ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Prelude – Hymn Selections by Michael Stinnett, Pianist
- Welcome – Announcements, Call to Worship, & Opening Prayer – Rev. Ohle
- Praise Hymn – Amazing Grace
- Affirmation of Faith – Apostles’ Creed
- Gloria Patri (Glory Be to the Father)
- Scripture Readings – 1 John 4:7-21 (MSG), John 15:1-8 (MSG) – Rev. Ohle
- Message – Abide with Me – Rev. Ohle
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Ohle
- Offertory Prayer – Rev. Ohle
- Invitation – Rev. Ohle
- Closing Hymn – Abide in Me
- Benediction – Rev. Ohle
- Postlude – Hymn Selections by Michael Stinnett, Pianist
WELCOME, CALL TO WORSHIP, & OPENING PRAYER
Although we were able to provide Spanish translations during the service itself, we are unable to provide a written Spanish transcript.
Good morning! If you are already a member of Union Grove, welcome home! If you are new to Union Grove, welcome to the family! It’s so good to see all of you and thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your presence this morning.
This day marks a lot of firsts. The first time back since the pandemic began, the first time I’ve been face to face with most of you, and the first time possibly in the history of Union Grove that we are celebrating with a bi-lingual service. I would like to take a moment to thank Kacye Castenir from Broadway United Methodist Church in Maryville for volunteering to provide the translations this morning, and to welcome those of you who will be benefitting from her translations.
Before we begin, I want to point out some things that may be different from what you are expecting or what you remember.
There are no hymnals or Bibles in the pews because the disinfectants we would need to use on them after each service would eventually damage them. Instead, I’ve included the words to the hymns, the Creed, and the scriptures in your bulletin so you’ll be able to read or sing along, and I’ve chosen hymns I’m pretty sure most of us know to make it easier. That’s also why your bulletin is a different shape than you remember. I needed the extra space for the hymns, etc.
When the service is over, please carry your bulletins out with you and, if you don’t want to keep them for use during the week, leave them in the box in the Narthex labeled RECYCLE so we can dispose of them properly with minimal handling.
Also, in your bulletins on the back of the insert page you’ll find a Connection Card on the top half and a Union Grove Manna Campaign pledge form on the bottom half.
The Connection Card is a very important part of our COVID-19 safety protocol, so please fill that out and leave it in the box in the Narthex labeled “Forms”.
We are also asking that you prayerfully consider completing the Manna Campaign form as the information you include on that form will help us show Conference that Union Grove is here to stay.
I’ve chosen a traditional Order of Worship to use based on messages from several of you about what you missed about being here. As we go forward together, we’ll make adjustments until we find the Order that best meets everyone’s needs. Let me know what you did and did not like about today’s Order.
Please note I have moved Communion this month to May 23rd to coincide with Pentecost Sunday. Oh, and don’t forget to wear red that day! Wearing red on Pentecost is a tradition we definitely want to keep. We’ll get back to having Communion on the first Sunday starting in June.
I encourage you to read your bulletins as there are several more announcements and additional info scattered through them, but I’ve gone on long enough, so let’s get to worshipping, Amen? Amen!
Please join me in our Call to Worship which you’ll find in your bulletin.
Call to Worship
L: God is the True Vine,
P: And we are the branches.
L: Connected to God.
P: Connected to bear fruit!
L: Connected to God.
P: Or we wither away.
L: Connected to God.
P: Or useless!
L: We come to worship God, who is the True Vine.
A: God, teach us how to remain connected so that we might bear good fruit!
God of songs and marvels, old and new, your powerful love for this world continues to astound us.
In these last days of Easter, we gather to recall the love that brought Jesus into this world and into our lives: as savior, friend, and brother.
We thank you for welcoming us into your household and for trusting us with your marvelous work to draw all people into the spacious home of your love.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Open our eyes, our hearts, our minds, gracious Lord, as we turn to your scripture. We long to know you, to understand life, and to be changed. Examine us, Lord, by the floodlight of your truth.
