• Prelude – Oh, How I Love Jesus, Elvis Presley
  • Welcome & Opening Prayer – Rev. Ohle
  • Call to Worship – God So Loved, We the Kingdom
  • Prayers of the People – Rev. Ohle
  • Words of God for the People of God – Matthew 9:14-17, John 2:10, 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • Anthem – At Your Feet, Casting Crowns
  • Message – All Things New: The Parable of Old Cloth – Rev. Ohle
  • Closing Hymn – All Things New, Gordon Mote
  • Benediction – Rev. Ohle
  • Postlude – Just a Little Talk With Jesus, Elvis Presley


Mighty God, our comfort, and our strength: we have been navigating through this pandemic with anxiety and isolation. We have lived in fear of disease, death, and not having enough. Yet, we are here, offering our gifts to the work of your kingdom and reminding ourselves of the glory about to be revealed to us. Remind us that we are your children, that we are your heirs. Remind us that your plan is not bondage or decay but a love that will save us and free us. Remind us that you make all things new.  Let us hear your word and your will. Fill us with new wine and cover us with new cloth.

In Christ’s name, we pray.



God, I know personally how much you have been working for the good of those who love you and I will forever give thanks for the blessings you have brought about for Union Grove, for the congregation and community here, and for me. I pray you will continue to bless us, that your presence will be known, and that you will help us restore and renew this congregation of your children.

Fill us with the spirit of revival, Lord. Help us to reach those who have given up on the church because they were disappointed. Bring us those who have doubts and lead us to help them find the answers to their unanswered questions. Help us open our doors and hearts to all who feel unwanted, unworthy, unwelcome. Lead us to undo any harm that has been done.

We continue to lift up those among us who are ill, who are recovering from surgery, and those whose hearts and souls are so weary they are barely hanging onto hope. We lift up those who battle the demons of addiction, those caught in cycles of abuse, both the abused and the abuser.

Be with them all, God. If it be your will, bring swift, miraculous, and complete healing to the sick and the hurting. Free the abused. Convict the abusers and bring them to repentance. Bring peace to hurting hearts and souls. Where healing is not possible, bring comfort and understanding. Shelter those who love them in this time and let all know that you are with them always.

Lord, protect our children, their teachers, and the other essential workers in their schools. Guide school officials as they make plans to start the new school year. Guide parents who struggle with protecting their children from exposure to COVID-19 while restoring some sense of normalcy. Give peace to those parents who have no choice because of their jobs. Make us all better neighbors, ready to help where it’s needed, and where we are able.

God, we lift up those who lack adequate financial resources and those who find themselves without food and shelter. We lift up those oppressed for the color of their skin, for being strangers in this land, for thinking or believing or loving differently. Show us how to be our hands and feet and to share our resources with them.

We lift up ourselves, Lord. We are broken and unworthy of you and yet you love us still. Help us to be better reflections of your image. Show us how to be the light in the dark for our community and the world.

I ask these things in the name of your son, and now, with the confidence of Your child, I pray to you in the words he 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.



Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.

Matthew 9:14-17 (CEB)

At that time John’s disciples came and asked Jesus, “Why do we and the Pharisees frequently fast, but your disciples never fast?”

Jesus responded, “The wedding guests can’t mourn while the groom is still with them, can they? But the days will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they’ll fast.

“No one sews a piece of new, unshrunk cloth on old clothes because the patch tears away the cloth and makes a worse tear. No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If they did, the wineskins would burst, the wine would spill, and the wineskins would be ruined. Instead, people pour new wine into new wineskins so that both are kept safe.”

John 2:10 (CEB)

And he said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first. They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely. You kept the good wine until now.’

2 Corinthians 5:17 (CEB)

So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

The Word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer. Amen.

What does your mind see when you think about God? Do you see a human form in a long white robe seated on a throne somewhere up or out … there … whose face and head are like looking directly into the Sun but somehow there’s an impression of long white hair and beard? That’ usually the first image in my mind.

Like Michelangelo’s painting, I grew up with this image of God … untouchable … not-quite-reachable … with the booming echo-effect voice of a Cecil B. DeMille movie.  I can’t say I felt disconnected from God because I’m not sure I realized any level of connection growing up beyond knowing I could pray to Him and He was in charge.

