ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Call to Worship – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Hymn: Because He Lives (UMH 364)
- Opening Prayer – Congregation
- PSALTER: Psalm 136:1-9 (Pew Bibles)
- 9/11 Prayer – Rev. Val
- 9/11 Hymn: This Is My Song (UMH 437)
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
- Message: Our Daily Bread – Rev. Val
- Hymn: Wonderful Words of Life (UMH 600)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Communion Message: Communion of Grace
- Service of Holy Communion
- Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95/Song Sheet)
- Hymn: Sweet, Sweet Spirit (UMH 334)
- 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.
*Scriptures this morning come from the English Standard Version, and from New Revised Standard Version which is the same as your pew Bibles.
Proverbs 3:3 – Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
Psalm 51:6-10 – You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
2 Corinthians 3:3 – And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Matthew 22:37 – And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
L: The scriptures of God for the people of God.
A: Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Our Daily Bread
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.
Jesus told us he was the Bread of life. Bread has many meanings. In his prayer, we ask for our daily bread … that God would provide us with sustenance for the day. Bread is also spiritual. Where real bread would sustain us physically, the Bread that is Jesus can sustain us spiritually. That’s what we’re going to dig into today.
If you’re note takers, you may want to keep track as there will be additional scriptures in today’s message. The first is Matthew 6:33: “But strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
The part of this passage we need to focus on is the first part – strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness. How do we do that? How can we do that? We pray all the time. We go to church. We read faith-based posts and articles shared on Facebook by our family, friends, and others we follow. But ask yourself honestly … is that enough? Is that what constitutes the kingdom of God? Is that enough to make us righteous … as righteous as God? Or is there something more that we can do?
As I explained briefly last week, the goal of the Roots series is to spend time exploring and learning ways to form our faith and life in Christ … to lean into “Christ in me” or, as Paul put it, to die to self and be born in Christ … and to grow closer to and worship God with all our hearts and all our souls and all our strength and all our minds.
During this series, we’ll be exploring what are called “Spiritual Disciplines.” In this case, the word discipline means a practice or habit. We’ll also be learning about how to strengthen our community of faith by looking more deeply into communion. I don’t expect any of us to implement every single discipline we’ll cover. My hope is that you’ll each be able to identify with and embrace one to a few of the disciplines as we go through them, and that we’ll all become better disciples. Today, we begin with the discipline of “Spiritual Reading.”
In Romans 8:29, the apostle, Paul, issued the call to be “conformed to the image of Christ.” His call requires transformation and growth, and is accomplished by an attentiveness to the voice of God. We best attend to God’s voice by giving attention to the scriptures. In 2 Timothy 3:15-16, Paul wrote to Timothy that, “… You have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the people of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
In other words, we need to do more than just read the scriptures. We need to “know” them and that will give us the wisdom we need to be “conformed to the image of Christ.” We need to spiritually read them.
In her book, Soul Feast, Marjorie J. Thompson wrote, “Imagine for a moment that you have just received a handwritten letter from a dear friend who lives at a great distance and from whom you have not heard in a long while. What would you anticipate about this letter? Where would you like to be when you open it? Perhaps you can imagine settling into your favorite easy chair or finding a quiet and secluded spot outdoors – a place where you can set aside the unfinished tasks of your busy life and enter into the world of your friend’s letter. Eagerness for news could tempt you to devour each page as quickly as possible, yet the sheer delight of spending precious time in your friend’s company might compel you to slow down, savoring the words, phrases, and images written specifically for you. In them you discover how it is with one who is dear to your heart, what she or he is thinking, experiencing, and questioning. Here are words that bring a sense of your friend’s presence vividly into your life.
“Now imagine a different scenario. After several intensely busy days, you spy a news magazine on the coffee table and realize that you’ve not been keeping up with world events. You pick up the magazine and begin paging through, letting your eye rove over headlines, news photos, and captions, scanning articles that catch your interest. Perhaps you are even doing this standing up, hoping to grasp as much information as quickly as possible in order to return to those unfinished tasks.”
Reading that news magazine, you would be reading functionally, reading for information. But reading your friend’s letter? You have a relationship … and emotional connection … with your friend. Yes, reading the letter you’re getting information in the form of catching up on your friend’s news, but those moments you spend cherishing what your friend wrote, remembering old times, learning about now times, and speculating on future times … that is formational.
When we approach reading scripture with the correct attitude, it is much like reading the letter from your friend. It is formational and can even be transformational.
So for a moment, imagine with me. Imagine that you can find 10 to 30 minutes a day to have a personal encounter with God every day. A personal encounter with God. That would be worth giving up 10 to 30 minutes a day, wouldn’t it?
Keep picturing this. You’re sitting somewhere quiet. And God has invited you to this time and desires to speak to you through His word. Focus on that. Focus on God inviting you and wanting … DESIRING to speak to YOU.
You open your Bible to the scripture for the day. It shouldn’t be a long passage. Just one to three verses. You write it down, word for word. Then you read the passage aloud at least twice, more often if you are moved to do so.
Now you ask yourself a questions: “What is God saying in this passage? What are you hearing God say in this passage?” As the thoughts begin to come to you, write them down. Keep asking the question and listening for more thoughts. Continue this until there are no more thoughts to write down.
Now go back over what you’ve written down and underline those thoughts that most clearly seem to reflect what God is saying to you.