Our scriptures this morning are taken from The Message.
1 John 4:7-21 (MSG)
My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.
My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!
This is how we know we’re living steadily and deeply in him, and he in us: He’s given us life from his life, from his very own Spirit. Also, we’ve seen for ourselves and continue to state openly that the Father sent his Son as Savior of the world. Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we’ve embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.
If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.
John 15:1-8 (MSG)
“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Abide in Me
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
So, here we are … after 1 year, 1 month, and 4 days … finally together. Before COVID we might have taken time earlier in the service to “pass the peace;” to greet one another … friend and stranger alike … with a smile, and handshake and by saying “Peace be with you” to which the other would respond, “and also with you.” We can’t do that yet, but we can do this. Stand up if you’re able. That’s right. Stand up.
Now take a moment and look around you … look at one another … Those eyes you see above those masks? Those are the eyes of Jesus. The person behind each mask is created in the image of God just like you were.
And those eyes are the eyes of your brothers and sisters in this beloved community here at Union Grove, your brothers and sisters in Christ. So take a moment, look at each other, smile at each other, wave a friendly greeting, and give thanks to God for bringing this assembly together today. May God bring us together again and again and may we be free to pass the peace again soon!
I want to talk a bit this morning about what it means to abide in Christ. To be “in” Christ.
The standard dictionaries define “abide” as a formal verb meaning to accept or act in accordance with (a rule, decision, or recommendation) … “I said I would abide by their decision.” Informally, it tends to be less about acting in accordance with and more about tolerating or putting up with someone or something; for example, “If there’s one thing I cannot abide (here meaning tolerate), it’s a long sermon!” Another way abide can be used is to indicate something … especially a feeling or memory … that will continue on, that will last, that will remain or persist.
Abide originates is from the Old English word a-bi-dan … a meaning onwards and bide meaning wait. In its archaic form, abide meant to live or dwell.
So when Jesus says, “abide in me as I abide in you,” which “abide” does he mean?
The first thing we need to do is figure out who he was talking to when he said this. He was talking to his disciples the twelve and any others present, which means he is talking to us, to his disciples today.
In his blog article on this passage, Pastor Jim Wostenholm notes four things that can help us identify what it means to abide in or with Jesus.
First, “we have shared values – what [Jesus] values, we value. His values become our own. We abandon every value we have that is not in agreement with his.”
For example, Jesus valued everyone he met, even those that didn’t particularly value him, so … going back to “we abandon every value we have that is not in agreement with his,” we need to identify and abandon any idea or notion or belief that would prevent us from valuing absolutely everyone … even the folks we don’t like … and see them as just as precious as he sees them. And apologies if this is breaking news to you, but he does value and see those you don’t like as just as precious as you.
Second, Jesus established principles by which we are to govern our lives, the way we are to live. To abide in him, we need to agree to those principles … not just in theory, but in practice. Loving one another, caring for one another, supporting one another, forgiving one another, not judging one another are some of the principles he taught us.
Again, I mentioned that we can’t just agree to his principles in theory, we have to agree to them in practice. Number three is to share his mission and goals. Jesus was very focused on the kingdom of God … teaching us about it and teaching us that we should be building it here on earth as it is in heaven. That means our focus should be the same … kingdom building … and in our kingdom building we will also glorify God just as he did.
Number four is, in my book, a reward. Life. Not just living it, but sharing it … practicing intense fellowship with one another. Think about how much time he spent with the disciples. They were almost constantly together. As his disciples today, we, too, should be willing to share our lives with him … not just for an hour or so each Sunday, but daily … throughout each day. Remember looking around today and seeing Jesus in the eyes of every other person here? There’s a whole lot more just like all of you outside those doors. As his disciples, we are to share our lives with him and share his life with everyone else.
