ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Call to Worship – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Hymn: Joyful, Joyful (UMH 89)
- Opening Prayer – Congregation
- CREED: Affirmation from Romans 8:35, 37-39 (UMH 887)
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Peace Prayer – Rev. Val
- Peace Hymn: We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations (UMH 569)
- Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
- Message: Change Is Gonna’ Come – Rev. Val
- Hymn: Fix Me, Jesus (UMH 655)
- Service of Holy Communion
- Hymn: Sweet, Sweet Spirit of the Lord (UMH 334)
- Hymn: Surely the Presence of the Lord (UMH 328)
- Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95/Song Sheet)
- Benediction – Rev. Val
NOTICE TO ON-DEMAND WORSHIPPERS
In order to expedite posting the worship services here on our website, we are reducing the transcript to just the scripture readings and the message. The majority of the other content (minus the message) is available through our weekly digital/email bulletin (you can sign up on our Contact Us page). Union Grove UMC began celebrating Holy Communion weekly as part of our regular worship service on July 17, 2022. You are encouraged to have bread and juice or wine available as you watch the service and to participate in communion just as if you are present with us.
God, open us to hear and receive your scriptures today as you would have us hear them, understand them as you would have us understand them, and to act upon them as you would have us act upon them.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
*All scriptures today are from the NRSV.
Acts 16:16-34 – One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.”
She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities.
When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.”
The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.
When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”
The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 – “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.
“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift. The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.
John 17:20-26 – “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Change Is Gonna’ Come …
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
I need to make you aware that this morning’s message is largely written by Derek Weber of Discipleship Ministries, both because he wrote a good message and because of my class this past weekend. Dr. Weber writes:
“Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.” You’ve seen it before. At least if you are a part of The United Methodist Church. That is our mission statement. It defines us, directs us, empowers us. At least that is the plan, the agenda behind such a statement. But where does it come from and what does it really mean?
I don’t know where you stand on mission statements. Some consider them essential; others find them distracting from the day-to-day work. Or maybe it is the creation of them that is so distracting. When the conference I served in got infatuated with mission statements, I admit I struggled through the process. I felt like we didn’t need a mission statement, as we already had one. At least we did if we took the time to read the gospels. “Go into all the world,” said Jesus. “That’s pretty mission oriented,” I thought. “Love God, love neighbor”—can’t get a better mission than that. “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God”—okay, not the gospels, but still sounds like something Jesus would affirm. Why do we need a mission statement? We just need to claim the one already given to us.
I did come to understand that to claim that statement, that fundamental belief of who we are as a church, as a community of faith in a particular place and time, we need to make it ours. How were we going to make that mission from our Lord into that which gets our feet and hands and hearts moving? That was the real process of shaping a mission statement.
Enough of that, we’ve got a text to explore. But let me share that I see a connection between our denominational statement and this text from the Acts of the Apostles. Maybe only in a tangential way, but it seems compelling to me.
Our text continues the story from last week. We’re still in Macedonia, it appears. We’re traveling around as the “we” group. We were teaching and praying and engaging with the community in the usual Paul kind of way. But then there is this person. An irritant, really. A buzzing fly that just won’t leave them alone. A slave girl, with a gift, a spirit of divination. And she runs after them, like an annoying kid sister who keeps tagging along, wanting to be one of the cool kids. And she announces, no, she divines good stuff, stuff that Paul would have said himself. “These men are the slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.”
Who could be upset by that? They’re getting free advertising. They’ve got a P.R. manager running in front of them. What a deal! Except it didn’t feel like a deal. Her enthusiasm short-circuited any conversation that they might want to have. The big reveal was revealed too soon. Day after day, she was there, with the same tagline, like a bad commercial that keeps running in every break, all day long. Finally, Paul just snapped. And he turned and healed her. Just like that. He cast out that spirit of divination, effectively shutting her up for good.
Then it hits the fan; the owners of the slave girl just lost their meal ticket, and they aren’t happy. The have Paul and team arrested and invent some charges that may be based on truth, but probably not. They are stripped as a way of publicly humiliating them; they are beaten as a way of extracting a pound of flesh for the loss of income; and they are thrown into the inner jail (the jailiest part of the jail).
Naturally, they start singing hymns, perhaps “The Old Rugged Cross,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace”—Luke has a solo on that one. All the hits. They sing them through their facial contusions and over the creaking of their broken bones; they sing rather than moan; they sing rather than complain; they sing. And the other prisoners locked away there in that rat-infested darkness listen to them sing and decide they are either crazy or saints, maybe something of both.
Then the earthquake happened. A natural occurrence? Well, sure. Earthquakes happen. But it’s funny how Luke describes the effect. He says the chains were unfastened. Not the chains were shattered, or pulled from the wall, or any other accidental freeing effect. He says unfastened. Interesting, don’t you think?
And no one seizes the moment and runs for freedom. The gospel singers and their appreciative audience sit there in the rubble patiently waiting for whatever might be next. When they hear the scream from the jailer and metallic unsheathing of the sword and the ragged breathing of a man on the brink of despair, Paul shouts out. “We’re all here,” put away your sword. Then the jailer brings light into their darkness and kneels before the men he treated like dirt earlier in the day and says, “I want what you have that causes you to act like you did here.”
It was strange, out of the ordinary, unsettling. Their behavior was not normal. It was offensive to the status quo; they were upsetting the city. It was a part of transforming the world.
