ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Greeting, Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val
- Opening Hymn – Dona Nobis Pacem (UMH 376)
- Responsive Reading – (reading included in paper bulletins)
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Scripture Readings – Psalm 34:15-22 (NRSV), Ephesians 6:10-20 (MSG), Matthew 5:9 (NRSV) – Rev. Val
- Message: Blessed Are the Peacemakers – Rev. Val
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Offertory – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95)
- Closing Hymn – O God of Every Nation (Words: UMH 435; Sung to “The Church’s One Foundation,” UMH 545)
- Benediction – Rev. Val
WELCOME, CALL TO WORSHIP, & OPENING PRAYER
Good morning! It’s nice to see all of you again this week. Thank you for coming to worship with us, and to our online viewers who can hopefully hear us this week, we’re glad you’re worshipping with us, too.
For those here in-person, you will find the announcements on the bottom of pages 2 and 4, and also on the back of your bulletins. If you’re worshipping online, the announcements were included in the weekly worship bulletin email that was sent out yesterday. If you’re not getting that email, please visit our website at uniongroveumc-friendsville.org and fill out the connection card at the bottom of most pages there. We typically send you only one email per week and we do not share or sell your information.
Save the date!
- August 22, 2021, 5:00 p.m. – Maryville College Faith Fair. We will have a display and members present to welcome incoming freshman and others as the school year begins.
- August 28, 2021 – You will be able to watch via ac.hoston.org
- September 5, 2021 – Communion Sunday
- September 19, 2021 – Coming Home Sunday Celebration Worship and Picnic
- November 28, 2021, 3:00 p.m. – Charge Conference at Maryville First UMC
Call to Worship
Sacraments and Seasons: Peacemaking Through Worship, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
In the midst of a world where people hunger and thirst . . .
come worship a God who feeds the hungry.
In the midst of a world where people are abused and oppressed . . .
come worship a God who calls for compassion and justice.
In the midst of a world filled with wars and rumor of war . . .
come worship a God who desires nothing less than peace for the world.
In the midst of a world of spiritual emptiness . . .
come worship a God who gives life meaning.
Come worship a God whose grace and love know no end.
adapted from UMH 392 – Prayer for a New Heart, Dag Hammerskjold, Sweden, 20th Century, From Markings ©1964, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., and Faber & Faber, Ltd.
Thou who art over us, Thou who art one of us, Thou who art:
Give us pure hearts, that we may see thee;
Humble hearts, that we may hear thee;
Hearts of love, that we may serve thee;
Hearts of faith, that we may abide in thee.
Litany based on Ephesians 6:10-20. Joseph W. Daniels, The Africana Worship Book for Year B, Discipleship Resources, 2007, 97.
One: PUT IT ON, somebody! Put on God’s wardrobe.
Many: Put on God’s clothing, with its strength and its power.
One: PUT IT ON, somebody!
Many: Deck yourself out in God’s wear so that you can withstand wickedness.
One: PUT IT ON, somebody!
Many: Put on God’s threads so that you can fight the right fight; not against flesh but against foolishness in foul places.
One: PUT IT ON, somebody!
Many: Put on the belt of truth so that you can stand.
One: Put it on!
Many: Put on the jacket of righteousness so that you can stand.
One: Put it on!
Many: Put on those shoes of peace so that you can stand.
One: Put ‘em on!
Many: Take up that shield of faith to deny the destructive darts of the devil, and stand!
One: Take it up and put it on!
Many: Put on the hat of salvation so that you can stand. Take hold of that spiritual sword of the Spirit, and stand in God’s word.
One: Put it on!
Many: Clothe yourself with prayer, cover somebody else in prayer.
ALL: PUT IT ON, SOMEBODY. PUT ON GOD’S WARDROBE and STAND!
Creator, Christ, and Spirit, hear me now. Every Monday I get up and tell myself, “this is the week I’ll write the happy sermon … this is the week I’ll pick Pollyanna’s glad texts and songs that make a joyful noise.” And then the week unfolds, and I am reminded how very small and broken this world is, how full of pain and fear and anger and grief and loneliness humanity has become, how much of Your work remains to be done, and how little of that work I’ve managed to do myself.
Forgive me, Lord.
