* The Order of Worship is changing for the Afterfaith series. We appreciate your indulgence of this change to the routine.

  • Greeting & Announcements – Rev. Val
  • Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val & Congregation
  • Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
  • Holy Troublemaker Biography 
  • Wade In the Water
  • Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
  • Lord, Speak to Me (UMH 463)
  • Message: Can We Talk? – Rev. Val
  • How Can We Name a Love (UMH 111)
  • Service of Holy Communion
  • Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Doxology (UMH 95)
  • Benediction – Rev. Val


Our only announcement this morning is that we’ve revamped the email worship bulletin so those of you worshipping online with us have all the information you need to join in, and we now have someone who’s going to be your real-time voice to those of us here in person. Tracy is our new Online Advocate. She’ll be watching for your prayer requests, praises, and also dropping links into the comments if and when needed. For those of you online who don’t have the worship bulletin email, it may be that you haven’t subscribed to our list. Tracy will add the link to the subscription form in the comments momentarily. Don’t worry. We don’t sell our subscription list and we don’t try to sell you extended warranties for your car, so subscribing is easy and safe.

Call to Worship
“Written by Beth Merrill Neely on her blog, ‘Hold Fast to What Is Good’.  Used with permission.”

L:  We gather as God’s beloved children –

P:  However glad we are, however out of sorts we are.

L:  We come together as a people whom Jesus calls into community –

P:  So this becomes a place where all are welcome.

L:  We have come to give thanks, to pray and sing, to be with other –

P:  Let us worship God.

L: Let us worship the God who gathers us! Let us pray in his name together:

Opening Prayer
Rev. Val

Eternal God and Almighty creator, bless us with your presence here today and all times. 

Jesus, Lord and Savior, God with Us, help us to see you in every face we meet.

Holy Spirit, our eternal helper and advocate, fill us and move us to God’s will, not our own.

Holy Trinity, we ask for Your grace despite our pride, Your forgiveness despite our doubt, and most of all GOD, we ask for your love to soothe us through dark times … that we may face whatever is to come through your divine will with courage, and that we may open our hearts in acceptance.

We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Holy Troublemaker – Bp. Leontine T.C. Kelly (1920-2012)

Beloved Leader, Holy Troublemaker

Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly was the first African American woman to be elected bishop by any major denomination in the world. Kelly, who comes from a family of prominent Methodist ministers, was born March 5, 1920, in Washington, D.C. Her family moved to Cincinnati before she was 10, and her mother, an outspoken advocate for women and the African-American community, co-founded the local Urban League. A graduate of Virginia Union University, Kelly earned a master of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA.

A preacher’s daughter who vowed never to marry a minister, but did, found herself called to become one. Trained as a public school teacher, Kelly made the ministry her second career when she started pastoring a Methodist church in Virginia in 1969 after her husband’s death. Kelly became a Certified Lay Speaker in Virginia in the late-1960s. She then served the Galilee Church (1969–75). She was ordained a deacon by William R. Cannon in 1972 and an elder by W. Kenneth Goodson in 1977.

Kelly served on the staff of the Virginia Conference Council on Ministries (1975–77), directing social ministries. She then served as pastor of Asbury-Church Hill in Richmond, Virginia seven years before becoming Assistant General Secretary of the U.M. General Board of Discipleship with the portfolio of Evangelism. Leontine also served on the Health and Welfare Ministries Division of the General Board of Global Ministries.

Although a member of the Virginia Annual Conference in the Southeastern Jurisdiction, Kelly was elected to the episcopacy by the Western Jurisdictional Conference of the U.M. Church in 1984.

Bishop Kelly’s preaching missions included the European Theater for the United States Chaplaincy in 1975; Germany, Italy and Sicily in 1992, and Japan in 1993. She was also speaker for the World Methodist Council, Nairobi, Kenya, in 1997. Bishop Kelly was a highly respected religious leader and pioneer.

Throughout her life, Kelly opened dialogues on critical issues — violence, poverty, racism, sexuality, and illiteracy — building bridges between those with power and those without. Kelly was a social activist, advocating many progressive and controversial issues, including the end to nuclear armaments, opening up the church to gays and lesbians, and ministry to AIDS victims. She served as a visiting professor at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., was involved with the United Methodist Council of Bishops’ Initiative on Children and Poverty, and served as a leader of an interreligious effort to improve access to health care. As a spiritual and moral leader, Bishop Kelly advanced the cause of justice in the United States and throughout the world.

