ORDER OF WORSHIP
* The Order of Worship is changing for the Afterfaith series. We appreciate your indulgence of this change to the routine.
- Greeting & Announcements – Rev. Val
- Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Holy Troublemaker Biography
- Hymn: Come and Find the Quiet Center (Song Sheet)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
- Hymn: When We Are Called to Sing Your Praise (Song Sheet)
- Message: Welcome to Legoland – Rev. Val
- Hymn: Lead Me, Guide Me (Song Sheet)
- Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95)
- Benediction – Rev. Val
WELCOME, CALL TO WORSHIP, & OPENING PRAYER
I want to say a quick thank you to those of you who are in our Wednesday in the Word Bible Study. I never figured out what made me ill that night, but I am feeling much better.
A quick reminder that Sue Daffron, Smoky Mountain District UMW president, and Kim Hill, Smoky Mountain District UMW Communications Coordinator, will be attending Thomas Talks tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. on Zoom (link below) to talk with you about starting a new UMW chapter here at Union Grove.
Last, there are still some details to work out but we will celebrate the Holy Days during Lent and Holy Week in the following ways:
Shrove (Fat) Tuesday – Lunch together at a local pancake house or restaurant
Ash Wednesday – Drive through style here in front of the church
Maundy Thursday – Lunch time communion service at a park (TBD) in Maryville (we will extend an invitation to the Pride Club)
Good Friday – Self-paced “Stations of the Cross” here in the Sanctuary
Call to Worship
L: Who has been with us from before the beginning, bringing us into existence?
P: Who has loved us and blessed us and sent us on our way?
L: Who has pointed us toward the path and posted the signs we need to find our way?
P: Who has been at our side when the road has been smooth and gently curving?
L: Who has remained with us through every hairpin bend, construction zone, pothole and detour?
P: Who will celebrate with us when we reach our journey’s end?
L: Only One. The One and Only.
P: Holy One. The One and Holy.
L: If it had not been for God, where would we be?
P: If it were not for God in our lives, what kind of people would we be now?
L: We are not alone.
P: Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth – our Redeemer, our Creator, and Friend!
L: Let us worship the God who gathers us! Let us pray in his name together:
Creator, Christ, and Spirit, be present with us now. Clear the chaos and clatter of our hearts and minds that we may hear your voices, learn your way, heed your call, and carry out your will in your kingdom here.
In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Holy Troublemaker – Bp. Leontine T.C. Kelly (1920-2012)
Beloved Leader, Holy Troublemaker
From “The Many Lives of Pauli Murray” – Kathryn Schulz, April 10, 2017, New Yorker Magazine
The wager was ten dollars. It was 1944, and the law students of Howard University were discussing how best to bring an end to Jim Crow. In the half century since Plessy v. Ferguson, lawyers had been chipping away at segregation by questioning the “equal” part of the “separate but equal” doctrine—arguing that, say, a specific black school was not truly equivalent to its white counterpart. Fed up with the limited and incremental results, one student in the class proposed a radical alternative: why not challenge the “separate” part instead?
That student’s name was Pauli Murray. Her law-school peers were accustomed to being startled by her—she was the only woman among them and first in the class—but that day they laughed out loud. Her idea was both impractical and reckless, they told her; any challenge to Plessy would result in the Supreme Court affirming it instead. Undeterred, Murray told them they were wrong. Then, with the whole class as her witness, she made a bet with her professor, a man named Spottswood Robinson: ten bucks said Plessy would be overturned within twenty-five years.
Murray was right. Plessy was overturned in a decade—and, when it was, Robinson owed her a lot more than ten dollars. In her final law-school paper, Murray had formalized the idea she’d hatched in class that day, arguing that segregation violated the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Some years later, when Robinson joined with Thurgood Marshall and others to try to end Jim Crow, he remembered Murray’s paper, fished it out of his files, and presented it to his colleagues—the team that, in 1954, successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education.
