ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Call to Worship – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Hymn: Christ For the World We Sing (UMH 568)
- Opening Prayer – Congregation
- Affirmation – Statement of Faith (UMH 883)
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Peace Prayer – Rev. Val
- Peace Hymn: O God of Every Nation (UMH 435)
- Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
- Message: Coloring Outside the Lines – Rev. Val
- Hymn: Open My Eyes, That I May See (UMH 454)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Communion Hymn: Now Let Us From This Table Rise (UMH 634)
- Service of Holy Communion
- 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.
*Scriptures this morning come from the New Revised Standard Version which is the bible you will find in the pews.
Jeremiah 1:4-10 (NRSV) – Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”
Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Luke 13:10-17 – Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”
When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.
But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”
But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”
When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
L: The scriptures of God for the people of God.
A: Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Coloring Outside the Lines
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer, and may you see fit to use me as a vessel from which you pour out your Divine Word.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Remember in school when we’d be told to color inside the lines? Some teachers would even gently scold us if we crossed those precious bold black lines on those worksheets and color pages. The older we got, the more lines were drawn that we were supposed to be mindful of. Even voting today, if your county happens to use paper ballots like mine does, we get warned to fill the box inside those little black lines completely, but to be sure not to accidentally cross those lines.
Humanity has been drawing lines … and fighting over them … since the beginning. God drew a verbal line around the Tree of Knowledge. Adam and Eve crossed that line, and we’ve been carrying the sin around ever since. We’re all of us … of every conceivable faith walk and belief set … trying to get back into the Garden.
Nations draw lines on maps. States draw lines within those lines, counties within the lines of each state, cities add their lines, and neighbors draw lines between each other.
Wars have front lines and rear flanks, usually in a quest to change the previously drawn lines on a map. Politicians draw and redraw lines to control which political party holds power within a principality. Racism and all the other isms create lines. There are lines between rich and poor.
Religions … including more than a few Christian religions … draw lines about who can … or can’t … participate in whatever their faith is and even to a larger degree than we might imagine, about what someone in a particular religion can or cannot believe, how to dress, what to eat, and the list goes on and on and on.
Not only does humanity draw all these lines, humanity then enforces compliance with the lines upon itself by any means necessary.
We are so used to all these lines that other people draw, we even begin to draw lines around ourselves and each other. We get everything all lined out … lines we won’t cross … lines we tell ourselves we can’t cross. Lines to fit in. Lines to keep others out.
Jeremiah had drawn some lines around himself when God called him. “I don’t know how to speak. I’m only a boy.” Jeremiah’s lines were holding him back from the full potential that God knew he had. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” God clearly had plans for Jeremiah that would require Jeremiah to cross the lines he’d drawn boxing himself in. One touch by God to Jeremiah’s lips and he became one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament.
And becoming, being a prophet wasn’t easy. They weren’t the most loved folks in the kingdom. Many died uneasy deaths, but God had told Jeremiah not to worry or be afraid, that He would deliver him. Jeremiah prophesied through a succession of three kings of Judah. Jeremiah found courage through his faith in God to cross those lines.
Now mind you, some lines are necessary. Some lines keep us safe if we don’t cross them. Like the center lines on highways, some lines keep us from being hurt by someone abusive or toxic, some lines help us stay healthy and addiction free, and some lines help us stand strong on our beliefs and principles. I’m not talking about those lines.
I’m talking about that kind that restrict us. I’m talking about the lines we draw that hold us back from living fully into the person God is waiting for us to be, to become. We all draw them. I know many times in my life I’ve set myself up to fail because the success on the other side of the line I’d drawn was overwhelming. And then there are fault lines where everything on this side is my fault, but everything over there is so and so’s fault. Sometimes we get on the wrong side of lines, a dark side where we do things we know we shouldn’t.
And sometimes lines get blurred. They’re still there, but they’re hard to see. Right now the lines between fact and fiction, and between democracy and autocracy are blurred. They’re there. But you have to work really hard to see them.
Lines, lines, everywhere a line … dividing up humanity, messin’ with our minds. Do this, don’t do that, don’t you cross that line …
But what would happen if we did? What would happen in this great big chaotic world if we colored outside all these lines? What would the world be like if we refused to let lines control who we love, who we welcome, who we are?
We have an excellent role model for crossing lines, you know. Jesus was the master of crossing lines. In fact, I think rather than merely cross them, he took his sandaled foot and rubbed them out completely.
Look at the passage from Luke. Jesus new it was the Sabbath, and he knew the laws and rules better than anyone on earth. And yet, when he saw the old woman bent and broken … he crossed the line and healed her. And of course, the keepers of the lines immediately called him out for it, but he pointed out how hypocritical they were since they technically broke the Sabbath simply by watering their livestock.