Bishop Judith Craig, who was elected a Methodist bishop just hours after Kelly in 1984, recalled the pioneer’s “audacious” life. “She never ran from challenge or controversy, and she also stood fast in her convictions,” Craig told the denominational news service.

Her work for social justice was recognized with numerous honors and awards, including ten honorary doctorate degrees, the Martin Luther King, Jr. “Drum Major for Justice” and “Grass Roots Leadership” awards from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the California-Nevada Annual Conference’s Leontine Kelly Social Justice Award. Her years of dedication to the church and to society earned Kelly a coveted place in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y. Kelly, who was 80 when she received the honor in October 2000, is one of almost 250 women to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. She received the Thomas Merton award in 2002.

“Bishop Kelly was inspiring and challenging at the same time. Her forward-focused energy and her impatience with things that have prevented the church (and we, its members) from living the active, holy and fruitful lives we are called to have been a source of inspiration to me,” said Harriett Olson, top executive for United Methodist Women. “She carried the extra burden of being among the ‘firsts’ as the second elected woman and the first elected African American woman on the Council of Bishops. I am personally grateful for all the ways she ‘made a way’ for other women and persons of color to follow God’s call on their lives. We have been blessed by her loving, committed and energized witness. My first time to hear her preach was at the 1988 General Conference. It was a high moment.”

“Bishop Kelly was beloved, especially by laypersons in her local churches who loved her commitment to strengthen and help local churches grow their membership both in number and spiritually,” said Raúl B. Alegría, treasurer of the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Kelly was bishop in the California-Nevada Annual Conference when Alegría served as conference treasurer from 1987 to 1994. “When persons disagreed with Bishop Kelly, she found that moment as an opportunity to ‘love people into goodness’ so that the issue at hand found common agreement on both sides.”

Bishop Kelly went to join the Lord on June 28, 2012, at the age of 92.

Wade in the Water (A Background on this Hymn)

As you know, the point of the Holy Troublemakers series is to introduce you to people who stood up for God even when doing so went against the flow of the status quo, who were prophetic, and who made, quoting John Lewis, good trouble.

This is the first Sunday of Black History Month which started yesterday and our first hymn this morning is a way we can participate in this observance, but I want to tell you a little about it before we sing it.

“Wade in the Water” is an African American jubilee song, a spiritual—in reference to a genre of music “created and first sung by African Americans in slavery”. The lyrics to “Wade in the Water” were first co-published in 1901 in New Jubilee Songs as Sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers by Frederick J. Work and his brother, John Wesley Work Jr., an educator at the historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee, Fisk University. John Wesley Work Jr. (1871 – 1925)—who is also known as John Work II—spent thirty years collecting, promoting, and reviving the songcraft of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers, which included being a member and director of the Fisk Jubilee Quartet. The Sunset Four Jubilee Singers made the first commercial recording of “Wade in the Water” in 1925—released by Paramount Records. W. E. B. Du Bois called this genre of songs the Sorrow Songs. “Wade in the Water” is associated with songs of the Underground Railroad, which was some seriously good trouble, don’t you think?

You’ll find the lyrics on the insert that was in your bulletin. These include both the original lyrics from the 1800s, and some additional contemporary lyrics attributed to Mae and Willie Thornton and recorded by Sweet Honey in the Rock live from Carnegie Hall in 1988.

Before they sang the song that night, they had this to say: “And if there is a promise of a storm, if you want change in your life walk into it. If you get on the other side, you will be different. And if you want change in your life and you’re avoiding the trouble, you can forget it.”

Wade in the Water is about facing the storm and walking into it because freedom and the promised land lay on the other side. I’ve added one additional verse, Verse 5, to speak to a current storm God’s children here at Union Grove and beyond need to face and walk into if we’re going to liberate our brothers and sisters and reach freedom and the promised land on the other side.

I have faith that, yet again, God’s gonna trouble the waters. Let the revolution begin.


Rev. Val

(Prayers of the people)

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.



Open the eyes of our understanding and prepare our hearts by the power of Your Spirit, that we may receive Your scriptures with much joy and rejoicing and may leave today having a deeper understanding of who You are and who You would have us to be.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Psalm 59:16 (CEB) – But me? I will sing of your strength! In the morning I will shout out loud about your faithful love because you have been my stronghold, my shelter when I was distraught.

