ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Call to Worship – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Hymn: Holy, Holy, Holy (UMH 64)
- Opening Prayer – Congregation
- AFFIRMATION: A Statement of Faith of the Korean Methodist Church (UMH 884)
- Peace Prayer – Rev. Val
- Peace Hymn: We Shall Overcome (UMH 533)
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
- Message: Here I Am To Worship – Rev. Val
- Hymn: O Church of God, Unite (UMH 547)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Communion Message: Communion of God
- Service of Holy Communion
- Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95/Song Sheet)
- Hymn: The Church’s One Foundation (V 1, 2, & 5; UMH 545)
- 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 Updated Edition, but should be similar to your pew bibles which are the previous version.
Isaiah 29:13-16 (MSG) – The Master said:
“These people make a big show of saying the right thing,
but their hearts aren’t in it.
Because they act like they’re worshiping me
but don’t mean it,
I’m going to step in and shock them awake,
astonish them, stand them on their ears.
The wise ones who had it all figured out
will be exposed as fools.
The smart people who thought they knew everything
will turn out to know nothing.”
Doom to you! You pretend to have the inside track.
You shut God out and work behind the scenes,
Plotting the future as if you knew everything,
acting mysterious, never showing your hand.
You have everything backward!
You treat the potter as a lump of clay.
Does a book say to its author,
“He didn’t write a word of me”?
Does a meal say to the woman who cooked it,
“She had nothing to do with this”?
Ephesians 6:10-18 (MSG) – And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no weekend war that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
Mark 12:28-31 (NRSVUE) – One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
L: The scriptures of God for the people of God.
A: Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Here I Am To Worship
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.
An important spiritual discipline for growing more faithful and being more aware of the presence of God is worship. The question is, is worship what we understand it to be and what we do here?
St. Augustine wrote, “My whole heart I lay upon the altar of thy praise, a whole burnt-offering of praise I offer to thee … Let the flame of thy love … set on fire my whole heart, let naught in me be left to myself, naught wherein I may look to myself, but may I wholly burn towards thee, wholly be fire toward thee, wholly love thee, as though set on fire by thee.” John Wesley, after attending a Moravian worship service at Aldersgate in England, said that his “heart was strangely warmed.”
Augustine was praying that the God would fill him with the Spirit so thoroughly that there would be nothing left of himself, his whole being would be focused on God. He was inviting the Spirit to come. For Wesley, the Spirit had come in such a way that he could physically feel its presence.
We all walk into this space, me included, with expectations. I’m praying God will use me to deliver a message that moves you. You may be thinking, “what has God given her for us today?” And some of you may be hoping this is one of those “short sermon Sundays” when we go home a little earlier than normal or thinking about all the things you need to do when you get home. But again … is this how worship is supposed to work?
Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard developed an analogy called “the theater of worship.” It invites us to see public worship as a kind of theater performance and asks us to identify the stage, cast, and audience. Based on our experience of worship, most of us would probably locate the stage up here where Michael and I are at … the area called the Chancel. Michael and I would be the main performers, Sue would have a role in that she helps serve communion, and the three of us would be performing for all of you. But … and this is Kierkegaarde’s point, what if this whole sanctuary was the stage, all of us here today including all of you seated in the pews and, yes, even those of you watching us online were the cast, and the audience was God, Christ, and the Spirit? Would that change how you worship?
Liturgy, the order in which we do worship each week, comes from the Greek word leitourgia, which simply means the service or work of the people. Worship is the work of the faithful who gather to praise, honor, and glorify God. So think for a moment … what kind of service are we giving to God during a “worship service?”
When we provide service to others, those acts of service have a sacrificial nature. We’re sacrificing our time and most likely our resources to serve someone else in some way. So, for our worship to serve God, our worship also needs to express a spirit of sacrifice: first a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, then a complete self-offering – a willingness to listen for God’s Word and to give ourselves wholly to God’s designs in the world. We offer our will, strength, and gifts in gratitude for who God is and what God has done for us. Or at least that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.
Something that might help is understanding what each part of worship is for. If you look in your bulletin, you’ll see four clues. When we worship, first “we gather.” The call to worship is kind of like the second bell at the beginning of a class period. It’s the hey, time to pay attention and engage in worship. It’s followed by a “praise hymn.” Praise hymns are almost always hymns that speak to the glory of God, Christ, and the Spirit. The praise hymn is followed by the opening prayer. This is a centering prayer that tells God we’re here, ready to worship, often includes an invitation of Spirit, and asks God to help us open ourselves to him.
After we’ve gathered, “we proclaim.” This is where we either affirm our faith and beliefs through an affirmation or creed, or where we pray a psalm by the responsive reading of a psalter. We have something in our worship that is not part of the traditional Methodist worship service, the peace prayer and peace hymn that we added due to Russia’s war on and oppression of Ukraine, although now we add in the many other conflicts around the world and in our nation. It’s included in the “we proclaim” section because we are proclaiming to God our desire that Ukraine be freed of oppression and conflict.
