This service was online only due to heating issues at the church and is a shortened service. 

  • Greeting – Rev. Val
  • Opening Prayer – Rev. Val 
  • Holy Troublemakers
  • Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Scripture Readings – Jeremiah 1:4-10 (NRSV), Luke 4:21-30 (NRSV) – Rev. Val
  • Message: + ÷ – x = – Rev. Val
  • Closing Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Benediction – Rev. Val


Welcome! Very quickly, the announcements except for one at are the end of today’s service … you’re welcome. As I said on Facebook, we’re online only today because of no heat at the church until next week, and this is a shortened service. I appreciate your patience and participation here online while we correct the heat issue. Let’s begin.

Opening Prayer
“Opening Prayer,” Nancy C. Townley, Worship Connection: June 23, 2019, ministrymatters.com

Open our hearts today, O Lord, to feel the powerful strength and love you have for us. Help us to listen, not only with our ears, but with our spirits for your words of compassion and healing. Enable us to become more faithful disciples for you; for we ask this in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ.
In Jesus’ name …


Holy Troublemaker – Pope Francis

Appointed March 13, 2013

Choosing this week’s Holy Troublemaker was a challenge, not from lack of, but because there were at least four too choose from. Then something happened that made the choice crystal clear, especially considering this series is for you good people of Union Grove. I hope you agree.

Born December 17, 1936, our Holy Troublemaker comes from a large family and is the eldest of five children, graduated secondary school with a chemical technician’s diploma, and worked as a bouncer and a janitor before going to work as a technician in a food science laboratory. After recovering from life-threatening pneumonia and three cysts that required removal of part of one lung, in 1958 he was inspired to join the Society of Jesus or Jesuits as they are more commonly known. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1969, served as the Jesuit provincial superior in his homeland from 1973 to 1979. He became Archbishop in 1998 and Cardinal in 2001. As Cardinal, he led the church through riots in his homeland causing the President and Vice-President of that country to consider him a political rival.

On March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope by the papal conclave and, from the start, he took actions contrary to many of the papal traditions. Rather than adopt the name of a predecessor, he chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. He had previously expressed his admiration for St. Francis, explaining that “He brought to Christianity an idea of poverty against the luxury, pride, and vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time. He changed history.”

It seems Pope Francis has been working hard to change history from day one. Instead of accepting his cardinals’ congratulations while seated on the papal throne, Francis received them standing, reportedly an immediate sign of a changing approach to formalities at the Vatican. During his first appearance as pontiff on the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica, he wore a white cassock, not the red, ermine-trimmed mozzetta used by previous popes. He also wore the same iron pectoral cross that he had worn as archbishop of Buenos Aires, rather than the gold one worn by his predecessors. On the night of his election, he took a bus back to his hotel with the cardinals, rather than be driven in the papal car.

Pope Francis abolished the bonuses paid to Vatican employees upon the election of a new pope, amounting to several million Euros, opting instead to donate the money to charity. He also abolished the €25,000 annual bonus paid to the cardinals serving on the Board of Supervisors for the Vatican bank.

Perhaps one of the most astounding sign that Pope Francis was cut from a different cloth happened when, on the first Holy Thursday following his election, Francis washed and kissed the feet of ten male and two female juvenile offenders, not all Catholic, aged from 14 to 21, imprisoned at Rome’s Casal del Marmo detention facility, telling them the ritual of foot washing is a sign that he is at their service. This was the first time that a pope had included women in this ritual; although he had already done so when he was archbishop. Further, one of the male and one of the female prisoners were Muslim.

While Pope Francis maintains the traditional views of the Church regarding abortion, clerical celibacy, and the ordination of women, he has initiated dialogue on the possibility of deaconesses and has made women full members of dicasteries in the Roman Curia. He maintains that the Church should be more open and welcoming for members of the LGBT community and has called for families to stop rejecting their LGBTQ children. Francis is an outspoken critic of unbridled capitalism and free market economics, consumerism, and overdevelopment, and advocates taking action on climate change, a focus of his papacy with the promulgation of Laudato si’. Since 2018, he has been an opponent of populism.

To this day, Pope Francis has faced criticism from theological conservatives on many questions, including his promotion of ecumenism, as well as admitting civilly divorced and remarried Catholics to communion with the publication of Amoris Laetitia.

In my lifetime, there have been six Popes and a total of eleven since the beginning of the 20th century. This is the first Pope that has captured my attention and that has spoken in a way that reaches into the hearts of all followers of Christ and, in fact, all of humanity. It is his fearlessness about opening discussions or speaking to issues that rattle “the way we’ve always done it” traditionalists, the hope his actions bring to those who’ve been overlooked or marginalized for far too long, and this consistent and sincere call for peace over power that make him the ultimate candidate for this week’s Holy Troublemaker.


