ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Prelude – Time Well Spent, Scripture Lullabies
- Welcome & Prayer – Rev. Ohle
- Call to Worship – Come Thou Fount (Above All Else), Shane & Shane
- Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
- Scripture Reading – Proverbs 19:20-21, Philippians 4:1-9, Matthew 5:1-12
- Message – Sermon on the Mount: The Beatitudes (Part 3) – Rev. Ohle
- Closing Anthem – Beatitudes, Scripture Lullabies
- Benediction – Rev. Ohle
- Postlude – Time Well Spent, Scripture Lullabies
Good morning. My name is Rev. Val Ohle, pastor of Union Grove United Methodist Church. Thank you for taking the time to be here with me today!
Just a bit of business to clear up before we begin. If you’re watching this video, please consider visiting our website. You’ll find a lot of information and resources there including opportunities to sign up for our monthly email newsletter.
We’re continuing our search for folks to work with me on our leadership team. If you’re interested or want to know more about what’s involved, please contact me. My info is available at the end of this video.
Lastly, if you’re financially able, please make an offering either through the mail or through the secure web link provided by Holston Conference. That information is available at the end of this video as well.
Let’s begin today with a prayer:
God, thank you for this time together and for those who make the choice to spend it with you and with me. I pray your voice and will supplant my own. I ask that Spirit come and fill us each, emptying us of ourselves and filling us with all you would have us to hear and to be.
In Christ’s name, amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Father, we come to you now in praise and thanksgiving for the blessings you bestow on us. We thank and praise you for the companionship and love of friends and family, For the laughter of children, the wisdom of the elderly, and the optimism of the youth that this can and will be a better world.
We thank and praise you for our waking breath, for each new opportunity, each and every second chance, for hearing our prayers and for hearing our hearts when our prayers have no words.
We thank and praise you for all creation and for this new season, for the beauty of the changing leaves, the coolness of the air, and the bounty of the harvests.
We come to you now with our prayers and petitions for your intercession, Lord.
Be with those who are caught in harm’s way or have already suffered harm or loss from storms like Delta or the wildfires burning in the west. Protect them, shelter them, comfort them, provide for them. Let Spirit guide us to find ways to help where we can and move us to continue to pray for those we cannot help.
In silent prayer, we lift those who find themselves in harm’s way.
Be with those who are suffering illness or injury or addictions, God. You are the Great Physician. If it be your will, guide their care givers to heal them of their afflictions and make them whole and healthy. Be with their loved ones and friends who wait and watch and worry. Strengthen, comfort, and bless less them with the solace of your peace.
In silent prayer, we lift the ill and injured.
Be with those who are grieving and so many are grieving right now, God. They may be mourning a recent loss, or they may be mourning a long-ago loss. Help us to understand that they mourn because they were able to love and that such love can last a lifetime. Lead us to hold space for them as they grieve without placing conditions on their grieving. Give them comfort and peace.
In silent prayer, we lift all who are mourning.
We lift up to you our community, God, and all who are part of it. We ask your blessings on it and on them, and we ask that you reveal to us how we can best serve the people of our community, and we ask that you send to us those members of the community who most need you right now. We ask that your Spirit fill us to be peacemakers where peace is needed, and to fill us with the courage to go forth to both carry the Good News and to make disciples.
We lift up the church here at Union Grove. We ask that you guide us to be the church You desire and not let ourselves get caught in the trap of designing a church that is merely convenient. Bring to us the leadership we need to revive and restore this church.
Today, as we hear about the persecution of the righteous, Lord, let us hear it both as the persecuted and as those who persecute. Fill us with your Spirit that we may carry out your will, not our own.
We ask these things in the name of your son and now, with the confidence of your children, we pray to you in the words he taught us to pray:
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by 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. Amen.”
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 Jesus’ words; 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.
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future. The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Matthew 5:1-12 (NRSV)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
- Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
- Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The scriptures of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – THE BEATITUDES: PART 1
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.
Up to this point, the beatitudes have focused on positive qualities that we should each strive to achieve in ourselves: humility, meekness, building right relationships, being merciful, pure of heart, and actively peacemaking.
Here we are at the eighth and final blessing, and … well … this one sure sounds negative, doesn’t it?
Before we dig very far into this blessing, perhaps we should remind ourselves what righteousness means and define persecution.
We took time last week to understand the meaning of right relationships, but let’s talk about a more complete definition of righteousness for just a minute.
Righteousness means “to acquit, vindicate, restore to a right relationship.” To be righteous means to maintain right relationships with God, and with one another.
To acquit means to absolve, clear, exonerate … to free someone of criminal charge by a verdict of not guilty. Vindicate means to clear someone of blame or suspicion, and restore means to repair, fix, mend, bring back, reinstate, or return to a previous position.