Proverbs 15 (CEB; selected verses, in order but not consecutive) –

  • A sensitive answer turns back wrath, but an offensive word stirs up anger.
  • The tongue of the wise enhances knowledge, but the mouth of a fool gushes with stupidity.
  • The Lord’s eyes are everywhere, keeping watch on evil and good people.
  • Wholesome speech is a tree of life, but dishonest talk breaks the spirit.
  • A fool doesn’t like a father’s instruction, but those who heed correction are mature.
  • Great treasure is in the house of the righteous, but the gain of the wicked brings trouble.
  • The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools have none.
  • Mockers don’t like those who correct them. They won’t go to the wise.
  • A joyful heart brightens one’s face, but a troubled heart breaks the spirit.
  • An understanding heart seeks knowledge, but fools feed on folly.
  • Hotheads stir up conflict, but patient people calm down strife.
  • To give an appropriate answer is a joy; how good is a word at the right time!
  • The righteous heart reflects before answering, but the wicked mouth blurts out evil.
  • The ear that listens to life-giving correction dwells among the wise.
  • Those who refuse discipline despise themselves, but those who listen to correction gain understanding.
  • The fear of the Lord is wise instruction, and humility comes before respect.

2 Timothy 2:14-17, 18b, 22-26 (CEB) – Remind them of these things and warn them in the sight of God not to engage in battles over words that aren’t helpful and only destroy those who hear them. Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed but is one who interprets the message of truth correctly. Avoid their godless discussions, because they will lead many people into ungodly behavior, and their ideas will spread like an infection. … This has undermined some people’s faith.

Run away from adolescent cravings. Instead, pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace together with those who confess the Lord with a clean heart. Avoid foolish and thoughtless discussions, since you know that they produce conflicts. God’s [servants] shouldn’t be argumentative but should be kind toward all people, able to teach, patient, 25 and should correct opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will change their mind and give them a knowledge of the truth. 26 They may come to their senses and escape from the [evil] trap that holds them captive [so they can] do God’s will.

Matthew 5:21-22 (CEB) – “You have heard that it was said to those who lived long ago, don’t commit murder, and all who commit murder will be in danger of judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. If they say to their brother or sister, ‘You idiot,’ they will be in danger of being condemned by the governing council. And if they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell.

The scriptures of God for the People of God.

Thanks be to God.

MESSAGE – Can We Talk?

Citations are included in the transcript.

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

This is the kind of message that gets pastors in trouble, but it’s the kind that more of us should be delivering, because it gets to the driving purpose of Christ’s ministry and the consistently delivered command of the entire Bible which is to lift up and seek justice for the oppressed, care for those who have least, and love as we are loved.

Back last September, I did a message called War of the Words. The opening prayer for that worship service went like this:

Lord, I am not perfect. My mouth is just a little too slick and my soul is just a little too sick and tired of stumbling. Lord, we’re made in your likeness.

I keep falling because sometimes my tongue gets in the way. I know right from wrong, but sometimes my tongue gets the best of me. Lord, we’re made in your likeness.

It starts arguments and ignites fires that not even the firefighters can extinguish. My tongue, this sword of fire, has become an instrument of life and death. Lord, we’re made in your likeness.

“If you want it, you can come and get some,” is my attitude. I am a Samurai. I am not the first, nor am I the last. I tried to put this all in my past, but it presently keeps finding itself in my future. Lord, we’re made in your likeness.

I don’t want to keep living this way. I am ready to lay down my sword and shield to study war no more, but it’s hard. People keep coming for me when I never sent for them.

Lord, I am your child and I need you. Please help me control my tongue because we praise you and curse our brothers and sisters with the same tongue. And this should not be. Amen.

It’s been almost five months since that message and I don’t know about you, but I’m still struggling with words. The right words to pray. The right words to say. Holding back words intended to slay. And, thinking about the world, I’m not the only one that’s struggling with this. Just look at what’s going on right now today in our community, in our churches, in our state, in our country, and around the world.

One of the verses from Proverbs 15 said, A sensitive answer turns back wrath, but an offensive word stirs up anger.” Except it seems like right now today, a sensitive answer will get you called snowflake by one side and condemned as a traitor or “part of the problem” by the other side. It doesn’t matter which side you’re on. That’s what happens when we dare to speak out.

My mom and I watched the movie “Selma” this weekend. As I was watching it, I was struck … not by what happened then although that was shocking enough, but by the realization that we’re living through a massive Selma all over again. Right now. Nearly 60 years later in this, the greatest democracy in the world, people are once again having to fight for the right to vote, are getting death threats. The first of February, the first day of Black History Month, fourteen historical black colleges and universities received bomb threats. That same day, two different police departments received phone calls from two different men claiming credit for the bomb threats and claiming to be members of white supremacist organizations. In this year, there have been over 20 bomb threats called in to historical black colleges and universities.

