• Call to Worship – Rev. Val & Congregation
  • Hymn: Where He Leads Me (UMH 338)
  • Opening Prayer – Congregation
  • Litany for Christian Unity (UMH 556)
  • Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
  • Peace Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Peace Hymn: O Lord, Hear Our Prayer (Insert)
  • Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
  • Message: Feeding His Sheep – Rev. Val
  • Hymn: Here I Am, Lord (UMH 593)
  • Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Baptism & Receiving New Members – Rev. Val & Congregation
  • Communion Hymn: Here Is Bread, Here Is Wine (Insert)
  • Service of Holy Communion
  • Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
  • Doxology (UMH 95/Song Sheet)
  • Benediction – Rev. Val

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 same as your pew Bibles.

Luke 14:25-33 – Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.

So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

John 21:15-19 – When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

L:  The scriptures of God for the people of God.

A: Thanks be to God.

MESSAGE – Feeding His Sheep

Rev. Val

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.

One might say we have a couple of odd sounding passages today. In the Luke passage, Jesus tells us that in order to follow him, we have to hate everyone we love and give up all our possessions, then illustrates his point with questions about construction and war. Then, in the passage from John, Jesus tells Peter to feed his sheep, keeps repeating himself, ends up telling him how he is going to die, and then says, “Follow me!” If you’re scratching your head, wondering what those passages have to do with each other, I totally understand, but bear with me here.

We’ve spent the better part of the last two years focusing on what Jesus said and did. We’ve looked into parables, the Sermon on the Mount, His birth, His life, His suffering, the last seven things He said, His death, and His resurrection. We celebrated His ascension. We’ve studied which of the issues and crises we face today are met by what He said and taught. For those who participated in Wednesday in the Word Bible study this past year, we even looked at his “difficult” words.

We know who He is, was, and will be, and we know what He did for us. We know He is Emmanuel, God With Us, that He is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, the Christ.

And we know He gave us two commandments higher than all others, and one Great commission.  That we love God with all our hearts, all our minds, all our strength. That we love one another as we are loved. And that we go forth and make disciples.

So why in the world would he say we can’t be his disciples unless we hate our father and mother, spouse and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself? Unless we give up all our possessions. Like we’d really do that? Get mad at them now and again, sure… but hate? Live as simply as possible, sure … but live with nothing but the clothes on your back?

Nope. Nuh-uh. Not going to happen. Let’s be honest here. It just isn’t. Which is why it’s a good thing that’s not what he’s saying. What he’s talking about, the whole reason for those two parables about the king and the construction guy that seem so out of place, is counting costs … knowing what you’re getting yourself into if you choose to “take up your cross and follow Jesus.” What he’s saying is that this is a serious decision. Not something you can do part-time or as a hobby or only when it’s convenient and doesn’t get in the way of other plans.

“Jesus is clearly asking the large crowd behind him whether they really want to make this journey, whether they want to fight the battle that is coming, whether they want to build the tower that he wants them to build. Are you in or not in? And let’s be clear, it isn’t going to be a walk in the park. This is a battle for your own and everyone else’s soul; this is nothing less than the construction of the kingdom of God going on within and around you. Are you committed to this transformation? Are you willing to invest the blood, sweat, and tears it is going to take?

“Sure,” we shout, confident souls that we are. At least right now, in this moment, safe and secure from all alarms. But when the going gets tough, then what? When we stumble and fall, then what? When tragedy strikes, then what? That’s what he is asking us to consider. And when we sober up to the reality of the question, we can say, “We want to. But what will it take?” And he’ll answer, “Give up everything. Everything. Every. Thing. Father, mother, wife, children . . .” Everything is a daunting list. Your own life. Your pride and greed, your gifts and talents, the things that give you joy, and the things that make you roll your eyes and sigh. Everything. Give it up.

You can’t be serious. He can’t be serious. Ah, but he is. Give it up. And follow him. Carry his cross on which hangs … father, mother, wife, children, you own life . . . Everything. Here’s what he asks: “Don’t love them with your love; love them with mine. Don’t cling to people or things because they meet your needs or serve you. Receive them as a gift from the one you follow.”

