ORDER OF WORSHIP
- Call to Worship – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Hymn: God Is Here (UMH 660)
- Opening Prayer – Congregation
- Affirmation – Apostles’ Creed (UMH 881)
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Peace Prayer – Rev. Val
- Peace Hymn: We Utter Our Cry (Insert)
- Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
- Message: Last of the Summer Vine – Rev. Val
- Hymn: Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service (UMH 581)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Communion Hymn: Fill My Cup, Lord (UMH 641)
- 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 Common English Bible, but you should be able to follow along in your pew bibles.
John 15 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.
“As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I don’t call you servants any longer because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.
“If the world hates you, know that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. However, I have chosen you out of the world, and you don’t belong to the world. This is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you, ‘Servants aren’t greater than their master.’ If the world harassed me, it will harass you too. If it kept my word, it will also keep yours. The world will do all these things to you on account of my name because it doesn’t know the one who sent me.
“If I hadn’t come and spoken to the people of this world, they wouldn’t be sinners. But now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me also hates the Father. If I hadn’t done works among them that no one else had done, they wouldn’t be sinners. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. This fulfills the word written in their Law, They hated me without a reason.
“When the Companion comes, whom I will send from the Father—the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. You will testify too because you have been with me from the beginning.
L: The scriptures of God for the people of God.
A: Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Last of the Summer Vine
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.
You may want to keep your Bibles open to John 15 for this message as I will be going back to some verses in it that stood out to me.
The other day when I logged into Facebook, one of the first things I saw was an add from Milne Farm over in Greenback telling folks the season was coming to an end and to hurry out to the farm to harvest the last of their muscadines. Grape vines, like most orchard fruit, take regular maintenance. When Butch and I bought our property, it had a grapevine, but it hadn’t been properly maintained before we came along, and we didn’t know anything about them. Since the birds invariably got to the fruit before we did those first few years, we didn’t give it much of a priority and, eventually, it stopped producing altogether.
Grapes, as it turns out, need to be pruned during their dormancy, usually in late winter. When it comes to pruning grapes, the most common mistake people make is not pruning hard enough (my mistake). Light pruning doesn’t promote adequate fruiting whereas heavy pruning provides the greatest quality of grapes.
Knowing how to prune grapes can make the difference between a good crop and a bad one. When pruning grapes, you’ll want to cut off as much of the old wood as possible. This will encourage the growth of new wood, which is where the fruit is produced.
In John 15, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit,” and later says, “I am the vine; you are the branches … If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up.” A warning to his disciples and any others listening to him that if they don’t take his teaching seriously and stick with it, they will be pruned away like the old wood on a grape vine.
So, then, the question are … are each of us individually, are all of us as a community of faith, is this community of faith here at Union Grove as a part of the larger body of Christ … old wood waiting to be cut from the vine, or good wood that’s just in need of a trim? How do we know? How can we tell? And what do we do when we figure it out?
Jesus gives clear instruction for how to remain on the vine. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine.” Remaining “in Christ” isn’t always easy, though, especially when the things of the world are constantly trying to do cannonballs into the already choppy waters of our lives. Bills, work, aches, pains, illnesses, car repairs, home repairs … the list goes on and on. Then your friendly neighborhood preacher comes along and says, “Oh, by the way …” and spends two months talking to you about all the big issues above and beyond your own sphere like all the isms, all the injustices, climate change, threats to our way of life, threats to world peace, all the things the gospels say aren’t good, and as if that wasn’t enough, you go home, tune into the news or your favorite social media platform and whammy … you get hit with a tsunami of things to worry and fret and fuss and get down right angry about to such a degree that you just want to throw your hands in the air, shake your fist at heaven, and scream, “God, I give up! I can’t do this anymore!” You find your branch suddenly has all these suckers growing from it, dragging the nutrients away from the places where you had been bearing fruit.
What’s a human to do? More importantly, what are we … if we’re to remain part of the True Vine, to do?
The first thing you do is take a deep breath in through your nose, and exhale slowly out through your mouth, and you repeat that until your heart and mind stop racing. Breathe in … “God loves me” … breathe out … “even in my most anxious moments.” Keep doing that until you’re calm.
Then, you remember what Jesus has said in this passage, and keep in mind that … even though the disciples learned directly from him in real time … they still continued to mess up here and there. You’re not perfect. God knows that. Jesus knows that. The Spirit knows that. Walk in faith that, as long as you’re seriously trying, you’ll be okay.
Jesus had been with his disciples about three years at this point, constantly teaching them. He told them, “You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” The disciples where hearing him as he spoke all those lessons. We have a way to hear him as well. The “word” he has spoken to them is contained in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Studying his word in those gospels is part of how we can remain in him. And I don’t mean just on Sundays during worship. Taking time to read and reflect for yourself is important.
He also told them that his words should remain in them. Does that mean memorizing all four gospels? No. It means studying them to such a degree that you learn and do instinctively those things he was teaching the disciples about how to live, how to conduct oneself, how to treat others, how to pray, how to worship, how to forgive. And there are lots of ways to study. You don’t have to limit yourself to just the gospels. There are commentaries written by biblical scholars, there are books upon books, there are other voices to hear besides mine, we have our own bible study group led by an amazing teacher, Ms. Nelie, that anyone can participate on because we do it on Wednesday evenings on Zoom. And … and this is a big and … when we hit parts that don’t make sense, it’s okay to ask questions about those things. When those things cause us to doubt something that we’ve been taught, that we’ve read, that we’ve heard, that we thought we knew, it’s okay to ask about those, too.