A man took hostages in a synagogue in Texas. December 31, an arsonist set fire to Planned Parenthood in Knoxville.

According to Southern Poverty Law Center and others, there is a significant rise in the number of hate crimes.

Some politicians are dismissing what happened on January 6 as “legitimate political discourse.” Discourse. Discourse is defined as written or spoken communication or debate. I spent a few years on the speech and debate team in high school. While poetic interpretation was my role on the team, I watched more than a few debates and January 6 was not a debate.

Quoting a Facebook friend of mine, “… people in TN are burning books. Oklahoma is passing laws to fine teachers $10,000 if they teach anything that isn’t in line with a parent’s religion (which must be paid by the teacher out of pocket), Florida is passing laws that directly target immigrants and politicians are yelling “America First” which was the slogan for the American Nazi Party on the 30’s. … Just trying to remind people that they are trying to sit at the very table Jesus flipped. Not enough “Love thy neighbor” going around.”

Ain’t that the truth? Mr. Rogers must be looking down on those of us who grew up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and thinking, “This neighborhood is in shambles. Were you not paying attention all those years?”

There is a definite divide in the social discourse no matter where you go, no matter where you tune in or, for that matter, try to tune out. And the delivery of that discourse is, I’m sorry, abominable.

All this has been weighing more and more heavily on me and I’m know it’s weighing on at least some of you, too. How can it not? For those of us old enough to remember Selma and the things that came before and after, I think it’s even harder. This fight had already been fought. Now here we are all fighting it again. On all sides of it.

And still it weighs on us? Why?!?

The why is pretty simple. Our Lord and Savior taught us, repeatedly, to love one another. Even our enemies. Even those who persecute us. And I know from talking with all of you that you not only believe we should, you do your utmost best to live into it.

Cornell West said, “When you love people, you hate the fact that they’re being treated unjustly. Justice is not simply an abstract concept to regulate institutions, but a fire in the bones to promote the well being of all.” And all of you sitting here and many of you worshipping online with us, in fact most likely all of you, too, believe in a more just world. You believe that we should “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.”

And that’s a hard, hard thing right now when the elected bodies of this nation consistently fail to acknowledge the will of the people, go out of their way to prevent the votes of all the people from counting, and perpetuate falsehoods. It’s a hard thing when you hear certain church leaders not only supporting those falsehoods, but amplifying them. That’s a hard thing when Klan like groups no longer worry about meeting in secret, but openly and not all that infrequently with the media giving them an audience of thousands if not millions.

One hundred years ago, people had to wait for the news to come out either in print through newspapers or, if it was extremely urgent, by telegraph, or, eventually, on static-filled radio broadcasts. The result of that was that, while still impactful, it was at least somewhat diffused and it came from individuals who, for the most part, observed a code of journalistic ethics. It was different. Even if some of the news was incendiary, it was still not the atomic bomb level of incendiary we get today when everything is instant, everyone with a cellphone has decided to be photojournalists instead of putting the phone down long enough to pick up whoever is hurt or in trouble, and journalists seem to be a thing of the past and opinion givers and makers are the new Walter Cronkites of broadcast media. And then there’s the absolute super-abundance of channels and networks.  

But let’s go back to Selma for a moment, and to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the others that were involved. King was a strong proponent of non-violent actions. Peaceful protests and marches. Trying to negotiate with the powers that be. But there was something I noticed watching Selma this weekend. While he absolutely opposed resorting to any kind of violence or, for that matter, becoming violent when being violated, he was clear with his words. His words mattered. His words inspired. His words evoked support. But, most importantly, his words always spoke truth to power, even if he knew power would be uncomfortable hearing that truth. He was careful with the words he used, but he made sure his words counted.

All of the Proverbs in our scriptures today address how we communicate with one another. Or rather, how we should communicate and interact with one another. It’s up to us to decide if we’re going to choose to be wise or foolish, good or evil, wholesome or dishonest. It is how we engage in the social discourse that reveals our choices, whether we engage verbally or with actions, respond in anger or respond with love.

Paul reminded us again in his letter to Timothy, a personal challenge to Timothy to keep following Jesus no matter the sacrifice and risk, and that Timothy should maintain faith and hope in Jesus’ resurrection and raise up faithful leaders who will teach the good news about Jesus. Paul told him to remind them of these things and warn them not to engage in battles over words that aren’t helpful and only destroy those who hear them. … Avoid their godless discussions, because they will lead many people into ungodly behavior, and their ideas will spread like an infection. … This has undermined some people’s faith.