Now ask yourself another question: “How does this passage of scripture apply to your life right now?” As you consider that question, look for the promises God is making, attitudes in yourself that God is wanting to change, challenges God is inviting you to accept, sins God is convicting you to confess, commands God is calling you to obey, actions God wants you to take, examples God is providing for you to follow, lessons God wants you to learn. Write down how the passage applies to you and to your current life situations.
Still with me? Now that you’ve gotten this far with the passage, write a prayer about what you’ve learned and heard from God in the passage. It might be a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, a prayer of petition seeking God’s help in applying the teaching to your life, or a prayer of petition for some other person for whom God is leading you to pray. It might be a prayer of confession and repentance. After you write it, repeat your prayer, keeping yourself open to God’s presence and the movement of God’s Spirit in response to your prayer.
There is one more step to this. After you’ve written and read your prayer, ask yourself one more question: “What in my life must I surrender to God?” This is the question that leads to obedience. What you surrender may address things that you are anxious to give to God, but it may also address things that you are reluctant to give to God. We’ve talked about that before about letting go … surrendering whatever it is … and letting God, and how so often we end up trying to take back whatever it is we surrender. In this exercise I’ve just had you imagine with me, you don’t take back what you surrender.
Now imagine you’re doing this exercise every day. Every day you’re having that personal encounter with God at His invitation and you’re listening more and more for His voice in whatever scripture passage you’ve chosen for that day. Every day you have an opportunity to surrender more of your life to God, to the Lordship of Jesus. Every day you’re purposefully seeking God’s grace so that you can more fully obey God’s leading, and we know that God has been trying to lead us to surrender our lives to him. In surrendering our lives to him and to the Lordship of Jesus, we have done what Jesus said in Matthew 6:33: “But strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We have worked first to seek and be in the kingdom of God and to begin to seek and come into his righteousness. We have partaken of “Our Daily Bread.”
Now consider the other passages that I read this morning. Do you notice a common thread in them? Something about God’s word being inside us? Written on our hearts?
Memorizing scriptures is a way to keep them on your heart and close at hand. And the thing is, you’ve each already got at least on scripture memorized and probably have since you were a small child. Luke 11:1-4. We all know this passage by heart. It’s the Lord’s Prayer. We say it every Sunday. You may pray it in the morning or at night before you go to bed. If you have children, you may have taught it to them. When we pray this prayer, we are praying scripture and because we have been praying this scripture for so very long, we all have it committed to memory. I imagine there are other passages you probably know by heart as well if you think about it. Like “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures …” or “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” or “I can do all things in Christ who gives me strength.”
So once you’ve completed the daily exercise I laid out for you, consider memorizing the scripture passage you used for the exercise.
God, we ask you to be with us as we begin this journey of growing closer to you, of better understanding the Way Jesus taught us, and of leaning into and allowing ourselves to be filled and led by the Spirit. Invite us into your presence and speak to us through your word. Open our hearts and minds. Hold us closely in your arms. In Jesus’ name we pray.
COMMUNION MESSAGE – Communion of Grace
When we hear the word communion, we think automatically of Holy Communion. While the sacrament of Holy Communion is primary and invaluable to our faith formation, communion means other things as well, especially to a faith community.
People become Christian through God’s love for each one of us made known through the saving work of Jesus Christ and the enabling work of the Holy Spirit. The church’s role in this saving and healing work of the triune God is to become a “communion of grace” focused on carrying on Christ’s work in the world. With God’s help, a communion of grace lives its life together as if the reign of God is already present as it grows in love of God and neighbor. It is in this communion that persons are apprenticed in the Christian life of faith as they learn the rich tradition of the church and practice a Christian way of life in the company of others.
In order to build a ministry of Christian faith formation, we have to start with people where they are in their faith journeys. We are called to a new openness on our part as the church, and need to have a willingness to hear the needs and questions of those around us, and to learn our faith tradition so we can share it with others. This requires creating and cultivating a climate of openness to living in a culture ambiguity, difference, and change – a culture of hospitality.
Hospitality is “receiving each other, our struggles, our newborn ideas with openness and care. Welcoming the stranger provides an opportunity for learning and transformation because our lives are enriched by the experiences and ideas of others.
In the Bible, God is always using the stranger to introduce us to the strangeness of truth. To be inhospitable to strangers or strange ideas, however unsettling they may be, is to be hostile to the possibility of truth. When we turn our backs on a stranger, we are refusing to acknowledge God’s presence in our midst and risk losing some of God’s truth for our lives. In contrast, life and faith here in the church will be enriched when we welcome all who seek authentic relationship, faithful community, and deeper meaning for their lives.
In this church, we have made a commitment to open doors, open hearts, and open minds. When we live into that commitment, we are preserving and extending the communion of grace.
- Unless listed below, all works cited within the text above.
- Portions of these messages were taken from:
- Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life (Newly Revised Edition), Marjorie J. Thompson, 2015, Westminster John Knox Press
- MAPS – Rev. Paul Walles, Appalachian Local Pastors-Memphis-Tennessee-Holston (ALPS-MTH) Extension School Instructor, Spiritual Formation & Discipleship
- Formation In Faith: The Congregational Ministry of Making Disciples, Sondra Higgins Matthaei, 2008, Abingdon Press
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