Change is hard; that’s the point; and it will be resisted. But if we embrace the mission statement, then we are change makers, change bringers. And we will be resisted, and ignored, and maybe even persecuted. Yet we will persist; we will bring change, bring a new kin-dom, a new way of living as the human community. We will struggle with it, and sometimes will get it wrong. Paul’s response to the girl who annoyed him is hardly worthy of the Christ he proclaims, even if the result was a positive one. Last week, we celebrated the status of a woman named Lydia in the life of the new movement. This week, we seem to have fallen back on social patterns of sidelining unnamed women. One step forward, two steps back. We are not perfect vessels of this perfect grace. We will continue, however, to be worthy of the gospel we proclaim.
But we are in the business of disturbing the inadequate peace, challenging the status quo. In the next chapter, the charge gets even better: These people are turning the world upside down. What better legacy could we leave? We who are making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? Let’s be about disturbing.”
Dr. Weber packed a lot into that, didn’t he? Change is hard, but change will come, change is gonna’ come. We just need to stick to the mission, the means for which were a topic of the class I was taking.
The last chapter of one of the three books I had to read was on eschatology. Eschatology – the doctrine of last things. I don’t want to get too deep into eschatology today, but let me first say that most of the eschatological texts in both the old and new testaments are often interpreted as predicting the “end times” if they’re read literally. If your mind just shouted “Left Behind,” with visions of “the rapture” and “Armageddon, you’re not alone. Hollywood and a few authors have made a fortune exploiting and sensationalizing a scheme cooked up by a twentieth century fellow named John Nelson Darby. You can put your minds at ease, though, because that’s just what it was and is – a scheme designed to keep “believers” in line by invoking fear and obedience.
To quote the authors of my textbook, “In truth, the subject of eschatology is hope – a hope based on what God has done in Jesus Christ, what God continues doing through the Holy Spirit, and what God will do in the reign of glory. Therefore, although hope is always directed toward the future, eschatology is not limited in its implications to that which is to happen, but is based on what has happened and has implications for our present lives.
“When speaking of “hope,” it is necessary to clarify what is meant by that word. There are indeed different sorts of hope, and most of them are quite different from Christian hope. Sports fans hope that their team will win, but that hope I usually little more than a wish. Those who study for exams hope to obtain good grades. That hope may be a wish that is, however, based on facts as well as effort. But neither the hope of having one’s team win, nor the hope of making a good grade is certain.
“In contrast, when one speaks of Christian hope one does not mean that it is possible or even probable that something will take place, but rather that one is certain that it will be so. One often hears that the only two sure things in life are death and taxes. Christian hope is even surer than death itself – indeed, it overcomes death. That’s why 1 Peter 1:3 calls this “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and … an inheritance that is imperishable.” That is to say, our hope is grounded on the actions and promises of the God who does not lie. In the same vein, Hebrews 6:19 says that, “we have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain.”
Eschatology – the doctrine of last things – is hope seeking understanding. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” That’s the purpose of eschatology – not to predict the future or intimidate unbelievers or believers, not to give us hope, but to give us an accounting of the hope by which we live.
The hope comes from elsewhere. In 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul says, “Now faith, hope, and love abide.” In Romans 5:1-5, he starts out talking of faith, then turns to how suffering leads to hope, and hope does not disappoint, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.” Christian faith is nourished on the unshakable hope that God, the God of love, will not disappoint us. Therefore, to speak of Christianity is to speak of the hope that stands at its very heart. Without hope there is no faith; and without faith, there is no Christian hope.
The hope comes from elsewhere … so where does it come from? The answer is not where or what but who. The biblical answer is in 1 Tim 1:1, that Christ is our hope. Colossians 1:27 says, “Christ in you, the hope in glory.” It is the resurrection of Jesus from among the dead that makes our own resurrection possible. Christ is the anchor of our faith, the rock on which our hope is grounded. It is by reason of that hope that we know we shall not be disappointed.
Christ came, Christ ministered, Christ suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried, and on the third day he rose from the dead. Not as some spirit-like semi-transparent apparition, but body and soul he was raised. Thomas touched him. He ate. He drank. He cooked the disciples breakfast! He continued to walk and work among the disciples for forty days … forty days! … after his resurrection! And on the fortieth day, he ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God. He didn’t vanish into thin air. He ascended body and soul. And then, as we’ll learn next Sunday, he sent the Holy Spirit to us as our advocate, our teacher, our guide forever.
In Galatians 5:5, Paul wrote, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” Paul knew full well that hope and trust in the promises of God, especially in times of trouble, is not something we can produce within ourselves, but is rather something that comes to us through the sustaining power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our churches – for Christian hope is not purely individual, but is also communal, a gift of the Spirit to the church.
When Christ ascended, he didn’t just give a wave and say, “Well, it’s been real, fun is relative, I gotta’ run, good luck.” He sent the Spirit to help us carry on. To guide us as we carry out that mission, the mission he gave us. He made sure we were taken care of and would never feel alone again. It is in him and all he did for us, that we find hope … certain hope … Christian hope.
Change will come, but not through the superficial “thoughts and prayers.” Change will come because he taught us how to make change and make change for the better through love and through grace. He taught us who to stand up for and what to stand against. He taught us how to love and how to forgive and he did all that from the cross. Let’s not let him down. Change is gonna come and, if we continue to walk in the Way that he taught us, we’re going to make those changes.
Heavenly Father, we acknowledge that our hope is not in our circumstances. Our hope is not even in the hoped-for answers to our prayers. But our hope is in You and in Your son, Jesus Christ, that You will sustain us, guide us, and give us wisdom in the midst of all that is happening around us. You are our refuge and our shield, our rock and our redeemer; May we rest assured in the hope that is You.
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