He counted among His followers tax collectors, religious zealots, educated scribes, and humble fishermen.
He went to places no rabbi of His time would go, engaged people thought to be immoral and unclean, and broke down cultural and puritanical barriers.
He called people to a faith not built on piety and performance but one in which the condition of your heart reflected your relationship with God.
And His harshest words were reserved for those who created systems of exclusion that kept away those most in need of God.
And when it was finally time to let the world know who he was, did he go to the Temple and proclaim it? No, he went and found a Samaritan woman … and not a saintly one, either … and he told her.
He crossed lines when he gave the Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard it said, but I say…” He crossed lines by uplifting and treating the women he knew as equals. If you think about it, he crossed lines when he assembled his disciples. None of them were “born” into priesthood in the way of Jewish tradition. There were fishermen, tax collectors, a physician, and women.
Jesus crossed lines again and again and again. And then came that final week. That week when one minute the crowd was cheering his arrival and calling out Hosanna … save us … and the next they were calling for his death. That week when he was betrayed not just by Judas, but by Peter and all the other disciples except for John, his mother, Mary, and Mary Magdalene.
That week he crossed a very big line when he went to the Temple and drove out all the money changers and merchants. The more lines he crossed, the more determined the religious and community leaders became to put an end to that upstart rabbi from Galilee.
But then came the biggest line of all. He was innocent. Totally innocent. With a snap of his fingers or a word, he could have rescued himself at any point. But that wasn’t why he came. He had come in human form, Immanuel, God With Us, to walk among us, to see and feel and hear and touch what we touched, to teach us the Way God had been trying to teach us for generations, to show us how to live in God’s kingdom, and to rescue us.
That last line was the one line he would not cross. He went through all that he went through for us, that in his death and resurrection, in his plea that God forgive us for we know not what we do, we would come to know God, know him, and know eternal life. That we would have learned all we needed to know to build the kingdom God has been waiting for us to build … the kingdom God’s still waiting for us to build.
The kingdom that we aren’t going to be able to build until we learn that it’s okay to color outside the lines. That it’s a good thing to color outside the lines. That too very often it is the lines that are preventing us from embracing one another, truly making peace, and learning to live as one.
Crossing lines for we mere mortals is not easy. Like I said, we’re too used to them. But it’s necessary that we do. Remember that God loves those we hate just like he loves us. Remember that God loves those we disapprove of just like he loves us. Remember that Christ came to rescue not just us, but the world. Stop and think about how many of the lines you’ve drawn for yourself might prevent you from loving like you’re loved by God, by Christ, and by the Spirit.
Remember, too, that there are lines that have been drawn to box other people out. Lines of grievous injustice drawn in the form of bad laws and harmful policies born out of nothing but ignorance, fear, and sometimes … especially from the church … through bad theology caused by drawing lines around God or Jesus or the Spirit that are meant to make them fit into one’s idea of who each should be rather than accepting that they all three are larger than we could ever comprehend.
No line drawn to exclude, drawn to control or manipulate, drawn to eliminate others from full participation in God’s kingdom is permanent. Any of them can be crossed, can be erased. It’s up to us to erase them. It’s up to us to continue the work of kingdom building here by refusing to conform to the lines that society, that humanity try to force upon us when we know those lines are harmful, are unjust, are not within the Way Christ taught us.
You don’t have to be a person religious people find acceptable to have a seat at Jesus’ table.
If you want to know Jesus and discover His plan for your life, there is a place for you here. And if you are already a disciple of Jesus, your job is to set the table and not stand in the way of those who come to feast.
It’s up to us both as a community of faith and as individuals to cross the lines with buckets full of brightly colored paint and carry out the work we are called to do with the gifts God has given each of us. I have great faith that, when we cross those lines, we will find others just like us ready to color outside the lines, too.
Now, before you sit there and ponder whether you each have the strength or courage or whatever to cross lines, let me remind you of something. You all crossed a major line here in this community, in this district, in this Conference, in this denomination when you voted to become a Reconciling Church. You have the courage and strength to color outside the lines. You already have.
I want to take a moment for silent prayer. I pray that our eyes are opened to the wrongful lines we’ve drawn for ourselves and the harmful lines society and humanity have drawn. I pray that our eyes are opened to see the truth and mercy and grace of God. As we pray silently, if you have lines you need to erase, then bring them here to the prayer rail or walk right up there and lay them on the altar at the foot of the cross. Let’s pray.
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