Sunday school classes were mostly about Bible stories from the old testament. MYF was mostly about socializing, although there were a few lessons that stuck a little deeper.  It would be two years after I graduated high school before my imagined image of God changed … thanks to a 1977 movie called “Oh, God!” and a church in a small town in Western Nebraska that had a huge wooden cross suspended over the altar.

Y’all don’t know how hard it is to focus on the message the pastor is delivering while you’re imagining God, looking exactly like George Burns, perched upon the arm of that cross puffing his cigar. God was now closer, but still not quite touchable, not quite reachable.

And Jesus? Jesus was this guy who was born Christmas Eve, somehow managed to age thirty-three years in a period of a few months when all of the sudden and out of the blue, people held a kangaroo court, found him guilty, beat him up, hung him on a cross and he died but not really because three days after he died he came back to life and went up to heaven to live with God who could now shapeshift at will to look like George Burns, Morgan Freeman, or Whoopi Goldberg.

I was made new in Christ in the early nineties when I was in my thirties, but still … and because at the time the church I was in focused only on personal salvation and not on sustaining or building on that new life in Christ … God remained mostly untouchable, mostly unreachable, severely judgmental, and Jesus remained someone who was only around a few months of the year because apparently his job and role in my life were complete once I accepted him as my savior.

I would be in my fifties before I figured out exactly who Jesus was and what that meant for me beyond simple salvation and before I ever sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit.

I’m now in my sixties, Spirit and I wrestle on a regular basis, I maintain a near-constant monologue with God who isn’t nearly as judgmental as I was led to believe, and I see Jesus everywhere I look.

I have a feeling, though, that some of you hearing this today may not be where I am. Either you’re not as far along on the path of discovery, you got sidetracked or derailed after accepting Jesus like I did, or you’re like many in America who can’t seem to give up the Old Testament or who get so caught up in the letters Paul wrote that they seem to secretly hold Paul in higher esteem than Jesus.  

Alana Levandoski is a Canadian musician who writes liturgical music for, I believe, the Anglican church.  In an interview about her 2016 album, Behold I Make All Things New, Levandoski said:

“Whenever, historically, we have seen God as “out there”, we’ve done things in the name of God that would otherwise be seen as a desecration if we saw God as right here.”

“Imagine,” she said, “if we could go for a walk and we saw every bush burning, if we realized that everywhere we walked was sacred ground. Imagine if we looked into someone else’s eyes and knew that what we do to them … we do to Jesus.

For whatever reason, this was lost. There was some sort of split that happened. The central teaching of Jesus is “Abide in me as I in you”, and “As the Father sent me, so I send you” … and somehow along the way, we separated ourselves from all of that.”

Her observations are astute. I’m not sure what may have caused any split you may be experiencing, but it is the possibility of that split that concerns me. I want us to work on repairing that split she talks about and reach a point where we recognize that God is right here all the time. I want us to reach a point where when we see a bush we see a burning bush, and where we see Jesus in every face we encounter. 

The best way I know to repair that split is to return to the source … to the one from whom our faith-walk flows and takes form … Jesus.  And the best way to do that is to go back to the beginning of His ministry and repeat the lessons he gave us.

So, this week we begin a new series or refocusing of our attention, if you will, called “In His Words: Walking Through the Gospels With Jesus,” through which we’ll study what Jesus said, what Jesus did, and how we apply his teachings to our own lives and time.  To do that, we’re going to start with Jesus’ favorite teaching tool: the Parables.

Parables are short stories that illustrate a moral or spiritual point. Roughly one-third of what Jesus taught was in the form of parables, and there are, according to most scholars, thirty-three of them. On the first read, some parables can feel somewhat like a riddle and almost all have multiple layers of meaning.

We’re going to take one or two each week starting this week with the parable in our passage from Matthew 9.

In the passage from Matthew, Jesus and the disciples were at dinner at the home of Matthew, the Tax Collector who had just accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow him.  There were other tax collectors and sinners present as well.  The Pharisees had come by and questioned Jesus about why he would choose to eat with such unclean and, in their eyes, unworthy people. Jesus had responded that healthy people don’t need a doctor, but unhealthy people do, and that he had come not to call the righteous to him and to God, but to call the sinners.