Oh, gosh, Rev. Val, that’s really asking a lot. I don’t get out that much. It’s hard to trust people these days. You never know who you’re going to meet out there.
As a matter of fact, I do know. Every person you meet is an opportunity to meet Jesus and if you have trouble seeing Jesus in someone, then it’s an opportunity to reveal Jesus to them. You just have to think like him. What did he do when he found himself in a similar situation? And then, do what you remember he did. By the way and in case you’re not sure about what he did, you’ll find the answers in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and a bit of the book of Acts.
Now, if we don’t abide in him … if we don’t do those four things I just mentioned, we are not, cannot be fruitful. That’s what the first part of that passage from John 15 was all about. Jesus tells us that branches that don’t bear fruit get pruned away. If you’ve ever done much pruning, you know what happens to the branches you cut off, right? They can’t survive on their own and they eventually wither away and die. By not abiding in Christ, it is our spiritual life that is in danger of withering and dying.
You know those people you meet out there where you can’t see Jesus in them, so you need to reveal Jesus to them? That’s what’s happening to them. Their spiritual life is withering away and dying and they’re in danger of that spiritual life being consumed and completely destroyed.
By the way, revealing Jesus to someone doesn’t mean you start quoting scripture and preaching to them about sin or wrong paths or the like. Think, again, what Jesus did. He healed them. He fed them. He showed the kindness. He showed them respect when no one else would. Only occasionally did he relate their problems to their sins. He revealed himself to them as much through his actions as his words and his words were always born of pure and unconditional love for them.
When we do as he did … when we become his hands and feet … his emissaries … when we show compassion and we do so consistently … we will be fruitful.
Now … before we go any farther, I want you to understand that, even if you go out those doors today determined to abide in Christ from this moment forward, you’re probably going to fail. More than once. More than ten times. Possibly even more than once every day for the rest of your lives. We’re all human and there are things like that fool that nearly takes the front bumper off your car when he cuts in front of you, the person with a full cart in the express lane at Kroger’s, and your neighbor who lets their dog use your front yard for its morning constitutional. And then there’s the preacher that goes on too long or presents an idea that you’re not yet willing to consider.
Don’t panic and don’t give up. Take a moment, take a breath, and start again. And again and again and again and as many “agains” as it takes. I promise, it will get easier, the failures will be fewer and, even if you never actually realize it, you will be fruitful. You just have to go through the process of learning all you can from Jesus … reading the gospels, asking questions, thinking about it, praying about it and, most importantly, training yourself to listen for his voice and follow where he leads you … and he will lead you.
The learning part is continual. You will learn something new each time you read the gospels and think on them. If you reread a passage and don’t get anything new out of it, look deeper. The scriptures are like an onion. Each passage has layers of meaning.
Learning – studying the scriptures, but also prayer, worship … not just on Sundays but finding ways to worship every day … and fellowship with others who are going through the same process as you will move you up to the follower level. Well done! Keep learning, keep listening, keep following!
Because as you do these things you’ll become more efficient and effective. They’ll become second nature and when they do, you will have moved up to the apprentice level. You’ll be doing the ministry God has called you to do. You’ll be building His kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. And I don’t know about all of you, but I’m not patient enough to just bide my time in this world while I wait to go to God’s kingdom in heaven. I’m going to do all I can to build the earthly model for His kingdom right here and starting right now. I pray you’ll all make a commitment to join me in that effort. Amen?
Jesus said, ‘If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.’ Let us now approach him with confidence.
Please join me as we lay our prayers and petitions at God’s feet and ask for His help. Because this service is being recorded for online worship, I won’t be saying any names out loud during the prayer in order to protect their privacy. We will have moments of pause so you can lift their names in your hearts. When you hear me say, Lord, in your mercy …, please respond with “hear our prayer.”
Risen Lord, you came to save us from ourselves. Give us faith to accept this act of love, so that we turn from all human efforts and drink in the grace and mercy of your death and resurrection.
Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer.