By the time Murray learned of her contribution, she was nearing fifty, two-thirds of the way through a life as remarkable for its range as for its influence. A poet, writer, activist, labor organizer, legal theorist, and Episcopal priest, Murray palled around in her youth with Langston Hughes, joined James Baldwin at the MacDowell Colony the first year it admitted African-Americans, maintained a twenty-three-year friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt, and helped Betty Friedan found the National Organization for Women. Along the way, she articulated the intellectual foundations of two of the most important social-justice movements of the twentieth century: first, when she made her argument for overturning Plessy, and, later, when she co-wrote a law-review article subsequently used by a rising star at the A.C.L.U.—one Ruth Bader Ginsburg—to convince the Supreme Court that the Equal Protection Clause applies to women.
This was Murray’s lifelong fate: to be both ahead of her time and behind the scenes. Two decades before the civil-rights movement of the nineteen-sixties, Murray was arrested for refusing to move to the back of a bus in Richmond, Virginia; organized sit-ins that successfully desegregated restaurants in Washington, D.C.; and, anticipating the Freedom Summer, urged her Howard classmates to head south to fight for civil rights and wondered how to “attract young white graduates of the great universities to come down and join with us.” And, four decades before another legal scholar, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, coined the term “intersectionality,” Murray insisted on the indivisibility of her identity and experience as an African-American, a worker, and a woman.
Despite all this, Murray’s name is not well known today, especially among white Americans. The past few years, however, have seen a burst of interest in her life and work. She’s been sainted by the Episcopal Church, had a residential college named after her at Yale, where she was the first African-American to earn a doctorate of jurisprudence, and had her childhood home designated a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior. Last year, Patricia Bell-Scott published “The Firebrand and the First Lady” (Knopf), an account of Murray’s relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt, and next month sees the publication of “Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray” (Oxford), by the Barnard historian Rosalind Rosenberg.
All this attention has not come about by chance. Historical figures aren’t human flotsam, swirling into public awareness at random intervals. Instead, they are almost always borne back to us on the current of our own times. In Murray’s case, it’s not simply that her public struggles on behalf of women, minorities, and the working class suddenly seem more relevant than ever. It’s that her private struggles—documented for the first time in all their fullness by Rosenberg—have recently become our public ones.
Pauli Murray was born Anna Pauline Murray, on November 20, 1910. It was the year that the National Urban League was founded, and the year after the creation of the N.A.A.C.P.; “my life and development paralleled the existence of the two major continuous civil rights organizations in the United States,” she observed in a posthumously published memoir, “Song in a Weary Throat.” Given Murray’s later achievements, that way of placing herself in context makes sense.
Orphaned by age 12, she lived with her Aunt Pauline in Durham, North Carolina, at the home of her maternal grandparents, Cornelia and Robert Fitzgerald in a large and close-knit family whose members ranged from Episcopalians to Quakers, impoverished to wealthy, fair-skinned and blue-eyed to dark-skinned and curly-haired. When they all got together, Murray wrote, it looked “like a United Nations in miniature.”
Murray would eventually go on to earn a Bachelor’s degree from Hunter College in New York in 1933, and studied law at Howard University where she earned her Juris Doctorate degree. At the time, there were only about 100 black women practicing law in the entire United states. She tried to get into Harvard for graduate work, but was rejected because she was a woman.
In 1948, the women’s division of the Methodist Church approached her with a problem. They opposed segregation and wanted to know, for all thirty-one states where the Church had parishes, when they were legally obliged to adhere to it and when it was merely custom. If they paid her for her time, they wondered, would she write up an explanation of segregation laws in America?
What the Methodist Church had in mind was basically a pamphlet. What Murray produced was a seven-hundred-and-forty-six-page book, “States’ Laws on Race and Color,” that exposed both the extent and the insanity of American segregation. The A.C.L.U. distributed copies to law libraries, black colleges, and human-rights organizations. Thurgood Marshall, who kept stacks of it around the N.A.A.C.P. offices, called it “the bible” of Brown v. Board of Education. In this way, to Murray’s immense gratification, the book ultimately helped render itself obsolete.
Murray had spent most of her life fighting segregation and fighting for women’s rights. However, just as the civil-rights movement was sidelining women, the women’s movement was sidelining minorities and poor people. After stepping away from NOW to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Murray returned and discovered that, NOW, her “NAACP for women had become an NAACP for professional, white women.” As a black activist who increasingly believed true equality was contingent on economic justice, Murray was left both angry and saddened. She was also left—together with millions of people like her—without an obvious home in the social-justice movement.
