ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Greeting, Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val
- Opening Hymn – O God of Every Nation (Words: UMH 435, Sung to “The Church’s One Foundation”)
- Responsive Reading – Psalm 15 (UMH 747)
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Scripture Readings – James 1:17-27 (NRSV), Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 (MSG) – Rev. Val
- Message: Man In the Mirror – Rev. Val
- Offertory – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95)
- Closing Hymn – We Pray for Afghanistan’s People Today (sung to “Away In the Manger”; words by Carol Winfrey Gillette – used by permission)
WELCOME, CALL TO WORSHIP, & OPENING PRAYER
Good morning! It’s nice to see all of you again this week. Thank you for coming to worship with us, and to our online viewers who can hopefully hear us this week, we’re glad you’re worshipping with us, too.
For those here in-person, you will find the announcements on the back of your bulletin and also on the bottom of page 2. If you’re worshipping online, the announcements were included in the weekly worship bulletin email that was sent out yesterday. If you’re not getting that email, please visit our website at uniongroveumc-friendsville.org and fill out the connection card at the bottom of most pages there. We typically send you only one email per week and we do not share or sell your information.
Save the date!
- On-going Prayer Vigil
- September 5, 2021 – Communion Sunday
- September 19, 2021 – Coming Home Sunday Celebration Worship and Picnic
- October 3, 2021 – Communion Sunday
- November 28, 2021, 3:00 p.m. – Charge Conference at Maryville First UMC
Call to Worship
Sherrie Dobbs Johnson, The Africana Worship Book for Year B (Discipleship Resources, 2007), 69
One: We gather today hungering to be real … With genuine smiles and actions that match our hallelujahs. We are not content to just master the power handshake of strength. We want also to master the partner handshake of mutual respect and mutual support.
Many: No more lip service; we want to be real!
One: We yearn to rise above culture and prejudice … To a mindset where foreigners and strangers are not held in contempt and all are invited to God’s table.
Many: No more lip service; we want to be real!
Opening Prayer – Rev. Val
RESPONSIVE READING – Psalm 15 (UMH 747)
PASTORAL PRAYER – Rev. Val
Open our eyes, our hearts, our minds, gracious Lord, as we turn to your scripture. We long to know you, to understand life, and to be changed. Examine us, Lord, by the floodlight of your truth.
James 1:17-27 (NRSV)
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.
Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.
But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act–they will be blessed in their doing.
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 (MSG)
The Pharisees, along with some religion scholars who had come from Jerusalem, gathered around him. They noticed that some of his disciples weren’t being careful with ritual washings before meals. The Pharisees — Jews in general, in fact — would never eat a meal without going through the motions of a ritual hand-washing, with an especially vigorous scrubbing if they had just come from the market (to say nothing of the scourings they’d give jugs and pots and pans).
The Pharisees and religion scholars asked, “Why do your disciples brush off the rules, showing up at meals without washing their hands?”
Jesus answered, “Isaiah was right about frauds like you, hit the bull’s-eye in fact:
These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it. They act like they are worshiping me, but they don’t mean it. They just use me as a cover for teaching whatever suits their fancy, ditching God’s command and taking up the latest fads.”
Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Listen now, all of you—take this to heart. It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life; it’s what you vomit—that’s the real pollution.”
He went on: “It’s what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness—all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution.”
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Man in the Mirror
Adapted in part from “Avoiding Anger” by Rev. Dr. Derek C. Weber, Discipleship Ministries
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
Today we begin the next leg of our Pilgrimage – finding out all about becoming “Doers of the Word” and becoming better disciples. Salvation is one thing (and a good thing), but how will your life be different, look different, how will you act different? What influence does faith have on your actions? When you look in the mirror, who … and what will you see? Those are our questions for today, or at least the questions we’re beginning with as we work our way through James’ letter to the twelve tribes.
The first part of his letter leading up to our passage reminds me so much of the world we’re living in right now. James writes:
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.
When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.
Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.
So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course.”
James, tradition has it, was the brother of Jesus. There is some considerable doubt as to whether James himself ever sat down and wrote this letter, but in the book of Acts, we see James stepping up to be a leader—some say “The Leader” — of the fledgling church. So imagine that this letter is the result of being the brother of Jesus and of listening to all that Jesus was saying, not just during the three years of ministry the Gospels tell us about, but throughout James’ s whole life since he was Jesus’s younger brother.
For his whole life, he lived in Jesus’s shadow. How many here have ever been through that … had the feeling that you were living in some other family member’s shadow?
