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 scriptures used and the message. Union Grove UMC in partnership with Southland Books & Cafe, began holding Second Sunday Community Church in January 2023. Second Sunday Community Church takes place at 3 p.m. ET the second Sunday of every month, meets in-person at The Bird & The Book, and is also live-streamed on Facebook. Holy Communion is offered at every Second Sunday service. If you are worshipping on Second Sundays online whether during the live-cast or through on-demand viewing, 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 are from the NRSV.
2 Peter 1:3-11
His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and excellence. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust and may become participants of the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with excellence, and excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is blind, suffering from eye disease, forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him, but they doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
L: The scriptures of God for the people of God.
A: Thanks be to God.
Message – Trusts Issues
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.
The stated mission of The United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This won’t happen by accident; we don’t fall into discipleship. It requires effort and intention.
A disciple is a follower. That means there must be someone to follow and it means that someone wants followers. Considering that, in the gospel accounts, Jesus said “follow me” more often than he said, “believe in me,” we can be confident that there is a call to follow laid upon anyone and everyone who seeks to draw closer to Christ. It could even be argued that the whole of the life of faith is wrestling with that call to follow him.
Yet even a quick reading of the gospels will reveal that Jesus never undersold this call. He never tried to convince us that following was an easy or a simple thing. There is effort here; there is sacrifice demanded; struggle and lifelong commitment are needed.
It is the weight of this call that we will be considering and focusing on in our worship this summer as we work to keep the fire of Pentecost burning. What is being asked of us, we who seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ?
Beginning with last week’s message, we will listen again to the call of the whole people of faith, when God called Abraham to be the beginning – the genesis – of a new nation. Then we lay this ancient call alongside the words and deeds of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew as he confirms and enhances and redirects the call to be the church at work in the world. But here in part one, we are especially mindful of the radical nature of the call to leave everything behind and to live into a new reality, only then to discover the added responsibility of inviting the whole world to come to know the one we follow. We are to live as witnesses, not hidden away tending to our own souls, safe and secure behind the walls of our sanctuaries. We aren’t called to safety, but to a risky and transforming faith that leans into the kin-dom of God daily.
And we are commissioned by Jesus to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
We spend a lot of time working on being better disciples ourselves and we have some good disciples in this congregation, but we haven’t spent much time at all in going forth and making more disciples.
Oh, we go forth alright. We’ve reached out to the community through our Bruno mission. We’ve carried the gospel out to the community as we will again this afternoon at Second Sunday Community Church. But what we haven’t succeeded in doing is extending the invitation to “follow” Jesus with us.
Perhaps our hesitation or reticence to do so isn’t that surprising.
Rev. Mark Tidsworth writes, “Not everyone in your community will resonate with your church. This is actually normal and okay. So, instead of trying to be a church you are not in order to appeal to more, pray and look for those in your community for whom your church’s embodiment of the gospel helps open doors to God, those who will come alive when they experience the faith lived through your church. Go.” And that’s what we’re doing.
As a reconciling church, we’re a unique congregation, especially in this area and even more so within our own denomination. Our position on inclusion, our willingness to minister to and serve the segments of the population we do sets us apart from the other churches in our geographic community, so we’ve looked beyond geography and widened the area we consider our “community.”
Our uniqueness, however, also makes us a potential target of extremists, and so, when we go out into the wider community, we are at minimum subconsciously and more often consciously wary when meeting strangers, and hesitant to share too much about our church, at least at first. Afterall, there’s a lot of hate in the world today, and people who disagree with you are not only more bold in their willingness to voice their opinions, they’re more overt in both threats and some are far too apt to act on those threats. An attitude and wariness not unlike that of the first disciples. Trust is an issue.
Our reluctance to blindly trust those we meet is compounded by an even greater lack of trust among those we serve … people who’ve experienced hurt “in the name of God.” Shame, guilt, and a feeling of never quite being worthy, outright condemnation and rejection don’t just make them question whether God loves them … those feelings conveyed to them through toxic theology have instilled in them a belief that, not only does God not love them, they will never be worthy of God’s love. For most of them, trust isn’t just “an issue.” It’s an impossibility. For most, their faith has been shattered, even weaponized against them.
