This service has been filmed during the period we are worshipping online only while our building undergoes repairs needed following storm damage. During this period and due to equipment limitations, we are unable to hold a complete worship service.


Thy Kingdom Come – A Message for Epiphany Sunday

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.

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.

Most of our churches celebrated Epiphany last week, but I wanted to save it for this week. This week, it just seems to fit better. We’re just two days past the actual Epiphany … this past Friday, January 6.

An epiphany is an “aha” moment … those times when one comes to a sudden and unexpected realization of something. In our passage from Matthew, the obvious epiphany is that moment when the Magi look down at the baby Jesus and collectively see him for who he is – the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace.

That’s a pretty big aha moment when you think about it, both for the Magi, and for us. See the Magi – the second group of people that the truth of the Christ Child’s identity was revealed to – were Gentiles, most likely Zoroastrians and astrologers.

But I want to tell you another story of another epiphany like revelation. It goes like this:

“There was a man named Cornelius who lived in Caesarea, captain of the Italian Guard stationed there. He was a thoroughly good man. He had led everyone in his house to live worshipfully before God, was always helping people in need, and had the habit of prayer. One day about three o’clock in the afternoon he had a vision. An angel of God, as real as his next-door neighbor, came in and said, “Cornelius.”

Cornelius stared hard, wondering if he was seeing things. Then he said, “What do you want, sir?”

The angel said, “Your prayers and neighborly acts have brought you to God’s attention. Here’s what you are to do. Send men to Joppa to get Simon, the one everyone calls Peter. He is staying with Simon the Tanner, whose house is down by the sea.”

As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two servants and one particularly devout soldier from the guard. He went over with them in great detail everything that had just happened, and then sent them off to Joppa.

The next day as the three travelers were approaching the town, Peter went out on the balcony to pray. It was about noon. Peter got hungry and started thinking about lunch. While lunch was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the skies open up. Something that looked like a huge blanket lowered by ropes at its four corners settled on the ground. Every kind of animal and reptile and bird you could think of was on it. Then a voice came: “Go to it, Peter—kill and eat.”

Peter said, “Oh, no, Lord. I’ve never so much as tasted food that was not kosher.”

The voice came a second time: “If God says it’s okay, it’s okay.”

This happened three times, and then the blanket was pulled back up into the skies.

As Peter, puzzled, sat there trying to figure out what it all meant, the men sent by Cornelius showed up at Simon’s front door. They called in, asking if there was a Simon, also called Peter, staying there. Peter, lost in thought, didn’t hear them, so the Spirit whispered to him, “Three men are knocking at the door looking for you. Get down there and go with them. Don’t ask any questions. I sent them to get you.”

Peter went down and said to the men, “I think I’m the man you’re looking for. What’s up?”

They said, “Captain Cornelius, a God-fearing man well-known for his fair play—ask any Jew in this part of the country—was commanded by a holy angel to get you and bring you to his house so he could hear what you had to say.” Peter invited them in and made them feel at home.

The next morning he got up and went with them. Some of his friends from Joppa went along. A day later they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had his relatives and close friends waiting with him. The minute Peter came through the door, Cornelius was up on his feet greeting him—and then down on his face worshiping him! Peter pulled him up and said, “None of that—I’m a man and only a man, no different from you.”

Talking things over, they went on into the house, where Cornelius introduced Peter to everyone who had come. Peter addressed them, “You know, I’m sure that this is highly irregular. Jews just don’t do this—visit and relax with people of another race. But God has just shown me that no race is better than any other. So the minute I was sent for, I came, no questions asked. But now I’d like to know why you sent for me.”

Cornelius said, “Four days ago at about this time, midafternoon, I was home praying. Suddenly there was a man right in front of me, flooding the room with light. He said, ‘Cornelius, your daily prayers and neighborly acts have brought you to God’s attention. I want you to send to Joppa to get Simon, the one they call Peter. He’s staying with Simon the Tanner down by the sea.’

“So I did it—I sent for you. And you’ve been good enough to come. And now we’re all here in God’s presence, ready to listen to whatever the Master put in your heart to tell us.”

Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone.

“You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.

“And we saw it, saw it all, everything he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem where they killed him, hung him from a cross. But in three days God had him up, alive, and out where he could be seen. Not everyone saw him—he wasn’t put on public display. Witnesses had been carefully handpicked by God beforehand—us! We were the ones, there to eat and drink with him after he came back from the dead. He commissioned us to announce this in public, to bear solemn witness that he is in fact the One whom God destined as Judge of the living and dead. But we’re not alone in this. Our witness that he is the means to forgiveness of sins is backed up by the witness of all the prophets.”

