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 scriptures used and the message. Union Grove UMC in partnership with Southland Books & Cafe, began holding Second Sunday Community Church in January 2023. Second Sunday Community Church takes place at 3 p.m. ET the second Sunday of every month, meets in-person at The Bird & The Book, and is also live-streamed on Facebook. Holy Communion is offered at every Second Sunday service. If you are worshipping on Second Sundays online whether during the live-cast or through on-demand viewing, 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 are included in the message.
Even When Our Voice Shakes, Doxology Verse 3
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.
Praise ears that hear the children’s cries.
Praise truth that counters cruel lies.
Praise hearts that value human worth.
Praise lives that build a better earth.
This verse seems both written for these times and leaves one wondering “where are the ears, truth, hearts and lives we’re supposed to be praising.”
We can easily hear the children’s cries. They’ve been crying in Ukraine for over a year. They’re crying in Iran.
We can hear the children’s cries as they sleep on pallets on the cold floors of TN DCS offices. We can hear their hungry cries as their parents struggle to make enough money to pay the rent and keep food on the table while the State legislature and governor do everything in their power to cut public assistance programs and cut funding to the public school system.
We can hear them cry in Florida where they now fear being taken away from their parents and are expected to learn without books and forced to learn a religion that may not be their own. Where they are not allowed to be called by the pronouns that identify their whole person.
We can hear them cry in Mississippi where the very laws that oppressed their grandparents and parents are being reinstated. Where as young as age 7, their parents must sit them down and have “the talk” in the hope that they will remember those instructions and live through any encounters with law enforcement.
We may not hear all the cries as kids struggling with gender identity are robbed of necessary healthcare because of one sect’s “deeply held religious beliefs.” We may not hear all the cries as those same kids reach such depths of despair that they self-harm or unalive themselves.
We dismiss the cries of those children who are bullied for being different, who are taunted with racial slurs or body shaming and ridicule by classmates that learned from their parents and pastors how to bully, and name call and that it is now not only permissible but encouraged and expected.
“Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.”
We can hear the cruel lies … the lies being spoken from podiums and pulpits and podcasts, from politicians and pastors about gender-affirming care, about drag performers, and about the LGBTQ community.
We can literally watch the value of human worth be diminished day by day with calls to “eradicate” certain groups of people, eliminate entire histories from education systems, empower authorities to refuse to issue marriage licenses based on the “personal conscience” or, more accurately, “personal biases” of the issuing authority.
We have been watching the value of women of all ages … let me repeat that … all ages reduced to not just breeding stock but expendable breeding stock as more and more states take steps to ban life-saving procedures even in those cases of life or death for the mother, bans that have the most adverse effect on women of color. We have watched as states like Tennessee devalue women by refusing to prevent marriage for anyone under 18. We have watched other states devalue women by trying to enact laws that prevent women from leaving a state if they’re pregnant, reporting their menstrual cycles and sometimes their entire medical histories to school and state authorities.
And we’ve watched as politicians and pastors and corporate “personhoods” have and continue to fight against laws and actions that would, indeed, build a better, safer, cleaner earth. Laws and actions that would reduce, possibly end, and maybe even begin to reverse climate change. Laws and actions that would give us cleaner air, safer drinking water, and preserve natural resources. Laws and actions that have worked in the past to do just that but have been undone and undermined over the last several years.
Where are the ears that hear, the truth that counters, the hearts that value, and the lives that build? Where are the voices that speak truth to power? Where can we see the hands and feet of Christ at work to correct the wrongs and build the kingdom?
They are there, those ears and truths and hearts and lives and voices. Actually, they’re not only there, they are right here … in me and in each of you hearing this.
When we heed what Christ taught us, we become the ears, hearts, lives and voices speaking the truths.
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
Feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, giving shelter, sitting with the sick, clothing people, and going to the imprisoned is both literal and figurative.
People hunger for literal food, but they also hunger for understanding, for kindness, for acknowledgement of who they authentically are, for allies to stand with them and in defense of them, and for love and compassion.
People thirst not for the false hope of empty promises and platitudes, but the real hope of knowing there is someone who will stand with them in their struggles and that those who offer help and support follow through.
