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.
*Scriptures this morning come from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition.
MESSAGE – Make It Make Sense
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 told you in the promo ads I’ve posted since early February for today’s service that I would do my best to “make it make sense” because frankly and honestly … right now … Nothing makes sense. Not the laws that have been passed, not the bills that are yet to be decided, not the unfair and untrue allegations toward this community, and most definitely, not the fact that so many who are doing these things claim to be Christians … little Christs.
And I’ve been searching for the sense in all this ever since.
I could tell you that it is the fault of literally centuries of patriarchy … of men being held as being higher than women, of white men being held higher than men of color, of rich men being held in higher status than poor men. I could excuse the behavior of people today by pointing out at least 16 centuries of the incursion of governments into the Church and the Church into governments. I could even tell you that it has much to do with the bad theology of reading the scriptures as if God came down to earth in person, typeset the pages of scriptures in Americanized English, printed, copied, bound in leather, stamped the name of a 17th century King that hadn’t been born yet onto that leather cover, and magically delivered them to every Christian leader and household.
And everything I could tell you would be true of the long history of Christianity and a portion of Christians today. But there’s something else I need to tell you … and this is the part that brings me … and I hope you … hope that a better, brighter, more inclusive time is coming.
Every 500 or so years … give or take a 100 … the Christian church goes through an upheaval … a kind of purging of all the toxins … and something new is born. In other words, the Christian church goes through the process of deconstruction.
The things that no longer work for people wanting to grow their relationship, their closeness with God are shed, stripped away, in an effort to get back to the core … the basics … that Christ taught us.
It’s a messy process overall. Those shedding away old traditions that have been proven unnecessary or no longer valid are called names, declared to be heathens, pagans, devil worshippers, abominations by those who are desperately clinging to the past. According to Phyllis Tickle, we are witnessing and participating in just such an upheaval in the universal church … a period she has dubbed the Great Emergence. And it is one of the most massive upheavals in the history of the church.
This upheaval has those who want to cling to the ways of the past … to patriarchy and hierarchy … terrified that they will lose the power they’ve been wielding for the last 500 years. As well they should and will. That’s just how society and religion work. But they’re not going to go quietly into that dark night and they are striking out in every way possible. Further, and where in the past the government has largely manipulated and controlled the church, we are in a period where a religion has infiltrated and is controlling the government … here and in other nations as well. Iran is a good example. And, in yet other nations, two different religions are vying for power over one another.
Patriarchy, especially the Christian version, is the most threatened. Patriarchy not only requires that men be in control, it requires that women know their place in the hierarchy. A woman’s job is to make sure the man’s needs are met and that heirs are produced. Any relationship that doesn’t meet that criteria is, therefore, a threat to the patriarchy.
The other thing that is threatening the patriarchy is the falling away from the church that has been happening over the last few decades and is growing exponentially. Who can the patriarchy wield its power over if there is no one sitting in its great hall? If we’re all out here thumbing our noses at their complementarian ways and their literal reading of the scriptures, if we’re standing up calling them out for their antiquated traditions, if we’re holding them responsible for the many atrocities they’ve committed in the name of the God they claim to worship and the Christ they claim as their savior … well, you can imagine their angst.
For centuries, religious leaders used fear of damnation and even death to administer the laws set forth in the Hebrew Bible … 600 and some laws … and as humans, it was a constant battle to not break them. Punishment for breaking the laws was harsh, at times even deadly. No wonder they continued to pray and wait for the coming of the Messiah! Especially after they, themselves were conquered and living under the thumb of the Roman empire.
And then came Jesus … God With Us, God In the Flesh … Jesus who demonstrated a new way to live, who turned religion right side up … unless you were a religious leader at the time … if you were, you’d feel like he was turning it upside down.
Jesus came to teach the world what God was like, what it meant to live in the Kingdom here … on earth. We commemorate the birth of Jesus with a special holy day, and we commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus with a week of special holy days a few months later … but it is the life of Jesus, especially the three years of his ministry as an adult, which is the most important thing he brought us.
And that’s where many in the universal church get it wrong and in getting it wrong create the mess that we are trying to make sense of. They celebrate his birth because he had to be born so that 33 years later he could be crucified, die, be buried and be resurrected. The crucifixion is important because it was from the cross that he declared forgiveness for all of us, and it is accepting that forgiveness that gets us that special golden ticket to eternal life in heaven.
