ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Prelude – Intro to The Summons, Robert Kochis
- Welcome & Prayer – Rev. Ohle
- Call to Worship – You Have Searched Me, Lord, and KNown Me, Carol Winfrey Gillette
- Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
- Scripture Reading – Luke 4:1-13, Hebrews 4:15, Ephesians 4:1-6
- Message – Resist – Rev. Ohle
- Closing Anthem – The Summons, Robert Kochis
- Benediction – Rev. Ohle
- Postlude – Justice Sprouts From the Ground, Ben Thomas
Hello! I’m Rev. Val Ohle, pastor of Union Grove United Methodist Church in Friendsville and I want to welcome you to this morning’s worship service.
I hope you’re dressed for rugged terrain because we’re journeying into the wilderness today as we take a look at Luke’s story of the Temptation of Jesus and how that relates to us in present times.
Don’t forget that we will be joining other churches across the nation on Tuesday, January 19, in a memorial tribute to honor all the victims of COVID-19. We will begin ringing the bell at the church at 5:30 p.m. and will ring it one time for each person from Blount County who has passed due to COVID-19 (as of today, the count is 122).
You are welcome to come to the church for this event, however, you will need to remain in your car and, if you roll your windows down, you’ll need to wear a mask. You are encouraged to pray for the families of the COVID victims as the bell rings.
One more thing before we begin … if you’re financially able, please consider taking time to make weekly offerings. They’ll not only help make it possible to re-open the church and keep it open, but you’ll also be helping various missions and activities throughout the Conference.
You can make your offerings online through a secure service provided by Holston Conference or you can mail them in. The information needed to do either is available on our website, at the end of this video, and in our weekly worship bulletins sent through our email list.
Let’s begin today with a prayer:
Open our ears, O God, that we might hear your Word speaking to us in this moment.
Open our ears, O God, that we might listen for your voice calling to us through scripture.
Open our ears, O God, that we might understand your promises to followers both old and young, ancient and modern.
Open our hearts, O God, that we might enter into the love you offer us.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Please join me in this call to worship.
Come into worship, and see what God has in store for us today!
We have busy lives, but still, we’re curious . . .
Come into God’s presence, and see the difference love makes!
We’ve been burned by love before, but still, we’re needy . . .
Come into the light and see the glory of God!
Our eyes have been closed for so long, but still, we yearn for the light . . .
Come and see! Come and see!
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
This is the time we lift up our joys and concerns, our praises and our petitions. To protect the privacy of those we pray for, we do not say any names. Please know that I am lifting up any prayer requests you’ve sent me, and your unspoken prayers as well. There may be one or more moments of pause during the prayer for you to lift any prayers of your own. There may also be points in the prayer where you will be prompted to respond out loud. Just watch the screen and if words appear in front of me, say them with me.
Lord, we praise you and thank you for the gifts and blessings you bestow on us, especially your gift of grace.
We lift up to you all those who are in need of your healing touch for their body, mind, and spirit.
Lord, in your mercy, be with them as you are with me.
We lift to you all those who are mourning losses of family, home, income, and, for some, even hope.
Lord, in your mercy, be with them as you are with me.
We lift to you all those who suffer from rejection, exclusion, oppression, and isolation.
Lord, in your mercy, be with them as you are with me.
We lift up to you our church and church leaders, our nation and its leaders, that you would move them to serve you by serving the people, especially the least among us, that you would cleanse them of all aspirations of personal power or profit or political gain, and that you would guide their footsteps to follow your way and your will for the good of all your children.
Lord, in your mercy, be with them as you are with me.
Gracious God, you create us and love us; you invite us to live together in a community.
We acknowledge our slowness to do good, our blindness to injustice, and our complicity in deferring the dreams and hopes of the oppressed.
We condemn racial injustice in our pronouncements, yet we cling to the privileges derived from inequity. Forgive us, Gracious God.
On this day, we thank you for men and women Martin Luther King, Jr., and all your children who have been filled with your vision for life and who have worked to bring your vision into reality.
May we join them on the journey of faith.
Fill us with your vision of love. Guide us to live by your vision of compassion and justice, and empower us to work to build the beloved community where everyone is welcomed, all are valued, power is shared, privilege is no more, and all your children know wholeness and well-being. In accordance with the commands of Jesus Christ, shake us from our sleep with your imperative to do justice; move us to action with the compassion of your grace; and give us the courage to pay the price, however painful or costly, that the justice you intend, may be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Hear us now, as we pray this prayer with one voice…
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.”
O God, most holy and praised: As Your Son gathered disciples to himself to teach them your ways, so your Spirit has gathered us in this time and place. Make us alert and attentive as we read and reflect on Your scriptures; help us take them to heart and live into them so that your will is truly done on earth as in heaven. We pray in the name of our true Teacher, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Luke 4:1-13 (NRSV)
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you, I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands, they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Hebrews 4:15 (NRSV)
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Ephesians 4:1-6 (MSG)
In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences, and quick at mending fences.
You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
The scriptures of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Resist …
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.
Moved by the Spirit, Jesus had gone almost immediately from his baptism at the River Jordan into the wilderness. The wilderness that Jesus was in was a literal physical place with all the pitfalls and hazards one might expect to find out in the wild. He was alone with nothing but possibly a cloak or blanket.
And remember. At this point in his life even though he was God incarnate who had the ability as we find out later in our journey to turn water into wine, raise the dead, heal the lame and lepers, and more, he was also human. In other words, he would have suffered the same hunger, thirst, pain, fatigue that any of us would suffer if we were faced with the same conditions.
