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.



MESSAGE – A… B… Sea-Change

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, and may you see fit to use me as a vessel from which you pour out your Divine Word.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

::singing:: A-B-C, it’s easy as 1-2-3 … Only it’s not the letter C I want to talk about today, it’s Sea-Change.

Sea-change, likened to the shifting tides of the sea, is an English expression that denotes a substantial change in perspective, especially one that affects a group or society at large, on a particular issue. It is similar in usage and meaning to a paradigm shift and may be viewed as a change to a society or community’s zeitgeist – the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of the times – with regard to a specific issue. The phrase evolved from an older and more literal usage when the term referred to an actual “change wrought by the sea” and was used by as early as Shakespeare in his “Ariel’s Song” from The Tempest …

Come unto these yellow sands,

              And then take hands:

    Curtsied when you have, and kiss’d

              The wild waves whist,

    Foot it featly here and there;

    We shall your burden bear.

              Hark, hark!

          The watch-dogs bark.

    Full fathom five thy father lies;

              Of his bones are coral made;

    Those are pearls that were his eyes:

              Nothing of him that doth fade,

    But doth suffer a sea-change

    Into something rich and strange.

    Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:


    Hark! now I hear them—Ding-dong, bell.

In that song, a spirit named Ariel is telling Ferdinand, one of the main characters that Ferdinand’s father who had deposed the main character, Prospero, and stolen his title, Duke of Milan, was drowned in the shipwreck they’d suffered … a wreck that happened when Prospero summoned a storm specifically for that purpose as revenge against Ferdinand’s father. and is describing what has happened to the father’s body … a “sea-change into something rich and strange.” Perhaps Ariel, who’d been forced by Prospero to tell Ferdinand his father was dead.  Ferdinand’s father wasn’t dead, by the way. Ariel may have been trying to give Ferdinand a modicum of comfort by telling Ferdinand that even in death came a rich and strange form of new life.

Most of you present today as well as many who are or will join or view this online, you’ve probably already had one major sea-change in your lives. It may have been coming out as gay, and subsequently being rejected by the church you may have been attending, by family, friends, employers, landlords, and others. A clear change in the direction of the tide of your lives. For others, a sea-change may have been when you became so disillusioned by the teachings of the church you were in, so frustrated with the lack of or unwillingness to answer your questions and walk with you in your doubts, or so physically, emotionally, or spiritually abused by the church, you walked away from it all.

And some of you may have gone through a sea-change, only to find yourselves caught in an eddy of sorts, wondering where you are going, where you fit in now, maybe even whether you’ll be able to survive all that seems to be coming at you.

Just as the sea undergoes constant change, so too can our lives, our communities from locally right up through nationally, and for some … maybe more than we realize, our faith lives.  Today, sea-change is taking place across the globe as individuals and entities seek to gain or retain power and control through actions that demonize, disenfranchise, silence, and even eliminate through either paper or actual genocide entire groups of those declared “other,” and to enforce a set of extremely prejudiced, narrow, and supposedly religious morals on us all.

It feels as though the stormy tides called up by Prospero in The Tempest to destroy Ferdinand and Ferdinand’s father are now threatening to shipwreck everything we know and everything so many have struggled to achieve. Where is our Ariel singing a song of solace, foretelling a “rich and strange” sea-change? Or rather who?

Y’all know that I’m a Methodist. What you may not know because we’re not always good at demonstrating it is that Methodism falls in the category of “social justice” denominations. Done correctly, we stress the social gospels. That’s because our founder, John Wesley, emphasized the concept of “social holiness” as an integral aspect of our faith and practice. Social holiness, in Wesley’s understanding, extends beyond personal piety and individual salvation to encompass communal and societal transformation through acts of love, justice, and compassion.

Wesley believed … and I with him … that holiness is not merely an individual pursuit but is also manifested in the context of community. He emphasized the importance of believers coming together in fellowship to support and encourage one another in their spiritual journey.

Central to Wesley’s understanding of social holiness is the concept of “Christian perfection,” which he described as “perfect love.” This love is not limited to feelings or emotions but is expressed through concrete actions of compassion, service, and justice toward others.

Wesley emphasized the practice of “works of mercy” and “works of justice” as essential expressions of social holiness. This included caring for the poor, visiting the sick and imprisoned, advocating for the oppressed, and working to address systemic injustices in society.

He also encouraged active engagement in society to address social issues and promote positive change. He believed that we have a responsibility to participate in the social and political spheres to influence policies and practices that reflect the love and justice of the Divine Mystery, and he envisioned social holiness as leading to the transformation of communities and societies, where the principles of love, justice, and righteousness are upheld, and where all people are treated with dignity and respect.

In summary, John Wesley’s idea of social holiness emphasizes the interconnectedness of personal piety and social responsibility. It involves living out the principles of our faith in community, engaging in acts of love and justice, and working towards the transformation of society according to Creator’s will.

The Creator’s will … that’s something that is being heavily convoluted and twisted right now by those seeking power and control using hate and fear in order to manipulate their followers into various forms of extremism – nationalism, Zionism, and dominionism, just to name a few. And because there has been a steady and growing stream of such teachings over the last several decades which, for anyone who has the ability to think critically, is in direct opposition to the teachings of the sacred texts, it has become the reason so many have walked away from what is too readily understood today as “Christianity.”