Par. 1 – Kwasi Kena, The Africana Worship Book for Year C, (Discipleship Resources, 2008), 144. Intercession – posted on The Presbyterian Church in Canada website, http://presbyterian.ca

Gracious God, how often does selfishness wash through our good intentions? How often do we speak bold, sophisticated words to impress others? How often do we forget that we are what we are because of you? Remind us that our abilities are your gifts to us. Remind us that that you loaned us some possessions in hopes that we would help others with them. If we are guilty of living only to impress others – forgive us. If we gain status only by putting someone else down – forgive us. If we do things only for applause – forgive us. If all we do sounds like clanging cymbals and noisy gongs to you – call us to repent. Humble us enough to serve. Humble us enough to pray. Humble us enough to love you and those people who may never say thank you to us.

 Your love is patient;

we give you thanks for all those who have been patient with us and have taught and cared for us; 
and we pray for the patience to love others as you have loved us.

 Your love is kind;

give us the courage to be kind to others and to serve those with patience who are so often unkind, rude, difficult to love, or our enemies. They are your children and our sisters and brothers and they were made in your image.

 Your love is not pompous;

give us insight to speak the truth in love and for the sake of your kingdom and not out of a need to appear clever or right and in all our relationships give us the wisdom to listen far more than we speak.

Your love does not seek its own interests;

we thank you and pray for those who serve the poor and those in need, who give tirelessly of themselves and who have much to do and little time for themselves.

 Your love is not quick-tempered;

we pray for those who are angry and for the violent and their victims; 
for children who fear, elders who are abused, and people trapped in relationships that injure and harm.

 Your love bears all things;

we remember before you those with heavy burdens, many cares, much stress, and too little comfort and help. Open our eyes to those around us and their needs and give us the wisdom to offer help without any prying or sense of superiority.

 Your love never fails;

even death does not trespass on the breadth and depth of your love. We thank you for those we have loved in this life and who now dwell in the peace and joy of your presence and let your comfort settle on those who are bereaved or who are lonely this day.

In the name of Jesus we pray these things.

Dearest Lord, whatever else You see that we need—whatever is for the good of our neighbor and redounds to Your glory—we pray that You would grant to us, Your children. We ask it Jesus’ name who taught us to pray:

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, the power, and the glory forever.



Gracious God, as we turn to your Word for us, may the Spirit of God rest upon us. Help us to be steadfast in our hearing, in our speaking, in our believing, in our living, and in our loving.


Jeremiah 1:4-10 (NRSV) – Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”

But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”

Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Luke 4:21-30 (NRSV) – Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'”

And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

The scriptures of God for the People of God.

Thanks be to God.

MESSAGE – + ÷ – x =

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.

For the last two weeks, we’ve gone over D words – doubt, disagree, deconstruction and, just this past Monday at Thomas Talks, a little bit about division as another part of deconstruction. We’ve looked at church history going back to Jesus’ time. Hopefully, we now understand that the process of deconstruction discussed so far goes like this:  Someone or some group starts to doubt something. That doubt leads, for individuals, to an acknowledgement of disagreement with whatever is the source of their doubt and, when it’s a group of individuals, disagreement can and usually does lead to division or schism.

We know that deconstruction is not necessarily a bad thing, and that it’s normal for us and for the church to go through deconstruction. And, we’ve learned that deconstruction within the church … those upheavals the church has gone through periodically, while immediately painful and hard, have not destroyed any parties in the church and have actually caused the church to grow.

I want to talk today about those … actions we do before during and after deconstruction and that is we add, we subtract, we divide, and we multiply. We do these things sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad ways. And, we do them in all parts of our lives … to ourselves, in relationships, in jobs or careers, in government, and in our faith. All our lives and everything we do is a process of adding, subtracting, dividing, and multiplying. It literally starts at birth. The only thing we can’t do any of those things to are our experiences. While we can try to forget the ones that are painful or damning or that cause us grief, we carry our experiences forward … good or bad.

I want to stick to faith today, but as we go along, think about places in your lives where adding, subtracting, dividing, and multiplying were at play.

Like I said, this all starts at birth. Some of us, especially those of us who are Boomers or older, were born into families that more than likely attended church often enough that we were baptized. For those of you who were, remember that … from the moment you are baptized … God starts calling you. Whether your family and you continued to attend church regularly or not, God continued to call you.

Through church, Sunday school, youth group, family interactions, and interactions with friends … even through movies, TV, books, and music, bits and pieces of spiritual beliefs were added to your psyche. Those beliefs were influenced by who was delivering them and what they believed. Also being added were experiences and the older we get the more experiences we have.

As young children, we were unlikely to question what was being added to our beliefs, in large part because we lacked enough experiences to cause us to form any questions. It would most likely have been about middle school age that any of us would possibly start to question some or even all of the beliefs we’d acquired. How we processed those questions would depend a lot on whether we had someone to talk to about them. If we did, that or those persons would then add yet more or possibly assist us in subtracting at least some of the beliefs. Once in a while, that or those persons might even replace our beliefs with a new set of beliefs.

Now, let’s put this into perspective. Let’s say that you grew up in a church where during the Sunday worship, Sunday school class, and youth group, you were told “Woe to you sinners, repent and be saved! Pray the sinner’s prayer and accept Christ as your personal savior so you can go to heaven.” The pastor and the Sunday school teacher and the youth group leader were inspiring (or had you terrified for your soul) enough to move you to tears. You invite Christ into your heart, go home, and you work really hard all week to do better and be a better person, and then you go to Sunday worship, Sunday school class, and youth group the next week and … Boom! You hear the exact same thing! And this happens week after week after week.

