• Call to Worship – Rev. Val & Congregation
  • Hymn: Great Is Thy Faithfulness (UMH 140)
  • Opening Prayer – Congregation
  • Psalter: Psalm 85 (UMH 806)
  • Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
  • Peace Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Peace Hymn: We Shall Overcome (UMH 533)
  • Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
  • Message: The Wild Bunch – Rev. Val
  • Hymn: We Gather Together (UMH 131)
  • Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Hymn: Let Us Break Bread Together (UMH 618)
  • Service of Holy Communion
  • Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Doxology (UMH 95/Song Sheet)
  • Benediction – Rev. Val

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.

 Colossians 2:6-19 – As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority.

In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.

He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it. Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

Luke 11:1-13 – He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’

And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’

I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The scriptures of God for the People of God.

Thanks be to God.

MESSAGE – The Wild Bunch

Rev. Val

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.

Sometimes, I do not have much hope for this world

Life is messy

People are messy

Affirmations may trickle to the service

and I, like Stuart Smalley, may shout into the foul winds of the universe

“I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!”

But the words get blown back into my face

Returning empty … Vanity

I see the lure of wealth and the lust for power leech the souls of politicians and preachers

I hear people who claim to be spokespersons for God Preach hate, domination, and violence

I watch as 80% of evangelical “Christian” Americans worship a damaged man who is the antithesis of Jesus and it seems as if the world is burning and as if we are trapped in “the futility of [our] thinking…”

“darkened in [our] understanding and separated from the life of God

because of the ignorance that is {us} due to the hardening of [our] hearts.

The world is full of greed!  (Ephesians 4)

And yet! 

We know there is One who makes all things new and empower[s] us

who helps us “put off our old self,”

and helps us “put on the new self.”

I believe in Sacred

I believe in the power of the Sacred spark that is within me … And within you

That is within us all (yes all)

And I know, that even though the “wrong seems oft so strong,” Love can win

But for that to happen We have to keep believing …

Keep standing

Keep speaking out

Keep caring

Keep giving

Keep serving

Keep loving

Keep working for healing and reconciliation

And we have to do it TOGETHER

Let’s hear it for community!

We need each other

We need to believe together, hope together, stand together, and work together

Yes, the world is a mess

And we are “not disrespectful of somber predictions for our shared future,”

but let us be unwilling to let resignation be our best shot. 

Let us be joyfully insistent on the alternative of hope

For we are called to be a community of faith

To be the incarnation of Love

The fact is “our hope is only as strong as our community” (Charleston)

So let us stand together

(as difficult as that sometimes is)

We may feel outnumbered


be we are people made new

and we can stand up for

the poor, the aged

the ill, the immigrant, the women,

the children

the refugee, the homeless

the forgotten

we can do this


Rev. Kliewer was inspired to write the bit I just read while reading a book called Ladder to the Light by Rt. Bishop Steven Charleston. Ladder to the Light is a book of meditations on hope and courage. Bishop Charleston’s book is based on the kiva and, more specifically, the ladder inside the kiva. If you look at the back of your bulletin, you’ll see a picture of the inside of a kiva. The kiva is built by digging down into the ground and then constructing a flat roof across the dug out space. A square “hole” is left in the middle of the roof and a ladder is lowered down through the hole. This ladder is the only entrance in and out of the kiva.

A kiva is a sacred space, for lack of a better word … a kind of chapel. Where our chapels tend to encourage looking up, kivas are designed to draw you down. It’s spiritual focal point is not above us, but below so that we are focused not on what is in the sky but what is in the earth. The purpose of this downward focus is to point us in a new direction … not one escaping this world … that whole, get saved and focus on the afterlife way of thinking … but the direction of entering into the world. To quote Bishop Charleston, “The kiva is a womb. It is a place of origins. It is where, according to my ancestors’ teachings, life first began. As the tribe of the human beings, we began our existence in the womb of the earth, beneath the surface, in a place of darkness. Through many different incarnations of life on this planet, we finally emerged into the light. We climbed the ladder not to heaven, but to home. We came out exactly where we were supposed to be: in this reality, surrounded by all the other life forms of creation. We emerged ready to begin our migrations across the globe, discovering more light wherever we go.