Forgive us. We have so much more to learn of You and of your ways. Help us to focus on You, to understand the words you’ve left us, and to put them to work for the good of all, not just some.
Forgive us for not seeing you in the faces we see each day across the room, across the fence, across the store, across the world. Forgive us for dwelling on the faces we’re missing who’ve gone on to your heavenly home and forsaking the faces we’ve yet to meet in your kingdom here on earth. Forgive us for judging others on what we’re told to believe about them instead of taking time to get to know them as our brothers and sisters.
Forgive us for not looking hard enough to find and heal the sources of pain and fear and anger that are tearing this world apart, for not taking the steps so clearly in front of us to right the wrongs of injustice and oppression, and for looking out for self-interests instead of Your interests.
Forgive us for not seeing You, Your hand, in all creation … for thinking we could take what we wanted without thought of the future, for misunderstanding Your word and believing we were overlords instead of simply a part of it all, for missing our connection to Your beautiful creation that we are rapidly and near methodically destroying.
Forgive us for falling for the trap of individualism where we only care about our personal well-being and future rather than being willing to sacrifice ourselves for the common good. Forgive us for taking our individualism and forming “tribes” of people who agree with us and believe as we do rather than embracing the beautiful diversity of the greater good.
Forgive us, God.
We lift up to you all those within and without our church who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
We lift up to you all those who are hurting, who need healing, who are suffering physically or mentally.
We lift up to you all those who are struggling, who have been cast to the side, who lack the ability or voice to speak for themselves.
Bring them all comfort, strength, and peace. Break us free from the earthly shackles we’ve allowed ourselves to bear and lead us to come to the aid of your children in need.
We ask that you eradicate COVID-19 in every form and bring an end to the pandemic.
We ask that you protect the innocents in Afghanistan, especially the women and girls, and in every war-torn nation.
We ask that you comfort and strengthen the hearts of the people of Haiti and lead us and others to help them recover.
We ask that you help us in healing the planet and restoring your beautiful creation.
We ask that you lead us to protect and preserve our democracy here and teach us how to help other democratic nations do the same for themselves.
We ask for your intercession to help us end oppression and discrimination in any form anywhere.
Let the hills hear your voice, Lord, let the mountains quake before you. Let all who call on your name walk in the ways of righteousness and peace. Let all who look to you for help be blameless and do what is right. May our words be gentle and may our hearts be free from guile and deceit. May our actions be rooted in justice and mercy, and may we be known as peace makers, the blessed children of God. (Micah 6, Psalm 15, 1 Corinthians 1)
May your love take root in our lives, and we may walk by faith as we pray the words your Son taught us,
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.
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.
Psalm 34:15-22 (NRSV)
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. The face of the LORD is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD rescues them from them all. He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken. Evil brings death to the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
Ephesians 6:10-20 (MSG)
And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no weekend war that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
And don’t forget to pray for me. Pray that I’ll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all, the Message that I, jailbird preacher that I am, am responsible for getting out.
Matthew 5:9 (NRSV)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Blessed Are the Peacemakers
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Who are you, church? … If you answered anything but Children of God, my entire last year of pastoral ministry was a failure because I’ve tried to remind you frequently that you are most certainly beloved children of God, equal heirs to the kingdom, equally and fully loved and forgiven. That’s good news, a true blessing and we give thanks.
Hear the passage again, though … “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Are you hearing what I’m hearing? No? Well, if we are children of God … and we all are … then shouldn’t we also be peacemakers?
Listen to that word: Peace maker. One who makes peace. But what is peace … anyone remember what peace is like? And how does one go about making it. I mean, we all seek peace. We’re all given the peace of Christ. He left it to us and for us. But how does one make peace.
Peacekeepers … a name given to law enforcement officers and certain military forces are people who enforce the peace … well, at least they try to enforce the peace where there is peace … too often they’re faced with trying to restore the peace that was somehow disrupted … if it ever really existed, that is. But the peace they’re generally responsible for keeping is essentially keeping or restoring law and order … which tends to bring peace to one group while often inflicting pain and/or oppressing all other groups because, let’s face it, laws are generally not applied equally to all people, nor were they probably intended to be equal for all people. So basically, the “peace” our traditional peacekeepers keep is, at best, limited and selective.