No sooner were these words out of Peter’s mouth than the Holy Spirit came on the listeners. The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on “outsider” non-Jews, but there it was—they heard them speaking in tongues, heard them praising God.

Then Peter said, “Do I hear any objections to baptizing these friends with water? They’ve received the Holy Spirit exactly as we did.” Hearing no objections, he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

Then they asked Peter to stay on for a few days.

This year, we’re going to focus on learning how to and living in the Kingdom. Jesus was once asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21-22)

If we’re going to live in the Kingdom, then it’s important that we understand what that is and who our neighbors are going to be, don’t you think? Our passage from Matthew and the story I told you from Acts 10 are both good indicators that God’s kingdom is inclusive. Nothing in the passage from Matthew says, “And the Magi returned to their homelands and spread Christianity throughout their lands.” The Acts 10 story about Peter’s dream or trance does indicate that the people he went to visit were baptized and became followers of Christ. But it doesn’t say that, on top of being baptized and having the Holy Spirit come upon them, Peter spent those extra days with them teaching them all about Temple protocol and rules and such. It’s more likely he spent that time telling them more stories about Jesus and what Jesus taught.

God is rather good at turning things upside down. You can find several incidents in the Old Testament where, in one passage or book, such and such is an enemy, and then in another passage or book, someone from that enemy tribe or nation or culture or ethnic group is a major player in carrying out God’s work for the good of God’s people.

I imagine it confounds God to no end to hear any of God’s children declare that any other of God’s children unworthy, unwanted, rejected, or outcasts. I imagine Jesus is standing there thinking, “I warned you all about casting stones. What part of that did you not get?”

For me, that’s the greatest Epiphany … the realization that God and Jesus regularly, almost consistently reached beyond the figurative boundaries of the “chosen people” to do some really big things. Jesus, especially chose from the least often chosen … fishermen, tax collectors, women, Samaritans … and not a venerated “religious leader” among them. He was just as inclusive with who he healed and helped and loved and forgave … lepers, widows, sex workers, people with mental health issues, even criminals destined for execution and those who were responsible for his own execution.

That’s because Jesus knew something we too often forget: Every person on this planet … every single person … is created in the Image of God. Another scripture that has no caveats or exceptions … simply in the Image, the likeness of God. Every. Single. Person.

There are Christian people out here, though, that have been taught some people are less worthy than others. That kind of thinking, that kind of theology, has caused a lot of harm – the kind of harm that puts people at physical risk such as cases of spousal abuse, both physical and mental health risk, causes PTSD and even drives some people to self-harm. Even harm in the form of oppressive, unjust, and dangerous bills slated to become law in state after state.

This is to the allies of any marginalized, oppressed, outcast community. We are called to do good, love God, and seek justice, to stand up for the marginalized, oppressed, and outcast. We are or should be the first line of defense.

And this is to those of you present who are victims of being marginalized, oppressed, or outcast. Remember who it was that Jesus spent all his time with and, on those rare times when he lost his temper, remember who it was he got mad at … and it wasn’t you. Most often, it was the religious leaders and exploiters who seemed intent on twisting scriptures and writing rules and judging others.

You, my siblings in Christ, are beloved by God, by Christ, and by the Holy Spirit, created in their image and likeness. You are loved. You are worthy. Just as you are. And I am grateful to call you our kingdom neighbors.

Now that we’ve established who our neighbors are, Greet yourself as God’s beloved. Greet one another as God’s beloved. Greet all you encounter as God’s beloved. In that greeting, we will be, and we will become, the Body of Christ. In that greeting, we will behold the image of God, ever among us and around us.


  • Unless listed below, all works cited within the text above.

Copyright Disclaimer: Under §107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for educational purposes. No copyright infringement is intended. All rights belong to their respective owners.

If you are able, please consider making an offering or paying your tithes through our secure online service provided by It’s safe. It’s free. It will help us continue ministry at Union Grove. Just visit and follow the instruction for making your offering. You may be prompted to create an account with them. There is no fee for the account or for making your offering through 

If you are not comfortable using a debit or credit card online, you can mail your offerings/tithes to:

Union Grove UMC
1151 Lane Drive
Friendsville, TN 37737

Please be sure to make your checks payable to "Union Grove UMC Friendsville".

Please note that 100% of offerings received during or from Second Sunday Community of Faith gatherings are redistributed to relevant community and national organizations. If you are making an offering after viewing a Second Sunday gathering, please designate "Second Sunday" (from the drop down menu on or on the Memo line of your check) so we can ensure your offering is distributed accordingly.

For more information on how our offering receipts are used and our designated funds, please visit "For Those Who Are Able" on the menu bar at the top or bottom of this page.