Please understand, I don’t blame anyone who has made the choice to walk away from the church! What’s important to understand is that “Christianity” isn’t the only faith tradition that is suffering this type of convolution and exploitation. All three of the Abrahamic faith traditions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islamism – and no doubt other faith traditions as well – have factions of such extremists. We just don’t hear as much about them. The thing is, the global aspects of this dark sea-change we’re seeing is instigated by multiple powers and principalities and is not unique to the US, nor to Christianity.

OK, let’s get back to that question I asked: Where is our Ariel singing a song of solace, foretelling a “rich and strange” sea-change? Or rather who?

The answer to “who” is … us … all of us here in this room. We’re not here because we happened to be going by, saw people coming in, and came in out of curiosity or boredom. There is something else that drew us to this. We share a common interest of some kind. And we are the ones who … just as we initiated our own individual sea-change in coming out or leaving the church or both … can initiate a societal sea-change, a movement based on the need for collective action, empathy, and solidarity to address the injustices, inequities, and outright threats to our right to be who we are.

“Yeah, right! Like I’m going to trust you!” you’re thinking, and that’s fair. Why should you trust this crazy Christian lady, especially when, for many of you, it was the church that hurt us in the first place!

Well, for starters and if you haven’t figured it out already, I’m not the “typical crazy Christian lady.” I only have one cat, and I’m really not that good at making casseroles for the monthly potluck. Am I crazy? Most likely. Am I Christian? Most definitely, but I hope you’ll agree … those of you who’ve gotten to know me that is, that I’m not the “wackadoodle, hypocritical kind of crazy Christian lady whispering about you to her companions at the restaurant or pestering you with all her ‘thoughts and prayers’.” I’m just a crazy person who happens to also be Christian.

I’m also the stepmother of a daughter who is gay and who’s first language is American Sign Language because she was born deaf, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren who are bi-racial, and one grandchild who is tri-racial. I have family who has been incarcerated, who are in recovery from or active substance abusers, who are on the opposite side from me ideologically, politically, and theologically, and more than I can count who would be placed in the categories of none or done. I am a woman who has chosen to exercise her bodily autonomy, who has also born a child out of wedlock, and whose past would probably make the woman at the well’s mouth fall open in shock, so it’s not hard for me to relate to a lot of the injustices, loss of freedom, and othering that is happening today.

Not that any of that is a reason to trust me. I’m not asking you to trust me. But I am asking you to hear me out.

All of the founders of all of the main faith traditions had the same message, the same basic premise for how to go about in the world, that is to practice love, compassion, and justice as the guiding principles for building a more inclusive and supportive community of practice.

Gautama Buddha said, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”

The prophet Muhammed said, “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” and “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

Rumi, an Islamic Sufi Mystic, said, “”Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it,” “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”, and “Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place.”

The Chinese philosopher, Confucius said, “”What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”, “To see what is right and not do it is the want of courage.”, “The superior man is modest in his speech but exceeds in his actions.”, and “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

And Jesus, the One I follow, said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets,” Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,” “And the second is like it; to love one another as you are loved,” and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Returning to what Wesley said about social holiness, social holiness is something we can all do regardless of what faith tradition we walk or whether we believe in anything. Social holiness involves living in a right way, doing no harm, and doing all the good we can. Living that way is much easier if we do it with others who are also doing so. We can do it with others by building a community or even communities of practice, communities of people who work together for the common good of neighbors, working together to stand up for anyone that’s being oppressed, to dismantle systems of oppression, and to seek justice for those who are suffering injustices.

These are all behaviors that, when done together as a community of practice, allow for more successful actions, greater empathy, and solidarity when addressing all the issues we collectively face. And, in doing so, a community of practice can effect a positive sea-change, because I’ll tell you all something. Doing something without expectation of reward just because it’s the right thing to do has an amazing healing effect for oneself, and an even greater healing effect for the larger community.

To make a sea-change … a positive sea-change … is to say to the makers of the harmful changes that they won’t win, that we’re willing to make good trouble for them, that we are stronger than they give us credit for, and that we will never give up, we’re here to stay. Initiating a positive sea-change requires even more intentional effort and commitment to transformation than the makers of the harmful changes needed to initiate their harm. However, if we as individuals take ownership of this community of practice, if we actively work together to shape this community according to our mutual values and principles, we have the power to create positive change and build a community where everyone feels valued, accepted, and supported.

Thank you for hearing me out. I have one more ask of you … well, two really. The first is to consider what you’ve heard today and decide whether you’re willing to help us build a community of practice. We’re here the second Sunday of each month at 3 p.m. Your voice, your ideas, your opinions, your questions, and your doubts matter! This is not “my” community, it’s not Union Grove’s community, it’s not the United Methodist Church’s community, this is your community if you choose to be part of it.

The second ask also requires your consideration. As I said early on in this message, I am fully aware of all the ways the church has afflicted harm. All of them. I am just as aware that, very often, there is no effort on the part of churches or their leadership to acknowledge that harm, let alone speak to it. Rarely, if ever, will a church own the harm it has done or is doing.

I want to change that, at least for those in this community. Next month’s Second Sunday Community of Faith will be the “churchiest” gathering you witness here, but I want you to give serious consideration to coming, and to bring others you know have been harmed by the church, because here is what is going to happen: You’re going to be given the opportunity to not only make the church aware of how it’s harmed you, you’re going to be able to hand those harms back to the church and then, as the “representative” of the church, you’re going to hear something I think you all need to hear, something that, as the representative of the church, I know needs to be said. So please, consider my request to come back next month, to spread the word about what’s going to happen, and to invite others who, like you, have suffered at the hands of the church.

Closing prayer:

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that we may live from deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God’s creations so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and violence, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with just enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in the world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done: To bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbors who are poor.




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