It came as a shock to everyone when, having achieved the most stable and lucrative job of her life—a tenured professorship at Brandeis, in the American Studies department she herself helped pioneer—Murray resigned her post and entered New York’s General Theological Seminary to become an Episcopal priest. In classic Murray fashion, the position she sought was officially unavailable to her: the Episcopal Church did not ordain women. For once, though, Murray’s timing was perfect. While she was in divinity school, the Church’s General Convention voted to change that policy, effective January 1, 1977—three weeks after she would complete her course work. On January 8th, in a ceremony in the National Cathedral, Murray became the first African-American woman to be vested as an Episcopal priest. A month later, she administered her first Eucharist at the Chapel of the Cross—the little church in North Carolina where, more than a century earlier, a priest had baptized her grandmother Cornelia, then still a baby, and still a slave.
It was the last of Murray’s many firsts. She was by then nearing seventy, just a few years from the mandatory retirement age for Episcopal priests. Never having received a permanent call, she took a few part-time positions and did a smattering of supply preaching, for twenty-five dollars a sermon. She held four advanced degrees, had friends on the Supreme Court and in the White House, had spent six decades sharing her life and mind with some of the nation’s most powerful individuals and institutions. Yet she died as she lived, a stone’s throw from penury.
Murray herself felt she didn’t accomplish all that she might have in a more egalitarian society. “If anyone should ask a Negro woman in America what has been her greatest achievement,” she wrote in 1970, “her honest answer would be, ‘I survived!’ ” But, characteristically, she broke that low and tragic barrier, too, making her own life harder so that, eventually, other people’s lives would be easier. Perhaps, in the end, she was drawn to the Church simply because of the claim made in Galatians, the one denied by it and by every other community she ever found, the one she spent her whole life trying to affirm: that, for purposes of human worth, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female.”
(Prayers of the people)
Dearest Lord, whatever else You see that we need—whatever is for the good of our neighbor and redounds to Your glory—we pray that You would grant to us, Your children. We ask it Jesus’ name who taught us to pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.
Open the eyes of our understanding and prepare our hearts by the power of Your Spirit, that we may receive Your scriptures with much joy and rejoicing and may leave today having a deeper understanding of who You are and who You would have us to be.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Ephesians 1 (MSG) – How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This down payment from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.
That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!
All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Welcome to Legoland
Citations are included in the transcript.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
OK! We’ve had 4 weeks of learning about deconstruction – the why, the what, the wherefore. We talked a bit about the way in which deconstruction is like cleaning house and sorting things into three baskets: Keep, Discern, Throw Away. You may even have started the sorting process. If you have, kudos!
For the sake of those who are new to the series, though, let’s just recap … very quickly, I promise.
Deconstruction is the process of looking at something, taking it apart, determining what still works, and discarding what doesn’t. Deconstruction is common to individuals and to organizations, can be purely secular or can be spiritual in nature, can be painful, but is not a bad thing … in fact, it can be quite healthy in the long run.
While deconstruction is something we can do with most any aspect of our lives, we’ve been focused on deconstruction relevant to our faith, so the things we should individually be examining are the things that our faith consists of: our beliefs that we have developed over the years as we’ve attended church, read related materials, interacted with other believers … essentially things we’ve been taught in one way or another. These beliefs are influenced by the doctrines of the churches we were raised in. Doctrines are the beliefs of a church or a denomination. For example, United Methodists share a common heritage with all Christians. According to our foundational statement of beliefs in The Book of Discipline, we share the following basic affirmations in common with all Christian communities:
We believe God, who is one, is revealed in three distinct persons, referred to as the Holy Trinity.
We believe in the mystery of salvation through Jesus Christ. God became human in Jesus of Nazareth; and his life, death and resurrection demonstrate God’s redeeming love.
We believe the Holy Spirit is God’s present activity in our midst. When we sense God’s leading, God’s challenge, or God’s support or comfort, it’s the Holy Spirit at work.