We are such communal creatures, we humans. We are designed for community and even the most introverted, anti-social among us still want at least some network of trustworthy friends. So when we attempt to reach out, to make disciples, to grow our beloved community and are less than successful, we tend to begin to question our own faith. Are we not understanding this commission he gave us? Are we not being clear when we tell others about God, about Christ? What is wrong with us? Are we wrong about that calling we thought God gave us? And our own faith may begin to tremble and stutter.
Rev. Kliewer of Dancing Faith wrote, “I once equated faith with certainty
If I had faith
If I had enough faith
Then I could find surety
I could be certain that “God” was on my side
Certain that they (God) would protect me and reward me
Certain about what God wanted me to do
Certain about the proper outcome
With enough faith I could be certain of the path forward
And certain of the destination
I wonder where I got that?
Not from the Bible, that is for sure!
I am impressed in fact, with the high degree of uncertainty that goes along with following the Sacred Way
Think of Abraham
To the place I will show you!
Where is that?
Just go, you’ll know (perhaps) when you get there.
Or think of the people of Israel
Headed out into the desert
Follow the pillar of fire, follow the cloud in the sky.
To a place flowing with milk and honey
Yeah! But where is that! Inquiring minds want to know!
(People: We wanna go back to Egypt)
Think of the disciples
Going through a normal day
When along comes Jesus
Just follow, and I will make you people catchers
healers of humankind
Ambassadors of Love
Tell us more!
Patience beloved ones
Now you do not understand, but later you will!
On and on it goes
In the upper room.
After the resurrection
On the road to Damascus
The call is not to certainty. indeed, certainty gets us into trouble
It makes us arrogant, perhaps even cruel
it closes our heart
So here is to uncertainty,
and to openness
To Plan B (and C, and D, and …)
The call is to follow
Not a map (a creed)
But to follow love
Wherever it goes
To whomever it leads us
The call is to walk with hearts wide open
And a mind that questions and explores
And hands that reach out to help and heal
Faithful and uncertain!
Knowing only one thing for certain
It is all about love.
Love. Boy the world could use more of that right now, couldn’t it?
Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
assuming human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Maybe that’s where we’ve been messing up … if we’ve been messing up. Maybe we’ve looked at both our individual callings and our congregational calling as a job, a duty, a task we have to carry out in order to stay just far enough into God’s good grace to make it to heaven.
Maybe we’ve been doing this with superficial love, but not with the unconditional love of God and of Christ. Maybe we’ve been so focused on being able to show growth in the numerous reports we’re supposed to file each year, in striving to qualify for “evangelism” awards, and in filling pews that we’ve become ambitious, even conceited, striving to show we can not only grow our congregation, but that our growth through inclusion trumps their growth in their exclusion. Maybe we’ve even put ourselves on some kind of pedestal because we are a unique congregation with what is a bold and daring ministry in this area. Maybe we have become as cocksure and arrogant about what we believe as those who we consider not so unique or bold or daring.
I hear them say they are on the side of God
I hear them say they “know the way”
I hear them say they are going to fight “sin”
And going to prevail against those godless ones who are “woke”
(their term, not mine)
I see them place themselves above others
Full of ambition
Devoid of humility
I see them look to their own interests
Lusting for wealth and influence
Those right-wing politicians (and a fair number on the left too)
Those red state legislatures
Those tyrants in Poland, Hungry, Turkey, Israel, and Russia
Who would impose their values
Who would coerce and control and punish
Making others less so they can be more
Those pulpit pounders who would put others to death
And exclude oh so many from grace
Dooming them to eternal torment
I know them
I have been them
I can be them
It must hurt Jesus’ heart
To see what is done in his name
To see his ways of servanthood and humility
his way of truth and justice
turned into the way of domination and arrogance
lies and injustice
why can we not remember that beautiful hymn
sung by the early church (which had its own issues)
why can we not sing the servant song
the song of Kenosis?