“The spiritual resilience of North America’s indigenous peoples is legendary. Our traditional religious practices were banned. Our sacred objects were taken from us and either destroyed or put in museums as a curiosity for our conquerors. Our families were scattered into diaspora. Even our languages were forbidden.

“But we are still here. Our voice is still strong. Our vision is unimpaired. Native America knows something about resisting darkness. It is what we have been doing for more than five hundred years.

“The kiva symbolizes this spiritual resilience. It reminds us that we began in darkness – not the stark, ominous darkness we imagine we face today, but the nurturing darkness of the womb, a place of formation and growth. Over time, through the grace of the Spirit, we learned more, understood more, until we matured and were ready to take our place in the bright world of reality. We emerged from Mother Earth. At first we were weak and unsteady on our feet, like any newborn. But with the support of the earth’s other creatures, we soon stood up together, formed communities, and began living in the way the Spirit instructed us.

“My purpose here is to lift up the kiva as a metaphor for our contemporary spiritual situation. In that context, the vision of the kiva is not just for Native Americans, but for all who will receive it. It is a symbol for our shared future. It tells us that if we are in a time of darkness, we need not be afraid of it, because it is only the beginning for us. In other words: we have been down this spiritual road before. The kiva tells us we have been through this process of birth and rebirth more than once. As a people, we have entered into darkness before, only to emerge into light.” (Steven Charleston, Ladder to the Light, pp. 2-3)

Why would it be so important to go back to the beginning? Keeping what Bishop Charleston wrote in mind, look at the passage from Luke where the disciples have asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. Jesus teaches them, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” He isn’t telling them to grab that golden ticket of salvation and focus on the afterlife. He’s telling them to live in the here and now in such a way that they are doing those things they would be doing in heaven. Heaven on earth.

At some point, some author took the phrase “Heaven on earth” and turned it into a frivolous description of carnal pleasure … from the description of an idyllic plot of ground somewhere to a plush and luxurious abode to eating Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Heaven on earth became moments of individualistic pleasure instead of an attainable goal of living in a certain way.

In the passage from Luke, Jesus doesn’t instruct the disciples in the art of overly glorified public prayer that uses all the stained-glass words we’ve come to expect. He gives the disciples and us a simple formula for praying a sincere and heartfelt prayer to the Creator: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.

God, your kingdom come. In Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15, Jesus says to turn around, change your ways, for the kingdom of heaven is near. In Luke 17:20-21, “Jesus, grilled by the Pharisees on when the kingdom of God would come, answered, “The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already within you.”

Within us. The passage from Colossians talks about Christ being in us. Paul tells us, “My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well-constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7 MSG)

Let your living spill over into thanksgiving. That requires wild faith, especially these days when everything is such a struggle and hope seems to be a candle far away in the distance trying desperately to not flicker out in fetid winds.

Paul warns about those winds: “Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.” (Colossians 2:8-10 MSG)

Entering into the fullness Paul is talking about is not something you figure out or achieve. You’re already in the fullness. You are already insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin. You’ve already been through an initiation ritual through your baptism. Going under the water was the burial of your old life; coming up out of it was the resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.

Going down into the kiva Bishop Charleston references is similar to going under the water in baptism. Bishop Charleston’s book, Ladder to the Light, is about getting back to the beginning, to the basics, and then being reborn into the here and now. He uses the rungs on the ladder to describe the journey from those very beginnings to the here and now, to the Light. Beginning at the bottom rung and working up one rung at a time, he names them the Rung of Faith, of Blessing, of Hope, of Community, of Action, of Truth, of Renewal, and of Transformation.

It was the chapter on the Rung of Community that was the inspiration for Rev. Kliewer’s writing that I read to you at the beginning of this message, specifically this paragraph in the book:

“Wild Faith. We are a wild bunch of believers, those of us who break the rules for a good cause. We practice undisciplined smiling when others preach doom and gloom. We are out back helping to feed the neighbors while others are up front talking about why the neighbors are not hungry. There is more than a method to our madness of love. We are not disrespectful of somber predictions for our shared future, but unwilling to let resignation be our best shot. We are joyfully insistent on the alternative of hope. We are unapologetically committed to trusting in something bigger than ourselves. We are wild because faith is wild when it is untamed by the fences of fear.”