Avoid foolish and thoughtless discussions, since you know that they produce conflicts. God’s [servants] shouldn’t be argumentative but should be kind toward all people, able to teach, patient, and should correct opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will change their mind and give them a knowledge of the truth. They may come to their senses and escape from the [evil] trap that holds them captive [so they can] do God’s will.

Jesus, too, told us being angry with our brothers and sisters and calling them idiots or fools would bring judgment on us.

And that’s a hard, hard thing to do, especially today as things seem to be spinning faster and faster toward the makings of the next civil war.

Lord Jesus, show me where I have become critical and angry. Forgive me for holding on to hurt and disappointment and allowing them to grow and fester in my life. This day, I take those experiences and lay them at the foot of the cross. I pray You would curb my tongue and transform my anger and resentment into love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and … most especially, Lord, self-control.


One of the first things we have to do is, to quote Kristen Butler, “Be conscious of your words, especially when you’re not in the best mood. You never want to mix bad words with a bad mood. You can always reverse your mood, but your words cannot be replaced.”

The next thing we can do is understand what’s really going on. Something is causing their anger, their hatred.

Remember the story about when Jesus traveled to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals and, reaching the city, went to a pool near the Sheep Gate … the pool called Bethsaida. People who needed healing would go to Bethsaida and wait until the waters stirred. They believed that the first in the pool when the water stirred would be healed. There was one man who was so crippled he couldn’t walk at all. He practically lived there for thirty-eight years hoping, praying that he could get himself into the pool on time, but never had.

Jesus went to the pool and out of everyone there walked up to him and asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

I can’t remember who said this, but “God hating sin is like the smith hating the forge. But for many people because of their imperfections, especially ego, they carry a burden of judgment and hatred of other people or themselves or God. This blocks their spiritual healing and their realization that their real need is Jesus. So the first step is to ask the question.  Do you want to get well?”

What isn’t healed is handed down. A lot has been handed down generation after generation in this nation of ours and in the world. Fallacies about racial superiority, gender superiority, religious superiority. Myths to whitewash and sugar coat things like the Doctrine of Discovery that was used to justify centuries of conquest, genocide, and land theft, or to relabel the Civil War as the “Lost Cause.”

And you know what? All of those fallacies and myths and even the contemporary fallacies like stolen elections and Qanon theories … all of them started with words. Words spoken and words printed.

To do that, we have to do two things: We have to remove any obstacles to verbal communication. It’s called debabelization. One obstacle to verbal communication include an inability to listen and hear what the other is saying, and the best way to do that is to acknowledge that something is hurting the other person enough to make them that adamant. If you can get them to tell you what that is … and they won’t recognize it as a “hurt,” so you have to find a way to rephrase “hurt” to “belief” or “objection” or something like that … but if you can get to the root of their hurt, then you will know what it is that needs to be healed.

And you have to be patient because they aren’t going to reveal the true hurt immediately. It’s like layers that have to be peeled away and many of the first layers will be the fallacies and myths they’ve been fed that grew into fears that then grew into hate.

And to do that … to exercise that level of patience … you have to be a peacemaker.

Stephen Mattson describes peace makers as people who believe in human goodness, people who are hopeful for a better outcome, one that moves towards love instead of hostility. Instead of embracing hateful rhetoric, peacemakers patiently listen, empathize, and try to find common ground.

Peacemakers are slow to anger, and they courageously reject the temptation to participate in rage and vengeance when confronted with pain, insults, and even violence. Peacemakers are smarter and stronger than warmongers—because they’ve studied history, understand complexity, and refuse to be lulled by the rhetoric that propagates death.

Peacemakers value truth, grace, and love more than lies, greed, and dehumanization. They recognize that any fool can hurt another human, but that to be a peacemaker is to transcend beyond normalcy into a noble and holy responsibility.

Just a reminder, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called Children of God.”

What does any of this have to do with deconstruction? Pretty much everything. See, whatever triggered or triggers deconstruction, whether personal or communal, spiritual or organizational, most likely also started with words. Words we had read or heard that we then questioned as to their validity. Words that translated into actions taken or that prevented necessary actions from being taken. Words that lifted up or held down. Always, words.

We can’t, in good conscience as followers of Christ, sit by the side and do nothing but send thoughts and prayers to those who are suffering oppression, marginalization, inequity, or injustice. To do so goes against everything Christ taught through both his words and his actions. And if he lives in us, it is up to us to continue in his stead.