We believe that we’ve been made in the image of the Creator. Like God we have the capacity to love and care, to communicate, and to create.
We believe the church is the body of Christ, an extension of Christ’s life and ministry in the world today.
We believe that the Bible is the primary authority for our faith and practice.
And, finally, we believe the kingdom or reign of God is both a present reality and future hope.
Methodists are also egalitarian. We believe that men and women are equal in all things including relationships, leadership, and servanthood.
When you’ve spent your whole life as a Methodist, those beliefs become a natural way of thinking and believing. It’s all you’ve ever known. If you’ve grown up in other denominations or even other spiritualities, or if you’re new to all of this, those beliefs can feel foreign or create a conflict with the beliefs you may have been raised with.
Another influencing factor to your personal beliefs is the way in which you’ve been taught to read the Bible or, if you weren’t taught, the way you think you should read it. Some people read it very literally, right down to believing that the earth is only 6,000 years old. Even the version someone regularly reads can influence how they interpret what they’re reading. I’m not going to get into heavy details about Bible versions here. If you want to learn more about them, I posted some information to our Facebook page earlier this week about Bible versions and translations and types and would encourage you to refer to that post (if you aren’t on Facebook, let me know and I’ll email you the information). Just understand that there are numerous versions in hundreds of translations and a few different types. Put all that together, and it’s no small wonder that two different people can read the same passage or chapter or book and come up with two totally different ideas of what that passage or chapter or book is saying.
Sacraments, rites, and traditions or practices of the church are something else that varies depending on what you’ve been raised with or, for those who are new to all of this, what you may have understood.
For example, making the sign of the cross, praying the Rosary, and confession are things that are typically associated with Catholics and rarely with Methodists. But making the sign of the cross goes back to the early church, well before there were any denominations at all. Some pastors will make a sign of the cross over the congregation when delivering the benediction, and any of us are free to cross ourselves. It’s purely a personal choice. While we don’t pray the Rosary specifically, we can and do use what are called Anglican or Protestant prayer beads. And, we say confession every time we receive communion and very often through the Pastoral prayer.
Baptism, one of two sacraments of the Methodist Church, is another tradition that can differ depending on how you were raised. Methodists believe in and practice infant baptism – some denominations do not. We also baptize by pouring water over someone’s head or through submersion where some denominations will only baptize by submersion.
Most Methodist churches observe the Service of Holy Communion, the second of Methodist sacraments, at least once a month, some do so every week, and some do so far less frequently. Here at Union Grove, we have Communion the first and third Sunday.
Not all Methodist churches have prayer candles like those available to you in the Narthex.
In the Methodist church, marriage and funerals are rites, not sacraments.
Methodists, like many other Christian denominations, worship on Sundays, even though technically or, if you will, literally speaking, Saturday is considered the Sabbath as observed in the Old Testament. The reason we worship on Sunday is because we know that Easter – the day of the resurrection – was a Sunday and our savior is the Risen Lord. How do we know it was a Sunday? Remember that the tomb was sealed, and they had to wait until the Sabbath was over before they could return to the tomb to properly prepare Christ’s body. It was Jerusalem and Jewish law was being observed. In Jewish tradition, every Saturday is Sabbath. There are also some Christian denominations that continue the Jewish tradition of worshiping on Saturday, but the vast majority worship on Sunday and relatively few give the same level of reverence to Sabbath as practiced by Jewish people.
Now, I could probably go on as long as last week about all these differences in beliefs, but I think you get the general idea. What’s important is that your personal beliefs, regardless of a church’s doctrine, will have been influenced by the traditions you were raised with. And for those who are relatively new to the Christian faith depending on how they came to this new faith, some of our traditions may seem weird or strange or leave them scratching their heads and trying to figure out what we’re doing and why.
The thing about doctrines is that organized religions, denominations if you will, tend to feel compelled to start writing explanations that turn into policies or rules or church laws about what, where, when, and how to do this, that, and the other thing. Entire volumes of rules. And sometimes the original meaning or purpose gets lost in all the rules and policies and such, or get caught in an underlying agenda. And, sometimes, through study or science or other means, we learn that the way we were reading something … usually something we read literally … was either incorrect or the context at the time it was written is no longer relevant.
