ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Call to Worship – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Hymn: Spirit of Faith, Come Down (UMH 332)
- Opening Prayer – Congregation
- Prayer of Confession – UMH 893
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Peace Prayer – UMH 449 – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Peace Hymn: For One Great Peace (TFWS 2185)
- Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
- Message: Lookin’ for Life in All the Wrong Places – Rev. Val
- Hymn: Move Me (UMH 471) & Lead Me, Lord (UMH 473)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Hymn: Bread of the World (UMH 624)
- Service of Holy Communion
- Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95/Song Sheet)
- Benediction – Rev. Val
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 scripture readings and the message. The majority of the other content (minus the message) is available through our weekly digital/email bulletin (you can sign up on our Contact Us page). Union Grove UMC began celebrating Holy Communion weekly as part of our regular worship service on July 17, 2022. 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.
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 – The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!
What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation– I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.
When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 – Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.
By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old–and Sarah herself was barren–because he considered him faithful who had promised.
Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
Luke 12:32-40 – “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Lookin’ for Life in All the Wrong Places
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.
I’ve spent a lot of my life looking for life in all the wrong places. You see, I didn’t just plug my ears to God. At times, I wore blinders and when I wasn’t wearing blinders, I was wearing rose-colored glasses. And in between the ear plugs and blinders and rose-colored glasses, there were countless times when everything was dark and loud and seemed like more than I could take. Somehow, I muddled through it all and here I am today, but I need to admit that there are plenty of times even now that I find myself muddling through and still looking for Life in all the wrong places.
We have most likely all done this … looked at what we thought would give us the life we wanted, only to find out later … sometimes after a great deal of suffering … that it wasn’t a life we could live after all. While you might think about it as your bucket of regrets, I would encourage you not to. I don’t regret anything or see it as lost time because I learned something from every bit of it and, while I don’t consider myself wise by any measure, I do know that I’m a better person today than I was yesterday or last year or 10, 20, 30, even 50 years ago because I have learned. And I’m hear today because of God’s grace … His unending grace. To paraphrase Brené Brown, “His grace means that all my mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame. And that’s what His grace … that thing He gives freely and that we cannot earn … is all about.
If you think about it, that’s what the Bible reveals to us … the story and glory of God’s unending grace. We’ve been reading some of the prophets the last few weeks and they seem to be about God being angry with his people … and God had … and has … every reason to be angry with his people … but he always, always, always gives his people grace. Every single time. And the greatest extension of that grace he ever extended to His children, to us … was when he sent the Divine Word, Emmanuel, God With Us … in the person of Jesus of Nazareth … to be with us, to literally live with and walk among us. That is truly Amazing Grace.
Look at the passage from Isaiah. Once again, God’s children are looking for life in all the wrong places. Oh, they’re doing all the things the Torah tells them to do. They’re making a plethora of burnt offerings of the finest bulls and lambs, praying, observing every ritual at the time they’re supposed to observe it, and God says they should just stop it all … he likens them to the rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah … why? Because their worship is insincere and hollow. They’re coming not to worship, but to “appear” before God. When they’re not doing all that, their hands were full of blood. They were guilty of murder, of violently seizing the property of others, and of oppression, all, to quote noted commentarian, Matthew Henry, “under colour of law and justice. The people shed blood, and the rulers did not punish them for it; the rulers shed blood, and the people were aiding and abetting … Malice is heart-murder in the account of God; he that hates his brother in his heart has, in effect, his hands full of blood.”
The people that Isaiah was addressing were looking for life in wrong places. They were killing and plundering and oppressing others in order to amass personal and national wealth and power. Sound familiar? There are a lot of people today who are also looking for life in the wrong places and using laws to do so. Laws to protect the wealth of those who have are already wealth at the expense of those who are poor. Laws to protect one specific race over all others through oppression and suppression of all other races. Laws passed in the name of God that assert one set of religious beliefs above all others by lawmakers claiming to worship God. It makes one wonder.
Isaiah told the people he was addressing that there was a way to turn it around, to make their worship and prayers and offerings means something, be once again pleasing to God. And that was to turn themselves around and do what they knew, had known for centuries now, they were supposed to be doing.
Quoting Matthew Henry’s commentary on Isaiah 1 again, “It is not enough that we cease to do evil, but we must learn to do well.
(1.) We must be doing, not cease to do evil and then stand idle.
(2.) We must be doing good, the good which the Lord our God requires and which will turn to a good account.
(3.) We must do it well, in a right manner and for a right end; and,
(4.) We must learn to do well; we must take pains to get the knowledge of our duty, be inquisitive concerning it, in care about it, and accustom ourselves to it, that we may readily turn our hands to our work and become masters of this holy art of doing well. He urges them particularly to those instances of well-doing wherein they had been defective, to second-table duties: “Seek judgment; enquire what is right, that you may do it; be solicitous to be found in the way of your duty, and do not walk carelessly. Seek opportunities of doing good: Relieve the oppressed, those whom you yourselves have oppressed; ease them of their burdens, ch. 58:6. You, that have power in your hands, use it for the relief of those whom others do oppress, for that is your business. Avenge those that suffer wrong, in a special manner concerning yourselves for the fatherless and the widow, whom, because they are weak and helpless, proud men trample upon and abuse; do you appear for them at the bar, on the bench, as there is occasion. Speak for those that know not how to speak for themselves and that have not wherewithal to gratify you for your kindness.” Note, We are truly honouring God when we are doing good in the world; and acts of justice and charity are more pleasing to him than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices.”