It takes work. It takes focus. And occasionally, we will need to stop and rest. But always, always, we will need to persevere until peace is found and all are free. And we will get there. We will reach that point. Until then, we will focus on here because, and I’m quoting an anonymous someone, “This moment matters.”

I want to close with a poem by Stephen Paul Kliewer of Dancing Faith:

““Someone once said that an “enemy is someone whose story you have not heard”


I love that!

but I also know that listening, and coming to a deeper understanding of the other

is not always enough

I believe in listening!

I believe it is important to seek understanding!

it has been my experience that the more I understand

where another person is coming from, the easier it is for me to see them


attentive compassion is a thing

if I can listen

if I can listen with an open heart

I can see the other person differently

I can see that they are afraid

or tired

I can see their vulnerability

I can see past the hurt they cause me

to the ways they hurt themselves

to the pain they carry

but still, I am far, in some cases from loving them

or perhaps it is better to say I am far from liking them

that person willing to put others at risk for their personal freedom

that person who is willing to sacrifice the planet for wealth

that person who believes that it is alright to hurt others to get ahead

(there have to be winners and losers, right?)

that person who is racist

who is hateful

who is authoritarian

who is cruel

who is abusive

sometimes the story gives no relief

just unrelenting pain

and yet I am told to love that enemy

even though I have heard what terrifies me

even my understanding still does not release me from those feelings

that divide

and yet I am told to love

and so I suffer

and I make others suffer with my anger and rejection

and so I sit here

struggling with those who would destroy our democracy for power

with those who will not protect their neighbor from this virus

with those who think guns are more important than people’s lives

with those who lie

with those who follow a liar down the path toward tyranny

and I can think of only two antidotes

one is the understanding (thank you, Rachel Held Evans)

that my worst enemy is myself

and as, sometimes, I must let go of those things about myself

that are terrible, in order to find the things that are beautiful

so also I must let go of things about others

this does not mean giving my worst self a freed ride

it does not mean I give that self-power over me

that self must be loved, but must also be challenged (and helped) to change

so too with those I struggle with

I cannot give them power over me, or the freedom to go on their way unchallenged

but how I challenge them matters

the other antidote is doing what it takes to create small

if only incremental change

if only I could stop for a moment

take a breathe

buy some time

say a little prayer

and then respond

and then, find a way to transform what seems unbearable

Rachel Held Evans turned her hate mail into origami

Shane Claiborne turns guns into gardening tools

how can I transform objects of hate?

words of hate

ideologies of hate?

I start by changing how I receive them

what I let them do to me

I turn them into tools for shalom

(still working on that)

what can I do, to change the trajectory of the maskless people

in the grocery store?

how can I challenge them but also accept them and help them transform

how can I do that with the Trump follower

the politician who is destroying the right to vote

the liar


this is not easy

but I believe that we are called to come together

heal together

forgive together

work together

gather together (at the table of God)

eat together

and somehow


birth the Kingdom of Love

God help us all”


We do not publish a transcript of this portion of our service.


Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:

Transforming God, we come to your altar this morning, knowing that in our giving and in our living, we have often put “just enough” into living our faith so as not to impact our lifestyle or cause too much discomfort. We have been reluctant to let go of our affinity for the things of this world; and in our attachments, we have often missed the opportunity for the transformed lives you desire for us. May our offering this morning be an invitation to living a life radically transformed by your power, love, and grace. We pray this in the mighty love of Jesus.



John Donahue (Excerpt from ‘Matins’ in his books, Benedictus (Europe) /To Bless the Space Between Us (US))

Thank you for being here today online. I don’t wear a watch, so if we went over today, thank you also for indulging me. There was a lot in today’s service, I realize that, but my prayer is you found it worthwhile. We will be continuing both Afterfaith and Holy Troublemakers next week. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for details!

Now hear this benediction:

May we live this day compassionate of heart, clear in word, gracious in awareness, courageous in thought, generous in love.

Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast to that which is good; render no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honor all persons; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit; and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.



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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 https://tithe.ly/give?c=4118449 and follow the instruction for making your offering. You may be prompted to create an account with them. There is no fee for the account or for making your offering through Tithe.ly. 

If you are not comfortable using a debit or credit card online, you can mail your offerings/tithes to:

Union Grove UMC
1151 Lane Drive
Friendsville, TN 37737

Please be sure to make your checks payable to “Union Grove UMC Friendsville“.