Slavery is a good example of this. The Bible in its early translations talks a lot about slavery and even calls us slaves to God. During the time of those writings, slavery was an accepted practice. Clearly, slavery is no longer accepted and, in fact, is against the law and has been renounced by all denominations.
Another good example is how a denomination views men and women. Again, Methodists are egalitarians. In our eyes men and women are equals. But other denominations are complementarian. They believe the man is the head of the household, only men can teach or lead in the church, and only men can stand here in the pulpit.
So you’re getting the point, right? Times change, context changes, we learn more about the human condition through the sciences, and as we learn, those things we’ve been taught to believe begin to become uncomfortable or feel constricting. Some become downright painful.
Now, imagine your beliefs are Lego blocks. Different sizes, but they interconnect with one another thanks to all those little bumps on them. And all your life, you’ve been taking those Lego block beliefs and building a structure.
When you begin to wrestle with your beliefs, you sometimes find out just how interconnected they are. Pulling one out of the middle of your structure can cause the structure to weaken or to fall entirely apart, so you have to decide whether to leave it in place and safeguard the structure you’ve built, or pull it out and hope you don’t lose the structure in the process.
The problem with leaving the structure intact is that you don’t stop learning and that thing you want to pull out no longer agrees with what you understand Jesus meant in all his lessons and parables and teaching, so it bothers you and nags at you and worries you until you finally either try to pull it out or just smash the whole structure.
Now you have Legos all over the floor and we all know what it’s like to step on one of those puppies barefoot, right?
Here’s where those baskets come in. In deconstruction, we go ahead and pull the structure down and then we pick up all those blocks and sort them into those baskets.
We look for the beliefs that are in line with what Jesus taught us. Those go in the “keep” basket. They’re pretty easy to identify. If they “do no harm,” if they serve the “least among us,” if they cause us to care for the “poor, the stranger, the widow, and the orphan.”
We look for the beliefs that we now know through studies and the sciences and clarification of translations from the original texts are no longer true. Those go in the “throw away” basket.
Now we look at all those other Legos and we gather them up and we put them in the “discern” basket. Discern means to perceive or recognize. These are the beliefs that we need to continue to examine. We need to pray on them, to continue to study their meaning. If we find ourselves wrestling constantly with them, we may need to bring them out into the daylight through some holy conferencing with one another. But what we don’t want to do is let them prevent us from maintaining our core or basic beliefs … the ones I listed earlier, because those beliefs are not only what mark us as followers of Christ, but what holds us close to Him and through Him to God and the Spirit.
Remember what our passage says: “It is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.”
This deconstruction and sorting of beliefs and construction of a stronger faith has been God’s plan all along. It’s what the first followers were doing as they reexamined their traditional Jewish beliefs, compared those to what Jesus had taught them, and formed the basis for our faith today. God knows when we go through this kind of deconstruction and reconstruction and is there for us, ever faithful, ever patient, ever molding and shaping us because He has called us for a purpose.
As our scripture today says, “God thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, even let us in on the plans that he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ … the whole long-range plan through which it would all come together.”
So, if you’re deconstructing, have faith that God knows, God understands, and God is for you. Have faith that you have a friend in Jesus, and he understands because he started it and is cheering you through this, celebrating that you have ears to hear and eyes to see. Have faith that the Spirit is right there with you at all times as your advocate and helper and guide. Let them lead you through this, and you’ll come out the other side just fine.
Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:
Loving God, we are so thankful that you, through your son, Jesus Christ, have come and stood on a level place with us. We need you to abide with us in our ordinary, everyday lives. We, your gathered crowd of disciples, participate in this act of worship by offering you a portion of the money that we have earned from the work of our ordinary, everyday lives. We dedicate these gifts to your service. We pray in the name of the one who heals, Jesus Christ.
Adapted from Bruce Prewer, bruceprewer.com
Now hear this benediction:
The grace of Christ will redeem you
the enduring love of God will support you,
the friendship of the Holy Spirit will accompany you,
this day and ever more.
- All works cited within the text above.
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