The outcome is that you most likely begin to at least develop a sense of failure at worst, doubt for your soul at minimum because you must not have tried hard enough or the preacher and the Sunday school teacher and the youth group leader wouldn’t have continuously week after week after month after month after year after year have always repeated the same message. And even though you’ve asked Christ into your heart and accepted him as your personal savior and Lord, you may not feel like you’re really saved.

Another example would be folks who have gotten caught up in what’s called a prosperity gospel. The theology of prosperity gospel is that you have to give to received and you should expect that whatever you give you’ll get back ten-fold. They always have a good story to tell about someone who got it all back and so much more … but somehow, it seems like you’re still waiting for that ten-fold. Those who preach this gospel seem to be living examples of the truth of their gospel message because they’re living large. Meanwhile, many folks are downsizing and trying to figure out how to feed a family of four on less because they’ve literally given until they’ve hurt themselves.

And yet another example would be a church where the pastors and teachers constantly give you a set of rules that absolutely must be followed, a hierarchy of leadership in the church and the home that must be followed, and an often rather long litany of those things and people that are unacceptable.

One last example … and this can happen in any church, including this one is a prevalence of Sunday Saints … folks who talk a good game on Sunday, but don’t walk the talk Monday through Saturday.

Those are just four examples. I’m sure there are more. The point is, examples like these can cause us to question, to doubt, the beliefs we’ve been taught. The reason this normally starts about the time we reach adulthood is because we are now out in the world and the world just isn’t matching up to anything we’ve ever learned belief wise.

Like, why do bad things happen to good people? Why are abortions bad but the death sentence and war okay? If God knew me from before I was born and knew what my life would be like, then why would God let me become something He then rejects? I prayed and prayed and prayed and He didn’t answer my prayers or didn’t give me what I prayed for. How do I know any of this is even real?

As you grow into adulthood, experiences like that can lead you to give up. And who could blame you, really. So you begin to doubt. You pick up the beliefs like pieces of a three-D puzzle and you examine them with the same intense attention a diamond dealer gives the stones he’s about to purchase. And you begin the math of deconstruction.

You divide those pieces into piles – keep, think about, and eliminate. The ones you keep, you hold dear and sacred within your soul. The ones you need to think about, you are most likely going to find someone you feel is both trustworthy and more knowledgeable and ask for their input, their perspective. That can lead to a decision to keep or eliminate, or … and this would be my hope … it will lead you to do more research … reading scripture, praying for guidance and understanding and clarity … asking yet others.  Those items you’ve questioned and discussed and researched that aren’t eliminated will most likely multiply.

The church goes through the same kind of math when it’s in a place of upheaval or deconstruction, too. The main difference is that the church is examining communal beliefs and doctrines rather than individually held beliefs. Like you, though, the church will examine the pieces, make three piles, and work from there. It will divide and subtract. And through its division and subtraction of those beliefs and policies, its people may also divide and then some may subtract themselves. Remember, though … the Church has survived every upheaval it has gone through and come out better for it.  

I think that’s the most reassuring part of deconstruction, because if the Church has always survived it and we are the church, then we can survive both the Church’s deconstruction and our own and come out better for it, too.

I promised a shortened service today, so I want to stop here for this week. But, I want to leave you with this: Remember … God doesn’t give up on you no matter what. He is faithful to you even when your faith falters and/or fades. He does not hold your deconstruction math against you. He knows that, when you’re going through the process, you’re actually focusing quite heavily on Him, on the place He has in your life, and on finding a way to get closer to Him by ridding yourself of unnecessary or untrue beliefs and restoring the good, true beliefs that you need to follow Him, follow Jesus, and be the kingdom builder he wants you to be.

Let’s pray.


God, you know our hearts. You know our stumbles, our falters, and our misgivings. When you see us feeling like we couldn’t be any further from you if we tried, draw us in tightly. When you see us struggling to understand, impatient for answers, angry at silence, give us clarity and understanding. And when we take too long or hold too tightly to a belief you know is not healthy for us, not life-giving, not a belief we should have, strip it from our minds, our hearts, our souls and fill us with your Spirit instead. When you see us giving up, fill us with hope, love, and peace.

In Jesus’ name we pray.



Ashlee Mosely Brown and the late Dr. Fred Craddock, Emory University’s Candler School of Theology Professor of Preaching and New Testament in his sermon “Jesus Saves” from July 10, 2011

Thank you for joining me online this morning and for your patience as we work to get the heat restored at the church. 

Now hear this benediction:

“The hope became the assignment…I first went because I thought wherever Christ is there’s no misery…But now I realize wherever there is misery, there Christ is.”

“Sometimes God disguises the good stuff and you have to close your eyes to see it…of course it was hope. It’s always hope.”

On this cold, wintry day – this day when so much of the world is so tired from so much for so long – may you have hope and may you hope.

Go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord. In Jesus’ name,



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