ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Call to Worship – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Hymn: Come, Join the Dance of Trinity
- Opening Prayer – Congregation
- PSALTER: Psalm 23 (UMH 754)
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Pastoral & Peace Prayer – Rev. Val
- Peace Hymn: Creation Sings (W&S 318)
- Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
- Message: Operator – Rev. Val
- Hymn: Father, We Have Heard You Calling (W&S 3150)
- 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.
*All scriptures today are from the NRSV.
1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21 – Then the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.
So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.”
Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?” He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 – Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.
Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.”
But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.”
But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”
So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.”
Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.”
He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.”
As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.
Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!”
But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?”
When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20 – I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, that he may hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.
I will call to mind the deeds of the LORD; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is so great as our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples. With your strong arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
Selah When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; the very deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water; the skies thundered; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea, your path, through the mighty waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Psalm 16 – Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight. Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Galatians 5:1, 13-25 – For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (!).
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.
For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment (!), “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing
what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.
I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Luke 9:51-62 – When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him.
On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village. As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
To another he said, “Follow me.”
But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Operator …
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
I have to tell you even though I wasn’t planning to be here today, I am thankful that I am. After all that’s gone on the last few weeks and especially this week, I am grateful to be in a community of people that want to be together, that care for one another and that, whether we each agree with one another or not, our love for one another overrides those disagreements.
I am grateful because, quite frankly, my heart is heavy right now. I am watching the religious tradition I have been a part of all my life become a pariah to far too many people here and around the world. I am seeing too many people throw their hands in the air and walk away, too many people attach its name to acts that do not befit it, that have absolutely no place in it, worshipping a book and a disciple, chanting God, guns and the political person of the day, using it to exploit, oppress, subjugate, and condemn others. And worst of all, I am seeing too many people do their utmost best to force others to conform to it … well … to their versions of it, and to play God in the name of the empire.
That isn’t what Christ taught us and it hurts to see something as beautiful as it is eaten away with this kind of cancer.
God, the Creator, Christ, Son of God and the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and Spirit, our ever present Encourager, Advocate, and Guide, are the Alpha … the beginning … the Omega … the end … and everything in between … all that was, all that is, and all that ever shall be. And honestly, except when we need something or we’re angry about something, they get the least of our attention even while we’re doing the things with intention they’ve called us to do.
So for today, I want to take us back to the beginning. I want to remind us of who we are and what makes us who we are. I want to go to my grave knowing that I have done everything in my power to help you understand that and why I come to you today so heavy hearted. By doing so, I hope to begin in all of us a spiritual renewal. Because we and this tired, angry, hurting world very desperately need one. We need a spiritual renewal because, while we here all know what it is to love God and love Christ and love Spirit and we work hard to carry out what Jesus taught us, to follow the Way, we often struggle, wrestle, and even become discouraged and exhausted by the very effort we’re making. We get so caught up in the output we forget who is responsible for the original input. Very often when that happens, we start believing we are the input. And when we start thinking that way, we become prideful. And when that happens, we miss out on the hope, the peace, the joy, and the love that is found in the roots of our belief. The roots of our belief lie in God, Christ, and the Spirit.
In the passage from 1st Kings, Elijah and Elisha are faithfully obedient to God. Elijah know that what God had commanded him to do was anoint his own replacement. For Elisha to be faithful, he had to leave everyone and everything behind and go with Elijah. He didn’t question a thing. He just took care of the people in his community by feeding them, then left to follow Elijah. He didn’t take on an attitude as Elijah’s heir apparent. He went humbly, becoming Elijah’s servant. The root, the very core of their beliefs lay in God.
In 2nd Kings, Elijah knows its his time to go join God and he has headed toward the Jordan. He tells Elisha to stay in Gigal, but Elisha refuses and follows Elijah to Bethel. He tells Elisha to stay in Bethel, but Elisha refuses again and follows him not just to the Jordan, but across the Jordan. When they reach the other side, Elijah asks Elisha what he wants from him before Elijah is taken from him. Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elijah says, “that’s a tough one, but if you see me as I am being taken away from you, you’ll have it. If you don’t see me, you won’t have it.” And Elisha, ever faithful and obedient sticks to Elijah and is there when Elijah is being taken up. When Elisha tears his clothes, it is symbolic of mourning. Elijah had been like a father to him and was suddenly taken away from him. But rather than walk away, he picks up Elijah’s mantle that had fallen to the ground as Elijah was taken up and, in his first action as a prophet, uses it the same way that Elijah had to again separate the waters of the Jordan and cross back over.