Righteousness, therefore, is a restorative act that frees the one being restored from whatever issue was holding them down or back.
It’s equally important, that we understand the meaning of persecution in the context of this blessing.
Persecute means to “subject someone to hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of their race or political or religious beliefs, to harass or annoy someone persistently.” To persecute means to oppress, abuse, victimize, ill-treat, mistreat, maltreat, harass, hound, plague, badger, harry, bait, or intimidate someone.
In Jesus’ time and in the time of the prophets he refers to, persecution was a matter of life or death. Physical persecution would result in being maimed or killed. Groups of people suffered social persecution by being made outcasts. Mental and spiritual persecution came through the assertion of beliefs other than those of the people, for example, Jezebel’s manipulations of her husband to force the Phoenician god, Baal, upon the Israelites.
Lot was persecuted by others in Sodom for being a righteous man. Elijah was persecuted by Jezebel for speaking out against the prophets of Baal and Israel’s idolatry of Baal. Jeremiah was beaten and thrown into a muddy cistern for speaking out about God’s condemnation of Judah for her sins. John the Baptist was beheaded for speaking out against the adultery of Herod Antipas, Stephen was rejected and stoned for preaching the gospel in front of the Sanhedrin, and Paul was repeatedly beaten and imprisoned as he went about preaching from place to place, ultimately being killed in Rome.
Jesus, who was most righteous, was persecuted by his hearers, plotted against by his adversaries, rejected, tried, and finally crucified.
It would be wrong to think that Israel and, eventually, Christians were only victims of persecution. At times, they were … and are … deliverers of persecution.
One could easily see the treatment of the people of Palestine by the nation-state of Israel as a form of persecution. Likewise, the political push to undo the marriage equality act and other protections for the LGBTQ community, changes to voting rights laws, and actions taken against undocumented immigrants can also be seen as forms of persecution.
Persecution was serious and very often deadly … and it still is.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Are you seeing the passage differently yet? Ask yourself … are you at risk of being persecuted? Or are you guilty of persecuting others?
We know we are supposed to work to be in right relationships with God and with those around us, to show mercy, to act meekly. It isn’t possible to be guilty of persecuting others if we’re doing what it is we’re supposed to do. None of the previous seven blessings allow room for persecuting anyone.
Doing the things we’re supposed to do, however, puts us in the same line of fire as those for whom we do the things we’re supposed to do. When we lift up those others think need to be held back, when we become allies to those others would deem outcasts or unwanted, their persecutors often broaden the persecution to include us. We can’t let our fears of being put down cause us to put others down.
It’s up to us to remember what Jesus taught: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
In closing, I want to share a prayer written by Derek C. Weber with you. Let’s pray:
God of our mothers and fathers,
He was afraid, your servant Jacob. Afraid of his own brother. Afraid because of how he had treated him. Afraid because of the cheating and the stealing and the demeaning and the favoritism, playing parent against parent. And when he came back, he was afraid of the brother he had wronged.
Fear gets in the way of reconciliation; fear gets in the way of restitution, of justice, of community. Fear gets in the way of hope. No wonder your Son our Savior tried to wean us off fear—fear of the other, fear of the stranger. No wonder those who seek to rule over us stoke our fears. Because in so doing, they keep us from seeing your face, the face of God, in our brothers and our sisters.
We are tired of being afraid. And we long to see your face. Give us strength to put aside our fears and begin to heal what we have broken. The divisions are great; the pain is deep, so help us persevere until we see your face in every face. In every face a sibling, a beloved. Help us see what you see, even in us.
Now hear this benediction:
- Blessed are you who make room at your table for in that way even tax-collectors shall be redeemed
- Blessed are you who seek out lost sheep for your seeking you find more than a lamb
- Blessed are you who touch the leper for you make a home for the excluded
- Blessed are you who welcome the prodigal for you express the fullness of the love that is God
- Blessed are the silenced for you hear the cry of God
- Blessed are you who make friends with your enemy for you know the way to lasting peace
- Blessed are you who turn the other cheek for you show more strength than the oppressor
- Blessed are you who break bread with the stranger you will have a foretaste of the kingdom
- Blessed are you who heal on the Sabbath you will reveal what is important to God
- Blessed are you who seek company with the outcast and unclean for you shall be accompanying Jesus
- Blessed are you who overturn the tables you are the freedom fighters of love
- Blessed are you who love your neighbour for you already live in the realm of God
- Blessed are you who walk the way for you shall move within the company of heaven
- Blessed are you who carry a cross for you shall see God’s wisdom
- Blessed are you who wait for the morning for you shall see the renewal of life
Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask when you go out, be a blessing and be blessed, and go in peace. God be with you.
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!