On the other hand, we are called to be peace makers. And not that typical “law and order” selective kind of peace, either. The peace we’re called to make is the peace we were gifted by Christ … the kind that lifts the downtrodden, frees the prisoners, removes knees from the neck of the oppressed. The kind of peace that restores justice to an unjust and unbalanced world. The kind of peace that calms the storms of life and stills the angry ocean. The kind that takes hope and turns that hope into something tangible, attainable. Turns it into the original meaning of the word our Bibles call peace. Into Eirene – the wholeness of God. True peace.
That’s a tall order, isn’t it? We struggle to find even occasional peace just for ourselves and yet we’re supposed to go out there and make peace for a whole world that’s almost totally off the rails and careening straight for the world’s largest dam which, if it breaches, will create a bigger flood of man-made and natural disasters than the waters that Noah sailed?
Therein, however, may lie the biggest obstacle to our being able to succeed at this task. You see we have been trained since birth and for multiple generations to become very individualistic in our thinking. We instinctively think in terms of what’s best for ourselves as individuals. We see everything through a lens of “Is it going to be good, prosperous, beneficial for me, my, mine? What will it cost me? What will I lose or gain?”
Individualism is so ingrained into us, we often don’t realize we’re practicing it and we certainly don’t limit it to material or secular life. Looking back at my messages for the last year, very often I was speaking to you about how you could individually build a stronger faith or individually grow closer to God or individually seek the kind of peace we’re talking about.
Sure, I’ve mentioned the importance of having a Christian community for support, but too often I implied the purpose of having that community was to support you as an individual in achieving those things and only on rare occasions have I suggested that part of being in that same community is to support the others in community with you … to hold up one another at least as often as you lean on one another. I’m blessed, though, that despite my failure on that point, this church at Union Grove is clearly held closely by God and He’s made sure Spirit is correcting my errors because you’ve already begun supporting one another whether you realize it or not, and that’s a good thing.
But there’s a whole world out there that’s war-prone instead of war-weary. There’s a whole world out there that has been raised on might is right. There’s a whole world out there that hears more lies about each other than they’ve ever heard truth, and while personal peace is good, is important, is necessary … if we are to live into our calling, then there’s a whole angry, hurting, frightened, grieving world out there where we’re supposed to be peace making. It’s much easier to do that together than alone.
Quoting Frederick Buechner from his book, The Magnificent Defeat, the battlefield we’re being called into looks like this:
“IN THIS WAR OF conquest that we all must wage, there are also the adversaries with whom we have to wage it; and they are adversaries of flesh and blood. They are human beings like ourselves, each of whom is fighting the same war toward the same end and under a banner emblazoned with the same word that our banners bear, and that word is of course Myself, or Myself and my Family, or Myself and my Country, Myself and my Race, which are all really MYSELF writ large. It can be the most ruthless of all wars, but on the other hand it need not be. Saints and sinners fight it both. Genghis Khan fought such a war under such a banner, but so did Martin Luther King, Jr. It can be the naked war of the jungle, my ambition against your ambition, my will against your will, or it can be war more in the sense of the knight at arms who abides by the rules of chivalry. If often it is the war of the unjust against the just, it can also be a war of the just against the unjust. But whichever it is, it is the war of flesh against flesh: to get ahead, to win, to gain or regain power, to survive in a world where not even survival is had without struggle.”
We have to remember and understand that peace making isn’t something we can do exclusively from our armchairs or computers or phones or tablets. It isn’t accomplished exclusively through thoughts and prayers. It’s hard work, work for which others may ridicule us.
It requires actively engaging the Enemy on the battlefield. It requires understanding that anywhere we are at any time we are, we are standing on the battlefield. And it requires understanding that the Enemy is not … again not … the person or persons we’re facing on that battlefield.
The people we’re facing are just as much our brothers and sisters as if they were sitting here with us. The people we’re facing are children of God just like we are.
The Enemy isn’t them, it’s what’s inside them, what’s been planted and nurtured inside them … fear, hate, pain, grief, jealousy … not sown in them by the devil, but by earthly rulers, authorities, powers and principalities who want one thing and one thing only – to gain more power than they already have.
So how do we do that? How do we sitting here today or watching from our sofas or phone screens go about the making peace among people consumed by fear, hate, pain, grief, and jealousy? How do we make peace in a world that has essentially never known peace, what is that peace supposed to look like, and what tools do we have in our arsenal of spiritual gifts?