Next comes the Gloria Patri. This hymn is an old tradition used to acknowledge who God, Christ, and the Spirit are and that we are giving them all honor and glory. The hymn is followed by the Scripture readings and then the message. All of these things are proclaiming God’s glory, his scriptures, and the lesson he has given us through the scriptures.
If you’ll notice, the third section is called “we respond.” What are we responding to? Everything we just proclaimed. God’s grace and mercy and faithfulness to us. Christ’s sacrifice for us. The Spirit’s willingness to both guide us and pray for us. In a larger church with a choir, the choir would sing an anthem at this point, so our hymn following the message is us being the choir and singing an anthem to God. If I did my job well, the hymn relates to the message. The hymn is followed by the pastoral prayer, also called the prayers of the people. We lift up those we know are in need of prayer. We pray for situations and issues we are aware of. And we close this prayer with the Lord’s prayer. We’re responding, again, to what was opened to us as we were proclaiming the scriptures and the lesson of the message.
Communion is also a response to everything we’ve just proclaimed. When we share communion, we are remembering Christ … he said “Do this in remembrance of me,” and we’re living out that request. We want him to know that we do remember him and that we are doing our best to follow him and the Way he taught us.
Communion is followed by the offering. Before COVID, we would have passed a plate. Now we keep a container in the Narthex for you to place your tithes and your offerings to God. And let’s talk about that just for a moment. The offering is you giving back to God what God has given you. It’s the modern equivalent of making a sacrifice of a lamb or a calf. It should never be an afterthought. It should be your first thought when you enter the church. Here God. I’m giving back to you what is yours. Please accept my thanks for enabling me to do this.
The last section is called “We Go Forth.” There’s a hymn to remind you once again of the lesson that’s been proclaimed, and a benediction that is both a blessing and a reminder about what we’ve been called to do out there in the rest of the world between now and the next time we gather.
Now that I’ve explained how our worship is assembled, consider something. Remember that God is the audience and we, all of us, are the cast. Your speaking parts of the service are the responsive or unison readings and prayers, and the hymns. So when you’re speaking or singing something, keep in mind who is listening, and speak or sing with feeling. When you’re listening, listen with full attention to what is being read, said, or prayed. Put your whole heart into your worship experience. Remember that, like Isaiah tells us in that passage, God can tell when your heart isn’t in it, when you’re acting like you’re worshipping instead of actually worshipping. Jesus tells us, though that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts and all our minds and all our strength. Worship is showing our love for God by giving him the attention and praise he deserves.
God is the best audience we could have, because God engages with us as we’re worshipping. We are served by God in worship just as we are serving God in worship. He serves us the joy of knowing we are loved, restores our courage through forgiveness, provides the word for hungry hearts, and fills us with the bread and wine of new life in Christ, giving purpose to our lives. From this perspective, Kierkegaarde’s “stage of worship” is the very kingdom of God, the prime actor is the Holy Spirit, and we – leaders and people alike – are the audience. Christian worship is paradoxical. God is both the audience and the main actor. We too are both actors and audience.
Our worship is rooted in who God is and in God’s purposes. We worship because it is natural to respond to the mystery that irradiates life. We know God to be holy and pure, just and true, compassionate and loving. God is worthy to receive our praise and acclaim, worth of our listening ears and offered hearts. The “worth-ship” of God is the origin of human worship! We also worship because we are created to reflect and glorify the One in whose image we are made.
Worship ushers us into the presence of the living God and demands the attention, receptivity, and response of our whole being. It asks us to disengage from the nose-length focus of daily life and see below the surface to life’s source.
In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul talks about the importance of putting on the armor of God in order to deal with the world’s darkness. He talks about God’s weapons: Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation. He says these are more than words and we need to learn how to apply them because we’re going to need them all of our lives, that God’s Word is an indispensable weapon.
God’s Word is Christ. His greatest weapon against the world’s darkness is Christ. Christ taught us how we are to act, what we are to do, and that we are to do it all with love, not anger. That’s why we pray that Christ goes before us, goes beside us, goes behind us, goes over and under us, that Christ be in us and our understanding. That’s why we remember him in communion. So that we keep him present and central in our faith.
Sometimes we might feel like private worship is more attractive than coming to church on Sunday. After all, individualism has been stressed in our culture for decades, so why shouldn’t we worship individually as well, right? Can’t we focus more fully on God meditating on him somewhere out in nature, free of the distractions and fuss and preparation and effort to physically get up, get dressed, and get ourselves to the church on time? Afterall, there are now literally tons of worship service options on TV, the radio, the Internet. We can just pick one and watch comfortably from our sofa, and no one will know we’re still in our PJs or care that we’re munching a cinnamon roll as we watch.
There are man important reasons for gathering, though. Whether we are alone or with others, we need to experience our Christian life as rooted in the larger community of faith. We need the prayers of others as they need our prayers. The way God provides for our deepest hopes is usually through the hands and hearts of others.
While a one can have a worshipful attitude throughout their life, the role of common worship remains critical. It is impossible to be Christian in solitary splendor. To be Christian is to be joined to the body of Christ. The central and visible way in which the church expresses this reality is by gathering in the Spirit to receive and respond to God’s living Word.