In other words, look for life in the right place … the life God would have us live, the life God has given us to live.
Which is not an easy thing to do. Even though God has given us the tools, the gifts we need to do what it is He wills for us, our history and culture have done their best to rewire us in a different direction. We’re supposed to achieve. The level of achievement we’ve succeeded in attaining is measured by what we have amassed. It’s not only measured in that manner, but also by comparing it to what our neighbors have amassed. Keep up with the Joneses is now outshine the Joneses, and if the Joneses are somehow harmed by your achievements, oh well. It’s all part of the game and the Joneses just weren’t trying hard enough.
It takes a lot of faith and effort to do what Isaiah said God was requiring. You have to trust the 1) God is here and with you, and 2) God has provided gifts for you already and will continue to provide for you.
The passage from the letter to the Hebrews talks about that faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The author of the letter who most bible scholars believe to be Paul reminds us of Abraham’s faith in things not seen as an example of what happens when you consciously work at maintaining that level of faith.
Our faith, individually and collectively, is built on the stories of people like Abraham and so many others, at first handed down orally generation after generation, and then eventually written down by Moses, by the Prophets and their scribes, and by the Apostles. People who, like us, were looking for life … many times in the wrong place, but always when they turned back to God and later when they followed Jesus finding life in the right place.
Jesus constantly and continuously teaches and reminds us of the Way we need to follow to find life in the right place. In the passage from Luke, he tells us to always be ready as if there could be a knock at the door any moment and there he’ll be. He tells us not to focus on all that achieving and amassing stuff, but to live simply and to be generous toward others; that doing so is how we build up riches in heaven. Those riches in heaven are far more important than any riches we might amass here on earth.
I know how hard it is to maintain that kind of faith. I know what it is to give something, some problem, some issue to God and then snatch it right back. I know what it is to make bargain prayers like you’re starring in an episode of Pawn Stars, trying to get the best deal you can. I’ve been guilty of only consciously praying when I wanted something or needed something. I know what it’s like when the voices in my head are so loud, God seems to go totally silent, sometimes for long periods of time. And I know what it’s like to pray unanswered prayer after unanswered prayer and feel like I’ve lost any faith I had.
But I also know what it’s like when, out of the blue and at my lowest possible points, my every sense knows I’m not alone and knows who is standing there with me. I know where every blessing small or large comes from, and sometimes I even remember to say thank you. It’s taken me a lot of years, but more and more often, I catch myself looking for life in wrong places, and I’m getting better and better at looking for life in the right place. The right place starts at the foot of the cross. The right place starts at remembering all He went through, all he did for me, for us. It starts there and starting there leads me back to where I need to be.
There are so many wrong places out there, far too many of them in under a banner claiming to be of God. People so desperate to find the life they think or have been told they want that they give their last dollars because someone standing in a pulpit like this told them doing so would net them a ten-fold return. People that have been taught by someone standing in a pulpit like this one to fear anyone who doesn’t look, think, love, vote, believe like they do that they go to great and even violent ends to protect the life they think they have. People who have, many without even realizing it, been taught by someone standing in a pulpit just like this one to worship a flag while waving a gun, that forced pregnancy is pro-life, but welfare for the child born is socialism and the widows and orphans and poor and oppressed just haven’t worked hard enough.
There are people out there who look for life in a drug or a drink. There are people out there who look for life in making more and more and more money no matter what making it costs them or costs anyone else.
There are so many people out there looking for life in all the wrong places. And friends, it’s on us … it’s what we do in how we live, in how we interact with them, in whether we find the words to tell them about the looking for life at the foot of the cross.
Rev. Stephen Kliewer wrote this week,
We lost a mare the other day
Our beautiful buckskin dun, with the soulful eyes
Who greeted us eagerly each day
And nursed her beautiful son so faithfully
Perhaps the trauma of giving birth
Moved things around
A twisted gut
Vet Randy said
it was horrible and terrifying
as she ran blindly, and cast herself down
rolling and flailing
trying to remove the pain
my heart still hurts
and my heart hurts too
each time I find myself reading, or hearing the words
of other creatures in pain
not in physical pain
but in a sort of emotional, spiritual, moral pain
that has them blindly
mindless of who they hurt
mindless of how they hurt themselves
I read the vitriolic words of those
who would demean and minimize others
I read as being “woke” is demonized
I watch as women are objectified and diminished into baby machines
As people are demeaned and diminished
I watch as justice is subverted
And people’s right to vote is taken away
And the planet is plundered
I see the blind devotion to guns and violence
I see hate rule the day
and what I see is pain
a pain that is so intense it blinds
blinds people to reason
but most of all blinds them to other people
that black person
that LGBTQI person
that raped child
that person with mental illness
that old person lingering on the edge of poverty
they all disappear
and all that is left is the pain
of losing power
the fear of things changing
Isaiah warned us,
Jesus confirmed it
“You will indeed listen but never understand, and you will indeed look but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes, so that they might not look with their eyes,
and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn — and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13)
our world is in pain
people are in pain
and pain, it appears, begets pain
as our attempts to deal with our pain makes us mindless
and (too many times) heartless
may we turn
turn to Love
turn to the One who can heal
so that we will not be cast down
so that we can see
not just ourselves (clearly and honestly)
not just the truth
but see each person we meet
child of God
child of God
Lord, we’re doing our best here. We’re trying to stay the course, but we stumble, fall, and get off track. Lead us back. We’re trying to lean into and live the life you’ve created us to live. Be with us. Strengthen us. Not our, but thy will be done. In Jesus name, amen.
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