Shelter is four walls, but it’s also protection from those forces that seek to harm others. It’s creating sanctuary for those who are in fear for their lives. It’s working to stop or overturn any actions that would cause them harm. It’s working and advocating for actions that would ultimately prevent them from every living in fear again. Shelter is advocacy for actions that improve the lives of those who are at greatest threat or risk and prevent those threats or risks from ever happening again.
Providing shelter is also working to end and eliminate war and the rumors of war, taking steps to reduce violent crimes through better policy AND practice.
We all have shelter here on the earth and we can all benefit from advocating for and taking action to protect and restore the environment we all share.
We can literally clothe people and visit those who are actually sick, but we need to understand that these, too, are figurative as well. We clothe people through education – good and complete education about the past and present, about the world, about other people – so that they are dressed and prepared to face the world.
Visiting the sick? Advocating for better healthcare, for healthcare for everyone, for complete healthcare devoid of interference by unqualified elected officials … that is a form of visitation because successful advocacy visits better healthcare upon the sick. Acknowledging all the things that make people sick – environmental issues like pollution, addictions, stress, and more … and then taking steps to begin to reduce those things … that, too, is a visitation of better health upon the sick.
Going to those in prison … judicial reform to eliminated the implicit and systemic racism that is rampant in the courts, elimination through repeal of laws that create criminals where there is no real justification for the crime such as homelessness, or where the justification is based on unproven claims and allegations such as the ban on drag performers.
People are also imprisoned through racism, ableism, ageism, sexism, and … I know some won’t like hearing this, but through the toxic theology that reinforces patriarchy and white supremacy.
These are all the things that are the cause of the children’s cries, things that are invariably caused by cruel lies, things that devalue human worth, and things that don’t lead to a better earth.
And we … you … me … everyone who ever hears this … we have the ability, the power, the authority, and the calling to be the hands and feet of Christ.
We have ears that can listen attentively for the cries of the children and we can speak for those children to make sure they are able to live full, happy, healthy lives. We can be that one affirming person in the life of a queer or troubled child that listens, that believes, and that does what they can to help that child. And just one … ONE … affirming person in a child’s life reduces the risk of them attempting to self-harm or unalive themselves by 50%. FIFTY PER CENT. Such a simple act that does so much good.
We have voices and we can use our voices to speak truths that counter those cruel lies … even when our voices shake. We have minds that let us research and find the truth behind allegations against groups of people, and we can call out those truths loudly. And if we call them out together, we are louder yet.
We can work hard to both acknowledge our own parts in devaluing the worth of other humans through implicit bias or our silence. We need to begin by each owning that. And then we can work to change ourselves and to call it out in others when we see it … even if it means our relationship to those we need to call out may be damaged … even if our voice shakes.
And we can all work together to stand up for, defend, and improve our shared shelter of this planet. From simple “reduce, re-use, recycle” at home and at our offices or businesses to advocating for local, state, and federal policy that would protect the earth and move us in a positive, proactive direction to combat climate change and become more peaceful.
“The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you.”
The kingdom is already among us … within us … we are the ears, we are the truth tellers, we are the hearts, and we are the lives … we are his hands and feet. We are if we choose to be.
O Divine Creator,
You hold us in the palm of your hand..
In your eyes, all life has dignity;
All people are worthy of your love and care.
None are left alone, none left behind:
those who have no livelihood; the sick, the elderly and the mentally challenged; the imprisoned and the immigrant; those who live and love differently;
All are your children, equally worthy of your blessings,
and, in turn, equally worthy of the advocacy of the people of God.
Christ is our voice in the world,
The Word of God, as spoken to humankind,
Show us, Lord, how to love our neighbor
and care for the ones lost to the flock.
He spoke so that we might understand.
He taught, so that we might learn.
He acted, so that we might effect change in our lives, and the lives of others.
And he gave his life so that we might live in the grace of God.
We have no excuse.
His Spirit remains with us
Moving us to look with different eyes,
Hear with the ears of one who loves his brother and sisters
And act to assure that life is protected in every way it is manifest.
As your Church, we stand as one,
asking for the protection of those who cannot protect themselves.
We pray for justice for those who have no voice.
We pray for our civil leaders, that they may have the courage
to act on behalf of all in need;
To resist the factions that would lead them astray
and to open their hearts to hear the cry of the disenfranchised
This we pray, In the name of God our Creator,
Christ our Brother and the Spirit who remains with us. Amen.
(Written by Jeanne F. Jakubowski for the Diocese of Dallas)
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