Risen Lord, you are the true vine, and we are the branches. By your Spirit, produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, and patience in us for others to taste and enjoy. Keep us from hanging on to love for ourselves. Prune all selfishness from us and fill us with your love.
Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer.
Risen Lord, have mercy on your earth and supply its needs. Where people are hungry, give food. Where people are in distress, comfort them. Where people are in trouble, bring order and peace. And turn the whole world to you in faith, in repentance, and in praise.
Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer.
Lord Jesus Christ, focus our love on people we know with special needs. Heal those who are unwell and others in need whom we now name silently in our hearts . . . (brief silence)
Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for hearing us and caring for us in all our needs. Constantly intercede for us before our heavenly Father, and open our eyes that we may see him through you. We ask all this in your holy name, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
We ask these things in your name, Lord, and pray the words you taught us:
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by 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, and the power, and the glory forever.”
Friends, hear the Good News: Jesus said, “If you reside in me, and my words reside in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you.” Friends, we have asked for forgiveness and correction. It has been truly done for us.
It is being done for us.
And it will be done for us.
Normally, we would now take up your offerings and someday … hopefully soon … we will return to passing the plate. In the meanwhile, we will continue to make our offerings into the container in the Narthex on our way into worship or as we leave. And we will continue to give thanks for the gifts received. Let’s pray:
God of the far-flung universe and God who is closer than our own heartbeat: we long to dwell in your closeness, abiding in you and you abiding in us. However, the call to abide in other places is strong: to abide in the world of popularity and acceptance or in the world of increasing wealth and power centered around our own wants and desires. As we offer our gifts and ourselves to you, help us turn away from other calls and abide in that place of heart’s deepest desire: in your Son, Jesus, and he in us. In Christ, we pray. Amen.
Has God opened your heart, your mind this morning? Is there something more that you need to lay at His feet? Something you need to tell him? The altar is open and waiting for you. You are invited to come forward and bring whatever is on your heart or mind to Him now.
Just a quick reminder to please fill out the connection card portion of the back of your insert page and drop it in the “Forms” box in the Narthex on the way out. Also, please do consider filling out the Manna Campaign pledge form as well. You can drop it in the same box or, if you need to think about it, take it home with you and mail it in. If you have family that couldn’t be here this morning, I’ll have the video and audio of today’s service edited and uploaded late this evening so they can watch the video online or call in on the worship by phone number. The links and phone number are on your bulletin cover.
And last, I pray you’ll join me again next Sunday at 11:00 am. Thank you for being here today!
Now hear this benediction:
Go now, and love one another, because love is from God. Proclaim God’s salvation to every generation. Remain in Jesus Christ, and like branches of a vine, draw your life from him. And may God the vine grower tend you and make you fruitful; May Christ Jesus abide in you and give you life; And may the Holy Spirit cast out all fear and fill you with God’s love.
Stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask when you go out, get your COVID vaccination as soon as you’re eligible, really truly love your neighbors … and work at being fruitful. God be with you. Now go in peace to love and serve the Lord in the name of Christ. Amen.
- Call to Worship – Safiyah Fosua, Discipleship Ministries
- Opening Prayer – Abingdon Worship Annual
- Portions of Pastoral Prayer & Pardon – Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell
- Benediction – Nathan Nettleton
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Even though we can’t meet together in person, the church still has expenses that need to be met. If you are able, please consider making an offering or paying your tithes through the online service provided by Holston Conference. It’s safe. It’s free. It will help us continue ministry at Union Grove.
Just visit http://www.holston.org/churchoffering, and follow the instruction for making your offering. When asked, please choose Smoky Mountain District and Union Grove UMC Blount – Friendsville.
If you are not comfortable using a debit or credit card online, you can mail your offerings/tithes to:
Smoky Mountain District
PO Box 905
Alcoa TN 37701-0905
Please be sure to make your checks payable to Smoky Mountain District and write “Union Grove UMC Friendsville” on the memo line!