web looks like a wooden beam.”
Lamentations 1:12 says, “Look carefully and see if there could possibly be pain like my pain, like the one bestowed by You upon me.”
In his book President Carter gave us the simplest description he could of the conflicts between Israel and Palestine. After reading the four books I mentioned yesterday, I can assure you it is far more complex and there are dark forces and characters on both sides of the present tensions for many years. Both Israel and Palestine have what the world has come to all “hard right factions” that are armed, angry, and who hold power over their citizens. Both Israel and Palestine also have many citizens who simply want to coexist peacefully. Both Israel and Palestine have experienced horrific atrocities at the hands of their enemies – the Holocaust for the Jewish people at the hands of Hitler, and the Nakba for the Palestinian people at the hands of Israeli Zionists. And for both Israel and Palestine, the memories of those atrocities are like wounds reopened and bleeding profusely at this point.
Zeina Azzam, a Palestinian-American poet and Poet Laureate of Alexandria, Virginia wrote the following poem called “A Grammar for Fleeing.”
Hudood, the word for border,
looms in her mind’s vocabulary
like a passive voice, a noun for longing.
Maybe the undulating line runs in water
or in sand, splays on the imagined cover
of a passport, map for a new home.
She has vowed to cross it, daughter on her hip,
two legs doggedly moving apace,
two legs suspended, bare.
She plans to learn the other side
like a foreign language:
first the stones as single utterances,
then the houses and hills, sentences.
The scenes will warm in the light of the sun.
Now it’s dark and the little girl
is ensconced in her arms, eyes closed,
but a lulling breeze could spell betrayal
if they aren’t careful. She reaches
between her breasts for the pendant
inscribed with amal, hope, rubs it
like a magic lamp. The din of conversation
starts to rise as light gathers at the horizon,
where the singular message of true East
has grounded her since childhood.
Lay low, look west, wait for the boat.
She understands the grammar for fleeing,
unspoken rules that decide how
the journey will end, when words
like harb, war, and joo`, hunger,
might ebb and not flow.
Her toddler wakes asking for water
while the sea responds with crashing waves.
For a moment, pause and reflect – if you can even imagine – what it must be like for both Israeli and Palestinian citizens right now.
So, then, what is the solution? How is peace to be achieved when the words of the 2003 Blackeyed Peas hit, Where Is the Love are so poignantly apt 20 years later …
But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate, then you’re bound to get irate, yeah
Madness is what you demonstrate
And that’s exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y’all, y’all
People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt, hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach
Or would you turn the other cheek?
Father, Father, Father, help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (love)
Love is what’s missing or maybe what’s misdirected. Christ told us to love one another as we ourselves are loved, but too often we fail to do so. And peace? The peace he left with us? Well, in the words of the iconic hymn, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…”
You see, it has to begin with me … and with you … with each of us. In his January 2016 article for Sojourner, Let Us Wage Peace, Joe Kay wrote, “Many of us just completed the Christmas season with its message of peace on earth, goodwill to all people. Now we celebrate a holiday remembering the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who showed us what it means to wage peace.
Yes, we have to wage peace. It doesn’t just happen. It involves the courage and commitment to work through our disagreements without hurting each other. And it starts with each of us individually, with how we conduct our daily lives.
It’s not up to only the politicians and world leaders. Peace does indeed begin with you and me.
As with all things divine, peace is personal. It starts inside of each of us. We can bring peace into our world only to the extent that we’ve brought it into our own lives first.
We can’t bring peace into the world if we’re not living it each day. We have to pay attention to how we think of ourselves and others, take a hard look at how we’re treating others.
If we see our interests and needs as more important than the interests and needs of others, then we’ll never have peace in our personal lives or in our world. Peace requires a recognition that we’re all equally beloved children of the same loving God.
It involves recognizing that we all matter equally — and then doing some introspection to see if we’re living up to it in our various relationships.
When we have those moments of disagreement and frustration and misunderstanding – things that occur in every relationship – how do we respond? Do we run away and abandon the relationship? Do we get defensive? Do we lash out others? Do we dig in and try to get things our way? Or are we committed to working through it with mutual respect and compromise?
We can’t work through the inevitable disagreements peacefully unless we have a commitment to respect others and to listen to what they’re saying. We have to be willing to try to put ourselves in their place and see the situation through their eyes. We have to listen – really listen – to what they’re trying to tell us.
This goes for relationships between people and relationships between nations. Listening and understanding bring our compassion and empathy to bear on the moment and transforms it into something healthy and good. We recognize that the other person is worthy of our time and attention. We extend a mutual respect. We listen to their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their concerns, their pain. We share ours with them.
Only then can we figure out how to work it out. There is lots of listening involved in waging peace. A lot of patience and compromise and trust, too. And most of all, lots of respect.
Once we start living a deeper peace in our personal lives, we can grow it in our communities, our nations, our world. But it takes persistence and commitment and courage because there are always going to be those who don’t want peace. They prefer the haze of anger and recrimination and conflict. We have to be committed to showing a different way by living a different way. We have to challenge the illusion that peace can grow from a gun barrel or a bomb crater. Coercion never brings real peace. The two are as different as planting a seed and burying a body.