Because we can’t love them like they need to be loved. We can’t even love them like we want to love them. But in his love, we can love the way he loves. Compared to his love working through us, ours is feeble and broken and selfish and temporary and almost looks like hate. So, give that kind of love up. It doesn’t serve. Instead, we can love as he loves. We can see through his eyes; we can serve with his hands. Then when we pick up, in his love, those we call family, we find more than what we thought we had. Then when we begin to build, we might actually finish, even as we are being finished in him.”(1)

Being finished in Christ, growing closer to God, becoming more aware of and attuned to the Spirit is what Roots … this series we’re just beginning is all about. It’s about learning ways to grow closer to God, and to form and strengthen our faith individually and as a beloved community. And … if we’re going to follow Jesus’ instructions to Peter to “feed his sheep,” if we’re going to take seriously the Great Commission of going forth and making disciples, then we need to really understand both what we’re getting ourselves into and how to go about it.

As a beloved community, we’ve made huge strides toward feeding his sheep. We’ve declared that this table … this table right here … and all the seats here … and those doors out there … and the broadcasts of these worship services … are open and available to whoever chooses to come in and join us. As a beloved community, we’ve already begun feeding his sheep. It brings me no small amount of joy to tell you this morning that we have submitted all documents showing we’ve met all the criteria needed and Bruno 1 is now officially up and running.

You might be wondering why, since we are feeding his sheep and we are a beloved community, we need a series like this.

There are a lot more sheep out there to feed, and … while the harvest is ready, the workers are few … we all, myself included, need to get far more comfortable with and confident in sharing our testimony with others besides those of us here today. We can invite people to come to church with us all day long every day, but if we can’t tell them why, they’ll just nod, say maybe or let me think about it, and that will be the end of it. To know the why and be able to confidently share the why, we each need to grow in our own faith because confidence comes from being sure of what it is you’re doing or talking about and … let’s be honest … we all have our moments of doubt, have questions, have hesitations.

But there’s more because it isn’t just sharing our testimony or inviting folks to church. That’s all words, and all the words we could ever speak will not be sufficient if we can’t show our faith without ever saying a word. The things we learn during this series will, if we take them to heart, cause a spiritual transformation. We will act and love more like Christ. And our transformation will lead to the transformation of others. And maybe, just maybe, with the help of God, of Christ, and of the Spirit, we’ll be that flap of a butterfly wing that starts an absolute hurricane of transformation, at least in our neck of the woods. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

And let’s be real, though. Christianity, at least here in this country, is in major need of both reformation and transformation. Christianity is every bit as polarized as our politics … and nearly as confusing and messed up. It’s getting a really bad reputation among non- and former church goers, in large part because Christian leaders have let Jesus become the destination instead of the Way. Until late in the twentieth century, Protestant churches gave their energies to the practices of worship, Bible study, and service. They would welcome new members but fail to teach those new folks what being a member is all about and very little if anything about discipleship. As far as most churches were concerned, the minute those new members accepted Christ as their personal savior, the church’s job was done, and the rest was up to the new members. Show up most Sundays for worship, bring the kids to Sunday school, drop your offerings in the plate, and help out with two or three church activities, and woohoo! You’ve got your ticket to the Sweet By and By.

The thing is, the kids paid attention in Sunday school and youth group, and got what the folks sitting in worship and reading verses in Bible study and doing X number obligatory service activities per year didn’t. They got that something was missing. The churches weren’t really walking the talk the churches were talking. And, by the way all the grownups were behaving out here in the Monday through Saturday world, it was pretty clear the grownups weren’t listening anyway.

Going to “church” was just something their parents insisted on doing. So the first chance the kids got to decline their parents’ request about going to church, most of them did just that. They declined. They wanted something deeper than they were getting at Mom and Dad’s church. They wanted their questions answered, wanted their doubts addressed, wanted to better understand their faith, and wanted to know how to apply what they knew about their faith to their lives in the Now.