So, a good starting point for any of us is to study the gospels.
Then Jesus told them, “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”
Instruction Number 2. Remain in his love? How? By keeping his commandments. And what were they? Matthew 22:36-40 – “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
But what about those other ten laws and all those other rules in the first part of the Bible?
I repeat: “All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” In other words, if you follow the two commands Christ gave us … if you love God with everything you’ve got and you love your neighbor like you love yourself, you’ve got this and you will remain in Jesus’ love.
Are you thinking, “It can’t be that easy. What’s the catch?”
Actually, there are a couple. One is about loving God with everything you’ve got. To love God with everything you’ve got, you have to be willing to put God above everything else. No other God, no idolatry, no taking God’s name in vain. By the way, not taking God’s name has little to do with cussing, and a lot to do with doing harmful, hurtful, hateful things in His or His Son’s name. If you do it well, you’ve just covered the first three of the ten commandments.
The other is to love others as you love yourself. This one can be harder than the first one, especially these days when things and people are so divided and everyone and everything seems so hateful. Plus this one takes some introspection, some soul searching, and most likely dealing with some hard home truths. Afterall, you can’t love anyone if you don’t love yourself. There may be things that you need to trim away to get to the best person you can be, to be comfortable with who you are right now, and to allow yourself room to change and grow, because we all do. It’s a never ending process.
But … there’s something you can keep in mind, pulling it out before you react and even before you act. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you don’t want to be hurt, don’t hurt others. If you don’t want to be made fun of, don’t make fun of others. If you don’t want to be cheated, don’t cheat others. In the same respect, if you want to be treated kindly, thought well of, blessed … treat others kindly, think and speak well of others, and bless others. It’s really that simple. You just have to keep it in the front of your mind. And if you do and if you follow that oh so golden rule, you’ll be keeping six more of those ten commandments.
That’s what Jesus meant when he said that all the law and prophets hung on those two commandments he gave us.
That brings us to verse 18: ““If the world hates you, know that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. However, I have chosen you out of the world, and you don’t belong to the world. This is why the world hates you.” There’s an operative word in this part … the word “World.” When we think of that word, we tend to either imagine the earth and everything on it … usually as opposed to heaven as we imagine heaven to be. But here, “World” doesn’t have anything to do with geography. Here in this passage, “World” is all those other things … those things I mentioned earlier. It’s the darkness that divides us, that polarizes us, that tears families and friends apart. It’s the hating and disrespecting and othering that the darkness promotes.
You all know what I’m talking about. By just shining a light, blocking open our doors, preaching and teaching from the gospel of Christ, and proclaiming that ALL are welcome here, the immediate world around us has decided we’re “too liberal” and “a cult.” I don’t know that we’re hated and so far we haven’t been harassed, but you see how it starts. When you don’t go the way of the world, the world at first turns its back on you and eventually just turns on you. As someone said, “If Jesus came now, he’d be labeled a socialist and crucified all over again.” Remember he said, “If the world harassed me, it will harass you too. If it kept my word, it will also keep yours. The world will do all these things to you on account of my name because it doesn’t know the one who sent me.”
That’s why we must continue to work to keep his commandments, continue to shine a light in the darkness that is the world, continue to tell people about him every chance we get, and if we can’t find a way to tell them, show them through our own actions. That’s why we must make ourselves ready, something we’re going to begin working on next Sunday as we begin a new series. And here’s a reminder by Rev. Kliewer of why it’s important we do.
Jesus talked about it incessantly
He said it was like a treasure hidden in a field
Like a mustard seed, blooming
Like seeds scattered on the ground, fertile
And like yeast, transforming
The Kingdom of heaven!
It is coming! Jesus said
It is near
Is within us
It is life-changing
Jesus told us to pray for it
To prepare for it
Wait for it
The kingdom of Heaven
Is not about earthly kingdoms
It is not about a country
It is not about domination
It is not about control or coercion
It is not the best part of our dead life
The kingdom of Heaven is about wholeness
It is about the poor housed and fed
About children safe from guns
About a planet protected
The vulnerable cared for
The ill made well
The sad made joyful
The hopeless made hopeful
It is not about us going to heaven
It is about heaven coming to earth
and people, touched by Love
infused with Love
empowered by Love
it is about the last being first
and the first joyfully being last
and about inclusion and welcome
it is God’s dream for us
so this day I will pray!
as I do every day
Thy Kingdom come, Lord
Thy Kingdom Come!
I want to take a moment for silent prayer. If you have things you need to trim so that you can grow good fruit … if you have things of the world that you need to take off … I encourage you to come forward to the prayer rail or the altar during this time.
Please join me now, in silent prayer.
- All works cited within the text above.
Copyright Disclaimer: Under §107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for educational purposes. No copyright infringement is intended. All rights belong to their respective owners.
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“.