One other thing about peace: It always comes at a cost. We have to be willing to sacrifice for it, to take risks for it, to grow into it. We’ve paid a huge cost for our endless wars; now it’s time to pay the smaller price for waging peace. Part of the price is giving up our indifference and our inclination to throw up our hands at the first sign of conflict. Waging peace means working to change relationships – personal relationships, social relationships – where people are being treated unjustly. Where respect isn’t being given to the other person.
The Rev. King noted that genuine peace is not the absence of tension, but the presence of justice. Making sure each person is treated with the respect they deserve as a child of God. And there’s always going to be a creative and holy tension to the process.
How much do we really want peace in our lives and in our world? If there’s no peace, it’s because we’ve decided it’s not worth the effort. We’re not willing to answer the summons to bring peace on earth, starting with each of us. It always begins with me.”
We, Moslem, Jew, Christian … we are all people of God … the same God … with shared histories and even many shared beliefs. And we, Moslem, Jew, and Christian, must each do our part to bring about peace beginning with ourselves.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let There Be Peace on Earth
The peace that was meant to be
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With ev’ry step I take
Let this be my solemn vow
To take each moment and live
Each moment in peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
We, Moslem, Jew and Christian must wage peace, not war. We must stand against those who would exploit these ongoing tensions for personal, political, ideological, or theological gain. Our calls for peace, our waging peace must be more visible, more tangible, louder than their cries for vengeance and war.
Let’s pray in the words of Rabbi Tamara Cohen, “No Pain Like Our Pain”
Dear God, help us look,
look closer so that we may see
our children in their children,
their children in our own.
Help us look so that we may see You –
in the bleary eyes of each orphan, each grieving childless mother,
each masked and camouflaged fighter for his people’s dignity.
Dear God, Divine Exiled and Crying One,
Loosen our claim to our own uniqueness.
Soften this hold on our exclusive right – to pain, to compassion, to justice.
May your children, all of us unique and in Your image,
come to know the quiet truths of shared pain,
In Sh’Allah. Ken Yehi Ratzon.
May it be Your will.
And may it be ours.
Confession and Prayers of the People
The act of confessing our mistakes is not simply a recitation of our faults and wrongs, but also an opportunity to receive God’s mercy and share in that abundant grace. When we pray for the church and the world, we lock into the loving things God wants for humanity.
Confident of God’s love for us, let us offer our prayers:
Holy God, we ask for your help, your power, your Spirit, so that we can amend our lives and grow more each day into the image of Christ.
All too often, we tell you we will do better, and be better, and then just go on living the same way we always have.
Hear us God, as we tell you of our failures and faithlessness, so we can go forth to work in that kingdom of grace and hope.
O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the needs of others
Open my ears that I may hear their cries;
Open my heart so that they need not be without succor;
Let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong,
Nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
And use me to bring them to those places.
And so open my eyes and my ears
That I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee. (Alan Paton, UMH 456)
God of mercy and compassion,
of grace and reconciliation,
pour your power upon all your children in the Middle East:
Jews, Muslims and Christians,
Palestinians and Israelis.
Let hatred be turned into love, fear to trust, despair to hope,
oppression to freedom, occupation to liberation,
that violent encounters may be replaced by loving embraces,
and peace and justice could be experienced by all. (Reverend Said Ailabouni)
We are moulded, each one of us,
in the image of God,
and within our souls there is a fingerprint
none can erase.
We pray for those who have no regard
for anyone but self,
who put no value on human life.
For nations and individuals who abuse and kill.
We are not called to be judge or jury,
but we are called to be agents of change,
and if the butterfly that flaps its wings
should be our attitude to others
then so be it, Lord,
and may the hurricane this generates
somewhere within the world
reach into the hearts and souls of those
for whom we pray, and reveal to them
how precious are those
for whom they have no love,
and how precious are they
who now bring tears to the eyes of God. (John Birch)
We pray for the power to be gentle;
the strength to be forgiving;
the patience to be understanding;
and the endurance to accept the consequences
of holding on to what we believe to be right.
May we put our trust in the power of good to overcome evil
and the power of love to overcome hatred.
We pray for the vision to see and the faith to believe
in a world emancipated from violence,
a new world where fear shall no longer lead men or women to commit injustice,
nor selfishness make them bring suffering to others.
Help us to devote our whole life and thought and energy
to the task of making peace,
praying always for the inspiration and the power
to fulfill the destiny for which we and all men and women were created. (Unknown)
You, Holy Friend, are more eager to give than we are to receive. Deal firmly with your servants wherever we are gathered, God, Creator of all that was, is, and shall be, Keep us from assuming the worst of others. Increase our capacity for critical thinking and radical love. Rip out any theology of hatred, and show us the value of every human being. All made in your image. All worthy of liberation and joy. Give us the courage to be peacemakers, even in the midst of today’s heartbreak. Keep us soft towards humility. Keep us fiercely kind. (Carlos Rodriguez, The Happy Givers)
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