I think most of you here can relate to that since most of you here or watching this online have probably had periods where church just didn’t do anything for you, where you went searching for and seeking God and wanting to understand better how to understand Him and came away empty handed and down hearted. Maybe you’ve walked away after being made to feel that the failure to hear Him, to have every prayer granted, to reap the rewards of what you were faithfully sowing into that offering plate was your fault. Or maybe you’ve walked away from professed values and morals that made no sense to you, that for some reason excluded you, or that were in direct opposition to everything you believed about God, about Jesus, and about what it is to be a follower of Christ, and conforming to an opposing, singular set of beliefs and/or unjust and even harmful acts was not something you could do or accept.

Nor should you.  As Rachel Held Evans said, “The church is not a group of people who believe all the same things; the church is a group of people caught up in the same story, with Jesus at the center.”

Jesus at the Center. The Way, the Truth, the Life. God above all others, above everything else. To truly be Christians in word and deed. But to be that, you have to know what that is, really know and understand, and then you have to, as the Luke passage said, count the costs and make sure you’re ready to pick up His cross and follow him, and to, as he says to Peter in the passage from John, feed his sheep. Including yourselves.

As Rev. Kliewer of Dancing Faith wrote yesterday, “Matthew Fox tells the story of when the Dali Lama was speaking at Rice University in Houston, Texas and a person asked him this question: “What is a Buddhist?” He thought for a while and then said, “I don’t know.” Further questions followed, but he was dealing with that one question apparently, for he stopped and said, “Let me go back.  A Buddhist”—and he stroked his chest—“is someone with a good heart.” (Daily Meditations, 9/3/22)

It begs the question Fox continues

What is a Christian?  Or a Jew? Or a Muslim

If we have any sense at all

that who we are as human creatures

somehow reflects the energy and love

that created (whatever that means)

the universe, the cosmos

this galaxy

this world

we human creatures

and all other beings

if we have any concept at all that we reflect

the Sacred

what does it mean to live that out

along whichever path we have chosen

or whichever path was chosen for us

by our parents

our culture?

I believe that this world is a clue

this world which is the Sacred




don’t believe it?

get up and watch a sunrise

stay up and watch a sunset

wander through a woods

and listen to the wind caressing the trees

and the birds raising their voices in praise

that is the sound of the Sacred Song of Love

or think about that singular human, Jesus

God’s self-portrait

Here among us

That one who modeled self-giving love

Is it not interesting that the way God transformed the world was not by coming in power, but by coming in humility (Philippians 2)

The way God opened the doors to the Kingdom (which was and is near)

Was not by dominating

but by service

The way God worked to “set things right”

Was not through coercion or retribution

But through sacrifice and reconciliation

God in Jesus chose to descend—in almost total counterpoint with our humanity that is always trying to climb, achieve, perform, and prove itself.  Jesus chose to descend knowing that ascent would come, in God’s way, and in God’s time.

Jesus chose to empty, knowing that eventually, through the power of God’s love

fullness would come.

So I have to believe

I do believe

God has a good heart

And those who reflect the image of God

Are people with good hearts

And I have to believe that the evidence of a good heart

Is a willingness to serve

To see others as more important than one’s self (Philippians again)

A willing need to see others

Feel with others

Have compassion for others

And serve others

Creeds are nice

Knowledge is nice

Worship is wonderful

Confession is important

but faith is not so much about creed, knowledge, worship,

or even a “confession of faith”

as it is about letting our lives

reflect the giving, emptying, forgiving, restoring heart of God”

Getting to the point where we can let our lives reflect the giving, emptying, forgiving, restoring heart of God … understanding our role as disciples and as a beloved community … working to become peacemakers and kingdom builders in the Now is the goal of this series. I hope you’ll join me, because trust me. I need to work on the things we’re going to learn, too.

Let’s pray:

God, we ask you to be with us as we begin this journey of growing closer to you, of better understanding the Way Jesus taught us, and of leaning into and allowing ourselves to be filled and led by the Spirit. Open our hearts and minds. Hold us closely in your arms. In Jesus’ name we pray.



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