We gather for worship to remember who and whose we are. We come to recount the stories that shape our faith, stories that turn us from a collection of individuals into a community with a common source and vision. The church as a worshipping community carries our biblical faith and spiritual tradition down through the ages to each individual. We are joined to that community in Baptism, tutored in faith through the interpretation of scripture in preaching, and nourished at the Lord’s Table as a family of believers. Life in the church teaches us that we are made for communion not only with God but also with one another in Christ.
Without the rites and sacraments of public worship, there would be no body of Christ. It is through the praises, prayers, sacraments, and scriptural proclamations of common worship that the church is continually given its life. In this respect, worship is the most fundamental of all Christian practices.
Common worship leads us through the seasons of Jesus’ life and the life of the early church. Every time we move through Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost, we are given fresh occasion to take to heart the meaning of Jesus’ life in relation to our own.
And finally, worship in community means that we can present a united front “against the cosmic powers of this present darkness.” Biblical scholar Walter Wink argues that powers and principalities of this world are corporate in nature, so it takes a communal witness of light, truth, and peace to overcome the corporate power of darkness, deception and destruction in this world.
But let’s be real, just for a moment. I mean it is the 21st century, right? There are folks that can’t get to Sunday worship service for various reasons. They’re at work when we’re worshipping, so they watch the video later. They’re too far away to travel here. They can’t get here on their own so are essentially shut-ins. They’re in the hospital or assisted living home. There are many valid reasons. If you’re one of those folks or you know someone who is, I want to encourage you to continue to worship online with us or a church of your choice. But I also want to encourage you to let us … let me … know who you (or they) are. Worship isn’t limited to Sunday, and it may be possible to arrange to take one or more of the community to them occasionally.
Whatever your situation – whether you’re worshipping in-person or watching online, claim for yourself the freedom to respond to God in worship with the fullness of your being. If tears are a natural part of your response to God’s grace or a way of communicating your need to God, let yourself cry. If you hear a word that tickles you with humor or joy, let yourself laugh! If you couldn’t agree more with what the preacher says, nod your head or murmur an assent. Instead of allowing the inhibitions of others to control you, offer the example of your freedom to others. We need permission to feel and move in our worship life, and I want you to know you have permission!
So when you walk in or tune in, look up at that cross and say, “Here I am to worship, God. Let’s do this.”
God, we ask you to be with us as we continue 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. In that past, we may not have worshipped you as fully as we should. We will strive to do better, to serve you as you serve us. Open our hearts and minds. Hold us closely in your arms. In Jesus’ name we pray.
COMMUNION MESSAGE – Communion of God
For as in one body we have many members, and not all members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members of one another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.” Romans 12:4-8
If you’ve spent much time reading the various epistles … or letters, then you probably know that Paul’s “problem church” was the church at Corinth. They were fighting amongst themselves over leadership, taking sides and boasting about the wisdom of the teachings of their various leaders. The dissension was causing major conflicts. Sound a bit like what’s going on in our denomination today? Or in “American Christianity” as a whole?
And yet, the Corinthians still saw themselves as spiritual. Paul’s letter in 1 Corinthians points out that, while “the Corinthians think of themselves as one – spiritual … in fact they are the other – divided. Paul tells them, “You can’t be both spiritual and divided. You need to stop behaving like the people of the present age, focusing on your self-promotion or promotion of others, and start thinking and acting like the body of Christ focusing on God. The body of Christ is one body with all parts of the body seen as essential for doing Christ’s work in the world. The emphasis is on unity with diversity.”
One of the problems in Corinth was that they weren’t in communion with God. God invites us into communion with the Trinity, and, as we respond to Gods invitation to relationship with faith and love, our communion with God deepens through the saving work of Jesus Christ and the enabling work of the Spirit. In other words, this is a two-way relationship that grows with God’s acts of grace and our responsive acts of love in heart and life – love of God and love of neighbor, a response that is evident in changed lives. It is a relationship that grows over a lifetime. The vision of the coming reign of God draws us forward to a time when we come to fully love God and neighbor and live together with God and creation in full communion. To become a disciple of Christ means growing in our Christian identity of belonging to God and our Christian vocation of discipleship, following in the steps of love through Christian ministry.
When the church grows as God’s people in a communion of grace, it becomes an agent of the coming reign of God. When others look at the church from the outside, they are able to see glimpses of a future time when persons leave behind the distractions of the present world to fully embody God’s purposes in a life of communion.
Let’s celebrate this opportunity to share in a communion of grace serving the God who loves us beyond measure and who desires to be in communion with us and all creation by remembering Christ as he instructed.
- Unless listed below, all works cited within the text above.
- Portions of these messages were taken from:
- Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life (Newly Revised Edition), Marjorie J. Thompson, 2015, Westminster John Knox Press
- Formation In Faith: The Congregational Ministry of Making Disciples, Sondra Higgins Matthaei, 2008, Abingdon Press
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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“.