First, we need to gear up, to prepare. That’s what the author of our passage from Ephesians is telling us. He reminds us that we can’t do this alone and that we need to use the weapons God’s given us for this battle.
You know these weapons … they’re often called the Armor of God and they are what we are to wear, to put on, all of them, when we are battling the Enemy that is tearing our world apart. You may be more familiar with this description of that armor:
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
He wants us to learn not just what is meant by truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation, but how to apply and use them throughout our lives.
We need to counter the untruths of the Enemy with truths that expose the falseness of the fear, hate, and jealousy our brothers and sisters are feeling.
We need to bring comfort to their pain and grief with our prayers for and with them, and by telling them about peace the way Jesus tells us about peace.
We need to stand strong in our own faith and work to keep each other’s spirits up so that none of us falls bend or drops out, to put all our trust in God – that what’s going on in this world is not the work of His hand but of the Enemy – and to trust that God’s with us in this battle for the soul of the world and will be right there with us no matter what comes at us. We have to believe that and love God with all our heart and all our mind and all our strength.
We have to believe that He came to us and walked among us in the flesh as Jesus in order to teach us how we are to live and how we are to carry out building His kingdom, His kin-dom here on earth as it is in heaven so that we would be prepared for this battle.
We have to believe that He sent Spirit to help us, to lead and guide us, to be in essence our platoon leader, and we have to listen for and follow her directions. And we have to resist and tune out the Tokyo Rose voice of the Enemy that tries to shake and ultimately destroy our faith and stay focused on listening for Spirit’s voice and she will speak to us.
We have to remember always that our allegiance is not to any earthly ruler or authority or power or principality, not to any human person or party, not to any single religious institution or authority, but to God and only to God.
And we need to remember the very most important weapon that God gave us and Christ commanded us to use … Love … to love one another as he loves us.
No, peacemaking can’t be done exclusively from our armchairs, desks, or phone screens. We have to go out there to make peace and we have to consciously work at peacemaking wherever we are whenever we are for as long as we are.
And we need to remember the words of the psalmist … God sees the righteous and hears our cries, rescuing us from all our troubles. He stays near the brokenhearted and raises up those whose spirit has been crushed. He redeems the lives of his servants. He is with us every step of the way.
Today, we begin a prayer vigil that will continue until further notice. Not the traditional kind of vigil where we all sit together here in the sanctuary, but an on-going, pray without ceasing wherever we are whenever we are with whomever we’re with kind of vigil. Our prayers during this vigil are specific:
- We are praying for the eradication of COVID-19 in every form and an end to the pandemic.
- We are praying for protection of all innocents in Afghanistan, especially women and girls.
- We are praying for Haiti and its people as they recover from that horrific earthquake.
- We are praying for the healing of the planet.
- We are praying for the protection and preservation of democracy.
- We are praying for an end to oppression and discrimination in any form.
I’ve asked other churches, other houses of worship, and people of other faiths to pray with us and I urge you to ask those you know as well.
And to quote Pope Francis, first you pray … then you do. As we go forward in this prayer vigil, we must go forward as peace makers, addressing the seeds of the enemy in those we meet, carrying out the work we must do. This is how we build the kingdom of God here on earth.
Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:
God of power and might: Through the ages, you have reminded us through prophets and apostles that we are called to battle – not with one another, but against the powers of darkness and evil. It is this battle that sends children to bed with empty bellies, while others have so much food it damages their health. It is the battle that imprisons those whose only crime is poverty, while those with more than they could ever spend lose sleep scheming how to get more. As we make our gifts to you this day, may we remember on which side we’re on. In the precious, loving name of Christ, we pray.
Nathan Nettleton ©2000
Thank you for being here this morning, whether in-person or through our live-stream and I hope you found some value in today’s service.
Now hear this benediction:
Go out, and make known the mystery of the gospel. Keep alert and pray at all times. Draw strength from God’s power and so stand firm against all that would corrupt you.
And may God arm you with truth and righteousness; May Christ Jesus give you words of Spirit and life; and may the Holy Spirit draw you near to God’s presence and bless you with honor and grace. We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
….In the name of Christ. Amen.
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1151 Lane Drive
Friendsville, TN 37737
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