I imagine there was a time when little brother James idolized big brother Jesus just like I imagine there was a time when younger brother James began to resent older brother Jesus. After all, Jesus received special treatment from his mother who treated him as though he was a special gift from God, and from their father who seemed strangely in awe of his eldest son. And, speaking from experience as the “oldest” sibling in my family, I’m pretty sure James grumbled about the things Jesus would say and about how his sisters and all the neighborhood kids would flock to listen to every word Jesus said, as though he were some kind of prophet or teacher, for heaven’s sake! I say that because I know my two surviving siblings still grumble about me … although no one has ever called me a prophet!
Then there was that scene in three of the gospels where it says ‘Jesus’ mother and his brothers came to “see him.”’ You know James had to be leading the pack and telling them that Jesus had gone crazy, and they needed to get him help, take him someplace where he wouldn’t be an embarrassment to the whole family.
James was a doer. A faithful doer. Remember the story of the Prodigal Son? Imagine in that story that James is the faith older brother that stays home, is patient, helps his father, while Jesus is the younger son that goes off into the world. Remember, too, that in that story, the older brother comes off as not such a great guy, angry and resentful that their father had welcomed the younger brother back as if he’d done nothing wrong.
James was most likely in his twenties when his older brother … his sometimes hero sometimes hinderance older brother … was crucified, died, and was buried. In James’s world, everything had changed.
James looked in the mirror and didn’t like what he saw. What James had seen in the mirror was emptiness. What he saw was the duty of faithfulness, the burden of purity, the task of service. What he saw was a void where his motivation and his soul ought to be.
So, when the resurrected Jesus showed up and said, “I need you, bud,” James the doer stepped up. If you asked him, he probably couldn’t have told you why. He just did. He just did what he always did. He was the helpful one, the calm one, the good one, the pure one. But now, there was something else inside him.
Something took root, some word that made sense, some word that made life. And he was still a doer. But now he was a doer because. He was still a servant, but now he was a servant because. He was still pure and good and faithful, but now he was pure and good and faithful because.
James was now all these things because. Because … why? What changed? What made him different?
When you look in the mirror, what … or who do you see? How often do you see that image looking back at you as less than? Less than wanted. Less than loved. Less than … the image of God?
How often do you see someone who sees his or her faithfulness to God as a duty rather than the desire to grow closer to Him?
How often do you ask that image why you should burden yourself with forgiving those who wronged you, loving those you don’t like, and walking in the impossible footsteps of Christ when it would be so much easier to berate the wrong doers, bypass the whole “love your neighbor” thing, and back away from those footsteps you’re pretty sure you are incapable of following instead of honoring the blessing of forgiveness and love and faithfulness Christ extended to you?
How many times do you look in that mirror and ask yourself why you should give up your time to do something for someone else instead of treasuring an opportunity to help?
How often is that image that looks back at you as empty, as devoid of motivation and soul as the image James saw in his mirror?
For James, everything changed. Everything changed when he looked into those eyes, the eyes he knew from his own birth, the eyes that managed to love him even when he didn’t want them to, those eyes seemed to call for more and now seemed to give more. When he looked into those eyes, it was as if something took root in him; something was planted: a reason, a purpose, a new beginning, a new soul. And all that he did, he did because of that implanted word, that hope revived, that soul restored. It has the power to save your soul. That’s what he wrote. Not the works but the Word implanted. The works didn’t earn the salvation; the works grew out of the salvation. He needed that Word, the Word of God, the Living Word implanted.
No, James didn’t earn salvation, but he must have welcomed it. He would have welcomed it with meekness, with gentleness – the eighth fruit of the Spirit, the very essence of God. Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Welcome the Word with gentleness, not because of our weakness but because of his strength.
Sometimes quietness is healing and restoring. Sometimes it is troubling, reflecting the emptiness of a soul. Sometimes it is a waiting for a word, needing hope and a reminder.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:
Generous, giving God; we offer our gifts to you in gratitude for all the blessings you rain down upon us. Your sunshine warms us, your earth feeds us, and your word nourishes us. More than these gifts of money, we give ourselves—our time and our energy—that we might be doers of your word and not just hearers only. We pray this in the name of Christ our Savior.
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.
Now hear this benediction:
As we become doers of the word and not merely hearers, we discover that it is “in pardoning that we are pardoned, in giving of ourselves that we receive”—surely evidence of “the implanted word that has the power to save our souls”—Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord …. In the name of Christ. Amen.
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