Too many in the patriarchal church skip those years between his birth and his resurrection. They don’t just skip it, they totally ignore it. They focus on the Old Testament scriptures, bringing legalism back into play, they read the letters Paul wrote to the early churches through the lens of legalism, and they read John’s revelation as an end time prophecy. The God they worship remains the judgmental, wrathful God of the Old Testament and they pray to that God for blessings of prosperity and power, and for eradication of their perceived enemies. And, of course, their perceived enemies are any of us who dare not conform to their ideologies.
It can be tempting to blame our families, our parents who have rejected us, our neighbors for not loving us, but the ways of the patriarchal church are ingrained in many of them … have been handed down generation to generation like a genetic deformity. And we must forgive them for that generational trauma they suffer. I know that sounds hard, but forgiveness is for our sake, more than for theirs. God, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us …
We can, to some degree, empathize with those in power that are so threatened by us their response is to enforce their beliefs on others. Think about that … they’re accusing an innocent community of grooming and indoctrinating others, especially children … when that’s exactly what they’ve been doing for centuries and are doing with the laws they’re passing …
We again, need to go back to what Jesus taught in those years between birth and resurrection … Throughout history we have struggled to remember who we are in Christ. When forces of evil work to shape our understanding of God, ourselves, and one another, we get lost. We hide parts of ourselves. We keep the things that make us vulnerable buried deep. We cling to security and safety. We turn from meaningful connection with one another. We take cover under the patterns of our culture.
But God has created us for so much more.
In Jesus we saw a life lived in all its potential.
Life that is abundant, life that is collective, life that is tender and full.
But we saw, also, in him, what can happen to a life when power and norms are exchanged for truth, collective justice, and integrity. And so we wonder.
If we live true to our authentic selves, will we be condemned? It feels that way.
In proclaiming truths that confront unjust power, do we stand a chance of survival? The answer is yes, if we all stand together and we join with other groups that are being oppressed, marginalized, and demonized.
How will it go for us, if we are willing to risk everything for love?
God never promised us safety, but Jesus has shown us what is possible.
The Spirit brings new life even to places of death.
Jesus, knowing the dangers ahead, kept proclaiming his truth.
There was nothing worth his silence, not even his life.
And so he turned to community for companionship in the struggle.
In Jesus, God came out to the world, challenging systems and norms. And though great violence was done and unfathomable loss was felt, Love presses on still today, transforming life after life.
And that, my friends is how it makes sense. At no time did God or Jesus say we would find ourselves on an easy path. What they told us was that we would never be alone, that they would be with us, that we are loved beyond measure, that our transgressions, our mistakes have been cast as far away as the east is from the west, and that God’s grace is here … freely available to all who choose to receive it. A gift that cannot be earned or purchased.
Jesus showed us what God is like, explained to us God’s will for us, reminded us that all we need to do is change direction, follow the Way he gave us, and that the kingdom of heaven is here and now within each of us.
No one can take God’s love away from us. No one. But we are stronger if we are in communion with God and community with one another. So that must be our goal for times such as these. To stand together against the oppressors, to stand with others who are being oppressed by them as well, and to rise up as one beautiful family of God.
And all God’s children said, Amen!
- Unless listed below, all works cited within the text above.
Copyright Disclaimer: Under §107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for educational purposes. No copyright infringement is intended. All rights belong to their respective owners.
If you are able, please consider making an offering or paying your tithes through our secure online service provided by Tithe.ly. It’s safe. It’s free. It will help us continue ministry at Union Grove. Just visit https://give.tithe.ly/?formId=65149a30-5d42-11ee-90fc-1260ab546d11 and follow the instruction for making your offering. You may be prompted to create an account with them. There is no fee for the account or for making your offering through Tithe.ly.
If you are not comfortable using a debit or credit card online, you can mail your offerings/tithes to:
Union Grove UMC
1151 Lane Drive
Friendsville, TN 37737
Please be sure to make your checks payable to "Union Grove UMC Friendsville".
Please note that 100% of offerings received during or from Second Sunday Community of Faith gatherings are redistributed to relevant community and national organizations. If you are making an offering after viewing a Second Sunday gathering, please designate "Second Sunday" (from the drop down menu on Tithe.ly or on the Memo line of your check) so we can ensure your offering is distributed accordingly.
For more information on how our offering receipts are used and our designated funds, please visit "For Those Who Are Able" on the menu bar at the top or bottom of this page.