Did we learn nothing from that peasant king?
Did we learn nothing from that humble ride on a donkey
Did we learn nothing from Jesus’ response to violence
Do we not understand that for death to work backward (Lewis)
we have to be people with others and for others
not people over others?
Jesus could have taken earthly power
He could have imposed righteousness
rather than elicited it from within
He could have taken over the government
Co-opted the Sanhedrin
Mobilized the Proud Boys
Led a revolution
Sought to dominate and control
But he didn’t
Because that does not lead to the Kingdom of God
It leads to hate and fear
it not only is not love
it kills love
We all, sadly like power
But there are two kinds of power
There is power over
And there is power for
We can choose power over other people
We can place ourselves above and in pride control
We can coerce and punish
Or we can choose the power of love
Which stands beside
Which is compassion
And welcome and inclusion
We can choose the power of love
Which touches people at their deepest place
And changes them
From the inside out
Not power brokers who perpetrate hate and fear
But lovers, who pass on peace, hope, joy, and love
As Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “Jesus stopped. And healed. And loved. Not causes, but people.
I think Jesus disdained causes
He didn’t line up with any group
Not the Sadducees, or Pharisees
Not the Zealots or the Essenes
Not the collaborative movement which went along with Rome (it’s the money stupid)
Or the movement that wanted to eradicate all the Romans
Jesus didn’t have much time for movements
because he only had eyes
People who happened to be Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots and Essenes
Noble and common
Rich and poor
Powerful and powerless
Healthy and ill
Confident and confused
Faithful and faithless
Righteous and holy messes
And when he saw people
Who were hurting, questioning
(whether they knew it or not)
Jesus stopped. And healed. And loved.
He did what he could to make people safe
Accepted and welcome
He did what he could to bless
He did not just work to help them become who and what
They were created to be
Children of God
But he worked to make sure they were fed, clothed, and house
To make sure their thirst was quenched
Be it spiritual or physical
And when he went on his way
He left people who were changed
(or if not changed, sad and thoughtful)
Yes, I know, there are places for movements
But sometimes our allegiance to causes can leave us blind to people
We can be so into stopping abortion
We lose sight of mothers and fathers, and children already born
And we can become cruel and destructive
We can be so into gun rights
(pick your cause)
That we fail to see people
We fail to see their fear, their pain, their anger
And we an end up discarding them
Diminishing and marginalizing them
After all, “the cause!”
I don’t know sometimes how to balance it out
I don’t know how to see the people who are wrapped up
In beliefs, attitudes and actions
That violate love
It is difficult to stop and truly see them
It is difficult to love them
It is difficult to treat them with love
But Jesus did
He stopped and talked with kindness to the rich young man
The tax collector
The Roman soldier
The members of the Sanhedrin
How do we do it, Jesus?
How do we see those who cross our paths
How do we see them as your beloved children
As our brothers and sisters
How do we not let our causes
Our own sense of right and wrong
Good and evil
Get in the way of love?
By following Jesus. Jesus was the power of love in the flesh, the very epitome of love, and it is His example that we are to follow.
From time to time, we will stumble and fall, we will question, we will doubt our calling, we will need to grab ourselves by the collar and get our arrogance in check, and we will need to put ourselves back on the path of following him so that, like him, we will focus on the people. We will stop. We will heal. We will love all the people.
God who loves us and calls us,
We confess that we are not always open to receiving your call on our lives. We make excuses. We choose not to listen. We believe that others would do it better than we can.
Forgive us for all the times we say no–or nothing at all—to your call.
We confess that we value the false certainty of our own path over the uncertainty of journeying with you and one another on the path of discipleship.
Forgive us for all the ways we choose what we think we know over joining you in the holy unknown.
We confess that we value the calls of some over others, putting the paths of some up on pedestals while not recognizing the many who answer your call as quiet, behind-the-scenes disciples.
Forgive us for neglecting the beautiful and varied calls you place on each of our lives.
Forgive us, God, and free us to joyfully bear the weight of your call on our lives as members together of the Body of Christ, redeemed and united by your love.
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