Then John the Baptist’s followers showed up and asked why Jesus and his followers weren’t fasting like John’s followers and the Pharisees frequently did. Jesus told them about what happens when a bridegroom is present among them and that the time for fasting would come later and then told them the Parable of Old and New Cloth.

On the first read, all of that can be a bit confusing. Especially when you’re trying to figure out what it means to you or me or even Union Grove. But on a second read …

The Pharisees were used to bestowing blessings and ministering to those Jewish people who they deemed worthy – people who followed their rigorous rules and standards the Pharisees set forth based on the how the Pharisees interpreted the Torah, people who were considered clean and could, therefore, be allowed at the Temple, people who could afford to purchase the required sacrifices. In other words, the righteous.

Jesus, on the other hand, went to the margins of society. He sought out those who would probably not have been allowed to step foot in the Temple. Not only did he spend his time among such people, he called them to follow him, he taught them, he healed them, he sat down regularly and ate and drank with them.

To the Pharisees, this was absolutely unthinkable. It went against every tradition they knew. Only the righteous who adhered rigorously to the laws and rules and edicts of the Temple leaders were worthy.

To the followers of John, the Baptist, it seemed irreverent. John didn’t much care who you were, but he was all about repenting so that you would be prepared to worship with the One who was coming.

But, Jesus.  Jesus told the Pharisees he wasn’t there to call the righteous, and he told John’s followers that it wasn’t time for fasting and mourning.

His parable about sewing patches of new cloth on to old garments or putting new wine into old wineskins was about the need to give up the old in preparation for the new. What he was bringing to the people, what he was teaching us was not a “patch” to fix worn or torn places, but a whole new garment, a new way of being.

He knew and was telling us that by clinging to our old understandings and interpretations, we would not be able to contain the new wine he was going to pour into us.  

When you stop a moment and think about things, it’s not hard to see far too many trying desperately to cling to their comfortable old robes woven in the past. We see it every day in the rush to “get back to normal”; a normal that will most likely never be again and, quite frankly, a normal that should not be allowed to come back again because over the past few months of pandemics and social unrest, we have pretty good evidence that our old “normal” was not necessarily a good normal for all God’s children, now was it?

In Jesus’ time, “normal” wasn’t so great either. But he offered up a new way of seeing and understanding, a new way to go, a way upon which … in his own words … all the laws and all the prophets hang.

Paul saw that way when he wrote to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 5:17 – CEB):

So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

New things … new ways … a new normal has arrived!

John, the disciple that Jesus loved, saw it, too  (John 2:10 CEB):

And he said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first. They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely. You kept the good wine until now.’

Jesus brought us good wine. Jesus is the good wine, and by following him, by allowing ourselves to let go of the old garments and old wineskin and become clothed in new garments and be like a new wineskin, he will fill us with that same good wine.  He will make all things new … in you, in me, and now in Union Grove and in Friendsville, Tennessee.

All things new and bright and clothed in new cloth and filled with new, good wine.

Let’s pray …


God, we are so prone to cling to our old ways and our old habits and our old understandings, and yet, You came to us manifest in Your son, Jesus, to teach us a better way. 

Help us embrace the new, God. Tear away our old garments, make us new wineskins, give us new robes so that we are ready to be filled with new wine.

We have been taught and told for too many years to focus on when we are called to join you in your kingdom in heaven and we’ve become complacent and even apathetic about what is happening all around us and how we as your children, your heirs, can affect the changes that would begin the process of building your kingdom right here on earth.

Remind us of who we are in Christ. Instruct us on the way we should go. Strengthen us for the journey ahead. Draw us together here at Union Grove and help us grow.

In Jesus’ name, amen.


May God give you…

For every storm, a rainbow,

For every tear, a smile,

For every care, a promise,

And a blessing in each trial.

For every problem life sends,

A faithful friend to share,

For every sigh, a sweet song,

And an answer for each prayer.

Stay safe, stay home if you can, wash your hands, wear a mask if you must go out, and go in peace. God be with you. Amen.

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.