There is a parallel between the story of Elijah and Elisha and the story of Jesus and the Disciples. Elisha was called to follow Elijah, spent the entire time with Elijah serving him and learning from him, and then picked up Elijah’s mantle … symbolic of Elijah’s responsibility as prophet … and carried on the work of God among the people.
The two psalms remind us who God is, petition God to continue to stand with us, and affirm our trust that God will do just that.
In the passage from Galatians, Paul reminds us that Christ has purchased our liberation … our freedom … and admonishes to never allow ourselves to be placed in bondage again. He tells us specifically, “don’t exchange your freedom for self-indulgence … if you’re going to continue in bondage, let the bonds be love … love for one another. Live by the Spirit. Don’t cave into worldly ways, the ways of the flesh” as he calls it. He lists the obvious temptations and most are very obvious, but he doesn’t number them, possibly indicating they are equal. And while most of us can easily avoid what we would probably consider the most contentious – fornication, promiscuity, sorcery – it is the rest that we can unknowingly be guilty of doing. It is those that can cause us to fall from grace, as it were, so it is those we most need to look out for and guard against. They all go against the Spirit, so we need to stay focused on the Spirit to avoid them.
And if we do avoid them and we do stay focused on the Spirit, then we will find the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – things we can enjoy without worrying about whether they violate God’s law.
And finally, the passage from Luke. If you look at it, you can see the parallels between the story of Elijah and the story of Jesus. Here again, is the Master and his disciples with one difference. Elisha didn’t question Elijah’s commands or teaching and he remained faithful to his teacher, refusing to leave his side. In Luke, it appears the disciples and other followers haven’t been paying attention. James and John want to blow up the Samaritans for disrespecting Jesus. They get chewed out. The rest claim to want to follow Jesus, but they want to do so on their terms, not his. With Jesus, the only terms are the ones he sets out for us. That’s what that bit about dying to self and being born in Christ is all about.
This is where the cancer within the body of Christ messes up. The part that is cancerous has either missed the lessons of the Bible and Christ or has chosen to ignore them entirely, electing to espouse interpretations that are self-indulgent, that fit their own agendas rather than anything of God.
Fr. Richard Rohr wrote, “The trouble with much of civic religion and cultural Christianity is the lack of religious experience. People who haven’t had a loving or intimate experience with God tend to get extremely rigid, dogmatic, and controlling about religion. They think that if they pray the right words, read the Bible daily, and go to church often enough, it will happen. But God loves us before we do the rituals. God doesn’t need them, but we need them to tenderly express our childlike devotion and desire—and to get in touch with that desire. The great commandment is not “thou shalt be right.” The great commandment is to “be in love.””
Should we read the Bible daily? Yes. But we should read it through the lens of Christ and the knowledge that God is love.
The Old Testament records the story of God’s acts in the history of the covenant community of Israel to work out the divine will and purpose. God makes a covenant with Abraham that extends to all his people. Repeatedly, the people break the covenant and turn to sin and repeatedly God keeps his side of the covenant and redeems them, setting them back on the right path over and over.
In the New Testament story, God comes into a sinful world in the person of Jesus Christ to reveal all that the human mind can comprehend about who God is and who God would have us to be. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, the power of sin and death is overcome, and we are set free to again be God’s own people. Since God is the only initiator and source of grace, all grace is prevenient in that it precedes and enables any movement that we can make toward God. God’s grace brings us to an awareness of our sinful predicament and our inability to save ourselves; grace motivates us to repentance and gives us the capacity to respond to divine love. In the words of our baptismal ritual: “All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.”
John Rigby wrote, “We must never forget the Bible is only the seed of a vision that was still being born. The “fruit” of that seed is not traditional religion but a radical and universal love that does justice.
When Jesus and the Jewish prophets condemned the religion of their day, they were not condemning Judaism- they were rejecting fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is religion that is all root and no blossom. Jesus and the prophets were saying, if religion does not bear the fruit of universal human rights, it is stillborn.”
Those who would read the Bible in such a way that it justifies the conditions they choose to put on who is acceptable to love. It bears no good fruit, and the bad fruit it does bear is a clear and present danger to all.
Do you remember that song …
Oh, operator (operator)
Give me Jesus on the line (give me Jesus on the line)
Oh-oh, operator (operator)
I’d like to speak to a friend of mine (let me speak to a friend of mine)
Oh-oh, prayer is the number
Faith is the exchange
Heaven is the street and Jesus is his name
Oh, operator (operator)
Please, give me Jesus on the line (give me Jesus on the line)
My prayer is that you will leave here today, that you will get Jesus on the line and don’t worry – you won’t get a busy signal or voicemail – and that you will keep him on the line for now and ever more. That’s what I need you to understand. That’s where spiritual renewal begins and remains.
- All works cited within the text above.
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