You are a wild bunch here at Union Grove. You may doubt it sometimes, but your faith is the wild faith Bishop Charleston describes. I have said from the beginning that God has a plan for this church and that the evidence of that is in the number of times he’s rescued it from the jaws of closure just in the last two years. I have no doubt that you … all of you and all those yet to come and join you here are his plan.

You have done what Bishop Charleston describes in his book and what the earliest Christians did. You have embraced hope together and created a community. That might not seem all that unusual. Most churches have some sense of being a community, but you are different from many churches. The community of many churches is focused inward and is, in effect, insular. They guard the gates so to speak to maintain the comfort of those already in the group.

But not you. You not only don’t guard the gate, you come in here on Sunday morning and block the gate open with concrete blocks. You welcome anyone and everyone who walks through that gate affectionately, sincerely, and equally. You don’t dismiss their struggles, their hurts, their doubts, or their fears. You stand fully ready and willing to sit through, share those struggles, hurts, doubts, and fears with them. That is wildly radical love, even for a church.

Bishop Charleston would, I think, agree, if he knew what all you’ve been up to here. I think he’d take great steps to encourage you to keep at it, even when the way gets hard or dark and it seems like the world has set a wall before us that is unsurmountable. In fact, I’m sure of it. I think he would say what he wrote in his book, Now belongs to love. We will not deny the dark clouds, nor will we fear them, for struggle is nothing new, because no hope is born without it. Why should we be afraid of the dark when we carry the banner of light? Why should we bow our heads when we can see the horizon? Come, let us stand together, let us walk together, sweeping away the shadows with our song. We draw a thousand more to join us as we reclaim the land of life and restore the home of health.  This is the day to rejoice, though our task is far from done, for now belongs to love, and today is when tomorrow begins.”

Bishop Charleston says, “Faith, blessing, and hope bring us to the fourth rung on the ladder to light because through them we recognize one another in aa new way. Not by the color-coding of oppression. Not by the exclusive religion of private salvation for the few. Not by social status or any entitlement of privilege. Not by any measuring stick of our own design. Instead, on the fourth rung we accept a powerful, liberating realization: we are all the same.

“We will walk together through this lonely stretch of road, all of us who have come this far into the valley of shadows. We will not be afraid or anxious, for we have one another. We have our shared strength, our common wisdom, and our collective memory to help us through whatever may come. We have the quiet counsel of our elders and the boundless energy of our young ones. We have the dept of faith of many courageous hearts. We have the resilience and experience of all those among us who have passed this way before. And when the going gets hard, we have a thousand voices to sing, singing as we go along the twisted path toward higher ground, where the shadows will be far behind us.”

You have built that kind of community here. The kind that walks together through whatever comes, and it’s beautiful. It’s wild. It’s inspiring. I just wish all the souls out there that have been harmed, rejected, disillusioned by the church would find you and give you an opportunity to make them part of this wonderful life you’ve built here, to feel the depth and breadth of this wild faith you all possess.

Bishop Charleston describes it best. “Love is a song. Love knows no color, no class or culture, no nationality or religion, but exists in all the above. Love exists in the hearts of the weak and the strong, the might and the humble. It flows out into isolated villages and into the streets of great cities, moving among the young and old alike, taking expression in a thousand ways – the touch, the look, the feel of an emotion deeper than those who have it, enduring, fragile, and perfect in blessing. Love is the inheritance of mystery that we leave to the universe – the proof that consciousness is more than chemicals and fire, but rather a song that sings the why and how of all creation. Love sings it now and will sing it until the end of time.”

Again, and you may not realize it, but that is the kind of love that all of you exude, the kind of love that all of you offer to anyone and everyone. And it is breathtaking to behold.

When the world starts to close in on you, when the things out there do their best to snag and trap you into its darkness, remember who you are. Remember that you are reborn into Christ and that the kingdom of God is within you. Remember that you all stand and make this journey together. Remember that you already know how to love … wildly, radically, inclusively … and then look at the world and say, “Not today, darkness. Now is love, today is when tomorrow begins, and we are not going to let you come along on this journey.”


  • Portions of the message were quoted from “Ladder to the Light: An Indigenous Elder’s Meditations on Hope and Courage” by Steven Charleston, Broadleaf Books 2021, ISBN 978-1-5064-6573-9
  • Scriptures quoted in the message come from “The Message” by Eugene Peterson or from the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition via Bible Gateway

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