By the time the devil came along to test Jesus, he’d spent forty days … forty days! … in that wilderness. He would have been tired, he would have been thirsty, and he would have been famished. It would be hard for most of us to envision what he would have gone through. I imagine it would be hard for most of us to even survive that long.
Put yourself there for a moment though, and here comes the devil who’s like, “Dude! You must be starving. Just turn some stones into bread!”
Forty days without food … it would have been really tempting to do just that. Jesus was able to resist each of the devil’s temptations, though, answering each taunt with scripture.
If only we had his strength. But the truth is, we don’t. We are weak and frail and prone to falling for temptation after temptation.
Take for instance what is going on right now in the US. While it’s tempting to blame this on one person or party, the truth is that person and party simply exploited the triggers that were writhing beneath the surface of our society for a very long time.
We have been wandering in a wilderness of multiple ideologies, constantly shifting status quos, and often conflicting ideas of what is right for a few centuries now, hungry and thirsty for security, comfort, aspiring to achieve some mythological “American Dream” that is based on unachievable wealth.
And all along, from generation to generation, the devil has had little trouble knowing exactly which buttons to push and exactly who among us will be the most successful in pushing those buttons to expose and manifest our darkest fears and self-imposed failures into hate and loathing and finger-pointing and blaming.
For the past four years, the devil has found the perfect surrogates in a self-serving, self-centered, power-hungry leader incapable of admitting his own faults or failures, in the devious devisers of a plethora of ridiculous conspiracy theories and the paranoid minds of all those who bought into and believed all those lies, and in a network of heretical religious leaders willing to endorse any political candidate who would promise to pass exclusionary and oppressive laws under the banner of what they declared was “the will of God” even to the point of declaring said candidate as “specifically chosen and anointed by God” and elevating them to a level equal to Christ the King.
When it comes to temptations, the temptation to believe that whatever it takes to address your hate, your fear, your desired goal is justified no matter how much harm it does or who it hurts … is virtually impossible to resist.
But, resist it we must, and we have a Savior who has suffered just as we suffered as an example to follow. We have a Savior who laid out for us a way to live free from fear and free from hate. We have a Savior who gave his own life in order to save us from the sin of our failing to resist temptations. We have a Savior who is calling us to him right now.
Where we go … as a community, as a church, as a nation … depends upon each of us. We can continue on the current path toward a civil and race war or we can turn back to the Savior and follow his lead, follow him.
Just as Paul told the Ephesians, we are called to travel the road together … people of one king and only one king – Jesus. People of one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all and is present in all.
If we recognize that, if we stand together, if we walk this path together with love for one another, we will defeat this most recent attempt by the devil to lead us astray.
The time is now. The choice is ours. Rise up, church. Our Savior is calling us.
Beloved God, You know us inside and out and you still call us to serve you.
Lord, honestly we are often hesitant, afraid, and wish to remain hidden. Empower us to listen for and to hear your call. Empower us to answer your call with “Here I am Lord.” Empower us to follow you when you call us to follow you.
Lord of mercy and justice, so many have gone before us working to bring justice and peace to our country and our world.
Their footsteps seem too big to step into to continue the work you have called us all to; so we hesitantly step one step at a time, bringing your seeds of hope, justice, and peace in a world crying out for them.
Lord of hope, we pray for our country, our leaders, and especially our new president as he is inaugurated into leading our country in tumultuous times. We pray for healing of our country, reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace.
Lord of peace, we pray for your compassion and healing for those individuals in our congregation who need it. We pray for your comfort and presence for those who are grieving lonely and oppressed. We pray for warmth, shelter, clothing, and food for those who are without.
Lord, we say to you this day, “Here we are your servants willing to preach your word, offer care where care is needed, presence where presence is needed, your love where your love is needed.”
Lord, strengthen us for our ministry today and every day.
In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Thank you, again, for worshipping with me today.
Now hear this benediction:
Go now. Listen for the voice of the Lord and follow wherever it leads. Do not be dominated by anything or anyone but God. Allow no room within yourselves for deceit, but offer yourselves as a temple for the Holy Spirit.
And may God be with you and speak through you;
May Christ Jesus be one with you and raise you to life;
And may the Holy Spirit dwell within you and make you holy.
Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask when you go out, get your COVID vaccination as soon as you’re eligible, really truly love your neighbors … even the ones you’d rather not … remember we are never alone. God be with you. Now go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
……..In the name of Christ. Amen.
Prelude – Intro from The Summons, Robert Kochis
Postlude – Justice Will Sprout from the Ground, Ben Thomas
Opening Prayer, Call to Worship by Laura Jaquith Bartlett
Portions of Pastoral Prayer, Chulavista Church
Closing Prayer by Rev Abi
Benediction by Nathan Nettleton
Even though we can’t meet together in person, the church still has expenses that need to be met. If you are able, please consider making an offering or paying your tithes through the online service provided by Holston Conference. It’s safe. It’s free. It will help us continue ministry at Union Grove.
Just visit http://www.holston.org/churchoffering, and follow the instruction for making your offering. When asked, please choose Smoky Mountain District and Union Grove UMC Blount – Friendsville.
If you are not comfortable using a debit or credit card online, you can mail your offerings/tithes to:
Smoky Mountain District
PO Box 905
Alcoa TN 37701-0905
Please be sure to make your checks payable to Smoky Mountain District and write “Union Grove UMC Friendsville” on the memo line!